Burgos Tourist Attractions
Burgos, famous for its magnificent cathedral, was capital of Old Castile in the 10th and 11th centuries and is now chief town of Burgos province and the see of an archbishop.
It lies on both banks of the Río Arlanzón in the center of the fertile North Castilian plain, under a hill (100m/330ft) crowned by the remains of an old castle. Although Burgos is a busy town with a good deal of industry, a visitor strolling along the banks of the Arlanzón, where frogs croak in the dense beds of reeds, might imagine himself in the heart of the country rather than the center of a city. The promenades along both sides of the river, with their cafes, offer the chance of relaxation after sightseeing in a city which has so many treasures of art and architecture to see. The climate of Burgos, with its long winters and torrid summers, has earned it the description (also applied to the climate of Madrid), "nine months of winter, three months of hell".HistoryThe origins of the town go back to a castle built in 884 by Count Diego Porcelos. In 951 it became chief town of the County of Castile and in 1037 capital of the united kingdoms of Castile and León - a status which it retained until the completion of the Reconquista in 1492. In those days Burgos was already a center of the arts and of commerce, playing a leading part, until the end of the 16th Century, in the Castilian wool trade. The town was occupied in 1808 by French troops, who were only driven out by Wellington's army in 1813. During the Spanish Civil War, from 1936 to 1939, Burgos was the seat of Franco's Nationalist government. Burgos is associated with the story of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, better known as the Cid (1026-99), who was born in the village of Vivar, 9km/5.5mi north. His remains were deposited in the cathedral in 1921.
A striking Gothic Cathedral built from white limestone, the Cathedral of Santa Maria in Burgos is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Around the Cathedral
Outside the west front of the cathedral is a small square with a fountain, the Plaza de Santa María. On the far side of the square is Calle Santa Agueda, with the Early Gothic church of Santa Agueda, in which Alfonso VI swore in presence of the Cid that he had not murdered his brother Sancho II.
From the Plaza de Santa María a flight of steps leads up to the 15th century church of San Nicolás (completely restored in 1911), facing the west corner of the cathedral. This has fine vaulting and some notable tombs, but its principal treasure is the sumptuous high altar by Francisco de Colonia (1505), with polychrome alabaster reliefs of Old and New Testament scenes involving no fewer than 465 figures.
Northeast of San Nicolás is the Gothic church of San Esteban (1280-1350), with a richly sculptured west doorway, a beautiful rose window and an Early Gothic cloister.
Remains of Fortifications
Going north from San Esteban, through the Mudéjar-style Arco de San Esteban, and turning left along the old town walls (begun 1276), we come to the Castillo (destroyed by fire in 1736), from the ramparts of which there are fine views.
Solar del Cid
Below the south side of the castle ruins, at the west end of Calle Fernán González, are three stone pillars marking the site of the Solar del Cid, the ancestral home of his family. Close by is the 14th century Arco de San Martín, a gate in the old town walls running southwest from the Castillo. Continuing down the wall towards the south and turning left, we come into the Paseo de los Cubos, named after the semicircular towers (cubos) set at intervals along the walls - a fine example of Castilian military engineering.
Palacio de la Isla
In the park opposite the Paseo is the Palacio de la Isla, which was the seat of the Nationalist government during the Civil War.
Paseo del Espolón
The Paseo del Espolón, the favorite promenade of the people of Burgos, extends along the Río Arlanzón from the Puente de Santa María to the Puente de San Pablo, shaded by plane-trees and lined with cafes and shops. It is rather quieter in the gardens parallel with the Paseo on the banks of the river. Here visitors will see sights unusual in a city - the river flowing quietly by between meadowland and banks of reeds, frogs croaking their noisy concert, perhaps even a shepherd driving his sheep along the meadows.
Arco de Santa María
At the near end of the Paseo, opposite the Puente de Santa María, is the Arco de Santa María (originally 14th century, rebuilt in 1552), a massive town gate flanked by two semicircular towers, best seen from the bridge over the Arlanzón. The entrance to the town is guarded by statues of Castilian heroes and kings: in the center of the lower row is Diego Porcelos, the town's founder, flanked by Nuño Rasura and Lain Calvo, the first judges of Castile, and in the upper row (from right to left) the Cid, the Emperor Charles V and Count Fernán González. Through the arch is the Plaza del Rey San Fernando, on the south side of the cathedral.
Around the Plaza Mayor
A little way east of the cathedral and just off the Paseo del Espolón can be found the arcaded Plaza José Antonio or Plaza Mayor, which ranks with the cathedral as one of the main centers of the city's life. On the south side of the square is the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall), built in 1791, which also houses the Municipal Archives.
North of the Plaza Mayor, reached through narrow lanes, is the 14th century church of San Gil, with stellar vaulting. It has a 15th Century Pietà, several fine tombs and, in the Capilla de la Natividad, a retablo by Felipe Vigarny.
Casa del Cordón
In Plaza Calvo Sotelo, to the east of the Plaza Mayor, is the Casa del Cordón, a house built in 1482-92 for the Constable of Castile. The name comes from the cordón, the girdle worn by Franciscan friars, which features in the decoration over the doorway. In this house Columbus was received by the Catholic Monarchs in 1497 after his return from his second voyage to the New World; here too Philip I died in 1506; and here the French king Francis I was held prisoner after the battle of Pavia in 1525.
Museo Marceliano Santa María
Once a country residence of kings, the Monasterio de las Huelgas was turned into an upper end convent in the late 12th C.
Cartuja de Miraflores
The Cartuja de Miraflores, situated on a wooded hill to the east of Burgos, was a Carthusian house founded by King John II and intended as a burial place for himself and his wife Isabella of Portugal. After being destroyed by fire in 1452 it was rebuilt by Juan de Colonia and his son Simón. The plain Gothic exterior of the church contrasts with the sumptuous furnishings of the interior, notably the large gilded high altar by Gil de Siloé and Diego de la Cruz and the alabaster tomb of John and Isabella (also by Gil de Siloé), one of the richest of its kind in Spain. In a recess in the north wall is the alabaster tomb of the Infante Alfonso (d. 1468), decorated with luxuriant arabesques. The Capilla de San Bruno has a statue of the saint by Manuel Pereira.
Map of Burgos Attractions