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Vitoria

Medieval Walking Route

Strolling through the medieval quarter of Vitoria-Gasteiz is like taking a step back in time. Declared an area of historical interest in 1997 many of the buildings, walkways and streets of the old quarter remain intact, and the city is considered to have one of the best preserved Casco Viejo's in Spain. Select a point on the map below to learn more.

Vitoria's network of streets form an almond-shaped, start at the beginning from the  lower part, at the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca. In the center of the Plaza is the monument to the Battle of Vitoria, the square faces the facade of San Miguel Church, which houses the baroque altar of Gregorio Fernández.To the left of the church is small and picturesque Machete Plaza, with its arcaded buildings and Villasuso Palace from the sixteenth century. Going up the stairs on Calle Santa Maria you will find the imposing Montehermoso Palace. Built in Gothic-Renaissance style it was one of the first noble houses built in Vitoria, together with the Water Storage Building next door it is now used as a cultural center and exhibit space.

Down and heading to the right to Santa Ana, is Bendaña Palace, home of the Fournier de Naipes Museum, one of the most unique collections of playing cards in the world.

Up the hill, you will arrive at the impressive St. Mary's Cathedral or Catedral Vieja, built along the defensive wall at the end of the thirteenth century. This archaeological and historic monument is undergoing a complex restoration. Guided tours are available during the restoration process which has received the Europa Nostra award as a cultural heritage site from the European Union. Great care is being taken to study how the cathedral was originally built, and visitors will get to see the crypt, inside walls and interiors of a gothic cathedral. The restoration has drawn international interest from expert historians and archaeologists around the world.

Behind the cathedral is the Portalon, a medieval building which was once a busy tavern that sat at the main entrance to the city. It is now one of the finest restaurants in town. Nearby is a bar that serves excellent fire roasted chorizo. Along the cobble stoned Calle Correría, on the corner of Las Carnicerías is the tower of Doña Otxanda, home to the Museum of Natural Sciences. At the end of the route, be sure to visit the gothic church of San Pedro (St. Peter), built between thethirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

Learn about Vitoria's Museums.

 

 

  • Virgen Blanca Square

    Virgen Blanca Square

    The Plaza de la Virgen Blanca, is named after the patron saint of Vitoria-Gasteiz, it is the nerve center of the city and included in every postcard image. Surrounded by historical houses with glazed balconies, the old Church of San Miguel built in the 16th century looks over the plaza.

    In the middle of the plaza is a monument which commemorates the victory over Napoleon in 1813 that marked the turn in the battle for Independence in Spain.

    Plaza de la Virgen Blanca

  • San Miguel Church

    San Miguel Church

    In the center of Plaza de la Virgen Blanca sits one of the most popular churches in the city, named after the patron saint of Vitoria. During the town fiestas in the summer, el Celedon, a mythical character with an umbrella (the Basque Mary Poppins), is launched from the bell tower of the church down into the town plaza every August to mark the beginning of the festival. Locals gather in the plaza to celebrate and pop open bottles of cava as part of the tradition. Bring an umbrella or a poncho if you happen to be here that day.

    The church was built in a Gothic and Renaissance style, between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries over the remains of a former chapel. The rectangular church, has three naves, nine chapels, a sacristy and choir. The altar piece of the main chapel was designed by Baroque sculptor Gregorio Fernández. On the façade is an image of the Virgen Blanca.

    Iglesia de San Miguel

  •  Matxete Square

    Matxete Square

    On the border of the Casco Viejo, between the temples of San Miguel and the arches is Matxete Plaza, in Basque matxete means axe. Until the eighteenth century this plaza was called, “Plaza de los Bueyes” because cattle were once auctioned here. Then a local general proposed that government officials should swear their oath to office in this plaza, a matxete or axe was used as a symbol of what would happen if they did not fulfill their duties. Fitting with its name, the plaza was also used as the location for local executions.

    Plaza Matxete

  • Villasusso Palace

    Villasusso Palace

    Located in the cobblestone Plaza Matxete is the Villasuso Palace, commissioned by Martin de Salinas, ambassador to the court of Charles I in 1539.

    The building is curiously U-shaped because it had to be adapted to the wall and uneven terrain. Formerly, the main entrance of the building opened up to the Villasuso Plaza. This is where the coat of arms of the Salinas family is found and the main door decorated with columns. Today, the building belongs to the city and is used as a conference center and for cultural events.

    Palacio de Villasuso

  • Montehermoso Palace

    Montehermoso Palace

    Montehermoso Palace was one of the first stately buildings built in Vitoria in the sixteenth century. The nobleman Ortuño Ibáñez de Aguirre and his wife María de Esquivel y Arratia commissioned it. Once a residence, it then passed on to the church and is now used as a cultural center.

    The current facade was built at the end of the nineteenth century, the building has a rectangular floor plan and two main floors, in each corner there is a three-story tower. The palace is also connected via underground to another historic building, the Depósito de Aguas (Water Storage Building) built in 1885. This is where the city water supply, from the mountain of Gorbeia, was stored until it was closed in 1986. The building was renovated in 1994 and is now used as an exhibit space.

    Palacio Montehermoso

  • St.Marys Cathedral (Catedral Vieja)

    St.Marys Cathedral (Catedral Vieja)

    Vitoria’s crown jewel is St. Mary’s Cathedral, referred to by the locals as La Catedral Vieja (Old Cathedral). The building is currently undergoing a massive restoration process drawing upon some of the most well known archaeologists, historians and writers from around the world. The beautiful temple stands majestically on top of the hill in the old town representing a very important link to the cities rich past. Experts from around the world are interested in the cathedral for its architectural curiosities, including deformations which it suffered due to previous restorations.

    The Gothic church was built by King Alfonso VIII of Castile after the conquest of Vitoria in the second half of the twelfth century. Alfonso X was responsible for expanding and modifying the structure with Gothic details in the thirteenth century, and the building was embellished with a tower, choir, and a series of tombs for Vitoria’s most celebrated families at the end of the fifteenth century. The church-fortress then acquired the status of cathedral in 1861. Additions and alterations continued throughout the nineteenth century, the church represents a diverse combination of styles and architectural elements across centuries.

    It is worth visiting the restoration work for a chance to see the bowels of the temple. A raised platform four meters high provides unique insight into the nave, underground burial and archeological significance of the site. A spiral staircase will lead you around the defensive wall for an amazing panoramic view of the entire Alavese plain. Ken Follet, Paulo Coelho, Saramago and Mario Vargas Llosa, among many others, have included mentions of this magical place in their written works.

    Catedral de Santa María

     

  • El Portalon

    El Portalon

    Located just outside the Cathedral of Santa Maria, is an emblematic fifteenth century Gothic tower built in the late 1400s. This building was once a tavern and post office that sat at the northern entrance of the old village of Vitoria, nearby are Doña Otxanda Tower and the Plaza de las Burullerías.

    El Portalón is named after the large door, it once lead to the stable where traders kept their carriages and goods.

    In 1957 the building was carefully restored and is now home to one of the finest restaurant in town. Rich with patina and a sense of history, the restaurant prides itself on serving traditional dishes and extremely fresh fish from the nearby Gulf of Biscay, pan-fried clams, or slowcooked pig trotters stuffed with fresh foie gras. Roast suckling pig is another specialty, as is grilled sirloin steak with thinly sliced sautéed potatoes.

    El Portalón

  • San Pedro Church

    San Pedro Church

    Located along the medieval city walls is the Iglesia de San Pedro Apóstol or Church of St. Peter the Apostle. Built in the fourteenth century it is one of the prettiest gothic churches in Spain. The interior architecture, stained glass and detailed sculptures are worth a quick visit. The baroque tower from the seventeenth century is also remarkable.

    Iglesia de San Pedro

    Learn about Vitoria's Museums.

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