The Basque city to remember
Despite its culture, architecture, gastronomy, and art, Vitoria-Gasteiz is still a quite anonymous city. It is labeled as one of the most modest Spanish cities and it doesn’t appear on the tourist radar yet. However, the fact that Vitoria is not that ‘commercial’ yet makes its authenticity stand up, preserving the city’s values in their natural state. Even if it doesn’t have a beach like most of the typical touristic Spanish cities, Vitoria-Gasteiz has plenty amazing experiences to offer.
Vitoria-Gasteiz is situated in northern Spain and it is the capital city of the Basque Autonomous Community and of the province of Araba/Álava. It has a population of 242,082 people and it is a multicultural city, particularly known for arts, commerce, education, healthcare, architectural conservation, oenology and gastronomy. Vitoria-Gasteiz is surrounded by nature. Numerous parks and well-maintained green spaces have an enormous contribution to the beauty of the city. Vitoria-Gasteiz was awarded in 2012 the title of European Green Capital and it is ranked as one of the best places to live in Spain.
Virgin Blanca Square — also known as “the old square” — is the main square of the city. During warm autumn evenings, several bars and terraces are filled with locals. Their laugh, loud talks, and good energy are keeping the center of the city alive. Vitorianos are very expressive people. They are the opposite of ‘shyness’. Watching them, you get a strong feeling of freedom: their look, loud way of talking and laughing, strong body language, extravagant clothing.
The New Square, formerly called the España Square, is a huge space with a breathtaking architecture and it gives you a strong historical experience. This place was used in the past for bullfights and markets. Nowadays, the New Square is the perfect host for terraces and bars. Many parents prefer to hang out here with their kids since it’s a closed area and the children can run around safe and free. In addition, several concerts and city celebrations are held in the New Square and every Sunday there is exposed a collectors’ market.
The Old Town is situated in the heart of Vitoria-Gasteiz. The whole city is built around it in an almond shape. Its narrow streets are spreading like veins in a body, exposing gorgeous palaces and buildings dating from the 15th and 16th century. During fiestas and celebrations, but also in ordinary warm evenings, the crowds of people are ‘flowing’ through these wonderful streets, giving life and good energy to the whole Vitoria-Gasteiz.
As most of the central parts of Vitoria, many bars and terraces are open for visitors, offering a vast diversity of beverages and food. However, the wine is the most common and appreciated drink here. Thus, you can often spot groups of people smiling, gossiping and happily waving their wine glasses towards each other.
The streets are empty in my pictures because in Spain lunchtime and the after — so-called — ‘siesta’ are two very serious rituals. In Vitoria-Gasteiz, most terraces, bars, shops and even schools are closed in the afternoon. During this time everybody is going home and all activities are resumed in the late afternoon. As you can see in the picture below, literally everybody is respecting the Spanish schedule:
Continuing our journey discovering Vitoria, the modern copper building of the Bibat Museum Complex can be found in the Old Town. This part of the complex is called The Archeologic Museum and it was designed by the architect Patxi Mangado in 2008. This interesting and modern looking building stands out in this part of the city, being the only one with such a unique design.
Eduardo Dato is the main commercial street in Vitoria-Gasteiz where you can find many locals going for a walk, for shopping or for a drink — because, of course, this street is also full of bars and terraces. Down on Eduardo Dato street, the statue called “El Camiante” — or in English “the walker” — is resting on a bank. El Camiante is a symbol of the city. The statue is 3.5 m high bronze sculpture of a skinny and tall man. It was created by Juan José Eguiazábal in 1985, representing a person visiting Vitoria-Gasteiz and liking the city so much that decides to stay.
For me, the most impressive museum and building in Vitoria-Gasteiz were The Fine Art Museum of Vitoria. This museum contains an impressive collection of 18th and 19th-century Spanish art. Also, Basque art is exposed here dating from 1850 and 1950. The building is a magnificent palace surrounded by a beautiful garden, being one of the most splendid mansions in Vitoria-Gasteiz. It was built between 1912 and 1916. The size of the building is very imposing. The facade is decorated with impressive details that help the visitors travel in time and experience the typical royal stories usually described only in books.
My journey through gorgeous Vitoria-Gasteiz is soon coming to an end. But yours might just begin. I highly recommend this city for those who are curious of an authentic Spanish experience, architecture, culture, art or gastronomy. I would call Vitoria-Gasteiz a complex and complete city. Its citizens are open and welcoming people who happily wish you on the street to have a great day — even if that’s the only time when will ever meet you!