Cardona – the ancient castle of Christian Spain

Cardona – the majestic castle of Catalonia

Cardona - the majestic castle of Catalonia

The city of Cardona is quite large by Spanish provincial standards – 5 thousand inhabitants. Quite enterprising, because it is easy to attract tourists, luring them with legends associated with the castle. There are also stories about ghosts. And quite original excursion to the dungeon, above which rises the Salt Mountain of Catalonia.

History and ancient legends of the Castle of Cardona

Cardona – black tales, white dungeon. The hair is not a hindrance to the quarry.

The majestic castle can be seen from afar. It is impossible to pass by. It was built at the end of the IX century, which in itself is deep antiquity for architecture. It is also included in the top – the castles of Catalonia. Since the Spaniards and Catalans are quite brawlers, the wars have been here a lot. The castle was destroyed a lot, but then it was rebuilt economically. The styles are mixed – Gothic and Romanesque, plus modern restoration.

The Castle of Cardona

Cardona Castle

The City of Cardona

Cardona Town

Personally, the structure towers and the outline reminded me of Georgian temples. The inner courtyards – the Genoese fortress in Sudak in Crimea. The arrow windows – the Duke’s Castle in the same mentioned Crimean fortress.

Cardona Castle got its present appearance in the XVIII century. The founder is considered to be Vifred the Hairy. Mores in the Middle Ages were simple, so they called him so, to distinguish him from the other VIP of that time, nicknamed “bald”. The boys somehow managed to get along, and our long-haired man made his lineage of Aragonese aristocracy famous. His outpost was titled the largest castle in Catalonia.

He also harassed the Moors, who made sluggish attempts at raids, but more for propriety’s sake. This part of Spain was once part of the kingdom of Aragon, and the Catalans are still enthusiastic about the kings there.

There is a legend that at one of the kings, our hero received permission for the coat of arms, which became the historic coat of arms of Catalonia. Say, being wounded, a long-haired medieval hippie was awarded a visit from his majesty for his bravery, and picture-whimpered that he wanted nothing in compensation but a decent coat of arms. The ruler stroked the hero’s bloody wounds and ran his fingers over the yellow banner – so the coat of arms and banner appeared – the famous red stripes on a sunny background.

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The towers at

The towers in the “Georgian style”.

impregnable gates

Impregnable gates

The castle is cozy

The castle is cozy

Castle buildings

Castle buildings

The towers, temples and hotel of the Cardona Castle

Weeping maidens as a symbol of towers in different cities of the world.

Everywhere you go, there’s always a story about a maiden who’s evil parents refused to marry off a “handsome prince.” In Istanbul, the Maiden Tower is generally a symbol of the city, and this despite the obvious gender discrimination in the East. The adoring ladies in the East did not care that the prince they adored looked more like an alfonso or a slacker in the eyes of the public as he grew older. But for some reason, “Daddy, I want to get married!” remained obsessively in the ages and legends, rather than the reasoning of the parents.

The city of Cardona also has such a tower. There languished the ruler’s daughter, fascinated by an Arab young man. To save her reputation, the creators of the “romantic” legends allowed him, according to the chroniclers’ version, to convert to Christianity. If he had remained a Muslim, they would have been ashamed before their descendants. While the beautiful Adales wept, no one staggered past. Who can bear a woman’s tantrums? That’s why this 15-meter tower is quite well preserved.

In the ancient church of San Vicente de Cardona of XI century are buried relics of the dukes – the first owners. The temple is beautiful, solemn – an architectural masterpiece. The church of San Miguel of XIII-XIV centuries is shrouded in legends – there are holy relics. The gates of Portal del Graales look solid and impregnable.

What is Cardona Castle known for and what to see

Lots of viewing platforms with panoramic views, suitable for photography, and, as it turns out, for movies.

In the 1960s, American filmmaker Orson Welles filmed the historical film Falstaff among these massive walls. It was about England, but the Spanish sets were quite suitable. I think it was more about cheapness and saving the film budget. One of the actresses was Marina Vlady, though in the second role. The result of the shooting – four prizes at the Cannes Film Festival in 1966. Who will doubt that, though not the house, but the walls helped?

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View of Cardona

A view of the town of Cardona

Haunted Hotel

A haunted hotel

Hotel yard

Hotel courtyard

Impressive hotel, working on the territory of the castle. It is called Parador. It is part of the network of historic hotels in Spain. You can imagine yourself as a resident of the Middle Ages and the old town. Courtyards, stone walls, vaulted ceilings, a dining room in the old style. The restaurant is supplied with fresh produce by local farmers. Here, too, not a word in simplicity – then they say that in one of the rooms the guest first settles, and then does not come out for breakfast. Or about a singing ghost. Or about a silent ghost in a monk’s robe. Especially often “see” ladies in crinolines and monks. Or hear groans and howls. Or even feel the cold currents of air. The whole “gentleman’s kit” in the style of “Harry Potter.” These scarecrows lure visitors like a fragrant flower garden lures bees.

Walking through the ruins is not easy – there are slopes, slippery rocks, and time-polished cobblestone sidewalk everywhere. You need semi-sport clothes and comfortable shoes.

You can get into the castle for free.

There are also guided tours. On Saturday and Sunday at 11.00 in Spanish, at 13.00 and 16.30 in Catalan. During the season, the time may change by half an hour. The cost of the tour – adults: 6 euros, seniors and children – 4 euros.

From the observation deck of the castle a good view of the enormity – the mountain Sol or, in Spanish version – Sal. In general, sightseeing in Cardona, we began with it. The impression – the strongest.

I sincerely advise not to pass by and do not limit yourself to one castle Cardona. The white dungeon keeps its secrets!

How to get to Cardona Castle

The best way to get to Cardona Castle is from Barcelona, along the A2 and C55. The route is strictly perpendicular to the coastline. The distance from Barcelona to the town of Cardona is 80 kilometers. Parking is free at both the castle and the cave. The castle has several parking lots, it’s better to choose the one that is higher on the slope – the climb up the cobblestone sidewalk is slippery and steep.

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The bus can be taken from the Barcelona Estació del Nord bus station. The bus runs every 4 hours starting at 6am. The fare is 23 euros round trip and 13 euros one way. Travel time is 2 hours.

For the exact location and coordinates of Cardona Castle, see our travel map on the homepage of

Although we have seen several Spanish castles, including such famous ones as Rupit, Besalú, Ostalrík, Cardona’s is absolutely as good as any of them and deserves close tourist attention.

Cardona: the city and its ancient castle

Cardona Castle

After visiting Cardona Salt Mountain and wandering around its surroundings, we got back in the car and drove to the town itself, or more precisely, to its famous castle.

Cardona Castle stands on a hill and can be seen from afar. Here, for example, is a view of the castle from the parking lot in front of the park of the Salt Mountain, where we went to it:

Castle-Cardona View from the Salt Mountain

Similarly, from the castle, thanks to its height, you can see all the surroundings of Cardona.

You can also see the Salt Mountain (white and gray hill in the photo):

View of the Salt Mountain from Cardona Castle

The way from the Mountain to the castle by car takes minutes (a distance of about 3 km).

When we arrived, we made the mistake of not driving up the mountain on which the castle stands to the fortress. There is not even a mountain, but a hill of height 600 meters.

The car was left on the side of the road about halfway up. We did so for two reasons.

The first – the desire to see the castle from the outside close up.

The second was the uncertainty that there would be a normal large parking place up there. There was no desire to make filigree maneuvers in a confined space with a big slope in a car with a manual transmission.

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When we reached the top, we regretted a little that we did it.

First of all, there were normal parking lots. But not at the very top. However, we walked a part of the way up the mountain obviously in vain. We saw local virtuosos who drove all the way to the top and managed to maneuver there at a steep incline with a minimum of free space. I was clearly not up to it.

Second, we did not find anything on the outside of the castle worth the trip up the mountain.

The video includes excerpts taken both outside and inside the Cardona Castle:

Cardona Castle on a map

Information about Cardona and its castle

Generally speaking, Cardona’s population is only about 5,000 people. Nevertheless, the town is the center of the municipality of the same name and in general a rather large provincial settlement of Catalonia.

The main attraction Cardona, which has played a significant role in the history of Catalonia, is its castle, which was one of the most important fortresses.

The construction of the Castle of Cardona began as early as the 9th century.

Since 1949 the castle is a national monument. According to some versions it is also one of the ten best castles in Europe.

Among the Catalan castles Cardona Castle is probably the largest.

Cardona Castle

In the 17th century, Cardona and its castle was one of the centers of Catalan separatism.

In the 18th century the fortress was seized and destroyed by the French. Nevertheless, a large part of it survived.

In the 70s of the last century began reconstruction work, which has just recently been completed.

Now the Cardona Castle is a chic parador hotel, in which, as I wrote in a previous post (about the village of Su) we wanted to spend a couple of days, but it did not work out.

During its existence Cardona Castle has suffered many sieges and assaults, including by the Moors.

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Cardona Castle

Impressions of the castle

Personally, I was not impressed by the castle. It is certainly worth a visit due to its status and size, but don’t expect too much.

If you park high enough on the hill, you will need at most 30-40 minutes to see the castle.

Perhaps a guided tour would have made a visit to Cardona Castle more exciting and lengthy. However, the official tours were only in Spanish and Catalan, so we did not take advantage of this opportunity.

Walking around Cardona

After coming down the hill, we decided to take a little walk around Cardona.

From the reviews on the internet I knew we would not see anything spectacular there, but it was still nice to get an idea of the city.

From the hill we went about a kilometer deeper into the city. From what we could see from above, the central part of Cardona was right next to the hill.

We made our way through the old town, and came to the conclusion that we liked the not too distant Solsona better.


Narrow streets, somewhat gloomy and rather dilapidated houses. In the streets, as usual, no one was there.

One of the most important sights on our way was the Temple of San Miguel Cardona.


In one of the deserted streets of Cardona, we saw an open porch of an apartment building. Judging by the plaque, the year of construction was 1828.

Out of curiosity I decided to go in to see what it was like inside:



To summarize, I can say that if you drive by Cardona, it’s certainly worth spending a couple of hours exploring it. Take an hour for the castle, an hour for the town. I would only plan a trip specifically to Cardona (such as a day trip from Barcelona) if I had unlimited time in Catalonia.

Well, we went back to our apartment in the village of Su near Cardona, spent the night there, and the next day drove to Barcelona (which was the end point of our road trip through Catalonia). On the way we stopped by Montserrat. I talk about this visit in the next post.

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