Street Art in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain

 The last thing I was expecting to find was street art in Vitoria-Gasteiz. Vitoria’s street art, however, wasn’t in some up-and-coming neighborhood, or found in hidden alleyways, as it always seems to be. It’s out front-and-center, colorful murals splashed around the historic old quarter, making a sharp contrast with the centuries-old buildings surrounding it.

It’s not done by hipsters following in the tracks of street artists like Banksy either. It’s a collective effort by residents of Vitoria that provides a medium for artists to get involved in beautifying their city. They call themselves the IMVG (Itinerario Muralístico Vitoria-Gasteiz) and hold workshops in the summertime for volunteers who want to participate in the process from brainstorm to finished product; residents can even suggest a wall they think would make a great place for a street mural!

Artists Brought Together to Beautify the City

The team is made up of a patchwork of  individuals; young university students, established local artists and even an American muralist who has traveled around the world creating similar large-scale mural projects. This is what she had to say about her experience (taken from the IMVG website):

“For more than ten years, I have used my art as a vehicle to represent people and communities whose histories are often lost or unheard, to recreate the spirit of those communities; to tell their stories using richly crafted and emotive imagery; to claim and transform “blighted” spaces into visual affirmation of a communities’ stories; and to create dialogue around some of the most profound issues communities and individuals may face.”

Michelle Angela Ortiz

I also loved what art student Nadia Beltrán de Lubiano had to say about the project:

“It’s an incredible experience after months or even years have passed since having been way up on a scaffold with people who you make lifelong bonds with, to then see the murals and to realize that, there floating on the wall is where you learned, you grew, doing the thing that you like most of all: dreaming with colors.”

-Nadia Beltrán de Lubiano

 

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Street art is found throughout the old quarter in Vitoria.

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Creative street art: a pipe turned cactus!

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Such a mix of modern and medieval!

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There was street art everywhere you turned!

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More murals produced by local artists.

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Such a colorful street!

I love seeing creativity and community coming together–do you think these street art murals beautify Vitoria as intended?

What To Do in Vitoria, Spain: Basque Country’s Capital

I’ve been to both Bilbao and San Sebastián countless times, but  up until recently, I’d never been to Vitoria, the capital of Basque Country. Of Basque Country’s three main cities, Bilbao, San Sebastián and Vitoria, you’ll hear lots of Bilbao’s transformation from an industrialized city to a modern metropolis, and of San Sebastián’s stunning natural beauty and incredible food. What you won’t hear much of, however, is Vitoria.

If Basque Country is relatively untouched by tourism compared to other places in Spain, Vitoria is even further off-track. While there are a few Michelin-starred restaurants to be found in the area, there’s no Guggenheim, no UNESCO-Heritage sites, seemingly nothing to draw in outside visitors–at first glance.

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Church of San Miguel Arcángel

Architecture in Vitoria, Spain

Architecture in Vitoria, Spain

Off-The-Beaten-Path

The only thing I had heard about Vitoria before coming was that it was considered one of the cleaner cities in Spain, well-known for its potatoes, and became populated with a lot of commuters who work in Bilbao but didn’t want to pay the high prices to live there. Doesn’t exactly spark your interest, does it?

Vitoria turned out to be a nice surprise. It’s a sprawling city with a small town feel: full of parks (which lead to it being named the European Green Capital of 2012!), pubs crowded with locals and an old quarter packed with historical treasures; like the Cathedral of Santa María or the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca. It can easily be seen in a day and is less than an hour away from Bilbao.

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Sunshine in a plaza in Vitoria, Spain

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Church of San Miguel Arcángel at sunset in Vitoria, Spain

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Sunset settles over the city

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A peek of another bell-tower.

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Modern meets present in Vitoria with escalators in the city’s old quarter.

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Twilight in Vitoria, Spain

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Vitoria, Spain was the European Green Capital of 2012

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Old medieval walls

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The sun sets on the San Pedro Apóstol church in Vitoria

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Vitoria-Gasteiz found in Plaza de la Virgen Blanca

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Downtown Vitoria: Plaza de la Virgen Blanca

What to Do in Vitoria:

Explore the medieval old quarter

Vitoria’s old quarter dates back to more than eight centuries ago, and is full of extravagant palaces (some of which have been converted into museums), pretty plazas, historic churches, winding streets, cozy cafés, and more. The city has a past of craftsmanship, and many of the streets are named after traditional craftwork like Zapetería (shoemaker), Herrería (blacksmith), Pintorería (painter) and more. Here’s a cool map from the tourist office that follows a route through these streets, passing by shops that still practice these crafts to this day. Here’s a number of other routes available focusing on the history of Vitoria, sure to enrich your time visiting the city.

Admire the street art

Stay tuned as I’ll be writing about the street art in Vitoria soon–I was definitely taken by surprise by it!

Relax in a park

Since Vitoria was named the European Green Capital of 2012, checking out one of its urban green spaces is a must. According to the European Commission’s website, every resident in Vitoria lives within 300m from a park!

For more on Vitoria–check out this great photo essay focusing on the city’s commitment to being environmentally friendly.