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IN PICS: The 15 beautiful small towns you should visit in Spain

Each year the list of the Most Beautiful Towns in Spain swells it ranks and 2020 will see 15 more win a spot in the coveted association.

IN PICS: The 15 beautiful small towns you should visit in Spain
Alcudia in Mallorca makes the list of Spain's most beautiful towns. Photo: Asociación Los Pueblos más Bonitos de España

From white-washed hilltop villages in Andalusia to medieval walled towns in the foothills of the Pyrenees, a total of 94 locations have been awarded status as Los Pueblos más Bonitos de España

The idea to start the association, in 2011, came after the success of its French counterpart and first such group, Les plus beaux villages de la France. 

“It is our goal to promote preferably rural and small towns,” the association says on its website.


Town halls can apply for their town to join the list, but only 20 percent make the grade, winning the right to publicize themselves as “one of Spain's prettiest towns”. 

To qualify, towns must have a population of under 15,000 and some kind of provable architectural or cultural heritage. 

On January 1 another 15 towns will be accepted. Their names were announced last week at a ceremony in Zamora.

“We welcome these fifteen new municipalities, they will become part of our great family, beautiful villages that have passed a rigorous audit thanks to the work of generations of neighbors, who have cared for and protected the cultural heritage, architectural and landscape inherited,” said Francisco Mestre, president of the Association.

So here’s a look at the latest towns to make the grade.

Alcudia in Mallorca, Balearic Islands

Photo: Depositphotos

Pollença in Mallorca, Balearic Islands

Photo: Depositphotos

Atienza in Guadalajara province Castilla-La Mancha

Photo: Depositphotos

Pastrana in Guadalajara, Castilla-La Mancha

Photo: PMRMaeyaert/CC/ Wikipedia 

Betancuria in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

Photo: Depositphotos

Teguise in Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Photo: Depositphotos

Castellar de la Frontera in Cádiz, Andalusia

Photo: Depositphotos

Castrillo de los Polvazares in León, Castille and Leon 

Photo: Depositphotos

Monteagudo de las Vicarías in Soria, Castile and Leon

Photo: PMRMaeyaert/CC/ Wikipedia 

Vinuesa in Soria, Castile and Leon

Photo: Depositphotos

Culla in Castellón, Valencia

Arial photo: Patronato Provincial de Turismo de Castellón

Mogrovejo in Cantabria

Photo: Depositphotos

Olivenza in Badajoz, Extremadura

Photo: Depositphotos

Robledillo de Gata in Cáceres, Extremadura

Ponte Maceira in A Coruña, Galicia

Photo: Depositphotos

READ ALSO: The eight least touristy cities in Spain (and why you should visit them)

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The architect trying to finish the Sagrada Familia after 138 years

Jordi Faulí is the seventh chief architect of Barcelona's iconic Sagrada Familia since Antoni Gaudi began work on the basilica in 1883, and he had been expected to oversee its long-awaited completion.

The architect trying to finish the Sagrada Familia after 138 years
Jordi Faulí is the seventh architect director of the Sagrada Familia following Antoni Gaudi and, for many, the one destined to finish it. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

But the pandemic has delayed efforts to finish this towering architectural masterpiece, which has been under construction for nearly 140 years, and it is no longer clear whether Faulí will still be in charge when it is finally done.

“I would like to be here for many more years, of course, but that’s in God’s hands,” says Faulí, 62, a wry smile on his lips.

He was just 31 when he joined the architectural team as a local in 1990 — the same age as Gaudi when the innovative Catalan architect began building his greatest work in the late 19th century, a project that would take up four decades of his life.

“When I arrived, only three of these columns were built and they were only 10 metres (33 feet) high,” he explains from a mezzanine in the main nave.

“I was lucky enough to design and see the construction of the entire interior, then the sacristy and now the main towers.”

When finished, the ornate cathedral which was designed by Gaudi will have 18 towers, the tallest of which will reach 172 metres into the air.

READ ALSO: Pandemic to delay completion fate for Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia

The second-highest tower, which is 138 metres tall and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, will be officially inaugurated on Wednesday with the illumination of the gigantic 5.5-tonne star crowning its highest point.

It is the tallest of the nine completed towers and the first to be inaugurated since 1976.

The long-awaited completion of Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia will no longer happen in 2026 because the coronavirus epidemic has curtailed its construction and frustrated funding, basilica officials admitted. Photo: Pau Barrena/AFP
Construction halted by Civil War

In 2019, the Sagrada Familia welcomed 4.7 million visitors, making it Barcelona’s most visited monument.

But it was forced to close in March 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, with its doors staying shut for almost a year.

This year, there have been barely 764,000 visitors, municipal figures show.

And as entry tickets are the main source of funding for the ongoing building works, the goal of finishing the basilica by 2026 to mark the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death — he was run over by a tram — has been abandoned.

“We can’t give any estimate as to when it will be finished because we don’t know how visitor numbers will recover in the coming years,” Faulí says.

It is far from the first time Gaudi’s masterpiece has faced such challenges.

During the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s, construction work stopped and many of Gaudi’s design plans and models were destroyed.

For critics, this major loss means they do not view what was built later as Gaudi’s work, despite the research carried out by his successors.

READ ALSO: Central spire will make the Sagrada Familia tallest church in the world

UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, has only granted World Heritage status to the Sagrada Familia’s crypt and one of its facades, both of which were built during Gaudi’s lifetime.

But Faulí insists the project remains faithful to what Gaudi had planned as it is based on the meticulous study of photographs, drawings and testimony from the late Modernist architect.

UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, has only granted World Heritage status to the Sagrada Familia’s crypt and one of its facades, both of which were built during Gaudi’s lifetime. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

Some local opposition

Nominated chief architect of the project in 2012, Faulí took over at the head of a team of 27 architects and more than 100 builders.

Today, there are five architects and some 16 builders working to finish the Sagrada Familia.

“It is a lot of responsibility because it’s an iconic project, which many people have an opinion about,” says Faulí.

Building such a vast monument which draws huge numbers of visitors is not welcomed by everyone, with some arguing that the hoards of visiting tourists are destroying the area.

Many also oppose plans to build an enormous staircase leading up to the main entrance, the construction of which will involve the demolition of several buildings, forcing hundreds to relocate.

“My life is here and they want to throw me out,” says one sign on a balcony near the Sagrada Familia.

Faulí said he understands their concerns and wants to find “fair solutions” through dialogue.

And if he could ask Gaudi one question? Faulí pauses to reflect for a few moments.

“I would ask him about his underlying intentions and what feelings he wanted to communicate through his architecture,” he says.