Plaza de la Virgen Blanca
Visitors to Vitoria should start at La Virgen Blanca, the city’s meeting point par excellence. Located between the Old Quarter and the Ensanche (expansion district), the square, surrounded by white houses and the monument to the Battle of Vitoria in 1813, is one of the festival’s protagonists. Keep an eye out for our programme and don’t forget to pay it a visit.
Pintxos at the Old Quarter
The Old Quarter built in the shape of an almond, and declared a Monumental Complex more than 20 years ago, preserves the mediaeval layout of its streets. Cuesta de San Francisco soon leads to Calle Cuchillería, one of the city’s main thoroughfares where you can enjoy the best pintxos and potes in Vitoria-Gasteiz, continuing later along Pintorería and Zapatería. Truth be told, the range is colossal, so you’re best advised to check one of the many reviews first to avoid going mad with such a tantalising pintxo offer.
They say the best Spanish potato omelette in the entire peninsula is made in Vitoria, specifically at Sagartoki restaurant, winner of the award for Best Pintxos and Tapas Bar in Spain, and the Best Tapa in Spain for its ‘Pintxo de Huevo’ (Egg Pintxo). If you are into something more traditional, treat yourself to a good steak at 15th century inn El Portalón, a luxury indulged by some of the festival´s artists. Here you have a restaurant guide.
Cathedral of Santa María
When Ken Follett visited he was so amazed that it inspired him to write the sequel to ‘The Pillars of the Earth’. The city, in gratitude, erected a sculpture of the author beside the cathedral. The Welshman was not alone in being inspired by the temple, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Saramago, Paulo Coelho, Toti Martínez de Lezea and others have dedicated lines and lines of prose to what the locals call ‘The Old Cathedral’. Also of interest on account of its being “Open during building works”, whereby visitors can discover the buildings secrets via guided tours of the cathedral, regulation helmet and all.
No. 54 Cuchillería is home to Bibat, meaning ‘two in one’ in Basque. This museum complex combines the Museo Fournier de Naipes, located in the renaissance palace of Bendaña, and the Museum of Archaeology, a modern building designed by Patxi Mangado that has become an undisputed landmark in the city.
But without a doubt, the king of museums in Gasteiz is the Artium, Basque Museum-Centre of Contemporary Art, located a stone’s throw from the Old Quarter. Picasso, Dalí, Miró, Tàpies and Chillida, film series, concerts or poetry recitals await, the museum programme is available here.
Vitoria-Gasteiz will also become the State’s capital of rock ‘n’ roll on 22 and 23 June thanks to the Azkena Rock Festival. But festivalgoers don’t live off rock alone. Consider this: it was European Green Capital in 2012 and Spanish Gastronomy Capital in 2014.
Let’s talk wines. We’re at the gates of one of the richest wine regions. In Rioja Alavesa you can encounter small family wineries and wonders such as Frank Gehry’s building. You can stroll through vineyards, get to know its small villages and above all enjoy its wine tastings.
Vitoria-Gasteiz was warded the title of European Green Capital in 2012 for a reason. It rewarded the city for its efforts and commitment to the environment and sustainability, and its Green Belt had a lot to do with it: the city is surrounded by six parks, with over seven hundred hectares of forest, lakes, meadows and walkways that can be traversed on foot, by bike or even hot air balloon. Not to be missed, at the largest, Salburua, you may even run across deer!
The pedestrian network comprised of Postas, Dato, San Prudencio, Fueros, Independencia and Diputación streets is ideal for picking up everything you forgot to bring, and preparing your festival suitcase whilst on a gentle stroll. Here you will find all of the fashion stores we are all familiar with. But if you want something more artisan, bohemian and different, then once again the Old Quarter should be your destination.