A city for everyone
The medieval district, declared national monumental complex in 1987, is one of the most beautiful
and best-preserved of its kind in the North of the Iberian Peninsula. Moreover, the city shelters
fine examples of a number of architectural styles, ranging from the Gothic to the Neoclassic. The
expansion of the city in the 19th and 20th centuries involved a successful adaptation of
traditional aesthetics to current requirements, by creating spaces and architectural structures of
Another good reason for visiting Vitoria-Gasteiz is to attend one of the cultural and sport
events offered by the city all year round. Some of the activities that should not be missed are:
Basque Film Week, Festival of Games, the Jazz festival, the theatre and rock festivals, the
short-film festival (called “Cortada”) and Ardoaraba, the international wine festival held each
year during the Immaculate Conception festivity in December.
Vitoria-Gasteiz offers many kinds of accommodation: there is a choice between staying at the
best hotels (from one to 5 star hotels), at the Parador Nacional (a short distance from the city)
or at a campsite, which can accommodate up to 250 people. There is also the possibility to stay at
any of several of the charming rural guesthouses and hotels that can be found just a few kilometres
from Vitoria-Gasteiz. The atmosphere in the streets, its parks and gardens, their comfortable daily
life, the local displacement ease, its magnificent environs and the character of its inhabitants,
turn it as an ideal frame for visitors.
We would like to thank the Vitoria City Council department
"Servicio Municipal de Congresos y Turismo" for the photographs provided.
Photographs by: Oscar Fernández Santana
Catheral of Santa María
The history of the Old Cathedral (as it is popularly known), is in itself a synthesis of the
history of Vitoria. Built on the cemetery of the primitive Gasteiz village (that can be visited
nowadays thanks to the excavations), the church of Santa Maria collapsed with the 1202 fire, and
Alfonso VIII (that had conquered the settlement just 2 years before), ordered the city’s
reconstruction and the erection of a new church where the previous one had been, which was to serve
two different purposes: to save souls and to stock weapons.
Thus the Cathedral was born, still a church, like a temple-fortress that served as a city
entrance. The project changed with the centuries, in such a way that each modification was done
without considering the previous ones, this was so in the 15th century (when the church became
collegiate church), and finally in the Sixties, when fortification of the outer walls was reverted
and the large windows enlarged for just aesthetic purposes. This ended up forcing the temple’s
closure from fear that it will collapse during mass.
Today the Cathedral is open again, and offers a unique experience to visitors: a stroll
through layers of time. From the vestiges of the original village, root of the current Vitoria, to
the Gothic redesign in the middle of the 20th century, putting up with foundations of over one
million years of antiquity, and Romanesque and Gothic plans, all perfectly perceptible by the color
of the materials used in each stage. A unique opportunity for a journey through history inside a
temple that, due to its peculiar characteristics and manifold functions, has become Vitoria’s main
Plaza de la Virgen Blanca or Plaza Vieja
Since the Middle Ages to the 18th century, the population of Vitoria and the layout of its streets
stayed almost without variations. And it was not until the end of the 18th century, when the city
stretched beyond the walls. In order to solve the altitude difference problem between the original
city nucleus on the hill, and the lowland underneath, the Arches and the Plaza Nueva (New Square)
were built to smoothen the transition towards the so necessary neoclassic extension (19th century)
with large streets and gardens, which can be clearly seen on Calle Dato, Parque La Florida, and
Plaza de la Virgen Blanca, with its façades and balconies
San Vicente Martir Church
This was the last church to be built in the old town. It was constructed on the old fortress of San
Vicente, which defended the southeastern end of the town. It is the only example in Alava of an
open ground plan church. Some vestiges of its fortified past still exist today in the form of the
remains of the sentry post. To climb the tower and explore the wooden framework over the naves is a
Casa del Cordón
Its name comes from the torus (cordón in Spanish) of the Franciscan order which is placed over the
entrance arch. Inside, there is a tower which, in spite of the alterations it has suffered, still
conserves its major structural elements dating from the 13th to the 15th centuries. It has a square
structure and its supported by a thick wooden base. Notice the starlike polychrome vault that
covers the main hall of the tower.
The Montehermoso Palace
This building was constructed by the illustrious courtier, Ortuño Ibáñez de Aguirre and his wife
María de Esquivel y Arratia. It later became the bishop see and today it is the city's most
important culture centre. Next to this building, the “Antiguo Depósito de Aguas” (old water
deposit), accessible via an underground entrance, can be found. Nowadays, it is used as a singular
exhibition hall and conference centre.
The Escoriaza-Esquibel Palace
This is the best-preserved Renaissance palace in the city. Behind its façade, there is a
spectacular square inner patio with a double archway.
The Villasuso Palace
Its structure still contains ruins from the old walls of the city, as well as other traces of its
medieval past. Today, it is used as a conference building. The assembly hall is adorned with a
Flemish tapestry from the Brussels School (16th century) depicting the Flight of Aeneas and his
family from Troy.
Plaza de España
This group of buildings dates from the late 18th century and is the best example of Neoclassical
art in the city as well as being a major milestone in the urban expansion beyond the bounds of the
medieval city towards the south.
The Plaza del Machete
This square is situated behind the Arquillos, between the front of San Miguel church and the Cuesta
de San Vicente. In the past, it marked the edge of the medieval town. Its name derives from the
fact that a machete was kept in a niche of the apse of San Miguel before which representatives of
the city took their oaths of office. It also used to be called the “La Plazoleta del Juicio”
(judgment square)as this was the place where executions were carried out with the garrotte.
The two constructions known as the Arquillos represent the "Neoclassical development" of the city
and mark the transition between the medieval city and the contemporary one. It was constructed to
solve the problem of the steep gradient on the southern slopes of the hill. A number of stone
houses were built over the Arquillos and another two galleries were made to connect the medieval
district and the main town square.