7 castles in Andalucía straight out of a fairytale


Sitting atop hills and overlooking quaint villages, these disney-esque castles are a window into Andalucía’s rich history.

Article by Sophie Gatward-Wicks

Castle of Iruela

Castle of Iruela in Jaén sits on a peak of the Sierra de Cazorla.

The village of La Iruela in Jaén sits on a peak of the Sierra de Cazorla. At the top of a rock named El Picacho, stands the impressive structures of the castle, built in three different eras: first the Middle Ages with the Templars, then the Castilians, and finally the nobles of the sixteenth-century. 

The Castle of Iruela played a crucial role in the region’s history, serving as a strategic stronghold during periods of conflict between Muslim and Christian forces in medieval Spain. The mix of Moorish, Gothic, and Renaissance architecture blends together with the striking altitude and cliffs edge of the Picacho rock, giving the castle an almost surreal aesthetic. It would certainly provide the perfect staging for a darker-than-Disney folklore fairytale, particularly on a cold and misty day.

Castle of Almodóvar del Río

Castle of Almodóvar del Río, Cordoba

This stunning medieval fortress in the province of Córdoba sits atop a hill overlooking the town of Almodóvar del Río. Dating back to the 8th century, with Moorish origins, it has gone through several renovations. Most recently undergoing significant restructuring during the 20th century between 1901 and 1936, when efforts were made to restore and rehabilitate the castle under the direction of the architect Adolfo Fernández Casanova.

The Castle of Almodóvar del Río has since served as a filming location for several movies and television series, including the popular HBO series Game of Thrones, where it was used as the exterior location for the fictional castle of Highgarden in the show’s seventh season.

Castle of Burgalimar

Castle of Burgalimar at Baños de la Encina in the province of Jaén.

Overlooking the town of Baños de la Encina in the province of Jaén, the Castle of Burgalimar is one of the best-preserved examples of Islamic military architecture in Spain. Built during the 10th century by the Moors during their rule of the Iberian Peninsula, it still stands undamaged on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, featuring 14 towers that overlook the valley and surrounding landscape. 

It’s easy to be transported back into the Middle Ages when wandering through its perfectly-preserved corridors and climbing its storybook towers, imagining who may have passed through these walkways hundreds of years prior.

Castle of Santa Catalina

Castillo de Santa Catalina, Jaén city

In the Northern part of the City of Jaén, which shares the same name as its province, stands the Castle of Santa Catalina, composed of three distinct fortresses, each from a different era. The Alcazaba is the oldest section of the castle, dating back to the Moorish period of the 8th and 13th centuries. The central section of the castle represents the medieval Christian fortress constructed during the Christian reconquest of Jaén in the 13th century, whilst the third section of the castle consists of more recent additions and modifications made during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Fun fact about this castle: Your dog can come too! It’s the perfect excuse for an exciting day trip with your pet. The National Parador just outside the castle is also an amazing viewpoint where you can both enjoy the incredible views. The sunsets from here are known to be outstanding.

Castle of Belalcázar

Castle of Belalcázar in Cordoba province

Located in Córdoba, surrounded by a picturesque Andalusian landscape of agricultural fields, olive groves and rolling hills, the Castle of Belalcázar exudes an aura of serene tranquility. Considered one of the most important structures in Spain, the castle boasts a keep measuring 17 metres in length and 47 metres in height, making it the tallest in the country. Its Gothic and military style from the 15th century also make it one of the best examples of this type of architecture. Remnants of the Muslim era linger within the castle’s structure, with evidence suggesting a substantial moat once encircled the entire complex. A grand parade ground and expansive dungeon bear witness to its illustrious past as a medieval fortress. 

Castle of Calahorra

Castle of Calahorra in Granada province with snowey Sirerra Nevada in background.

Sitting 2.5 hrs from Marbella, with Sierra Nevada as its backdrop, the Castle of Calahorra in Granada was one of the first Italian Renaissance castles to be built outside of Italy. Constructed between 1509 and 1512, atop a seemingly deserted plain, from certain angles you would think there were no signs of civilisation for miles around. This area now houses hundreds of occupants in the nearby village of Calahorra, was once considered inhospitable, and it is assumed that the castle was used as a prison during the Spanish Reconquest.

With an undoubtedly striking appearance surrounded by awe inspiring mountains, this castle made it to the big screen, used as a manse in the city of Pentos for the 2022 television series House of the Dragon, and also featured in the 1974 film Stardust.

Castle of Marbella

remains of Marbella castle walls

Right on our doorstep in the centre of Marbella stands the historic remains of the Moorish times, when the town was one of the most important cities in the province of the ancient Al-Andalus. The walls of Marbella’s Alacazaba fortress were once part of an enclosed Moorish citadel built in the 10th century. Situated in the town’s old quarter, close to the Plaza de Los Naranjos, a visit to the exterior of the castle can start at Calle Carmen, before going up stairs to Plaza de San Bernabe. From here continue on to Calle Castillo, then Calle Barbacana, ending at Calle Portada.

It’s easy to forget Marbella’s rich heritage when surrounded with all the glitz, glam and fashion of this trendy holiday destination. But walking through the old town you are suddenly reminded of its enduring history. The warm stone walls set against blue skies and palm trees, serving as a gentle reminder that you are safe in paradise, on the better side of history.

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