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King of the castles: Five of the most beautiful castillos to visit in Spain during 2022

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FROM austere hilltop fortresses to splendid royal palaces and stunning Moorish alcazars, Spain out-castles all of Europe with over 2,500 to explore.

Andalucia, fought over by Moors and Christians for seven centuries, is better-endowed than most regions with medieval fortified hilltop citadels. In Cadiz, where they marked the boundary between the two warring kingdoms, many of the towns that grew up around them still carry the suffix ‘de la frontera’.

There’s romance in walking their wind-battered battlements and sharing the same sweeping views from their crenelated towers as the great kings, queens and warriors of old.

So step away from the beach and ignite your imagination with some culture and the Olive Press guide to five must-do fortresses in Spain.

1. Alcazar de Segovia

This sleeping beauty rises out of the rocky slopes on a hill dominating the entire city of Segovia in Castile y Leon. Its fairytale turrets famously inspired the design of Walt Disney’s iconic Cinderella’s Castle. It was also the favourite residence of the monarchs of Castile before being demoted to a state prison for more than two centuries.  

A place of royal ceremonial importance in Early Modern times, Isabella of Castile, the monarch whose reign alongside hubby Ferdinand of Aragon marked Spain’s Golden Age, was crowned Queen here in 1474.

Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, this amazing alcazar has to be on your hit list as one of the most Instagrammable castles in Spain. 

Alcazar De Segovia Ii
Alcazar de Segovia, a place of royal ceremonial importance in Early Modern times.

2. Castillo de Coca

Staying in the region of Segovia, the 15th century Castillo de Coca is another fabulous fortification for your digital photo album.  

Built in 1493 on the site of ancient Cauca, birthplace of the Roman emperor Theodosius whose death marked the beginning of the Middle Ages, it is protected by double-thickness walls of 2.5 meters in width and a 560-metre moat to further discourage invaders. A mix of Gothic and Moorish styles, it is considered Spain’s finest example of Mudejar brickwork. 

For nearly a century until it was declared a Spanish National Monument in 1926 it was known as the House of Alba, home to the Spanish aristocratic family of the same name who must have found its maze of corridors and chambers easy to get lost in.

Castillo De Coca Ii
Castillo de Coca, built in 1493 on the site of ancient Cauca.

3. The Alhambra, Granada

With its irresistible air of magic, Spain’s top tourist attraction is a must-see on any European itinerary, castle enthusiast or not.

Considered one of the finest achievements in Moorish art and architecture on the planet, this stunning ‘Red Fort’ is perched in a dreamy hilltop setting surrounded by the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada, and was the ‘last outpost’ of the Moors before the fortress fell to the Spanish in 1492.

An oasis of musical fountains and lush landscaped gardens watered by the Rio Genil, it’s easy to see why the Moors, arriving from the arid deserts of North Africa, believed they had found ‘heaven on earth’, and why Granada’s last ruler wept at leaving it.

Shady colonnades, fountains with running water and reflecting pools were used to cool and add light and beauty to the 13th century palace fortress described by one Moorish poet as ‘a pearl set in emeralds’. It has been treasured as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984.

Alhambra 967024 1920
The Alhambra, Granada, considered one of the finest achievements in Moorish art and architecture on the planet.

4. The Alcazar, Cordoba  

Another of Ferdinand and Isabella’s preferred boltholes, the sober exterior of the Castle of the Christian Monarchs belies the splendour of the stunning gardens within.

Surrounded by thick defensive walls, this 13th century palace fortress was famously where Ferdinand and Isabella first met with Christopher Columbus to discuss the explorer’s first trip to the New World, an event celebrated in Spain on National Day every October 12.

Revamped many times, the sumptuous palace is still used for royal occasions, such as the wedding reception of the Infanta Elena, and it also appeared in Game of Thrones. The royal baths and the hall of Roman mosaics are fascinating and the monumental grandeur of the patios and terraced gardens will take your breath away.

Alcazar De Los Reyes Cristianos
The Alcazar, Cordoba, a 13th century palace fortress.

5. Loarre Castle, Huesca

You may recognise this mighty monument from the battle scenes in Ridley Scott’s film epic Kingdom of Heaven, starring Orlando Bloom. Lording it over the southern foothills of the Pyrenees, it is one of the oldest castles in Spain. 

Built during the 11th century reign of Aragonese King Sancho el Mayor, it saw plenty of action due to its strategic location between Muslims and Christian lands and although semi-ruined, the original architecture has remained little changed.

It’s vantage point encapsulates incredible views of the surrounding landscape including unforgettable sunrises and sunsets. Adventurers will enjoy exploring its secret passageways and dungeons and climbing its towers.

Castle Of Loarre 3120930 1920
Loarre Castle, Huesca, one of the oldest castles in Spain.

Honourable mentions

Olite Castle in Navarre is highly recommended if you’ve always fancied spending the night in a real castle. The Parador Principe de Viana will waft you back to days of old when knights were bold. Bellver Castle in Mallorca is a rare example of a circular fortress, and this one’s the oldest in Europe. Today it does double duty as a tourist attraction and Palma’s History Museum.  

DID YOU KNOW?

Historians reckon some 10,000 castles have existed in Spain over the centuries. Sadly, most were successively abandoned while others were deliberately demolished by Spanish kings to prevent Moorish invaders from moving in and taking over.

A good number of the 2,500 left standing can still be found in exceptionally good condition thanks to the dry climate and the absence of wars on Spanish soil after the Reconquista.

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Live like a king: Ten of Spain’s most magical castle stays in 2022

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live-like-a-king:-ten-of-spain’s-most-magical-castle-stays-in-2022

SPAIN’s hotel castles are among the finest in the world. Many are beautifully preserved, so why not stay the night? What could be more magical than bedding down like medieval nobility, and waking up to breathtaking views of the coast or countryside.  

Castle Cardona Photo Jorge Franganillo
Castle Cardona PHOTO: Jorge-Franganillo (Flickr)
  1. Parador de Cardona (Barcelona)

This breathtaking hotel sits within Castle Cardona, which was built in the 9th century. It sits on a hill and overlooks the river valley of the Cardener and the town of Cardona. The fortress offers guests unrivalled landscapes. The Dukes of Cardona, who resided in the castle, were influential within the Crown of Aragon in the 14th century, they were second in power and prestige to the Royal family. The Cardona leaders were known as “kings without crowns” for their vast territories across from, from Catalunya and Valencia to Aragon itself. This castle has a lot of stories to reveal to visitors. The site is currently owned by surviving members of the Aragón dynasty. 

Photo Hotel Castillo De Santa Catalina
PHOTO: Hotel Castillo De Santa Catalina
  1. Hotel Castillo de Santa Catalina (Málaga)

Built in 1932, this stunning example of architectural elegance has been declared an asset of cultural interest by the Spanish state, and for good reason. It is a property of more than 3,500 square meters and is located on the Costa del Sol. It has over 11 ft² of public gardens, spaces and terraces. Guests will also enjoy spectacular views of Málaga Bay. It is located in the exclusive El Limonar area of Málaga, and is only 800 feet from La Caleta Beach. 

Photo Posada Real Castillo De Buen Amor
PHOTO: Posada Real Castillo de Buen Amor (Salamanca)
  1. Posada Real Castillo de Buen Amor (Salamanca)

The 15th-century castle is set in the wondrous Castillian countryside, and is only 27 km away from the historical city of Salamanca. Each of the rooms look out onto either the central courtyard, or to the meadows which surround it. The castle has been home to local lords for centuries, and it has been protected as a historical site since 1931. You can even dine in what were the dungeons! Legend has it that the name of the castle comes from the Bishop of Santiago, a former owner, who stayed there with his mistress. The story goes that the church forced them to separate, and that now the couple still haunt the castle. 

Photo Parador De Olite 2
PHOTO Parador De Olite
  1. Parador de Olite (Navarra)

The Castle of Olite has been declared a national monument for it’s stunning beauty. The site resembles a palace more than a Castle, and it’s the most significant example of Gothic non-ecclesiastical architecture in Navarre, and one of the most outstanding examples in the world. Within these ancient stone walls, you will find yourself immersed in an oasis of peace and tranquility. You can also stroll through the narrow side streets of Olite and wonder at the coats of arms and the Roman walls. You may even wish to visit Oliva Monastery, where you can Cistercian monks, dressed in their white tunics, and praying in the monastery.

Photo Castillo De Arteaga
PHOTO-Castillo-de-Arteaga
  1. Arteaga Castle (Basque Country)

The beautiful Arteaga castle can be found in the heart of Urdaibai biosphere natural reserve, and it was originally built in the 13th century. French architects Couverchef and Ancelet rebuilt the Castle again by order of French emperor and empress Napoleon III and Eugenia de Montijo. A fine example of neo-gothic style. 

Credit Castillo Del Bosque La Zoreda
PHOTO: Castillo del Bosque la Zoreda
  1. Castillo del Bosque la Zoreda (Oviedo)

This iconic mansion dates from the early 20th century and can be found just 4 km from Oviedo. This 5 star hotel occupies more than 13,000 square meters, it offers 25 rooms, 2 restaurants and a full spa. 

Photo Hotel Castillo El Collado
PHOTO: Hotel Castillo El Collado

 7. Hotel Castillo El Collado (Basque Country)

This charming and charming hotel can be found within this stunning 20th century castle. It is located in one of the most upscale places in the town of Laguardia in Álava.

Castillo De Castellar
PHOTO: Castillo de Castellar

 8. Castellar Castle (Cádiz)

This thirteenth-century town-fortress can be found in Castellar de la Frontera, and it’s one of the few inhabited medieval fortifications today. It’s located on a mountain in the beautiful Los Alcornocales natural park and is perfect for nature lovers. On a clear day, from the hotel you can see the Rock of Gibraltar and the coast of Africa. 

Credit Castillo De Grisel
PHOTO: Castillo de Grisel

9. Castle of Grisel (Zaragoza)

It’s existence has been documented since 1106, and we know that it was bought by Cabildo de Tarazonain in 1352 to protect himself against Castilian forces. From the 16th century it was adapted to become a palace. In 1988 the castle was sold in 1988 to Mr. Manuel Giménez Aperte, who began to restore the site, this was completed in 2014. The castle has been fully restored to its former glory, and in 2019 the castle was recognized by the tourism board as the Best Tourist Experience in Aragon.

Credit Parador De Hondarribia
PHOTO: Parador De Hondarribia

 10. Parador De Hondarribia  (Hondarribia)

Dating from the 10th century, Parador De Hondarribia served as the residence of Carlos V, the founding emperor of Spain. It offers stunning views of the Bidasoa Estuary. After exploring the castle itself, guests can head into Hondarribia, one of the most charming towns in the region. Hondarribia is the last stop before France.

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