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Vitoria's Top Things to Do & See

A hidden gem with a medieval past

The political capital of the Basque Country, Vitoria's well kept medieval quarter, carefully planned green urban design and plentiful bars make it a worthwhile visit. Located in the middle of Alava, 70 kilometers from Bilbao, Vitoria has been an important strategic location from a military, commercial and cultural perspective for almost a thousand years.

Vitoria was founded in 1181 by King Sancho VI of Navarra, who named the town Nueva Victoria. The town then passed on to Castilian King Alfonso VIII in 1200 and quickly began to flourish, artists and craftsmen were drawn to this area and the streets were eventually named after their professions: Pintorería (painter), Cuchillería (cutlery) and Herrería (blacksmith). Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the city continued to grow and expand.

The famous Plaza de la Virgen Blanca is the entrance to a grand and excellently preserved medieval quarter. The old city is filled with plazas and charming corners that breathe history, for architecture lovers the old Cathedral of Santa Maria is undergoing a major restoration, visitors can take a tour of the restoration and witness the building of a gothic cathedral. The project has won several awards and is of great interest to architects, historians and archeologists.

Outside of the old quarter, Vitoria expands into carefully planned tree lined avenues and gardens, refurbished palaces and monumental buildings. Vitoria was awarded Europe's Green Capital in 2012 and 2013.

With a population of over 240,000, the city has an intense cultural calendar of events year round, from the Jazz fest in July, local fiestas in August, pintxo cooking contests and agricultural fairs.

Alava province also has rich natural heritage, the nearby national parks include Valderejo in the western part of the province, Izki a natural park with one of the largest Pyrenean oak forests and Gorbeia on the border of Vizcaya, they all offer splendid scenery, trails and outdoor activities.

Explore Vitoria's Medieval Route