The old castle of Cardona built on a mountain in Catalonia, Spain.

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Castell de Cardona

Top choice in Catalonia

Visible long before entering Cardona, this hilltop fortress broods above the modern town. From this strategic position, centuries of noblemen have kept a watchful eye over Cardona's Muntanya de Sal (Salt Mountain), the white gold that gave Cardona its wealth. The ramparts have panoramic views of the vast Lleida plain; the loftiest vantage point is the 11th-century Torre de la Minyona.

A fortress has stood on this spot since the 3rd century BCE, but the castle reached its zenith under the Lords of Cardona, who arrived in the 11th century and built the palace buildings and the elegant Romanesque Canònica de Sant Vicenç, the only building with an admission charge. It has fine 12th- and 13th-century frescoes adorning its porticoed entrance, and a vaulted crypt, dedicated to St James, that's a stopping point for pilgrims plying the Camino de Santiago. The church played a starring role in Orson Welles' 1965 film Chimes at Midnight.

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1. Canònica de Sant Vicenç

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