Stretching south of Bilbao in a plain surrounded by small mountains, Vitoria-Gasteiz is a capital city that is both quiet and lively, proud of its past and modern. Close-up on a discreet city that deserves to be known.
Vitoria-Gasteiz, capital city
Capital of the province of Alava, Vitoria-Gasteiz is also that of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country. There are the seat of its government and its parliament.
This city has a double name. Its Castilian component, Vitoria, is derived from Nueva Victoria, name given to a stronghold founded here by Sancho VI of Navarre in 1181. Basque, the name Gasteiz is that of a hamlet formed previously, on a hill.
Note that during the Napoleonic war in Spain, in 1813, the French were driven from Vitoria by the English allied to the Spanish and Portuguese during a battle which inspired a symphony in Beethoven.
Casco Antiguo, the old town of Vitoria-Gasteiz
- alleys of this old quarter nicknamed Almendra can be tasted one by one. There are buildings whose origins go from the Middle Ages to the Baroque period: churches, palaces ...
One of its centerpieces is undoubtedly the Santa María Cathedral. This Gothic building has, like many churches, a rich architectural history. It is discovered through a complete visit, from its foundations to the top of its tower. You will learn how this fragile witness to Vitoria-Gasteiz's past has evolved and is the subject of patient restoration-consolidation.
At the foot of the Casco Antiguo stretches the great Plaza de la Virgen Blanca, a major site of the city, which is lined with houses whose facades feature bow windows typical of the region.
The modern city
The city has expanded into the surrounding plain over time. Touching the Casco Antiguo, you find streets dating back to the 19th century and the beginnings of the 20th. One of the most charming routes and the Paseo de Fray Francisco, which is lined with beautiful mansions.
In its old and modern quarters, Vitoria-Gasteiz includes several museums interesting. You have the Artium (contemporary art), a fine arts museum (19th and 20th centuries), another dedicated to sacred art, as well as places devoted to archeology, natural sciences, weapons and armor , playing cards, or even lanterns!
A city with several parks and gardens, Vitoria-Gasteiz is surrounded by Green ring. This allows you to tour the city on foot or by bike with six parks as major stops, including the protected wetland of Salburua.
The Basque Country, around Vitoria-Gasteiz
Comfortable place to stay, Vitoria-Gasteiz is a good base from which to stroll through the region.
An astonishing site is to be seen in one of the beautiful valleys that surround the city: the saltworks of Añana. Their origins date back to Antiquity, at least. Basements overflowing with salt rises a river whose flow is made up of brine. Thanks to a pipe system that is as rustic as it is efficient, this brine is spread on many platforms. As you can see by the sea, in Noirmoutier for example, the heat of the sun makes the water evaporate, and all that remains is to collect the salt. The site can be visited all year round, but the salt workers' work is carried out in summer, when the platforms are of a bright white...
Salt makes you thirsty… Bring some water bottles and explore the Rioja Alavesa Wine Route, between Laguardia and Elciego. Mainly red, these wines made from Tempranillo, Grenache, Mazuelo and Graciano grapes benefit from the DOC Rioja appellation.
Without forgetting to stroll in the old and fortified village of Laguardia or go see the La Chabola de la Hechicera dolmen, we visit cellars nestled in the vineyards. One of the star sites is Marques de Riscal, in Elciego. We owe it to the architect Frank Gehry, author of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
The big city of Bilbao is the other prime destination that can be easily reached from Vitoria-Gasteiz. A getaway on the Atlantic coast is then possible, even recommended!
Find addresses, tips and practical information in the Routard Pays basque, Béarn in bookstores
Euskadi / Basque Country Tourism
How to get there ?
Three daily frequencies Hop! to Bilbao, from Paris Charles-de-Gaulle. Car hire to get to Vitoria and take the Rioja wine route.
Getting around town
You can get around on foot or by bicycle in Vitoria-Gasteiz. A treadmill allows you to go up to the top of Casco Antiguo, which is on a hill! Otherwise, buses and trams crisscross the city.
Or sleep ?
- Hotel Dato: c / Eduardo Dato, 28. In a pedestrian and central street, a charming hotel at reasonable prices. Doubles 53-58 €.
- B&B Casa de los Arquillos: paseo Los Arquillos 1. Near the Church of San Miguel, a quality address in the heart of the historic district. Doubles 65-90 €.
Some gourmet addresses
- Mercado de Abastos. The city's covered market is worth a visit. There are plenty of local products and “gastrobars” where you can learn about the flavors of Basque gastronomy.
- Sagartoki: c / del Prado 18. A pintxos bar, delicious dishes typical of the Basque Country, with a traditional device in the entrance and a modern room as an extension. The chef won the prize for the best pintxos in the Basque Country. Count € 2 to € 2,5 per pintxo.
- Restaurante El Portalón: c / Corriera 151. Traditional Basque dishes, with a modern twist, in a former 15th century inn. Daily menu 35 €. Card 40-45 €.
- Restaurante Zaldiaran: av. de Gasteiz 21. An excellent starred address. Certainly a bit expensive, but if you want to treat yourself… Carte 50-70 €.