Cultural heritage management in Spain is regulated by national law (i.e. Law 16/1985 on the Spanish Historical Heritage) and regional legislation. The legislation implemented and consolidated during the 20th century aims at ensuring the legal protection of movable and immovable property and governs all actions relating to such property with a view to ensuring its conservation, preservation and dissemination.
The powers of the central and regional governments are assigned in accordance with Article 6 of the HHL (Law 16/1985). Central government deals primarily with protected property belonging to the state and manages public authorities and delegated bodies, while the Autonomous Communities (regions) focus on private, local and regional property within their particular autonomous community. National law covers the following three levels of heritage protection:
- property with historical heritage status;
- the General Inventory of Moveable Property and;
- the General Register of Property of Cultural Interest (moveable and immoveable).
The Autonomous Communities have established additional levels of protection under their own laws, introducing special categories, for instance concerning intangible heritage.
Several units have been set up within the Fine Arts DG of the Ministry of Culture and the relevant Heritage DGs of the Autonomous Communities to manage action required for enhancing applicable legislation. They are known as the Secretariats General (SGs) for the Protection of Historical and Cultural Heritage.
The state is also responsible for enforcing international conventions ratified by Spain. In order to meet its commitments, over the past ten years, different committees and working groups have been set up throughout Spain to develop the action plans needed to comply with the conventions or any other commitments or agreements entered into at international level. A Strategic Plan for Culture has been developed by the State Secretariat for Culture (SSC), which is responsible for drawing up the plans to address all the areas mentioned above, and results are expected in the short term.
A collegiate body, the Historical Heritage Council, has been established to co-ordinate the various heritage activities carried out in Spain. It brings the national and regional governments together several times a year through the DGs for Cultural, Historical and Fine Arts Heritage.
- Law 16/1985 on the Spanish Historical Heritage and;
- RD 111/1986 on development of Law 16/1985
- Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, The Hague, 14 May 1954 (UNESCO). Ratified by Spain on 14 May 1954 (Official State Gazette (BOE), 24 November 1960).
- First Protocol for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (UNESCO). Accession of Spain on 1 June 1992 (25 July 1992).
- Second Protocol to The Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, The Hague, 26 March 1999 (UNESCO). Signed by Spain on 17 May 1999 and ratified by Spain on 21 June 2001 (BOE, 30 March 2004).
- European Cultural Convention (No. 18, Council of Europe, 19 December 1954). Accession of Spain, 4 July 1957 (BOE, 10 August 1957).
- European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (No. 66, Council of Europe), London, 6 May 1969. Accession of Spain, 18 February 1975 (BOE, 5 July 1975).
- European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (revised), Valletta (Malta), 16 January 1992 (Council of Europe). Ratified by Spain, 31 March 2011 (BOE, 20 July 2011).
- Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, Paris, 17 November 1970 (UNESCO). Ratified by Spain on 13 December 1985 (BOE, 5 February 1986).
- Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage (UNESCO), Paris, 23 November 1972. Ratified by Spain on 23 January 1984, in Yemen (BOE, 19 May 1984).
- Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe (No. 121, Council of Europe), Granada, 3 October 1985. Ratified by Spain on 11 April 1989 (BOE, 30 June 1989).
- UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects, Rome, 24 June 1995. Accession of Spain on 9 May 2002 (BOE, 16 October 2002).
- European Landscape Convention, Florence, 20 October 2000 (Council of Europe). Ratified by Spain on 26 November 2007 (BOE, 5 February 2008).
- Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage (UNESCO), Paris, 2 November 2001. Ratified by Spain on 25 May 2005 (BOE, 5 March 2009).
- Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage(UNESCO), Paris, 17 October 2003. Ratified by Spain on 6 October 2006 (BOE, 5 February 2007).
 Ley 16/1985 PHE del Patrimonio Histórico Español