Castles in Spain contain some of the greatest national history. The many areas in Spain with castles can often be an indicator that the region was prime territory for enemy invasions or civil strife. Castles were originally constructed as a means of protection against these incidents. Many of the best Spanish castles were built and renovated throughout the Middle Ages when Muslim and Christian regions battled wildly for power.
The most faithful of noblemen to their Muslim and Christian kings were afforded a feif by their king, which means they were given a complete unit of realty including a village, huts, a castle or esteemed manor, fertile fields, pastures, and wooded areas for hunting. Each feif was situated on border lands ensuring each king’s most dedicated men always kept a watchful eye. The fiefs maintained and protected the greatest Spanish castles.
The border castles, once so well protected, were no longer a necessity after the Reconquista—a period of nearly eight centuries during which Iberia Peninsula Christians reclaimed lands from the Muslims. These castles in Spain became the residences of the aristocracy yet maintained their military edge for adversarial battles, which were still as commonplace as ever.
Throughout Spain’s Basque Country in the north, areas in Spain with castles are less obvious than regions in southern Spain. The reason behind this is that Basque Country’s noblemen were far less prosperous, building tower houses rather than large castles. On the other hand, the Muslims in Spain, who occupied the southern regions, were extremely wealthy and erected great palaces to show off their power and affluence. The Alhambra in Granada makes an excellent example of this fact. It is one of the best Spanish castles seen today.
The abounding Christian kingdoms established during the Middle Ages gained an aristocratic lifestyle and enjoyed a more wealthy status than ever before. It is during this period in which castles were built as residences rather than military strongholds. An ideal example is the Alcazar de Segovia, which housed many of the Kings of Castile. Following the Conquest of Granada, all areas in Spain with castles were forced to give them up to the Crown.
Ensuing this period, some of the best castles in Spain were either destroyed or in a state of complete disrepair. Many more castles were decimated by kings enjoying fresh rule over new lands in an attempt to control peasant or noble revolts against them. Today, hundreds of castles in Spain are beyond help, neglected for far too long. Sadly, there is neither the interest or the financial resources to restore all of these historical palaces. Some of the most notable castles include the Palacio Real in Madrid and Aranjuez’s castle of the same name as well as both alcazar’s in Segovia and Seville.
There are over 2,000 castles in Spain, with almost 500 in surprisingly good condition. Most of the best Spanish castles, however, remain in military or private hands. Those on vacations in Spain hoping to tour some of the most famous castles will be happy to note there are more than 100 open to the public. Some of the most popular include Medina del Campo, Castillo de Coca, Castillo de Loarre, and Castillo de Gormaz, the oldest of all castles in Spain. The most abundant areas in Spain with castles include regions around Madrid, Salamanca, and Toledo. The southern region around Granada, Madrid, Almeria, and Cadiz is permeated with Spanish castles.