Private tailor-made journeys of a lifetime 1 888 263 2574
USA
  • AUS
  • DEU
USA
  • AUS
  • DEU
History of Spain

History of Spain

Spain’s position in the heart of the Mediterranean has made it a major melting pot of cultures over the centuries, all of which have helped shape its complex and fascinating heritage.

There are numerous ways to educate yourself on the history of Spain during a vacation. Explore exquisite Moorish palaces built over a millennia ago, marvel at a sacred cathedral believed to house the remains of a saint, or wander around galleries packed with thought-provoking art in bustling Madrid.

Spain history
Excellent / 4.9 out of 5
Roman ruins in Spain

Early History of Spain

Spain’s early culture was influenced mainly by the Phoenicians and the Greeks, who settled in the region around 1000 BC. Their biggest contributions to Spain were olives and grapes – both still key elements in Spanish cuisine. Head to ancient Cadiz in Andalucia to see where the former landed their ships or follow in the footsteps of the Greeks on a tour of Catalonia’s coastline. 

Until 600 AD, Romans occupied the Iberican Peninsula (the collective name for Spain and Portugal) – you can still spot Roman ruins in cities like Seville and Cordoba. Romans additionally brought religion to Spain and developed several Latin-based dialects, which form the basis of languages spoken throughout the Hispanic world today. 

Spain has been no stranger to invasions over the centuries. In 711 AD, an army of Moors (known as the Al-Andalus) from Damascus gained control of the Iberian Peninsula. Cordoba in Andalusia, one of Spain’s major Muslim settlements, is packed with fascinating Moorish relics, including the magnificent Mesquita (Grand Mosque). Seville and Granada also have links to Spain’s Moorish past. Granada is where you’ll find the world-famous Alhambra; a fortress revered for its ornate interiors and beautiful gardens.

Christian Conquest

Known as the La Reconquista, this period saw Christians regain control in Spain over several centuries, beginning in 722 AD.

Santiago de Compostela in Galicia flourished around a cult dedicated to St. James – who is supposedly buried in the Cathedral – and remains one of the most important Christian pilgrimage sites in Europe.

After the defeat of Granada – the last Islamic stronghold – in 1492, Catholicism spread rapidly throughout Spain, led by the country’s new rulers, Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon. They even birthed the Spanish Inquisition to convert non-believers. Alhambra is a prime spot to immerse yourself in 15th century Spanish history as it’s where the Royal Court was established.

Great city scape in Seville , Spain

Colonial and Renaissance History

Between the 15th and 19th centuries, Spain was extremely successful in colonizing new territories. Expeditions by Christopher Columbus led to Spain’s discovery of the Americas.

Cadiz in Andalusia was one of the main ports from which explorations to the New World departed. Uncover more about this period of discovery at the Torre Tavira, an 18th century watchtower (one of the hundreds along Cadiz’s coastline), which has been turned into a museum.

As the headquarters of a major trading company, San Sebastien on the Bay of Biscay also played an important role. While the original city was burnt to the ground in the 1800s, you can still stroll around the Old Town and learn about its heritage at the San Telmo Museum.

The 17th and 18th centuries not only saw Spain conquer new territories but also flourish in the arts. The country’s Golden Age didn’t last however, with the following centuries punctuated by inequality, famine, and invasions from neighboring France. The early 1800s marked Spain’s resistance to Napoleon’s occupation and the French were driven out with help from the British and Portuguese in 1813. Spain became divided into conservatives, who supported the church and the monarchy, and liberals, who sought reform and democracy.

Spanish Civil War

The remainder of the 19th century was littered with conflicts, the loss of colonies (including Cuba and Puerto Rico) and financial decline. It did, however, bring about a new form of art – Catalan Modernism. You can see prominent works from this era around Spain, including the Gothic Sagrada Familia of Barcelona by Antoni Gaudi. 

Spain was thrown into two years of civil war following the victory of the left-wing Popular Front in the election of 1936. The Spanish Civil War is mainly remembered for Pablo Picasso’s painting of the bombing of Guernica (currently hanging in the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid) and the involvement of the International Brigades made up of Communist volunteers – most famously Ernest Hemmingway.

The Nationalists eventually beat the Popular Front supporters and General Francisco Franco became Spain’s dictator. Franco’s rule lasted over 50 years and, while history’s opinion of him is mixed, he did keep Spain out of WWII. 

Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain on a sunny day

20th Century Spanish history

The 1960s saw tourism take off in Spain, especially along the Costa del Sol in Andalusia and Costa Brava in Catalonia, which boosted the economy. The British in particular flocked to Spain for sunshine, sea, and culture.

In 1975, Prince Juan Carlos I became Spain’s ruler. He appointed Adolfo Suárez as Prime Minister, who reformed the constitution and abolished many of Franco’s more extreme policies, effectively turning Spain into a democracy. 

Today, Spain is a stable country with a booming tourism industry and plenty of modern and historic attractions to admire. 

To immerse yourself further in the history of Spain, book an exciting tour around the country’s culture-packed cities with Enchanting Travels.

from the blog
Traditional Vietnamese food
By: Akhila
10 min

Your Guide to the Top 10 Food Destinations in the World 

Embark on a culinary sojourn that will most certainly tantalize your tastebuds! Our curated list of destinations will provide a truly mouthwatering vacation.

READ POST

Enchanting Travels UK & Ireland Tours Famous Conwy Castle in Wales, United Kingdom, series of Walesh castles
By: Jemima Forbes
3 min

Discover the UK & Ireland through its Architecture

From charming cobbled lanes to impressive Victorian viaducts, there’s plenty of attractive architecture to be found in the UK and Ireland.

READ POST

Art and architecture in Italy - Venice
By: Jemima Forbes
6 min

Ode to the Centuries: Art and Architecture in Italy

Whether you’re a fan of classical columns and ornate frescoes or more contemporary allures, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Italy. Learn more about Italian art and architecture to plan your cultural vacation.

READ POST

Popular trips to spain
Assorted Spanish food set Paella seafood platters, grilled seafood

Simply Spain

7 Days: $ 3,190 / person
Discover Spain’s three major highlights on this classic tour! Beginning in the capital city of Madrid, take in an eclectic blend of tradition and modernity as you explore the city on a guided tour and visit its world-famous museums.
Details Inquire
Beautiful woman dancing flamenco near the fountain

Best of Spain: Flavors, Flamenco and Fiestas

12 Days: $ 6,190 / person
Discover the highlights of Spain on this private tour. Beginning in cosmopolitan Barcelona, delve deep into Catalan art and culture with a personalized visit to landmarks by Antoni Gaudi such as La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell.
Details Inquire
Sagrada familia and panorama view of barcelona city at dusk ,Spain

Grand Tour of Spain

18 Days: $ 13,290 / person
Take an epic journey through the diverse landscapes and vibrant cities of Spain with this private tour. Discover the most popular tourist destinations in the country on personalized, guided tours – from Antoni Gaudi’s best works in Barcelona to Moorish palaces and gardens in Andalucia and the stunning Guggenheim in Bilbao.
Details Inquire
Load More
THE ENCHANTING DIFFERENCE

Authentic Experiences

Our award-winning, licensed expert guides providing local insights and insider tips. Their passion is enchanting our guests.

Freedom & Flexibility

Fully customized private trips based on your interests and preferences made possible through deep destination expertise.

Safety & Security

We work exclusively with licensed chauffeurs tested for skill and the highest standards of safety. All vehicles are safety-tested.

100% Financial Protection

We are bonded members and license holders of all leading travel organizations. Your booking is completely secure.

Quality & Comfort

Personally tested accommodation and restaurant recommendations. We select comfortable, high-quality vehicles.

Never Feel Stranded

Your dedicated, destination-based trip coordinator is reachable 24/7 and we offer mobile phone access during travel.

WHAT OUR GUESTs SAY

One of the very best travel experiences I have ever had. We even got updates once at 3 am! He also made one change in one day’s itinerary to accommodate our wishes which was very wonderful. For business, I have traveled to Europe, Russia, all over Asia and South Africa but was blown away by all the beautiful sites in Argentina and Chile.

Rating 5/5
Enchanting Travels- Chile Tours Fishing boat and old Dock, Puerto Natales, Antartica Mexico holiday

Joseph MatheyUSA

All the little touches made by our Enchanting Travel consultant, Amelia Edwards, were noticed and recognized by my wife and I. Thank you for making our milestone trip (25th wedding anniversary) such a memorable one! We look forward to engaging Enchanting Travels again for our next South American adventure!!

Rating 5/5
Buenos Aires Sehenswürdigkeiten: Kongressgebäude Mexico holiday

Raymond SuireUSA

This was my first adventure as a solo traveler. But while I may have traveled on my own, I was never alone. I was well taken care of by a superb team of planners, trip coordinators, guides and drivers.

Rating 5/5
Bolivia - Uyuni - People & Car standing in Salt flats

Lori McCarneyUSA

Do you have a vacation in mind? Personalize your itinerary with our Trip Builder.