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9 Amazing Cities that Have Been the Capital of Spain

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Although Madrid has been the capital of Spain for over four centuries, there have been several cities that had this title throughout the nation’s history. Some of these had the privilege for a very short period of time! Let’s dive into the amazing cities that once were the capital of Spain!

#1. Cordoba

Founded by the Romans in the 2nd century BC, Cordoba became the capital f the Hispania Ulterior during the Roman republic. However, Cordoba experienced its period of greatest splendour under the Caliphate of Abdir Al-Rahman III (929). Cordoba became Europe’s largest and most advanced city. Its leading intellectuals carried out pioneering work in philosophy, medicine and astronomy.

The Muslim period in Spain is often described as a ‘golden age‘ of learning, where libraries and universities were established and literature, poetry and architecture flourished. Of course, this historical period had a big influence on our language. Did you know that 8% of the Spanish vocabulary comes from Arabic?

Roman bridge in Cordoba, with views to the Mosque-Cathedral

#2. Toledo

Toledo is the heart of Spain. This town, which is one of the oldest and most unique Spanish cities, was the capital, from 542 to 725, of the Visigothic Kingdom. Toledo is also popularly known as the “City of the Three Cultures” for the cultural influences of Christians, Muslims and Jews throughout history.

If you happen to be in Madrid, you can’t miss Toledo! It’s only half-an-hour by train, and you will be very impressed by its architecture. For instance, Toledo’s cathedral is one of the most important Christian landmarks in Spain. It was built in the 13th century on the site of a Muslim mosque next to La Judería (Jewish quarter).

 St Martin’s Bridge in Toledo, which leads to the Alcazar, a 13th century fortress.

#3. Barcelona

In the Middle Ages, Barcelona was the capital of the County of Barcelona, thus becoming the main economic and administrative centre of the Crown. We can still see some remains from this historical period in the History Museum of Barcelona.

Many centuries later, in 1937, the Spanish Republic decided to move the capital from Madrid to Barcelona because of the Spanish Civil War.

Barcelona’s Gothic quarter

#4. Granada

In the 13th century it became the capital of the Emirate of Granada, the last Muslim-ruled state in the Iberian Peninsula. Granada was finally conquered in 1492 by the Catholic Monarchs, and progressively became a Christian city. The Court was established there in 1499, but it only lasted three years.

The Alhambra palace from Mirador de San Nicolás, the most famous viewpoint in Granada.

#5. Valladolid

Valladolid was briefly the capital of Spain between 1601 and 1606. This led numerous artists and intellectuals such as Miguel de Cervantes, Quevedo, Góngora or Rubens to visit the city quite often.

#6. Sevilla

Founded in the 9th century BC as “Spal”, Sevilla also had the privilege of being the capital of Spain during different periods: From 1729 until 1733, and from 1808 until 1810. Nowadays,  Sevilla is the fourth-largest city in Spain and one of the most popular destinations!

Views of Seville from the quarter of Triana

#7. Cadiz

Some historians consider Cadiz as the oldest city in Europe. It was founded by the Phoenicians in 1100 BC, and they called it “Gadir”. Not far from its current name, in fact!

Between 1810 and 1813, Cadiz was Spain’s capital, and it was there where the first Spanish Constitution, known as “La Pepa”, was approved. In those three years, Cadiz went from a population of 40,000 to over 100,000. Impressive, right?

Madrid wasn't always the capital of Spain. These are other 8 amazing cities that had this privilege throughout history!
La Caleta, the most popular beach in Cadiz.

#8. Valencia

During the Spanish Civil War, more specifically between november 1936 and october 1937, the capital of Spain was moved to Valencia. Like Barcelona, this change took place to avoid Franco’s troops, which began to move closer to Madrid.

#9. Burgos

Although for a short period of time (only 5 months and 18 days), Burgos can proudly say it was the capital of Spain. This happened in 1939, towards the end of the Spanish Civil War.

Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos, built in the 13th century.

That’s all, amigos! Have you been to any city (apart from Madrid) that once was the capital of Spain? If not, make them your next destination! I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

You can find more interesting facts on the Culture section of this website. And if you want to continue learning about Hispanic culture and language, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram!

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