Top 10 Cathedrals in Spain

Cathedral in Seville, Spain
Seville is home to one of the most breathtaking cathedrals in Spain.

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Once you've traveled a bit, it can be easy to start thinking that if you've seen one European church, you've seen them all.

But that couldn't be further from the truth. You haven't seen anything yet—not until you've marveled at these ten spectacular cathedrals in Spain. Even if you're not religious, the awe-inspiring architecture and design of these sacred spaces is sure to take your breath away.

Ready to explore? Here are the ten cathedrals in Spain you need to add to your travel bucket list.

01 of 10

Catedral de Santiago de Compostela

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain.

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Located in northwestern Spain, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela's biggest claim to fame is as the ending point of the Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago) pilgrimage. But you don't need to walk several hundred miles across northern Spain in order to enjoy it.

Construction on the cathedral began in the late 11th century, though parts were added as late as the 18th century. The cathedral has a baroque façade, but most of the structure is Romanesque.

Inside, you can visit a fascinating museum and the tomb of St. James the Apostle in addition to a beautifully designed sanctuary.

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02 of 10

Catedral de Sevilla

Catedral de Sevilla in Spain

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As the capital of Andalusia, Spain's sun-drenched southernmost region, Seville is perhaps one of the country's most iconic destinations. It's no wonder, then, that it also happens to be the home of one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Spain.

The Seville Cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, was built in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its builders approached the project with a goal of constructing a cathedral so grand, "all who see it will think we're mad." Given the grandiose, glorious splendor of the finished church, it's safe to say they met their objective.

Once inside, you can climb the Giralda bell tower for spectacular views over the city, and visit the tomb of Christopher Columbus as well.

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03 of 10

Catedral de León

Leon cathedral in Spain
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A small city in western Spain's Castilla y León region, León is often overlooked by visitors to the country. However, its splendid 13th-century Gothic cathedral is living proof that it shouldn't be.

The cathedral is home to around 1,500 pieces of art, including many Romanesque sculptures, making it a must for any art lover. Don't forget to marvel at the many beautiful chapels, and check out the centuries-old tomb of King Ordoño II as well.

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04 of 10

Catedral de Burgos

Cathedral of Burgos, Spain

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The city of Burgos makes a great stop on the way to Madrid from Santander in northern Spain. While you're there, be sure to spend some time exploring its impressive 13th-century Gothic cathedral.

Once you step into the cathedral—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—you'll be struck breathless by the stunning details. Keep an eye out for the Papamoscas, a unique statue that opens its mouth when the bells chime, as well as the tomb of 11th-century Spanish military leader El Cid.

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05 of 10

Catedral Nueva de Salamanca

Turrets and tower of the Catedral Nueva, Salamanca
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Located to the northwest of Madrid not too far from the Portuguese border, the city of Salamanca is famous for its clear, easy-to-understand Spanish and rich academic heritage. And not just that—it's home to not just one, but two impressive cathedrals.

Both of Salamanca's cathedrals are located side-by-side, making it easy to visit them one right after the other. But if you only have time for one, go with the New Cathedral (Catedral Nueva), a Gothic and Baroque structure build between 1513 and 1733.

A recent renovation has resulted in some modern aspects in the façade of the cathedral that should intrigue the more observant. Once inside, the museum and archive, as well as a number of small chapels and naves, are worth exploring.

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06 of 10

Catedral de Cádiz

Cathedral of Cádiz, Spain

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Hanging onto Andalusia by a thread, the southern city of Cádiz is perhaps mainland Spain's furthest-flung major urban area. But if you can get there—and the high-speed AVE trains make it easy—it's well worth a visit, particularly for its cathedral.

Built on the site of a previous cathedral which burned down in the late 16th century, the current structure was constructed between 1776 and the late 19th century. Part Baroque and part Neoclassical, it houses an impressive collection of religious paintings, as well as the tomb of Spanish composer Manuel de Falla.

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07 of 10

Catedral-Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, Zaragoza

Rooftop view of the Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza, Spain

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Located roughly around the halfway point between Bilbao and Barcelona, Zaragoza is also home to two cathedrals. The more famous of the two is the Basilica-Cathedral of Our Lady of the Pillar, built in the late 17th century. A number of churches had existed on this site since St James saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary.

Inside, you'll find a statue of the Virgin Mary that legend says was given to St. James by Mary herself in his vision. The cathedral also boasts an impressive collection of artifacts from Latin America.

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08 of 10

Catedral Primada, Toledo

Facade of the cathedral of Toledo, Spain
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Toledo is a small city a little to the south of Madrid, easily reached by the AVE high-speed train. Built between the 13th and 16th centuries in the High Gothic style, the Catedral Primada de Toledo is one of the city's must-visit sights.

Some excellent paintings, including one on the ceiling by Luca Giordano, are inside. There's also a maze of small chapels that could occupy a visitor for hours.

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09 of 10

Catedral de Valencia

Valencia Cathedral illuminated at dusk, viewed from the Placa de la Seu. Valencia, Spain, Europe.
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As Spain's third-largest city, Valencia boasts an unbeatable location on the country's eastern Mediterranean coast. Its Gothic cathedral was built between the 13th and 15th centuries.

The main attraction of the Valencia cathedral is the Holy Grail, or at least what is claimed to be the Holy Grail.

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10 of 10

Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba

Mezquita mosque-cathedral arches and colums.
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Roughly halfway between Seville and Granada, the southern city of Córdoba is one of Andalusia's most popular destinations for many reasons. One of them is the fact that it's home to the world's only mosque-cathedral.

Originally built as a small Christian Visigothic church, the site that now houses the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba became a mosque when Spain fell under Moorish rule in the seventh century. During the Christian reconquest in 1236, it was deemed too beautiful to destroy completely, so the Christians simply built their own cathedral inside the existing mosque. The result is a fascinating Christian-meets-Islamic blend of styles that you won't find anywhere else.

Get lost in the sea of giant arches supported by more than 1,000 columns, and don't miss the Byzantine mosaics in the mihrab, either.