There are a few Christopher Columbus sites in Spain that simply belong on your ultimate Spain Bucket List. We are all explorers deep inside, don’t you think so? How about time-traveling back to the Age of Discovery and following the steps of the famous Italian explorer Christopher Columbus in Spain?
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Christopher Columbus in Spain
About Christopher Columbus
I am sure you know the story of Christopher Columbus. This world-famous explorer from Genoa made four trips across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a direct water route west from Europe to Asia. But instead, he stumbled upon the Americas. So, Columbus´ journeys marked the beginning of the colonization of North and South America.
Spain played a huge part in this process, as Columbus was financially supported by the Spanish crown. No wonder there are still a few places in Spain that have traces of this Age of Discovery.
Let´s channel our inner explorers and talk about the top Christopher Columbus sites in Spain. You can easily include these in your Southern Spain Itinerary.
Books & Movies about Christopher Columbus
You know that I love adding a few suggestions from my blog´s Books&Movies section for most of my Spain travel itineraries. We could all use some extra inspiration on the road (or before the actual trip).
While in my post about Wanderlust Books, you will spot lots of inspiring reads by adventurers and explorers, it´s slightly difficult when it comes to Columbus. Besides letters, journals, and diaries, his most famous creations were the Book of Prophecies (a compilation of apocalyptical religious revelations) and the Book of Privileges ( a sum up of the titles and privileges, granted to Columbus by the Catholic Kings of Spain). So, I doubt these fall under anyone´s idea of the holiday read.
Nevertheless, you might enjoy one of these popular books on Christopher Columbus:
- Columbus: The Four Voyages
- Columbus Log-Book, Letters, and Dispatches
- Who Was Christopher Columbus? – For Kids
- Defending Columbus From Modern Day Revisionism
- 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created
- The Last Voyage of Columbus
- Columbus and Caonabo
- Columbus. His Enterprise. Exploding the Myth
What you can watch before visiting Christopher Columbus sites in Spain: 1492 Conquest of Paradise (1992) and Christopher Columbus (1984). Travel documentaries on Columbus: Columbus The Lost Voyage (2007), in Spanish – El Último Viaje de Cristobal Colón (available on Youtube) and El mundo de Colón via RTVE web.
The real Christopher Columbus
While for most of my life, I used to have a dreamy image of Christopher Columbus ( like if he was Captain Blood from the Rafael Sabatini book), the modern historical data proves that the explorer´s real personality was quite different. Christopher Columbus was even imprisoned after his 3rd journey due to the numerous complaints about his cruel behavior.
These days it is also quite obvious that most of the European discoverers played a negative role in the evolution of the Native American culture.
Yet, most of us still get goosebumps while talking about the Age of Discovery. You will not give me an argument on the fact that those explorers had a certain level of bravery.
Back then sailing for a new land was nothing like planning a Mediterranean Cruise these days. Two of the Columbus´ boats Niña and La Pinta were about 50 feet (15 m) long: it literally sounds like a joke for the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Not to mention the beliefs of the Middle Ages. These days we enjoy the mysterious Spanish legends, but back then the stories of the ocean beasts did not feel surreal. Largely thanks to Homer’s Odyssey and Sinbad´s Journeys (from 1001 Nights, one of my kids´ favorite reads).
So, I believe it´s the reason why I felt inspired by the Christopher Columbus sites in Spain myself. Let’s try to follow the steps of the famous explorer, shall we?
Must-see Christopher Columbus sites in Spain
1. Muelle de las Carabelas / Caravel Dock Museum
Caravel Dock Museum (or “Muelle de las Carabelas” in Spanish) is located in Palos de la Frontera, a small town in the Spanish Province of Huelva.
It is one of the must-stops in Southern Spain and a cool place to visit in Spain with kids. We did not initially plan to make a stop at Muelle de las Carabelas on the road to Algarve, but had some extra time and decided to give it a try. Well, I’m so glad we did. It ended up being such an educative and entertaining visit.
The Caravel Dock Museum was built in 1992 to celebrate the 5th Centenary of the Discovery of America. The museum offers reproductions of La Niña, La Pinta, and La Santa María (the three ships used by Christopher Columbus in his first transatlantic voyage of 1492).
Also read: The Most Colorful Villages in Spain
Besides the replicas of the boats, you could enjoy the medieval quarter and the Island of Encuentro. The last one attempts to recreate the indigenous culture of the island of Guanahani, the first island where Christopher Columbus disembarked on the 12th of October 1492.
Exploring the Caravel Dock Museum definitely feels like one of the most adventurous things to do in Spain.
2. Monasterio Santa María de La Rábida/ Santa María de La Rábida Monastery
One of the top Christopher Columbus sites in Spain is located near the Caravel Dock Museum: it´s La Rabida Monastery (or Monasterio Santa María de La Rábida in Spanish). You can not place this 14/15th century Franciscan monastery on the list of the most beautiful monasteries in Spain. But its historical significance is quite undeniable.
Christopher Columbus stayed here before departing for the New World, back when he was still preparing his project. Here, in the room called El Portal de Belen de America, the initial meetings and discussions between Columbus and Father Marchena took place ( back in the XV century).
Also read: The Most Beautiful Cathedrals in Spain
Father Juan Perez Marchena was an influential figure in the Spanish Catholic Church: he was once a confessor of the Spanish Queen (funny enough, but I recalled this fact from one of the Popular Spanish TV Shows, Isabel, and it turned out to be true). So, Marchena was the one who partially helped Christopher Columbus convince the Spanish crone to fund his expedition.
According to the historical documents, Columbus and Marchena have become good friends (some even claimed that Juan Perez Marchena had accompanied the Italian explorer on his first journey toward the Americas, even though most historians currently disagree with it).
3. The City of Cadiz
Cadiz was one of the biggest discoveries on my 7-day Southern Spain road trip. The city has always been of great importance through different epochs and civilizations – from Phoenicians, Romans, and Moorish, to the inaction of the Spanish Liberal Constitution in 1812.
But it is also one of the top Christopher Columbus sites in Spain: the explorer sailed from Cadiz on his second and fourth journeys to America.
More Christopher Columbus sites in Spain:
- Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos in Cordoba ( where Columbus first presented his project to the Catholic Kings of Spain)
- Palacio Episcopal in Jaen ( where the Spanish Queen Isabella finally grants her support to Columbus)
- the village of Santa Fe near Granada ( where the document of Las Capitulaciones de Santa Fe was signed: it included the official agreement between Columbus and the Spanish crown)
- The Cathedral of Seville, one of the must-stops in the city (where you can find the Tomb of Christopher Columbus)
- Monasterio de Santa Clara (where Columbus stayed on several occasions; plus, the abbess of the convent, Inés Enríquez, was also the aunt of the Spanish King Ferdinand II, so she helped to approve Columbus’s project)
Christopher Columbus, his relationship with the Spanish crown, and the details of his discoveries are often considered some of the most interesting facts about Spain
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