Between 1936 and 1939, the Spanish Civil War saw right-wing Nationalists led by General Franco, fight against the left-wing Republicans. Britain – afraid of a European-wide conflict – joined the non-intervention committee, while Nazi Germany joined Italian Nationalists in bombing the Basque city of Guernica in April 1937, destroying the city and killing hundreds of people.
Ultimately, the Spanish Civil War saw neighbours pitted against each other.
Whether you are visiting the ruins of Belchite, the Battle of the Ebro Interpretation Centre or the affecting Refugi 307, the remnants of the Spanish Civil War are important places which many people wish to explore.
These monuments and museums not only tell the story of the Spanish Civil War, but give an insight into the lives of the people who experienced this turbulent chapter of Spain’s history including its central figures. Here are our top 10.
1. Alcazar of Toledo
The Alcazar of Toledo, or the Toledo Fortress, in Spain is a square fortified building with imposing towers sitting high atop a hill overlooking the city.
During the Spanish Civil War, the Alcazar of Toledo was the site of the dramatic Siege of Alcazar, when the Nationalist Colonel José Moscardó Ituarte managed to hold the fort despite fierce attempts by the Republicans and, according to legend, maintained this control despite the kidnap and subsequent shooting of his son – bullet holes are still visible today. The Siege of Alcazar turned this site into a symbol of Spanish nationalism.
2. The 115 Days Interpretation Center
The 115 Days Interpretation Centre in Corbera d’Ebre is a museum dedicated to the bloody Battle of the Ebro in the Spanish Civil War. This battle took place between 24th July and 18th November 1938 and was one of the final offensives launched by the Republican forces.
The Battle of the Ebro took place between 24 July and 18 November 1938 and was one of the final offensives launched by the Republican forces. Their defeat left Republican military capabilities severely diminished, paving the way for the eventual Nationalist victory.
3. Refugi 307
Refugi 307 (Shelter 307) was one of thousands of bomb shelters built in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War.
Intended to defend the citizens from the raids instigated by Franco and his army from 13 February 1937 onward, these were built under houses, in metro stations and throughout the city, creating a virtual underworld and involving great cooperation between the people of Barcelona.
Comprised of over 400 metres of tunnels and with facilities such as a hospital, Refugi 307 is just one of these shelters and is now open to the public as part of the Barcelona History Museum.
Belchite, near Zaragoza, contains the ruins of a town destroyed in the 1937 Battle of Belchite during the Spanish Civil War. Left untouched as a symbol of the conflict, Belchite gives a rare glimpse of the intensity and destruction wrought by this terrible war.
The Republican military leaderships decided to try a new series of offensives to slow down the Nationalist advance in the north. The destruction that tens of thousands of troops and military equipment caused led to the whole town being destroyed.
5. Casa-Museo Federico Garcia Lorca
The Casa-Museo Federico García Lorca, located in the Huerta de San Vicente, is a museum in Granada dedicated to the life, writings and cultural activities of Spanish poet, playwright and prose writer Federico García Lorca – one of the most famous Spanish writers of the 20th century.
García Lorca lived in the house during the days leading up to his detention and assassination by the supporters of the military rebels on 19 August 1936 at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Lorca was targeted by his killers due to his sympathy for the Popular Front government elected in February 1936, his profound commitment to the progressive cultural, social and political project of the Second Republic (1931-1936), and for his open homosexuality.
6. General Archive of the Spanish Civil War
The General Archive on the Spanish Civil War in Salamanca, Spain, holds vital records from the civil war period of Spanish history and the regime of General Franco. Today, visitors to the General Archive on the Spanish Civil War can also view a display of various photographs, posters and documents.
As Spain began democratisation following Franco’s death in 1975, the Archive’s original purpose shifted to focus on how Spain remembered the conflict. In 2007 the Archives became past of the Historical Memory Documentary Centre, representing a move towards Spain coming to terms with its Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship.
7. Picasso Birthplace Museum
The Picasso Birthplace Museum (Casa Natal Picasso) in Malaga, Spain, is dedicated gives an insight into the artist’s family life as well as celebrating his work.
On 25 October 1881 Pablo Picasso was born on the first floor of the building which now houses the Picasso Birthplace Museum. A series of works of the founder of Cubism and that of his artist father can be viewed here as well as personal items belonging to his parents and a recreation of the 19th century hall as it would have been when the family lived there.
8. Museu d'Historia de Catalunya
Within Barcelona’s Museu d’Historia de Catalunya is 2,000 years of Catalonian history told through exhibits, artefacts, models, activities and more. There are even some interactive elements as you journey in time from pre-history to modern day.
The current building combines the port tradition with the dynamism of contemporary architecture. Visitors can also enjoy beautiful views over the port and the city of Barcelona from the terrace.