Vitoria-Gasteiz is often overshadowed by the bigger Basque cities like Bilbao and San Sebastián, but this charming city is in fact the official capital of the Basque Country.
A striking Gothic cathedral, art museums and the medieval quarter are a few things worth checking during your visit.
One day in Vitoria is enough to see the city’s main attractions and experience some of the local pintxo bars. With a bit more time, you can explore some of the region’s natural attractions like the Gorbea Natural Park or the Salinas de Añana. Vitoria is also very close to La Rioja, one of Spain’s main wine regions.
Follow our itinerary below and discover the best things to do in Vitoria-Gasteiz, including suggestions of where to eat and where to stay.
Historic buildings mix with modern street art in this charming square of Vitoria-Gasteiz. Plaza de la Burullería was the site of a fabric market in medieval times. Many buildings remain from that era that are worth capturing, including the Torre de los Anda, the Portalón and the Casa Armera de los Gobeo y Landázuri-Guevara.
The art mural in the corner is called “Al hilo del Tiempo” which translates as “As Time wears on” and depicts colourful fabrics, reminiscing of the square’s former market activity.
Continue exploring the city’s old quarter, slowly making your way to the Plaza Santa María. It’s here you’ll find the Catedral de Santa María. Established around the 13th century, the church stands out with its Gothic style. It became the city’s cathedral in 1861. Guided tours are available and include access to the underground chambers and the rooftop with its panoramic city views. Near the cathedral, you can see the remains of the city’s former medieval wall.
A few steps from the cathedral is the Escoriaza-Esquivel Palace, a striking 16th-century mansion. It belonged to the doctor of the English King Henry VIII, Fernán López de Escoriaza and his wife, Victoria de Anda y Esquivel. The palace is one of the best examples of Renaissance architecture in the city with its decorative façade and masonry stone walls. Today it’s home to the Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council, but guided tours are available upon request. Other buildings worth admiring in the area include the Montehermoso palace, the Casa del Cordón, the Bendaña palace and the Villasuso palace.
Next stop is the Paseo de los Arquillos. Established between 1787 and 1802, this neoclassical arcade links the city’s old quarter with the new town. The building designed by architect Justo Antonio de Olaguíbel was declared a Historical-Artistic monument in 1984.
Walk underneath the covered balconies and then visit the nearby church of San Vicente.
It’s time to sample some local food at the Mercado de Abastos. This modern covered market is home to a variety of stalls selling fresh produce, including fruit, vegetables and bread. Pick up some ingredients for a picnic or head to one of the market’s eight gastro bars and try some local dishes with a glass of wine. There are also international treats on offer including Mexican, Italian and Japanese.
Erected in 1791, Plaza de España is one of the most remarkable squares in Vitoria. The square has had many names throughout the centuries, including Plaza Nueva, Plaza de la Constitución and Plaza de la República. It was only in 1936 that it gained its current title. Most people come here to visit the city council, which dominates the square with its vast covered arcades. The building was designed by Olaguíbel, the same architect who planned Los Arquillos.
Just opposite Plaza de España is the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca, also known as Plaza Vieja. It’s one of the city’s oldest meeting spots, and even today many events take place here, including the festival of Virgen Blanca, which celebrates the city’s patron. Within the square, you’ll find the church of San Miguel and a monument to La Batalla de Vitoria, a battle that took over the city in 1813.
Take a small detour to find the Iglesia de San Pedro. Built around the 13th century, it’s the city’s oldest church and was part of the medieval walls that once encircled Vitoria. The church isn’t always open, but it’s still worth coming here to admire its Gothic façade. Your best chance to see the inside is if you come a few minutes before mass, usually held around 11 am and 1 pm on Sundays and 7:30 pm during the week.
The last church on the itinerary is the María Inmaculada Cathedral. Construction for this cathedral began in 1907, but it was only completed after the Spanish Civil War in the 1970s. Today it’s one of the most impressive buildings in Vitoria, competing against the Gothic Catedral de Santa María. The María Inmaculada might be more recent, but it has a medieval-style exterior too with stunning stained-glass windows and high naves. Attached to the cathedral is the Museo Diocesano de Arte Sacro, a Sacred Art Museum, which features ceremonial crosses and biblical paintings from the Basque Country.
Take a break from sightseeing at the Parque de la Florida. This city park is the ideal place for a picnic with the ingredients you’ve picked up at the market. Established in 1820 it feels like a Romantic French garden with colourful flower beds, a bandstand, and statues of Gothic kings. During Christmas, you can find a nativity scene here with over 200 figures.
From the park, follow the tree-lined promenade of Paseo de la Senda until you stumble upon the Palacio Zulueta. Spanish architect Fausto Iñiguez de Betolaza designed this stunning palace in 1903 as a house-hotel for Alfredo de Zulueta. These days the building is empty, but visitors are welcome to admire the outside and stroll around its charming gardens.
End the day with a visit to the Museo de Bellas Artes. The former Palacio de Augusti has been home to a fine art museum since 1942. Inside you’ll find Spanish and Basque artworks dating from the 18th to the 19th century, with a focus on portraits, landscapes and sculptures. Artists featured here include Vicente López, Ignacio Zuloaga and Gustavo de Maeztu. Even if you can’t make it inside, it’s worth passing through to admire the museum’s striking neo-Renaissance façade.
The Bodegas Marques de Riscal is one of the oldest wineries in La Rioja, as well as a futuristic hotel designed by Frank Gehry. There is also a Michelin-starred restaurant.
The Bodegas López de Heredia is an old winery well known for Viña Tondonia, Bosconia Reserva and Gran Reserva wines.
Other wineries worth visiting are the Bodegas Roda and the Dinastia Vivanco.
There are a few things to do with kids in Vitoria-Gasteiz. The city’s old quarter is quite small and easy to explore on foot. You can spend the day exploring its narrow streets and squares, stopping to visit some of the historic sites such as the Catedral de Santa Maria or to admire the city’s urban art scene.
Small kids will also enjoy the Parque Galeón Pirata, a playground full of pirate-themed attractions.
If you have time, you can explore some of the green areas within the city and on the outskirts. The Anillo Verde surrounding Vitoria provides the perfect opportunity for a bike ride. Other places worth visiting include the Parque de la Florida, the Salburua wetland and the Parque Garaio, which features some river beaches.
As the capital of the Basque Country, Vitoria is the perfect place to try pintxos, the Basque-version of tapas. There are many pintxo bars scattered across the city, especially along the old town. The city also has its share of fine dining spots which deserve a visit. Below are the best places to eat in Vitoria-Gasteiz:
The best time to visit Vitoria-Gasteiz is between June and September. There’s less rainfall during these months and the temperatures are quite mild. Even in August, the average temperature is about 25ºC, making it pleasant enough to explore the city. August is also the month of the Fiestas de la Virgen Blanca, the city’s annual festival. It’s worth coming around this time if you don’t mind the crowds and want to experience the event’s lively atmosphere.
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