Just across the road from the Palacio de Escoriaza-Esquibel is a small park with this extraordinary piece of street-art on the entire wall. There is also this gigantic statue in wood, but nothing to tell me who it is by or what it represents. Further down the same street at no 2 is the Centre Culturel Montehermoso, a beautiful 16th c building that also sits on the reservoirs of the city. Open every day except Monday.
Right at the end of the street you'll find a building marked "Gaztetxea"-"Young peoples house". Apparently is has been squatted since 1988 after it been in disuse by religious authorities. It has now been accepted as a kind of alternative cultural centre, and as such produces concerts, lectures and shows for kids throughout the year. These large mannikins outside (5th photo) were left from the saints day of Fernand (name of the street where the centre is situated).
Right opposite here is a small square where you can find the "freezeer mentioned in one of the church tips. There is also this small cell-type room that contains relics of the old city wall.
Moving around the circuit back towards the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca, on the right hand side of calle Frai Zacarias Martinez you'll find yourself on a square that has a good piece of the old Gasteiz city walls including a square tower constructed in the 11th c. Here is to be found also one of the most important pieces of Basque Renaissance, the "Palacio de Escoriaza-Esquibel" dating from 1530. Escoriaza Lopes, King Henry VIII's physician had this built for him and his wife Victoria Esquibel. On the main facade giving onto the square are sculptures of both of them, also with initials FVC meaning - Fernan and Victoria citizens.
The building has been taken over by the municipality since 2010 and although there is much restoration to be done, it is hoped that it can be shortly re-opened to the public.
San Miguel church stands on the Plaza de la Vergen Blanca, but is situated on a sort of terrace/balcony that overlooks the square. Built in the 14th c, it is once again gothic in nature and is noted for having 9 different chapels inside. On the front of the main portico is a niche with a statue of the White Virgin, the patron saint of Vitoria, while just in front of her on the balcony is a statue of the personnage Celedon, who since 50 years has invited the people of Vitoria to the feast celebrating the White Virgin by descending from the bell-tower by umbrella (yes-yes). The statue actually has the face of José Ramos Isasi, one of the creators of Celedon. Also on the front of the church is a large sundial.
Starting with the Cathedral Santa Maria at the end of the Cudilleria. Unfortunately at the moment (July 2012) it is pretty much covered in scaffolding and being renovated, although there are guided tours during this work (8€). Started around the year 1200 it went through many phases before being finished with a 17th c bell-tower.
Another gothic church is St Peter the Apostle, construction starting in the 13th c. It was attached to the western walls of the old town and so, as is usual with gothic churches couldn't have the main door facing westwards. The tower had to be changed in the 18th c due to collapse. On the 5th photo in the foreground there is a pit. This is the medieval fridge-freezer where they used to keep the blocks of ice brought down from the surrounding hills in the winter for conserving fresh meat.
Just to the right of Los Arquillos is the "Cudilleria", the main street where the students meet for a drink and a chat outside. There are a few restaurants and a lot of bars along here. On the right is the Casa del Cordon, so called because of the intricate Franciscan lacework around the double entry doors. Owned by a bank today, it is given over to various exhibitions which are free. Although the main building is 15th c, during renovation work some 50 years ago, a 13th c tower was found hidden behind the brickwork. A little further along there is the Archeology museum in the building Fournier de Naples and has this lovely turret on one corner. There are some other buildings that merit some attention along with a statue of St Mark.
Any hotel will give you a map of the inner city where most of the monuments are. You can either follow the "Camino de Santiago" or just follow the map from wherever you start the tour. A couple of hours are enough to visit the old quarter without actually entering or really visiting the churches and monuments. Starting by the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca, a 17th c square reckoned to be the hub of the city along with the adjacent Plaza de España. It has a superb memorial to the battle of Vitoria in 1813, where allied armies under Wellington broke the back of the French army bringing virtually an end to the peninsular war (unfortunately Napoleon didn't see it that way and started up again a while later, only to finish rather badly in Belgium). The main building in the Plaza de España is the town hall, the place itself bein surrounded by 220 arcade arches.
Just around the corner are Los Arquillos, designed to incorporate the differences in level of the 2 adjoining streets, dated from 1787 where you may also find a smiling young bride willing to have her photo taken.
This little museum have some interesting weapon collections. Only for warcraft addicts!!
Tuesday to Friday 10:00-14:00 / 16:00-18:30
The first church on the site was built up against the city walls at the beginning of the 12th century. Following the conquest of the city by Alfonso VIII, work began on the cathedral around 1200, and by the second half of the 13th century a section of the city wall was demolished so work could be completed. Over the centuries several alterations and additions were made, firstly to make the cathedral more Gothic, and later to strengthen and stabilise the building.
The Catedral Santa Maria has been undergoing renovations for several years - closed in the late nineties, they aim to reopen for worship in 2010. However you can arrange a tour of the cathedral (in Spanish, Basque, English or French) by going to the website listed below (tickets cost 5 euros, although on Mondays you can donate as much or as little as you wish).
The tour starts off with a video (which can been seen via the youtube link below), and then takes you through the cathedral pointing out the architectural history, and the archaeology which has been uncovered during the renovation and excavations. The guide also takes you through passages high up in the cathedral walls, giving access to the exterior, which I imagine will be closed to the public once it is reopened (this can just be made out in the fourth photo posted). Finally the guide explains the restoration of the main facade, and how the original paintwork of the statues has been uncovered and how it will be displayed in future.
All in all, a fascinating tour.
The first photo is a plan of the Old Town, showing it's distinctive shape (a series of concentric ovals with the top of the hill at the centre), which you will see all over the place - they even make chocolate in the shape of it!
The streets of the old town are narrow, cobbled affairs, lined with old houses; although there is some concession to modernity - they have escalators running up one or two of the steeper streets! These streets are full of little bars, often with no name, and are great fun to wander around of an evening.
The first name for this square is the Basque one, the second the Spanish. There are plenty of bars and cafes here, but they're a bit pricey!
On Sunday mornings they hold a street market under the arcades.
This church, which stands on the north side of the Plaza de Virgen Blanca, was built in the 14th century, and a statue of the cities patron saint, the White Virgen, stands in a niche in its wall overlooking the square. On the east side of the church is the Plaza del Machete, where there is an axe in another niche on which the royal governor of the town was required to swear that he would act in the interests of the town, on the understanding that he would be beheaded with the axe if he did not.
This is a good place to start your exploration of Vitoria, situated as it is in the heart of the city, and just to the south of the narrow streets of the Casco Viejo (old town). It's nice to sit at a cafe here on a sunday morning sipping orange juice or coffee, or to meet friends here in the evening before going out for drinks. The monument is a handy landmark for that - it commemorates the Battle of Vitoria of 1813.
This square is where the opening and closing events of the Fiesta de la Virgen Blanca take place - see my Fiesta tips for more!
It's located in the old town and is one of the most important churches in the city. Nowadays (2008) it's being restored, but don't worry, there are 3 hour organiced tours (3,50€) in which the restoration process is perfectly explained. If you are interested on that you have to call before. The telephone number is (0034) 945 255 135. If you prefer you can also have a look in his oficial web site www.catedralvitoria.com.
Ken Follet, has inspired the second part of 'The Pilars of the Earth' on this cathedral.
Is the city's modern art galery, similar to Guggenheim museum in Bilbao.
In the huge subterranean galleries are shown works by basque, spanish and international artists. Here you'll find artworks made by artists like Picasso, Dalí or Miró.
Some of the exhibitions stay here all the time, but other exhibition change. When I was here I had the oportunity of watch an exhibition by Patricia Piccinini and other one about old film posters.
Price (2007): adults 4,50€ childrem 2,20€. I think that there're discounts with the International Student Identity Card.
Timetable: 11:00am - 8:00pm Tue - Fri. 10:00am - 8:00pm Sat & Sun.
The Sanctuary of Estibaliz is a jewel of the Romanesque period. It is built to worship the twelfth-century carved image of the Virgin of Estibaliz. It has Latin cross plan and single nave, large transept and three chapels in the sanctuary.The nave has three sections and is topped with a barrel vault.The sanctuary has three apses, the central one has joined, half-height columns and modern buttresses to support the walls of the straight section.
It is well worth the trouble to have a close look at the outside of the church with its three asps and the wide variety of sculptures fashioned by master craftsmen, found in its walls.
Next to the Sanctuary stands a Benedictine monastery that formed part of a monastery dating back to before the eleventh century, where you may buy the monastery wine and delicious wine liquer " Virgin de Estibaliz".