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.

 

 

14 comments on “What To Do in Vitoria, Spain: Basque Country’s Capital”

  1. Adrian Lungu Reply

    Hi Christine

    I am a big fan myself of Spain. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to travel the country side , Madrid, Valencia and so on, I just spend my vacation in Barcelona. I am in love with that city.

    I was wondering if you can recommend me a travel (art and culture) guide that could help me plan my trip to Europe this summer. I am interested in museum exhibitions, galleries and/or art and cultural events in the major cities across Europe.
    A few years ago while I was living in Eastern Europe I used to travel twice a year all over Europe looking for amazing spots and interesting local experiences. I would like to add a cultural touch to my traveling this time.
    I would appreciate if you good give links to website or ideas on how to plan my trip.

    Thank you in advance and have a great day.

    • Christine Reply

      Hi Adrian! Where exactly will you be traveling? I can help you with recommendations for Spain if you plan on coming back here!

  2. Cassandra Reply

    I didn’t know much about Vitoria for the very reasons you mentioned. However, from your post it sounds like there’s plenty to do for here on a short trip.

    These pics are great–I especially adore the one of the escalators!
    Cassandra recently posted…Alcalá Night ShotsMy Profile

  3. Pingback: What To Do in Vitoria, Spain: Basque Country's Capital | Christine in … | alava.com

  4. Alison Trujillo Reply

    So glad that you wrote about Vitoria! I loved this city when I visited. Yes, the parks are lovely and the modern art museum in great. We were there during a summer food and music festival, and I’ll always remember couples of all ages dancing away in the park.

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