With a complex history that dates back to the 10th Century BCE (and human settlements that are said to be over one million years old), it is no secret that Spain is a region wherein ancient traditions run up against startling new advances in the arts and sciences in unique and often confounding ways. But for people who are fascinated by the ancient world, a visit to Spain can feel like something out of a dream. Here are just a few of the country’s most beautiful ancient cities, and why a visit to one of these places can be the experience of a lifetime.
Having been continually inhabited since at least the 10th Century BCE, Cadiz has its roots in an ancient Phoenician empire that died out thousands of years ago. Set almost at the southern tip of Spain along the country’s Costa de la Luz, Cadiz retains an old-world sensibility that can be truly stunning to visitors.
Cadiz is extremely old even by ancient Phoenician standards; the city is claimed by historians to have been founded hundreds of years before the ancient Phoenician queen Dido is said to have given her blessing to the great city of Carthage in North Africa. To put that in perspective, consider that the ancient Roman poet Virgil thought of the founding of Carthage as an ancient and even mythical occurrence when he was writing his epic poem “The Aeneid” during the 1st Century BCE.
Founded in 227 BCE by Carthaginian invaders, Cartagena remains a city steeped in ancient lore and custom. Its ancient Roman amphitheater and sprawling medieval fortifications will also remind visitors that Cartagena has been the site of foreign invasions for thousands of years. This is a place that truly must be seen to be believed.
One of the jewels of Spain’s Andalusian region, Málaga was founded around the time that the ancient poet Homer was composing his epic poems “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” in the 8th Century BCE, and a stroll along one of the city’s ancient walls can feel like stepping into one of those poems. Looking out at the sea from the city’s high fortifications, you half expect to see the mythical sailor Odysseus and his famous ship coming over the horizon.
Another gorgeous city set in the heart of Andalusia, Seville is just as old as Málaga and just as beautiful. Over the course of its long and distinguished history, the region around Seville has witnessed everything from the strict censure of Roman rule to the brutally oppressive dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. It remains a city of startling contrasts.
Now famous for its bustling, popular music scene and its gorgeous beaches, Ibiza has a history that stretches back to the 6th Century BCE. Like Cadiz and many other ancient cities in Spain, Ibiza was founded by the Phoenicians when that ancient culture was looking for new lands to seize for its rapidly-expanding empire. Ibiza’s ancient ruins bear the scars of the fierce political upheavals that have rocked Spain from time to time for thousands of years, but for history buffs, the city remains one of Spain’s most compelling destinations.