Fans of architecture know that to get the best possible experience as a traveller, you have to head to the Old World. North America has a long and fascinating history, but it has only been building out of durable materials like stone for a few hundred years. It’s the ancient nations of Europe, Asia and the Middle East offer the greatest sights and experiences for those obsessed with the experience of architecture. However, while Britain may have its grand castles and France its boulevards, Spain has one of the most eclectic and underapprecitated architectural legacies in the world.

Touring the great cities of Spain shows travellers a mixture of the traditional and the ultra-modern. Barcelona, for instance, is separated into several distinct districts, each of which offers a radically different experience. The Gothic Quarter looks much like it sounds, with enormous pillars of marble and archways designed to humble all who enter. The Gothic Quarter is the least quintessentially Spanish section of Barcelona, although even the looming nature of West European influenced buildings is offset by the softening presence of bright Spanish greenery. Barcelona’s architecture is best known for the works of Antoni Gaudi, however, an eccentric artist whose distinctive designs give Barcelona a look and feel all its own. Dominated by bright colours and sweeping shapes with few hard edges, Gaudi’s influence over the feel of Barcelona is impossible to miss.

Of course, the nation’s capital of Madrid is also home to its own wonder-edifices. Particularly, Madrid’s religious architecture is known around the world. The monastery at El Escorial is another attraction you won’t want to miss, a sprawling complex that looks deceptively simple from the outside. The interior is one of the most sought-after religious experiences in Spanish architecture, and Europeans regularly make the trip just to experience mass in such a humbling context. The Walls of Avila are one of the country’s primary attractions, a thousand-year-old wonder that stretches the two and half kilometres to enclose all of historical Avila. Just a short drive from Madrid, Avila has built an industry on architectural tourism and the walls that kept it safe so long ago.

Virtually every civic building in the ancient cities of Spain has some long and amazing history behind it. City Hall in Madrid is a wonderous Gothic structure that has hosted events of real importance to world history, and has also been an object of real influence in the evolution of Spanish architecture. The real challenge of an architectural trip to Spain is in feeling that you’ve seen what the country has to offer, since every small street and unmarked archway carries with it a story that would seem truly remarkable in a newer country.