Eight Spanish towns and cities that were once capitals

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Eight Spanish towns and cities that were once capitals
The cities in Spain that were once capitals. Photo: David Mark / Pixabay

Madrid hasn't always been the capital of Spain. Here are eight towns and cities that at one point in history were the capitals of various kingdoms that today are part of Spain.


Of course, there are many cities in Spain that are filled with impressive emblematic buildings and palaces, not just Madrid. Part of the reason for this may be that some of these towns and cities were once capitals. Surprisingly, it's not just big cities such as Barcelona that are included in the list, but even small towns and villages. 



Located just south of Madrid in the region of Castilla-La Mancha, the city of Toledo became the capital of the Visigothic Kingdom in 567, when King Atanagildo transferred the capital there from Barcelona. Centuries later, it became the capital again between 1519 and 1561 upon the order of King Carlos I of Spain and V of Germany.

Toledo was once the capital of Spain. Photo: Steven Yu / Pixabay


The Andalusian city of Córdoba was founded by the Romans during the 2nd century and became the capital of Hispania Ulterior. After the Romans left, it became the capital again as the Caliphate of Córdoba, when the Moors ruled over much of the country. 

Córdoba was the capital twice throughout history. Photo: campunet / Pixabay


Situated in northwest Spain in Castilla y León, Valladolid became the capital in 1601 when the Duke of Lerma, under the direction of Felipe III, made the decision to transfer the court from Madrid to Valladolid. It was shortlived, however, and by 1606 it was no longer the capital. Even so, there are several iconic buildings that stand from this grand time such as the Palacio de Santa Cruz and the Palacio de Pimentel. 

The capital was once transferred from Madrid to Valladolid. Photo: Juan José Berhó / Pixabay

READ ALSO: The small coastal town that was Spain’s capital for a day


Cangas de Onís

It may come as a surprise to discover that the small village of Cangas de Onís in the northern region of Asturias was also once the capital. It specifically became the capital of the Kingdom of Asturias after the Battle of Covadonga in 722, between the Spanish Christians under Don Pelayo and the Moorish army of the Umayyad Caliphate. Pelayo became the first king of Asturias and established his court in Cangas de Onís while he continued to conquer other territories. This was the beginning of the 770-year-long process to recapture Spain from the Moors, known as the Reconquista.

Even though Cangas de Onís is a small village, it was once the capital. Photo: Enrique / Pixabay


The Visigothic Kingdom stretched from southwest France throughout most of Spain between the 5th and the 8th centuries. During their rule, the Visigoths changed the capital several times and one of these times was to Barcelona. At the time, it was named Barcino, the name the Romans had given it when they founded it in the 1st century. 

Barcelona definitely plays the part of a worthy capital. Photo: Dominick Vietor / Pixabay


Located on the southwest coast of Andalusia, Cádiz became the capital between 1810 and 1813 during the Napoleonic occupation. During this time it transformed into an important cultural, political, and commercial centre. Cádiz is also one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the Iberian Peninsula and most likely in Western Europe too. 

Cádiz is an ancient city that was once the capital in the 1800s. Photo: Paul Edney / Pixabay


Today, Seville is the capital of Andalusia, but throughout history, it was the capital of Spain twice. The first was from 1729 to 1733, when it became the residence of Felipe V and he established a court there. During this period, the Real Maestranza de Caballería bullring and the Real Fábrica de Tabacos factory were also built. Later, during the Peninsular War which was part of the Napoleonic Wars fought in the Iberian Peninsula, it became the capital again between 1808 and 1810.

Seville is the capital of Andalusia, but it was once the capital of much more. Photo: Alp Cem / Pixabay


Comillas is situated just west of the capital of the Cantabrian region, Santander and is home to just over 2,100 inhabitants. In the summer of 1881, Comillas's 1st Marquess Antonio López y López invited King Alfonso XII of Spain to come and stay with him. During the stay, on August 6th 1881, King Alfonso presided over Spain's Council of Ministers at Lopez's palace, attended by the president of Spain's Council and important generals of the time. This meeting of Spain's political rulers outside Madrid effectively made Comillas Spain's de facto capital for one day.

El Capricho de Gaudí

Comillas was once the capital of Spain for one day. Photo: Tirithel / WikiCommons


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