Spain is rich in cultural heritage and is third only to Italy and China for its number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and it’s not only its architectural and natural treasures that are recorded as being of global importance.
Spain’s UNESCO treasures
Spain is also a country that has revered its festivals and rituals cultivated over many generations and which remain a constant within the country’s communities despite the pressures of modern day living, and some of these have also received the prestigious recognition of UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage treasures.
The region of Andalucía is home to the second highest number of Spain’s UNESCO treasures – treasures which draw visitors in their millions as they steep themselves in the history and culture that is part of Spain’s rich heritage.
Three of the most famous and iconic UNESCO cities are to be found in Andalucía. Granada, arguably one of the most beautiful, is renowned for its Alhambra Palace – an extraordinarily well preserved monument to a hugely important part of Andalucia’s history. It was built by the Nasrid Sultans, rulers of the last Spanish Moorish kingdom, and is one of the most exciting and romantic of all the monuments of Europe…and certainly one of the most photographed.
Seville, the home of Carmen and Don Juan, has one of Europe’s greatest Gothic cathedrals and is home to two of the greatest festivals in Spain – the renowned Semana Santa (Easter) celebrations which attract visitors from around the world and its spectacular April feria, when the city is full of dancing, music and horsemanship. A walk through its old town narrow streets with flower festooned balconies is a step back into history. Apart from the imposing cathedral the city’s monuments include the Giralda and the Alcazar and its stunning gardens – reminding us again of Andalucia’s Moorish past.
The largest city of Roman SpainCordoba is upstream from Seville on a loop of the Guadalquivir river. Once it was the largest city of Roman Spain and for three centuries it was the heart of the Western Islamic empire and it is from this era that the city’s greatest monument dates – the Mezquita, the grandest and most beautiful mosque ever created by the Moors in Spain. When the city was reconquered by the Christians the new rulers recognised its beauty and built their cathedral in the midst of the rows of arches and columns to create the church-mosque you see today.
Nearer to the beaches of the Costa del Sol there is the gem that is Malaga, fast becoming one of the most popular cities to visit and now well established as a port of call for leading cruise ship companies. For years many associated Malaga with its airport without realising that the city itself breathed history. It is full of beautiful churches, and an array of more than 25 museums and galleries.
The Alcazaba Palace is a significant landmark and of course the city is famous for being the birthplace of Pablo Picasso. The home in which he was born and spent his early years is open to the public and the Picasso Museum nestles at the side of the city’s splendid cathedral.
From here it is just a few minutes walk through the city’s historic streets to the magnificent Carmen Thyssen-Bornemiza Museum, sister to Madrid’s Thyssen Museum. A busy restoration programme has unveiled more vestiges of the city’s rich past and Roman and Phoenician remains found during the construction of the Picasso Museum are preserved under a Perspex floor.
The very heart beat of AndaluciaThe intangible treasures that have received world recognition include that most Spanish of dance forms – the flamenco. It is the very heart beat of Andalucía, and just about every town and city in the region has its peña – dance club. Of course it is not just about dancing – flamenco guitar music and singing has a worldwide following. The heart and soul of flamenco is passed from generation to generation.
From Club La Costa World the Costa del Sol and the rich treasures of Andalucia are just a day trip away, awaiting discovery by a new generation of visitors.
Flamenco picture credit: frescooooo