Spanish Colonial Sites

If you’re looking to explore Spanish Colonial sites and want to find the best places to view Spanish Colonial history then you can explore our interactive map above or navigate further by using the links below.

Once you’ve explored the list of Spanish Colonial sites and selected those you wish to visit you can use our itinerary planner tool to plan your trip and then print off a free pocket guidebook. This indispensible holiday guide will help you make the most of your time exploring Spanish Colonial sites.

Our database of Spanish Colonial historic sites is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. Remember, if you know of other Spanish Colonial sites, remains or ruins, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by visiting our upload page.

Spanish Colonial: Site Index

Photo by jlrsousa (cc)

Alhondiga de Granaditas

Alhondiga de Granaditas was the site of a rebel attack against the Spanish in the Mexican War of Independence.

DID YOU KNOW?

Alhondiga de Granaditas in Guanajuato City in Mexico was originally built as a granary warehouse and marketplace between 1798 and 1809. However, at the start of the Mexican War of Independence this beautiful building became the site of a major clash between Spanish colonialists and Mexican rebels.

In 1810 the priest and leader of the revolution, Miguel Hidalgo, led a campaign to capture Guanajuato City. At that time, the Spanish began using Alhondiga de Granaditas as a fortress in which to shelter, an action which initially proved quite effective. However, Hidalgo then ordered a miner called Juan José de los Reyes Martínez, known as ‘El Pípila’ to set Alhondiga de Granaditas on fire. After strapping a slab to his back for protection from enemy fire, El Pípila did just that. The result was the massacre of those inside Alhondiga de Granaditas and doubt by some as to whether to continue with the fight for independence.

The Mexicans managed to take Guanajuato City, but by the following year the Spanish had recaptured it and exacted revenge on the rebels. Four of the movement’s main leaders, namely Hidalgo, Juan Aldama, Mariano Jimenez and Ignacio Allende were beheaded and their heads displayed on the walls of Alhondiga de Granaditas. The message was clear –rebellion would not be tolerated.

In the nineteenth century, Alhondiga de Granaditas became a prison and today houses a museum, Museo Regional La Alhóndiga de Granaditas. The museum contains colonial exhibits and those about the Mexican struggle for independence as well as some about the pre-Colombian era. It also houses numerous pieces of art.

This fascinating site features as one of our Top Ten Tourist Attractions of Mexico.

Photo by Ted and Jen (cc)

Casa de Colon

Casa de Colon is a museum of the history of the Canary Islands, particularly as relates to Christopher Columbus and the Americas.

DID YOU KNOW?

Casa de Colon (Columbus House) is a museum of the history of the Canary Islands, particularly as relates to Christopher Columbus and the Americas. Whilst the current Casa de Colon dates to the eighteenth century, its predecessor was once the seat of the governors of Gran Canaria and a said stopping off point for the explorer Christopher Columbus in 1492, hence its name.

Today, Casa de Colon exhibits collections ranging from pre-Columbian pieces to items that belonged to Columbus including navigational tools. It also looks at the period he spent in the Canary Islands.

Photo by Veronique Debord (cc)

Casa de la Emancipacion

Casa de la Emancipacion was the site where Peru planned and declared its independence from Spain.

DID YOU KNOW?

Casa de la Emancipacion was the site where Peru planned and declared its independence from Spain.

This occurred on 29 December 1820, after which Casa de la Emancipacion became the home of Peru’s first government.

Today, Casa de la Emancipacion is the building of Banco Continental and is open to the public with art and cultural exhibits.

The Casa de la Emancipacion is featured as one of our top ten Tourist Attractions in Peru.

Photo by paulinaclemente (cc)

Castillo de Chapultepec

Chapultepec Castle was once the home of Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg and now houses Mexico’s National History Museum

DID YOU KNOW?

Chapultepec Castle (Castillo de Chapultepec) is an eighteenth century building in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park now containing Mexico’s National History Museum (Museo Nacional de Historia).

Original construction of Chapultepec Castle began in 1785, but it was only completed after Mexico achieved independence and later refurbished as the home of Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg in 1864, before becoming the residence of Mexico’s presidents. Parts of Chapultepec Castle are still dedicated to their time as Emperor Maximilian’s home, however today, most of Chapultepec Castle is dedicated to the National History Museum.

Within its twelve halls, Mexico’s National History Museum charts the country’s diverse history, from the Pre-Hispanic era through to Spanish colonialism, Mexico’s revolution and its independence. Some of the National History Museum’s most significant exhibitions include the sword wielded by independence fighter José María Morelos in the Siege of Cuautla in 1812 as well as several murals depicting famous battles.

Chapultepec Castle features as one of our Top 10 Mexican Tourist Attractions.

Photo by Historvius

Castillo de San Marcos

The Castillo de San Marcos is a 17th century fortification and the oldest of its type in the continental United States.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida, is the oldest stone fort in the continental United States.

Originally constructed by the Spanish in the late 17th century, the stone Castillo de San Marcos replaced a previous wooden fortification. The need for a stone fort became apparent after the English buccaneer Robert Searle burnt most of the settlement in 1668. The new stone fort was constructed between 1672 and 1695.

Over the course of its history, the Castillo de San Marcos has been controlled by Spain, Britain, Spain again, the United States, the Confederate States, and finally the United States again. The fort was never taken in battle, despite being besieged on two occasions.

In addition to defending Saint Augustine it has served at various times as a prison, including during the First American Period when the famous Native American leader Osceola was a prisoner there.

The Castillo de San Marcos was declared a National Monument in 1900. The best time to visit is winter, when it's not so crowded in Saint Augustine (though not necessarily in the weeks around Christmas, when it's almost as crowded as during summer).

If you go in summer be aware that 30C is pretty much the average temperature from late May until mid-September. On the weekends they have cannon firing demonstrations several times a day.

Las Bóvedas

Las Bóvedas were colonial fortifications of the old City of Cartagena.

DID YOU KNOW?

Las Bóvedas are one of the most famous of Cartagena's landmarks. The literal meaning of Las Bóvedas is 'the vaults', reflecting their original military purpose when they were built between 1792 and 1798 as munitions storage. Indeed the 47 arches and 23 domes of Las Bóvedas were the last Spanish colonial project built within Cartagena's city walls.

During the civil wars of the independence, Las Bóvedas took on a more sinister role as dungeons. Today, Las Bóvedas is a prime tourist attraction, with stalls offering a variety of souvenirs and knickknacks.

Leon Viejo

Leon Viejo was one of the first Spanish settlements in the Americas and one with a turbulent history.

DID YOU KNOW?

Leon Viejo was one of the earliest settlements built by Spanish colonialists in the Americas. Founded in 1524 by Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba, a leading figure in the development of Nicaragua, Leon Viejo developed into an important centre of trade.

When Leon Viejo was excavated, the body of Hernandez de Cordoba was found in its crypt. He had been beheaded in 1526, accused of treason.

Whilst an important city, being the capital of the province, Leon Viejo was never a large one and consisted mostly of fairly basic buildings. In 1545, at its peak, it had only around two hundred Spanish inhabitants.

In 1550, a crime shook Leon Viejo and, according to beliefs at the time, made it the subject of a curse. This event was the murder of Antonio Valdivieso, a Franciscan monk thought to have played a central role in bringing Christianity to the country. From then on, Leon Viejo fell into decline and suffered high inflation.

In 1578, the eruption of the nearby Momotombo volcano drove away many of its citizens, followed in 1610 by a major earthquake which destroyed the remaining city.

Today, Leon Viejo is in ruins, although much of its foundations and cellars are still intact, owing in great part to the fact that it was never allowed to develop. Visitors can see its old convent, cathedral and governor’s mansion as well as its royal foundry.

There is also a statue of a indigenous man which tells the story of those who had lived in Leon Viejo prior to the arrival of the conquistadors. They suffered terribly under the Spanish, being subject to atrocities, as shown in the statue, where the man is being attacked by dogs.

The ruins of León Viejo are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Photo by kudumomo (cc)

Merida Cathedral

Merida Cathedral in Mexico is the oldest one on the continent.

DID YOU KNOW?

Merida Cathedral, known locally as Catedral de San Ildefonso, in Mexico is a sixteenth century cathedral built by Spanish colonialists.

In fact, constructed from 1556 to 1598, Merida Cathedral was the first such cathedral to be built in the inland Americas.

Not only was Merida Cathedral built on the site of the former Maya city of Tiho, it was also constructed from the stones of Maya pyramids.

Photo by Luigi Guarino (cc)

Museo de los Descalzos

The Museo de los Descalzos is a Franciscan convent and museum with a large collection of religious paintings which was founded in the late 16th century.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Museo de los Descalzos is a Franciscan convent and museum with a large collection of religious paintings which was founded in the late 16th century.

The convent was the residence of Franciscan monks known as "Los Descalzos" (the barefoot) for over 400 years. It was from here that hundreds of missionaries were based as they set out to catechize remote areas of Peru.

Today the convent is best known for its impressive cloisters and architecture which are representative of the Colonial period in Peru. The complex consists of a church, chapel, extensive orchards, gardens, and seven cloisters. It was declared a National Historic Monument in 1972.

Museo Popol Vuh

Museo Popol Vuh in Guateala City has an extensive collection of ancient, particularly Maya, pieces.

DID YOU KNOW?

Museo Popol Vuh is a museum of history and archaeology in Guatemala City, particularly concentrating on the Pre-Columbian era in Guatemala.

It has an extensive collection of art from this era, especially Maya art such as sculptures. Museo Popol Vuh is famed for its funerary objects, particularly urns.

Museo Popol Vuh has pieces from around the country, the oldest being a clovis projection point dating back to 9000 BC. Beyond the ancient world, Museo Popol Vuh has a colonial section and a twentieth century exhibit.

Nuestra Senora de Loreto

Nuestra Señora de Loreto was a Jesuit mission, now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

DID YOU KNOW?

Nuestra Senora de Loreto was an important Argentinean Jesuit mission founded in 1610.

Unlike many of its counterparts which had to move several times due to ongoing attacks from slave traders, Nuestra Senora de Loreto only moved once. This resettlement occurred in 1631, when the mission transferred to its present location near Posadas.

While some vegetation has been cleared from the ruins, which include the church, the site is not as well preserved as nearby San Ignacio Mini.

Palacio de la Inquisición

Palacio de la Inquisición in Cartagena played a sinister role in the Spanish Inquisition.

DID YOU KNOW?

Palacio de la Inquisicion is a grand 18th century colonial creation in Cartagena which played a sinister role during the Spanish Inquisition. It was in Cartagena in 1610 that the Spanish Church established its Holy Office, the name given to the department of torture, and it was in Palacio de la Inquisicion that this division had its seat until independence in 1811.

Today, the beautiful Palacio de la Inquisicion and its grounds are home to the Museo Histórico de Cartagena. Here visitors can learn about the Spanish Inquisition, can view the instruments of torture used during the site's darker days, but also about the wider history of Cartagena.

San Ignacio Mini

San Ignacio Mini in Argentina is one of the best preserved Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis

DID YOU KNOW?

San Ignacio Mini in Argentina is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Originally founded in approximately 1611, San Ignacio Mini formed part of a series of Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis established by the Society of Jesus or ‘Jesuits’. Many similar Jesuit missions were scattered across Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.

The San Ignacio Mini mission originated in Guayra, moving many times due to ongoing attacks by Portuguese slave hunters and finally settling in San Ignacio Mini in around 1696. In 1733, the mission had 4,500 inhabitants. However, it continued to come under attack and, in 1767, the Jesuits left San Ignacio Mini, which was destroyed a year later as part of the campaign to suppress the Society of Jesus initiated by Pope Clement XIV.

Despite this, the ruins of San Ignacio Mini are some of the most well-preserved of the Jesuit Missions in South America and a popular tourist destination. They include a magnificent entrance, a church, a cemetery, a school, a large central square and approximately thirty houses of its original residents as well as several other original buildings.

San Juan de Ulua

San Juan de Ulua is a sixteenth century Spanish fort which defended the port of Veracruz in Mexico.

DID YOU KNOW?

San Juan de Ulua is a sixteenth century fortress in Veracruz in Mexico. Constructed in 1565, during the Spanish Colonial period, San Juan de Ulua was built in order to protect the country’s most vital port, Veracruz.

The Spanish used Veracruz to import and house many Spanish treasures and, as such, San Juan de Ulua was built to the highest specifications, with 3-foot thick stone walls and an imposing 250 cannons.

In 1568, San Juan de Ulua was put to the test as an English fleet carrying slaves tried to dock at Veracruz. Although a shaky truce was in place between Spain and England, a battle broke out, known as the Battle of San Juan de Ulúa, and the English were defeated, losing most of their five ships. In fact, so formidable was San Juan de Ulua that the Spanish would hold on to it throughout the Mexican War of Independence and until 1825, four years after Mexico became independent.

In 1848, during the Mexican-American War, the US did manage to overcome the defences of San Juan de Ulua, capturing Veracruz. The fortress was heavily damaged by this attack. San Juan de Ulua then went on to become a nineteenth century prison, becoming the home of some of Mexico’s most notorious criminals.

Today, San Juan de Ulua is open to the public, who can tour its defences and prison cells. Guides are available in Spanish and English.

Sao Miguel das Missoes

Sao Miguel das Missoes was one of five Jesuit missions of the Guaranis granted UNESCO World Heritage status.

DID YOU KNOW?

Sao Miguel das Missoes was a reduction founded in the 18th century by the Jesuits or the ‘Society of Jesus’ and intended to convert the indigenous Guarani Indian population to Christianity.

The Jesuits often found themselves under attack from slave traders and, while the mission was originally founded in Itaiaceco in 1632, it found its way to São Miguel in 1687 after several moves, by which time it had over 4,000 inhabitants.

Very little remains of Sao Miguel das Missoes, most of this historic site having been destroyed in 1768 as part of a campaign to expel the Jesuits. The church, of which some ruins remain, had actually already been ravaged by a fire in 1760.

Tenochtitlan

Tenochtitlan was the Aztec capital, established in 1325AD and destroyed by the Spanish in the 16th century.

DID YOU KNOW?

Tenochtitlan in Mexico was established on an island in Lake Texcoco in 1325 AD as the capital city of the Aztecs and, in its final and most prosperous days, was ruled by Motecuhzoma II, also known as Montezuma.

At its peak, Tenochtitlan was a thriving and imposing city with around 200,000 inhabitants. It was characterised by its enormous pyramids and clear street grids, dividing Tenochtitlan into four zones.

In 1519 AD, during Montezuma’s rule, Spanish invaders led by Hernán Cortés arrived in Tenochtitlan and by 1521 the city was conquered. Much of Tenochtitlan was subsequently razed to the ground, leaving little behind.

Today, remnants of Tenochtitlan are hard to find as they have been consumed by the development of modern Mexico City. Those Tenochtitlan sites which have been excavated, including five temples of which Templo Mayor is one, are protected on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, however there is no single Aztec site to visit.

One of the most popular Tenochtitlan sites is Xochimilco. This is more of a beautiful park rather than an archaeological ruin, but features waterways that ran from the Aztec era as well as some Chinampas (flower gardens) from that time. Alternatively, see the Templo Mayor entry for a more traditional site.

The National Palace of Mexico

The National Palace of Mexico is an important landmark representing Mexico’s independence.

DID YOU KNOW?

The National Palace of Mexico, or Palacio Nacional, was originally constructed in 1692 on a site which has been central to Mexico’s governance since Aztec times.

It became the National Palace in 1821, following the Mexican War of Independence, and houses the bell rung by the priest and original leader of this conflict, Miguel Hidalgo.

Hidalgo rang the bell in 1810 to signal Mexico’s independence during his famous “Cry of Dolores” speech, although he would not live to see this as he was beheaded shortly thereafter.

The National Palace served as the main command point during the US-Mexican War of 1846-1848 and is currently the seat of the country’s president as well as being home to the Federal Treasury and National Archives. Visitors to the National Palace can view Diego Rivera’s murals of Mexico’s history, particularly that of Spain’s conquest of the country in 1520.

Torre del Reloj de Cartagena

Torre del Reloj de Cartagena served as the main gateway to the historic city and is now its most famous landmark.

DID YOU KNOW?

Torre del Reloj de Cartagena (The Clock Tower of Cartagena) was built over the course of thurty years - from 1601 to 1631 - and became the main entrance to the city. At the time, it was known as the Boca del Puente - the Mouth of the Bridge - as it connected Getsemani to the Old City.

There have been several additions and alterations to Torre del Reloj de Cartagena. Its Baroque façade and Tuscan arches date back to 1704, when Torre del Reloj was rebuilt after its partial destruction in 1697 by the baron of Pointis. Meanwhile its original weapons room and chapel were replaced, first by a pendulum clock in 1874 and then its current Swiss clock in 1937. Following a restoration completed in 1888, Torre del Reloj de Cartagena now has eight sides, giving it a gothic look.