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15 of the most beautiful castles in Spain

Step away from the beach and see some of Spain's most stunning castles and fortresses.

A country steeped in history, Spain has its fair share of charming castles for you to explore. Here are 15 of the most spectacular.

From Castile to Andalucia and the Basque Country; tour through these traditional towns and be transported back in time with a visit to one of these pretty palaces. Whether you’re enjoying a week-long road trip or a two-day city break, here are 15 must-see Spanish castles.

1. Coca Castle, Segovia, Castille and León

You can just imagine Rapunzel stuck up in one of the turrets, or Sleeping Beauty passed out beside her spinning wheel in this fairytale fortress in central Spain. Coca Castle is a chocolate box kind of place; one of the finest examples of Spanish Gothic-Mudejar architecture, towering above the River Voltoya. It was in ruins until the beginning of the century but today stands proudly as a National Historic Landmark. Don’t miss the keep and the beautiful vaulted ceiling decorated with geometric mosaics in the armoury.

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2. Castillo de Butrón, Vizcaya, Basque Country

Looking for a luxury Spanish holiday home that comes complete with medieval dungeon? Well check out this Bavarian-style bolthole in Spain’s Basque Country. Renovated in the nineteenth century, Castillo de Butrón is now up for sale and looking for a loving new owner who will appreciate the castle’s large living quarters, courtyard and library. Situated in dense woodland, it’s the perfect hideaway to detox from modern life.

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3. Templar Castle in Ponferrada, León, Castille and León

Once a fortress of the Knights Templar, this charming castle has been shaped over many centuries of renovation and expansion. Located on more than 8000 square metres of land, Templar Castle dominates the skyline over the crossing of Rivers Boeza and Sil. Unfortunately, in the 19th and early 20th century some of the building was lost and walls were demolished to erect a football field. Luckily, in 1923 it was declared a National Monument and it has now been restored and open to the public.

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4. Loarre Castle, Huesca, Aragón

Another blockbuster building, Loarre Castle starred in the 2005 movie, Kingdom of Heaven. Built in the eleventh century, two of the original towers survive, the Tower of the Queen and the Homage Tower, the climb the top of which is well worth it for the stunning views across the forrests and lush Spanish landscape. Hear the walls speak; take the audio tour and be transported back to a time of chivalrous knights and lavish ladies.

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5. Belmonte Castle, Cuenca, Castilla-La Mancha

Against a backdrop of wheat fields and blue skies, this pretty palace is almost unchanged since its construction in the fifteenth century by the Marquis of Villena, despite being left abandoned until the nineteenth century when it was restored to full splendor by the Empress Eugenia de Montijo. In 2014 the castle was brought back to life when it hosted the International Medieval Combat Federation Championships. It’s a great place to take your own little prince or princess for a day of fairytale fun.

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6. Almodóvar del Río Castle, Córdoba, Andalucía

On top of a hill, with the town of Almodovar del Rio at your feet, you’ll feel like king of the castle here. Its origins date back to the eighth century and the time of Moorish occupation, although there is evidence of a Roman fort on the site, and it was expanded to its present state during the Middle Ages. Its owner, the Count of Torralva, restored it during the early twentieth century and today it is one of the best preserved castles in the whole of Spain. For a freal fright, go on one of the nightly ‘Black Moon’ tours around the grounds.

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7. Alcázar de Segovia, Segovia, Castille and León

Allegedly the inspiration for Walt Disney’s very own Cinderalla castle, Alcázar, with it’s romantic turrets and soaring spires is certainly picture-perfect. Built in 1122, it was home to King Alfonso VIII, but its current appearance is in large part thanks to Felipe II. Once a luxurious and oppulent fortress, you should pay a visit to the throne room and wander along the galleries to get a real sense of this palace’s rich history.

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8. Olite Castle, Navarra

The Royal Palace of the Kings of Navarre Olite, Olite Castle to those who have fallen in love with this fine fortress, was built between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries as the seat of the Court of the Kingdom of Navarra. Despite suffering extensive damage during the Spanish War of Independence, restoration began in 1937. A stroll around the grounds and you can well imagine noblemen scheming in their offices, lords lurking in the courtyard shadows and lovers wandering through the ornate gardens.

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9. Cardona Castle, Barcelona, Catalonia

Arguably Catalonia’s most important medieval fortress, this pile of pretty stone is perched on the top of a hill overlooking the unique landscape. Construction begain in 886 but building work really stepped up a gear during the fifteenth century, under the rule of the Dukes of Cardona, the most important family of the Crown of Aragon. Among its gems are the majestic Romanesque church of San Vicente and the Minyona Tower.

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10. Castillo de Peñafiel, Valladolid, Castille and León

Have you ever seen a boat-shaped castle? Well if not, stop by the Valladolid town of Peñafiel to admire this odd but beautiful medieval structure. Declared a National Monument in 1917, it was built in the tenth century under the rule of King of Leon Ramiro II, although it was the Infante Don Juan Manuel who left it as it is today. Mix a bit of history with wine tasting in the Provincial Museum of Wine, which is housed within the castle walls.

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11. The new Castle of Manzanares el Real, Madrid

The new castle of Manzanares el Real, also known as the Mendoza after the noble family who lived here, is a fifteenth century palace-fortress which sits next to the Santillana reservoir at the foot of the Sierra de Guadarrama. The castle was built on a Romanesque-Mudejar shrine and has four towers, numerous battlements and an arcade courtyard. Climb the steps to the Gothic first floor gallery, one of the most beautiful examples found in Europe.

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12. Castillo de Vélez-Blanco, Almería, Andalucía

Gazing down upon the Andalusian town of Velez Blanco, this castle stands on the remains of an ancient Islamic citadel. Once owned by the Marqués de los Vélez, it is still an imposing sight, despite being looted and neglected during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The entire patio, a Spanish Renaissance masterpiece, was lifted and sold to an American millionaire who took it to New York and where today it is on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Precious wooden friezes depicting ‘the twelve labours of Hercules’ and ‘Triumphs of Caesar’ were also sold and are now in the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris. However, many original artworks do remain and it is well worth the trip to Andalucía to admire them.

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13. Castillo de la Mota, Valladolid, Castille and León

Made from the typical red brick of the region, the Castillo de la Mota, in the village of Medina del Campo, was made a place of cultural interest in 1904. Famous guests include Caesar Borgia who was imprisoned in the tower only to escape by climbing down ropes flung from the keep’s windows.This fort bears battle scars from the wars and conflicts it has witnessed over the years. Soak in the sense of history about the place in the courtyard or take a moment of contemplation in the chapel.

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14. Castillo de Bellver, Mallorca, Balearics

Circular, with four towers and spectacular views of the city of Palma and the port, Bellver Castle lives up to its name, which in ancient Catalan means ‘beautiful view’. It is one of the few and the oldest circular fortresses in Europe, built in the Gothic Mallorcan style in the early fourteenth century by James II. Survey the land below from the edges of the moat or above in the keep, both great viewpoints you’ll want to get your camera out for.

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15. La Alhambra, Granada, Andalucía

Although the Alhambra is technically not a castle, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is too beautiful to be missed off our list! Overlooking Granada, it was once the seat of the monarchy and the court of the Nazari Kingdom and is considered one of the finest examples of Andalusian art. Nicknamed ‘The Red Fort’ this walled city seems frozen in time. Amongst the richly decorated rooms, fabulous playground gardens, and indoor fountains, the Nasrid Palaces are simply stunning.

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Translated from an original article by Patricia Cuni.