Spain has over 10,000 castles dotted around the country from the Basque Country in the north to Andalusia in the south. Not forgetting many castles in the Balearic and Canary Islands too.
The oldest castle in Spain dates back to 968 AD and the youngest notable castle is less than 100 years old. Spain might not have the turreted, fairytale castles that you’ll find in France or Germany, but castles nonetheless exist and they offer their own Spanish flair.
So, why are there so many castles in Spain? Well, most of the castles were built for defensive purposes. For centuries, the southern region of Andalusia suffered from a barrage of pirate attacks. Lots of in-fighting between different religious sects and regions also results in lots of castles.
One of Spain’s northern regions was even called Castile, which literally translates to ‘the land of castles’. Since the Moors ruled parts of Spain from the 8th to the late 15th centuries, you can expect lots of castles (or Alcazaba which means ‘fortress’) with an Islamic, Moorish architectural style.
Most of the fortified castles are now ruined, but there are plenty of beautiful castles still to explore. Some of the best castles in Spain were lavish, royal residences and some have appeared as filming locations on hit TV shows. This guide will list all of the coolest Spanish castles so you don’t miss taking a guided tour of your favourite during your next trip to Spain!
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The Alhambra is one of the most popular and famous castles in Spain, but few probably realise it’s a castle. Constructed between 1238 and 1358 during the Naṣrid dynasty, this is the only Muslim citadel that is still standing just as perfectly as it was when it was built. The complex sits on a hill overlooking the Andalusian city of Granada and comprises multiple palaces and gardens. Naturally, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can take guided tours around the sprawling complex or you can guide yourself. Either way, it’s imperative that you buy tickets in advance because they do sell out. The Alhambra is in the centre of Granada so you can walk or take the bus. Málaga Airport is the closest major airport to Granada, which is only 144 km west or a 90-minute drive.
Accommodation near The Alhambra
Castell de Bellver
Hopping over to the Balearics, Castell de Bellver (or Bellver Castle) sits on a hilltop on the outskirts of Palma de Mallorca overlooking the entire city. If you want to visit medieval Spanish castles, this should be at the top of your list. Built by King James II of Mallorca in the 1300s to his exact specifications, Castell de Bellver has a quintessential moat and drawbridge, a separate keep, and three towers.
One of the most unique things about this castle is that it’s circular, a design choice supposedly inspired by Herodion. This is a palace near Bethlehem which dates back to 15 BC. Because Castell de Bellver is in a big city, it’s easy to get to. In fact, Palma de Mallorca Airport is only 12 km and a 17-minute drive east of the castle.
Accommodation near Castell de Bellver
- Budget – Y Hostel – Albergue Juvenil
- Mid-range – Hotel Catalonia Majorica
- Luxury – Hotel Victoria Gran Meliá
Castle of Lorca
The Castle of Lorca sits on top of a hill in the southeast region of Murcia. Built between the 9th and 15th centuries, Lorca Castle is a large complex with one, thick tower block that juts out in the centre. You can climb up to the top of the tower for panoramic views of the area and join a guided tour.
Lorca Castle is in a more remote location so driving is the easiest way to reach it though buses do run to Lorca too. The city of Murcia is only 70 km northeast of Lorca, which is a 45-minute drive.
Accommodation near Castle of Lorca
Peñafiel is a small town near Valladolid in the north of Spain dominated by Peñafiel Castle. Perched on a hill overlooking the town, this castle is 200m long and its castle walls look strikingly uniform and impenetrable. It was built during the 15th century by Don Pedro Girón, master of the Calatrava Order, as a way to defend the area against Arab forces. Today, the castle houses a wine museum and hosts guided tours.
The castle is around 58 km east of Valladolid, which is a 50-minute journey by car. There are also direct buses to the town from Valladolid which take around 90 minutes.
Accommodation near Peñafiel Castle
Castillo de Ponferrada
Ponferrada Castle looks like something from a King Arthur storybook because the multicoloured rocks and carved turrets look more like a medieval castle you’d find in England, not León in northern Spain. In reality, this 13-century castle was built by the Knights Templar, a religious military order that protected holy places. It also boasts a library of rare books as well as castle walls that enable you to look over the nearby towns.
The closest city to Castillo de Ponferrada is Léon, which is around 114 km east or a 75-minute drive. There are direct buses from Léon to Ponferrada and then the castle is just a short walk from the bus station.
Accommodation near Castillo de Ponferrada
Royal Palace of Olite
With its black turreted towers and sandstone walls, the Royal Palace of Olite (or Olite Castle) is one of the closest castles in Spain to those in France or Germany. It’s not surprising that this Gothic 13th-century fortress was once the home of the Kings of Navarra. This national monument is astonishingly well-preserved and one of the most beautiful castles in Spain.
The Royal Palace of Olite is between Bilbao to the northwest, 200 km away, and Zaragoza to the southeast, which is 140 km away. Whereas the best way to travel from Bilbao to the palace is by driving, there is a direct train from Zaragoza to Olite.
Accommodation near Royal Palace of Olite
Many castles in Spain have lived several lives, and this is especially true of Loarre Castle. Built way back in the 11th century, this Romanesque castle in Huesca, Aragon has been a fortress, an abbey, and a filming location for The Kingdom of Heaven (2005). It is now one of the most popular abandoned castles in Spain for visitors. It’s also one of the oldest castles in Spain and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It’s in such a remote location that the only reason you will be in the area is to visit this castle, and you will only get there by car. Luckily, it won’t be a long drive. Loarre Castle is only 100 km north of Zaragoza which is about a 60-minute drive.
Accommodation near Loarre Castle
Castillo de Baños de la Encina
If Loarre Castle is one of the oldest castles, which is the oldest? Well, the oldest castle in Spain is Castillo de Baños de la Encina, also known as Burgalimar Castle which sits on a craggy outcrop overlooking the village in Andalusia. It dates back to 968 AD which also makes it the second oldest castle in Europe behind the Château de Doué-la-Fontaine in France.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, the castle isn’t actually made out of stone. The Muslims that built the castle made it from rammed earth, which has less durability than rock, and it somehow still stands today.
Córdoba is probably the closest major city to Castillo de Baños de la Encina that tourists like to visit. It’s 117 km east of the historic city, which is just over a one-hour drive along the edge of the mountain range.
Accommodation near Castillo de Baños de la Encina
- Budget – Palacete Maria Rosa
- Mid-range – Hotel Rural Palacio Guzmanes
- Luxury – Alojamiento Rural La Casa de Baños
Castillo de Arteaga
Is living like royalty for a night by sleeping in a castle on your bucket list? Lucky for you, there are plenty of castles in Spain to stay in! One of the best is Castillo de Arteaga, a Neo-Gothic castle in the Basque Country. This four-star castle hotel has a rooftop terrace where you can enjoy the sunset with a glass of wine as well as a pool and an on-site restaurant.
This castle is only 41 km east of Bilbao along Spain’s northern coast. You could travel to Castillo de Arteaga from the city via two buses, or you could make the journey easier on yourself and rent a car.
Accommodation near Castillo de Arteaga
Castle of Zahara de la Sierra
Surrounded by rows and rows of olive trees and pristine white houses, the Castle of Zahara de la Sierra in Cadíz is one of the most picturesque castles in southern Spain. Dating back to 1282, this castle was built by the Moors and was strategically located between Ronda and Seville. Today, you’ll need to brace yourself for a very steep walk to explore this ruined castle, but it will be worth it.
Accommodation near Castle of Zahara de la Sierra
- Budget – Hostal Rural Marques de Zahara
- Mid-range – TUGASA Hotel Arco de la Villa
- Luxury – Molino El Vínculo
Alcázar de Los Reyes Cristianos
Also known as the Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, the Alcázar de Los Reyes Cristianos is something of a contradiction. It was built in 1328 by the Moors, but it’s dedicated to the Christian monarchs’ King Fernando and Queen Isabella with Roman mosaics and Gothic towers. The most likely explanation is that it didn’t always bear that name!
It was in this Alcazar in Córdoba that Christopher Columbus asked the monarchs for permission to seek a Western route to India. Today, it’s one of the most spectacular palaces in Córdoba (which is saying something) with beautiful gardens and gorgeous views.
Córdoba is a popular tourist destination thanks to its many amazing cathedrals, palaces, and historic bridges. It’s a small and walkable city, so most will be able to walk to get around. The nearest large international airport is Málaga, but Seville and Granada also have airports.
Accommodation near Alcázar de Los Reyes Cristianos
Castillo de Zafra
Castillo de Zafra is a remote, 12th-century castle that stands alone on a rocky outcrop in Castile-La Mancha. Though picturesque, the ruins of this fortified castle are not particularly unique. Plus, you can’t enter the castle so there aren’t any exhibitions or guided tours. Aside from being free to visit, what is so special about it?
Well, it just so happens that Castillo de Zafra is a famous filming location. It appeared in season six of HBO’s Game of Thrones TV show as the Tower of Joy where Lyanna Stark gave birth to her baby.
Even though it’s remote, Castillo de Zafra is around halfway between Madrid and Zaragoza. You can either drive 230 km from Madrid, which will take two hours and 45 minutes, or 150 km (a 105-minute drive) from Zaragoza.
Accommodation near Castillo de Zafra
- Budget – Hotel Rural Las Ollerías
- Mid-range – Hotel Balneario De La Virgen
- Luxury – Relais & Châteaux Molino de Alcuneza
Castillo de Coca
Coca Castle in Segovia is the perfect blend of Spanish cultures. It has a mix of Gothic architecture and Moorish design and displays one of the best examples of Spanish Mudejar brickwork. Built during the late 15th century, this is one of the few castles in Spain not on top of a hill. It’s so well-preserved that this could be a liveable castle but, fortunately, it’s open to the public for guided tours so everyone can enjoy this castle.
It’s around 140 km north of Madrid, which is a 100-minute drive away. Unfortunately, there aren’t many good public transport options to reach this remote castle so you might need to hire a car.
Accommodation near Castillo de Coca
Alcazaba de Málaga
One of the most popular castles in Spain for visitors is Alcazaba de Málaga. Built between the 10th and 15th centuries during Muslim rule, this fortress was essential in protecting the region from enemy attack. This fortified castle is, unsurprisingly, built on a hilltop overlooking the beautiful city of Málaga and out to sea. But it is one of the few hilltop castles in Spain that has a funicular to take you to the top. It’s perfect for those with little legs who tire easily or those with special accessibility needs.
Alcazaba de Málaga is in the centre of the city so it is accessible by bus, bicycle, or walking. Málaga airport is only 12 km west (a 20-minute drive) which you can do by car or bus.