Musement takes a stroll through the most beautiful old towns in Spain. These history-rich neighborhoods unveil the past and help us to better understand the present.
From Galicia to Andalusia, here’s a glimpse at cities like Salamanca, Segovia, and Burgos. Discover the best old towns in Spain and become acquainted with spectacular walls, palaces, cathedrals, and monuments, all testaments of time that offer a bit of a history lesson on the way.
1. Albaicín, Granada
The Albaicín is a neighborhood of Granada that lies outside the walls of the Alhambra. This once fortified neighborhood is teeming with interesting sites to see like the Puerta de las Pesas, Puerta Monaita, and several charming churches. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, the Albaicín preserves its original Medieval Moorish layout. Additionally, its hilltop location offers incredible views of the Alhambra. When you visit this Granadino (as the natives say) neighborhood, don’t miss the Arab baths and the Archeological Museum.
2. The Old Town of Ávila
Surrounded by a medieval wall in a perfect state of preservation, the old town of Ávila is a true gem. The city’s northern part consists of majestic palaces and homes while the southern part was once inhabited by Muslims and Jews. The Ávila Cathedral, Saint Vincent Basilica, and other marvels are waiting to captivate you as you stroll through these historic areas.
3. The Old Town of Santiago de Compostela
If you have done the Camino de Santiago, you understand the excitement one feels upon entering the Praza do Obradoiro after a multi-day pilgrimage. The historic buildings surrounding the plaza have witnessed thousands of exhausted but happy pilgrims taking pictures, walking sticks in hand. The historic center of the city is certainly a mix of styles laced together that tell the story of the Roman, Gothic, and Baroque past of Santiago de Compostela. Exploring the cobblestone backstreets is a real treat for the senses.
4. The Old Town of Toledo
Surrounded by the Tagus River, Toledo is also known as the “Imperial City” or the “City of the Three Cultures”. From the Roman remains to the Arab elements and the Jewish symbols, Toledo’s old town lets visitors appreciate the different civilizations that have passed through over the centuries. The Mudejar-influenced Cathedral of Toledo is a mandatory stop.
5. The Old Town of Córdoba
A majority of the beautiful old towns of Spain that appear on our list have been declared World Heritage Sites, so we should expect nothing less of Córdoba. This is one of the biggest old neighborhoods on the continent, and it boasts a great variety of monuments that make for a magnificent backdrop. One of these is Córdoba’s spectacular Mosque-Cathedral.
6. The Old Town of Salamanca
The old city of Salamanca is purely charming. With Plaza Mayor as a starting point, simply walking through the streets will transport you into the past. But the good stuff doesn’t stop here—the different architectural styles of both the Old and New Cathedrals will leave you in awe. And if you’re still hungry for more, visit the convents and the Roman Bridge. There are so many sites in Salamanca that it will be difficult to see them all.
7. The Old Town of Segovia
The aqueduct, Calle Real, the Plaza de las Sirenas, the Jewish quarter, the cathedral, and the Episcopal palace are only some of the stops we recommend you make as you stroll through the old town of Segovia. In essence, the heritage of this Castilian city is impressive and is a great example of the country’s rich history.
8. The Old Town of Burgos
Absorb the delightful atmosphere of Burgos as you wander through its monuments. The Burgos Cathedral is one of its most emblematic buildings along with the Gothic-style Monastery of Santa María la Real de las Huelgas and the Miraflores Charterhouse. Ah, and speaking of remains, the archeological site of Atapuerca is only about nine miles from the city. It’s definitely worth a visit!
9. The Old Town of Santillana del Mar
There’s a reason why Santillana del Mar often makes the list of the most beautiful towns in Spain. Because of its beauty, it is one of the most-visited corners of Cantabria. Simply walking through its charming cobblestone streets you will come across the Collegiate Church of Santa Juliana, Plaza Mayor, the Torre del Merino, Casa del Águila, and much more.
10. The Gothic Quarter of Barcelona
There’s plenty to see and do in Barcelona, and the old Roman Barcino still exists beneath the city’s Gothic quarter. There are even visible remains throughout the entire old city. The cathedral’s charming surroundings will fascinate you, as will its two main squares: the Plaça de Sant Jaume and Plaça Reial. Additionally, the little picturesque backstreets make the neighborhood even more captivating.