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Spanish Architecture 101: An overview for travelers to Spain - Solo World Wanderer

It’s no secret (especially if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram) that I am slightly obsessed with the architecture of Spain.  In fact, what I enjoy most about traveling in Spain is looking at the unique and varying architecture throughout the country.  Each region has its own style.  Even more impressive are how the “showcase pieces” vary in architectural style.

Here are some of my favorite styles of architecture found throughout Spain.  And if you are looking for an itinerary that will cover these styles of Spanish architecture, simply fill out the form on the side of this page to get in touch.  I can help you discover the beautiful architecture of Spain.

(This blog post would not have come together without my dear friend Carlos, an amazing architect based here in Madrid.  Muchas gracias, Carlos! Not only that, but he has opened my eyes to so many of Spain’s architectural gems.  Without his help and guidance, I would not know of so many off-the-beaten-path treasures.)

Santa María del Naranco - Oviedo

Santa María del Naranco, one of the Romanesque churches in the hills above Oviedo.


Romanesque Architecture is a style way back from Europe’s medieval era meant to give off the impression of strength.  The walls of buildings constructed in this style are often very thick with just a few small openings.  Semi-circular arches are also used as are columns.

In Spain, This architectural style is mainly found throughout the northern half of the country.  While it was mainly a style for religious buildings, many civil monuments were also built in this style (bridges, castles, walls, palaces, etc).  Unfortunately very few of these remain today.

To see Romanesque architecture, head up to the areas of Cantabria, Asturias, Galicia, and León,  It is very different and constructed much more simply than the other styles  I touched upon in this post, but nonetheless, it is still beautiful.

Patio de los Leones, the Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Patio de los Leones, the Alhambra, Granada, Spain


Now on to my absolute favorite style of architecture not only in Spain but in the world: Moorish.  Think fairytale palaces fit for sultans, geometrical, colorful tile work, and cravings so detailed and exquisite that they make the marble or plaster look like lace.  Moorish architecture is a style of Islamic architecture.  Brought to Spain from Morocco, you see the best examples of this all over Andalucía (the south of Spain).  Cross over to Morocco and the architecture is similar.

Perhaps Spain’s crown of Moorish architecture is the Alhambra in Granada. Some of Spain’s other stunners include the Alcázar in Sevilla and the Mezquita in Córdoba.  Outside of Andalucía, Zaragoza is home to the impressive Aljaferia, which currently houses the regional parliament for the Autonomous Community of Aragón.



Mudejar Teruel Spain

Mudéjar style tower in Teruel, Spain


Some people like to lump Moorish and Mudéjar together, but I think they are deserving of separate categories since they are not the same.  Mudéjar architecture is also Islamic style, but it was built by the Christians, not the Muslims. Therefore you can find it in parts of Spain that were not Moorish.  The reason the Christians mimicked the Muslim-style?  Economics.  Building in Mudéjar style was more cost-effective than employing other styles.

Detailed, with arches, (usually) green tile world, most Mudéjar towers are square.  But in the city of Calatayud, you can find other shapes.  The City of Teruel is perhaps most famous for its Mudéjar style buildings.  However, you can find this style all over Spain.  Walk around Madrid for long enough and you’re sure to come across some buildings built in the Mudéjar style.


The exterior of the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Baroque-style architecture


Love the details? Then Baroque architecture is for you! Baroque architecture was designed to tell a story.  Its images are clear, direct, and dramatic, playing into the senses.  There is much detail, grandeur, tension, and movement found in Baroque architecture.

This is a style that the Catholic Church, especially the Jesuits, used often.  Therefore it is no surprise that many of Spain’s main cathedrals were built in the Baroque style.  My favorite example of this is the Murcia cathedral (pictured above as the heading for this post).  The details are impressive, and the way the cathedral was designed to reflect Murcia’s many days of sunshine and blue skies is impressive.

The cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, where many pilgrims end their walk on El Camino, is another good example of Baroque architecture found in cathedrals across Spain.

Gaudí’s unfinished Modernismo masterpiece in Barcelona, la Sagrada Familia


One of Spain’s most famous architects, Antoni Gaudí, employed the Modernismo style, and thanks to him Barcelona has secured its spot on the architectural map of Spain.  While many of Barcelona’s showcase pieces are Gaudís, other architects mimicked his style resulting in blocks and blocks of Modernismo buildings all over Barcelona

While Modernismo is not limited to Gaudí, his name is synonymous of this style, and everyone wants to see his “hits” on a trip to Barcelona.

And who wouldn’t?  This style is fun, colorful, whimsical while being symbolic of Cataluña.  Modernismo style employes more curves than straight lines, and is very closely related to art nouveau. If you dig this style, be sure to wander the smaller streets of Barcelona’s Eixample neighborhood.  You will find some beautiful, lesser-known surprises.

Madrid is home to so many of these cute buildings constructed in a more popular, everyday style.

Bonus: popular everyday architecture that can be found all over Spain

One type of my favorite Spanish architecture does not belong to a specific style, but because it is one of the things I love most about Spain, I am creating a special category for it.  This is the popular architecture that you see all over Spain’s cities.  Old apartment buildings, shops, and cafes. Popular architecture that can be seen just about everywhere.

Wander around the center of any large Spanish city, and you will see it too.  Beautiful decorative balconies, colorful buildings, windows, and doors, (sometimes) detailed brickwork.

I absolutely love this type of architecture because these are the true hidden gems of Spanish cities.  You won’t find these types of buildings in the guidebooks,  Instead, they can be found by just wandering around.  Don’t forget to look for these en route to that bog monument or cathedral.  These buildings are quaint, charming, and oh-so-Spanish.  Due to sheer abundance, Madrid is my favorite place to discover these buildings and even living here, every day I find something new.

Overlooking this style simply because it does not have an official name or era did not seem right.

There you have it, a quick and easy guide to some of Spain’s most prominent styles of architecture.  By now you should be ready to get on a flight to Madrid to travel to Spain and to see these gorgeous buildings for yourself.


My name is Karen & travel is not only my passion but also my profession.