Vitoria-Gasteiz Tourist Attractions
Vitoria-Gasteiz, chief town of the Basque province of Álava and administrative center of the Autonomous Community of the País Vasco, lies to the south of the Cantabrian Mountains in a plain below the north side of the Montes de Vitoria. In recent decades a busy industrial area (mainly engineering and foodstuffs) has grown up around the town, but agriculture is still an important source of income.HistoryThis was probably the Visigothic settlement of Gasteiz: hence its double name. It began to develop into a town of some consequence in the 12th century, when, after a Navarrese victory, Sancho the Wise renamed it Vitoria. In 1813 Wellington's troops defeated a French army commanded by General Jourdan in a battle fought to the south of the town, compelling the French to withdraw from Spain.
Plaza de la Virgen Blanca
In the center of Vitoria-Gasteiz, at the south end of the old part of the town, is the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca, surrounded by tall houses with glazed balconies. A monument in the square commemorates the battle of Vitoria in 1813.
Fiesta de la Virgen Blanca
Every year in August the culminating ceremony of the Fiesta de la Virgen Blanca takes place in the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca, when a figure holding an umbrella sails over the heads of the spectators on a rope stretched diagonally across the square from the tower of the church of San Miguel and everyone is then supposed to light a cigar.
Plaza de España
On the north side of the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca stands the 14th century Gothic church of San Miguel, with a statue of the Virgen Blanca (White Virgin), patroness of the town, on the facade. The church, entered through a richly sculptured doorway, has a retablo by Juan de Velázquez and Gregorio Fernández on the high altar. In a niche on the outside of the apse, in the Plaza del Machete, is an axe (machete), 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.
Northwest of the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca is the 14th century Gothic church of San Pedro, with a fine doorway. In the Capilla Mayor are tombs of the Álava family.
From San Pedro, Calle Correría leads to the northern part of the old town, on a low hill. In this area is the Catedral Viejo of Santa María (14th-15th C.), with a magnificent tripartite doorway, richly decorated with statuary, under a porch (scenes from the life of the Virgin in the center, the Last Judgment on the right, scenes from the life of San Egidio/St Giles on the left). The Gothic Puerta de Santa Ana, on the south side, was opened up only in 1962. The most notable features of the interior are the various side chapels, some of which contain fine pictures, including a "Pietà" in the style of van Dyck (north aisle) and Carreño's "Immaculate Conception" (south aisle).
Opposite El Portalón is the Casa Armera de los Gobeo-Guevara-San Juan, which now houses the Archeological Museum, with Celtiberian and Roman antiquities from the nearby site of Iruña.
Palacio de Escoriaza-Esquivel
From the Cathedral, Calle de Fray Zacharias returns to the south end of the old town, passing the 16th century Palacio de Escoriaza-Esquivel, which has a Plateresque doorway and a handsome inner courtyard.
At the end of the Calle de Fray Zacharias are the Arquillos, a row of buildings erected in the 18th century to accommodate the difference in level between the old and the new town. Here too is the church of San Vicente.
Southwest of the New Cathedral, in the Paseo de Fray Francisco de Vitoria, are four interesting museums.
Provincial Museum of Art
The Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes holds a collection consisting mainly of religious art from the former Diocesan Museum (including pictures by Ribera and Alonso Cano);
Museo del Naipe
The Museo del Naipe, in the same building as the Provincial Museum of Art, has the very interesting Fournier collection of playing cards, with examples going back to the 15th century.
ARTIUM Centro-Museo Vasco de Arte Contemporáneo
Map of Vitoria-Gasteiz Attractions