Spain, with its long history and rich culture, has much to offer. It is the land of sunny weather, delicious food, unique architecture, and fascinating legends. If you choose the country as your next destination, do not miss out on the opportunity to visit local castles. They can tell you about the land and its people more than anything else. Visit them to admire magnificent interiors, learn about historical events of the past, and listen to the mysterious stories of ghosts. Here are the most famous haunted castles and palaces in Spain that are worth visiting.
Barcelona is surely the most popular tourist destination in Spain, where travelers can find countless attractions and activities. But the city’s neighboring towns are no less appealing. If you are after romantic ghost stories, take a trip from Barcelona to Cardona to spend a day at the Parador hotel, housed inside a 9th-century castle. Its magnificent stone walls and medieval interiors with vaulted ceilings will transport you back to the 11th century, when the Lord and Lady of Cardona locked up their daughter Adalés in the tower, known now as Torre de la Minyona.
According to legend, Adalés fell in love with a Muslim warlord, which made her parents furious and led to her imprisonment. Unable to bear the separation from her beloved, the poor thing died of a broken heart. Since that time, Adalés’ soul has been destined to roam the castle and become a cause of paranormal phenomena. In the hotel’s room 712, which once belonged to her, strange voices have been heard, and furniture has been found to have moved on its own from its original location. Some guests even claim to have seen the ghost of a girl in a white dress. The room is now locked and can be opened only for a short period of time upon special request. True or false? Who knows. One thing is certain: this majestic castle, perched on a hill above the picturesque valley of the Cardener River, will never leave you indifferent.
Escudella is a traditional Catalan soup (or stew) with meat. One of the first soups mentioned in Europe. It consists of a 'pilota', a very big meatball seasoned with garlic and parsley and seasonal vegetables. In historical times, the dish was called 'Escudel de Paz', it included pasta and rice, traditionally cooked on Thursdays and Sundays.
Average bill: €30
After you explore the mystic world of the castle, take your chance to have a royal lunch at the Parador’s majestic, medieval-style restaurant. Here, you’ll be able to taste the hits of Catalan cuisine, such as cod with brandade, traditional sausages with coca de vidre bread and tomatoes, and local seafood stew with lobster, hake, monkfish, prawns, and clams. But the restaurant’s most popular specialties are escudella catalana with galets, roasted goat kid shoulder at a low temperature, and timbale of Mató cheese with flower honey.
The 16th-century Renaissance-style palace in Plaza del Rey in Madrid received its name after the number of chimneys that crown its roof. The mansion was home to many notable people, including the English poet and diplomat Sir Richard Fanshawe and Spain's statesman and finance minister, the Marquis of Esquilache. However, it was the legend of King Philip II that made the house known as a haunted place.
According to this legend, the palace was built by the king’s order as a place for his secret love affair with a lady named Elena. The woman’s frequent visits to the house were soon noticed, and to stop the gossip, she got married to Captain Zapata. After her husband had gone to war and been killed, Elena was murdered, and her body disappeared. There were even rumors that it was King Philip II who ordered her to be killed to hide the birth of his illegitimate child. As Elena’s body was not found and a murderer was not punished, her soul could not rest in peace and now wanders the palace as a ghost dressed in white. During the 19th-century restoration, the remains of a woman with gold coins scattered around were found in the basement. The coins dated back to King Philip II’s reign, which gave weight to the dark legend and preserved it to this day.
Patatas bravas are one of Spain’s most popular tapas. They’re the go-to choice for an appetizer or a snack to share along with a round of cañas. The potatoes are cut into bite-size chunks and deep fried in olive oil. The main thing that sets them apart from other varieties of what Americans know as “fries” is the shape. The sauce is usually drizzled directly onto the potatoes before serving. Bravas sauce is bright red and slightly spicy.
Average bill: €9 – €23
Nothing whets the appetite like mystical stories about royals and their love affairs. After a visit to the House of Seven Chimneys, cross the Plaza del Rey to have lunch at Sra. Smith Restaurant. Its delicious food, lovely interior, good service, and warm atmosphere are what one needs after sightseeing in Madrid. The menu has a long list of dishes from international cuisines. Spanish patatas bravas, Italian risotto and pastas, Mexican taquitos, French entrecôte, and Japanese tuna tataki are just a few names to choose from. Vegetarians will appreciate the taste of gazpacho with garnish, a green burger and lasagna, and zucchini pancakes with greens. The bar offers both classic drinks like mojitos and bloody marys and signature cocktails like the Ginger 43, the Porn Star Martini, and Senora Smith's Passion.
The Gothic-style Bellver Castle is perched on a hill just 3 kilometers from Palma's center. It was built in the 14th century as a fortified residence for King James II and is one of Europe's few circular fortresses. Its location at 112 meters above sea level provides a breathtaking view of Mallorca’s bay and justifies its name, which translates as "a beautiful sight" in Catalan.
Gorgeous in sunlight, Bellver is scary at night. Throughout its history, it served not only as a royal residence but also as a refuge during the plague, a military fortress, and a jail. Some prisoners were held in the tower known as the Torre de l’Homeage. A trapdoor in its floor leads to a dark dungeon known as Olla (the pot), where convicts were thrown and left to die in summer heat or winter cold. As legend has it, the restless souls of the tormented people still wander the dark caves and tunnels under the castle. The mystic reputation of the site is strengthened by the stories of the Knights Templar, who are said to have held their conspiracy meetings in those underground passages, which lead as far as the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Palma.
Croquettes, especially stuffed with jamon, are often served at tapas bars. The dough is mainly made with stuffing (jamon, ham, seafood) and with the béchamel sauce.
Average bill: €11 – €42
When your tour of Bellver Castle is over, go to Palma’s central area for lunch at Tast Club. Since its opening in 2012 on a side street in the city’s center, the restaurant has been a place of exclusive dining. It has no nameplate above the entrance, just a menu on the wall next to the door. Inside, you’ll find elegant interiors in the old English club style, with beige-painted wood, smart furniture, and mirrors. Crystal chandeliers hanging from vaulted ceilings add a touch of noble luxury to the place. The restaurant serves Mediterranean and Spanish cuisine with vegetarian options. Start with Cantabrian sea anchovies or squid croquettes, follow them with grilled octopus with mashed potatoes or duck magret with citrus fruit sauce, and finish your meal with cream mille-feuille or mandarin sorbet. The bar offers a good choice of wines from different Spanish regions, including a few of Mallorca’s names, such as Fosca Negra, Myotrsgus, and Avanero.
The Castle of Santa Catalina is an ancient stronghold located on a high hill overlooking the Andalusian city of Jaén. It was built as a Moorish fort in the 8th century, but after King Ferdinand III of Castile captured the city in the 13th century, the castle was considerably reconstructed and expanded, with the majority of work completed during the reign of subsequent kings. The castle now houses a hotel owned by the Paradores, a state-owned luxury hotel chain.
The citadel is famous not only as a site of cultural heritage and a luxury hotel, but also as a haunted place. One of its spooky inhabitants is a prisoner known as Terrible Lagarto (Terrible Lizard), who died of hunger while being locked up in the fortress ages ago. A few people claim to have seen him wandering the castle halls and even to have been possessed by his spirit for a second. Another ghost resides in room 22. Its guests have repeatedly reported being woken up by a dull knock at night. Some of them even heard a woman crying. In 1984, paranormal investigators visited the room. They discovered that it was haunted by the spirit of a young woman who had died of heartbreak centuries ago. Does that sound true? The best way to answer this question is to come to Jaén and check it out in person.
Ajoblanco is a cold soup that contains four main ingredients: water, oil, garlic and bread, and sometimes vinegar or almonds. It is usually served with grapes or slices of melon. The annual Akhoblanko Festival is held on September, 2 in the city of Almachar, Malaga.
Average bill: €9 – €23
The castle’s hotel has an excellent restaurant. Its medieval-style interiors, with vaulted ceilings and impressive chandeliers, make one feel like a feudal lord at a royal feast. The menu is a perfect fusion of Andalusian cuisine, Moorish culinary traditions, and the best gastronomic achievements of the 21st century. The focus is on local garden products and extra virgin olive oil, produced in Jaén. Among the restaurant’s hits are ajoblanco soup, hake with mozarabic sauce, spinach with egg in Jaén style, and pipirrana jiennese (Jaén's traditional tomato-based salad with onion, green bell pepper, and cucumber, where tuna or cod can be added). The visitors also highly rate partridge terrine, wild boar stew, and deer in the style of Baños. As for desserts, convent sweets and puff pastries are worth trying.
On the outskirts of Malaga, there are terrifying ruins known as "the house of a thousand widows." The mansion was built in the mid-19th century by one of the city’s wealthiest families, the Heredia. In 1975, they sold it to the Vega Jurado family, to whom the place owes its name.
The first eerie stories appeared after the death of Heredia’s patriarch, when girls began to disappear in the neighborhood. Some of them were found dead on the banks of the Campanillas River, not far from the mansion. This gave rise to rumors that they were victims of the family's satanic rituals. As legend has it, the Heredia brought their victims to the dungeons under the house through secret underground tunnels. The bodies are believed to have remained there until today. Locals say that strange sounds are sometimes heard in the mansion. Some even claim to have seen human figures in the mansion's yard and windows.
In 2000, the house was purchased to be reconstructed into a luxury hotel, but the project was never realized. This gave rise to new, terrifying stories about paranormal phenomena witnessed by the workers.
Paella is a national dish of Spanish cuisine, its homeland is the city of Valencia. In Spain, there are about three hundred varieties of paella. In each Spanish province, paella is cooked in its own way: with meat, fish, seafood. There is also a vegetarian paella. But the main ingredients remain unchanged: it is saffron-flavored rice, tomatoes, and olive oil.
Average bill: €9 - €23
After being thrilled at Cortijo Jurado, go to Malaga to dine at one of the city's best restaurants. Buenavista Gastrobar & Tapas was opened in 2018 by two talented chefs, Juan Molina Marín and Marco Silva Lindblom. It serves signature cuisine in a cozy and beautifully decorated setting. The restaurant offers a great variety of paella and other rice-based delicacies, which are true hits with the locals and tourists. Among other specialties are the red tuna tartare, the grilled pork ribs, and the homemade pasta with bacon and truffle. For dessert, try grilled pineapple with passion fruit and toasted white chocolate, or mille-feuille with vanilla cream and strawberries.
Have you ever been to a haunted castle in Spain or any other country? Share your experience in the comments below.