The city of Vitoria-Gasteiz
Vitoria-Gasteiz, a city almost one thousand years old, founded in 1181 by King Sancho VI of Navarre, still retains its medieval almond-shaped layout intact.
Some experts claim that it already had a defensive wall that proved decisive in the eight month siege that the troops of the king of Castile, Alfonso VIII, subjected its inhabitants to until finally taking control of the city in 1200.
Vitoria-Gasteiz, a city almost one thousand years old, founded in 1181 by King Sancho VI of Navarre, still retains its medieval almond-shaped layout intact. Some experts claim that it already had a defensive wall that proved decisive in the eight month siege that the troops of the king of Castile, Alfonso VIII, subjected its inhabitants to until finally taking control of the city in 1200.
Alfonso VII provided Vitoria-Gasteiz with its first Gothic expansion on its western slope and in 1256 Alfonso X the Wise extended this eastward with new streets pertaining to guilds. The city quickly prospered after these enlargements on both sides of the hill, due to its strategic location on the shortest route between the kingdom of Castile and northern Europe. The city had its own customs authority and important markets.
Today the medieval centre still houses many remnants from this historic past which, in 1997, made it worthy of being declared a Monumental Site and later the recipient of various awards from the European Union thanks to the renovation and restoration of landmark buildings and spaces. The 11th century city wall and the 13th century Cathedral of Santa María are just two notable examples
Visitors can also see Gothic temples of unquestionable charm and beauty, such as the church of San Miguel, mentioned in the city Charter of 1181, or San Pedro, featuring a stretch of wall with a loophole, revealing its defensive past. A past during which the tower of Anda family, one of the city’s oldest buildings, played an important role.
Civil buildings such as the house of the Cordón, on the inside of which stands a 13th century tower; the beautiful El Portalón building, an old 15th century inn that still retains all of the charm that history has locked within its walls; and quiet squares and beautiful mansions that transport whoever walks through these part of the city to a past full of battles, lords and legends.
In addition to its medieval past the city still bears traces of other times, such as magnificent Renaissance palaces, baroque houses and nineteenth century buildings.
The Escoriaza Esquivel Palace is one of the most outstanding. Fernán López de Escoriaza, physician to king Henry VIII of England, and his wife, Victoria de Anda y Esquivel, had this palace built in the mid 16th century which, due to its architectural and ornamental richness, is one of the finest examples of civil renaissance architecture in Euskadi.
Its interior conceals a spectacular square courtyard with double tiered arches on three sides and a staircase. The capitals of the columns and tondi are richly adorned.
The City Council of Vitoria-Gasteiz offers you 7 routes to discover all of the monuments, corners and buildings of the Medieval almond-shaped centre, which you can find in the download section.
Visits to both the Cathedral of Santa Maria and the 11th century wall can be booked by phoning the Cathedral of Santa Maria Foundation or on its website.
The city’s Tourist Office offers guided tours of the Medieval centre on a daily basis – during the summer months, Easter week and long weekends – and on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the rest of the year. It also organizes children’s and thematic visits at different times of the year.
Location and access
Vitoria-Gasteiz is the capital of Álava and Euskadi. The city can be accessed by private vehicle via roads such as the N-1, AP-1 and AP-68, among others, as well as by public transport.