The Holy Week processions in Vitoria are complemented by its more popular attractions: its two cathedrals, its ecological urban planning, the almond shape of its medieval design and some excursions such as the one to Rioja Alavesa or to the enigmatic murals that have appeared in the surrounding temples. Spending Holy Week in Vitoria – Gasteiz is an original, more comfortable and cheaper option than in other northern destinations.
Europe’s Green Capital and a Runner’s Paradise
The city received this title in 2012 as a result of a series of urban development policies aimed at distributing parks and gardens throughout the city’s neighbourhoods. The Green Ring is a set of parks and gardens spread throughout the city, accompanied by sports and leisure facilities which has made Vitoria – Gasteiz an international benchmark in terms of urban biodiversity balance and quality of life. The large number of pathways and pedestrianised areas has made walkers, runners and cyclists prevail over motorists in the city environment.
Tour of the Original Gasteiz and the Two Cathedrals.
This town is called “the almond” because of the shape formed by the walls that protected the city’s founding hill and hid the remains of ancient Gasteiz up until a few years ago. Gasteiz is a medieval town that– like everywhere else– has replaced its buildings over the centuries. To understand the ancient history of the city, it is a good idea to start with a guided tour organised by the Santa María Cathedral Foundation (Old Cathedral). After booking on the website you will have the opportunity to see the remains of Gasteiz from the 11th century: the wall that defended the original hill, the excavations and other restoration works from the 13th and 14th century Gothic building. It’s a very original and enriching experience.
The threat of the collapse of the medieval building meant that from 1907 onwards a new episcopal seat was to be built in the area of the city’s expansion. The “New Cathedral” or Cathedral of Mary the Immaculate is one of the last to be built in Europe; it was inaugurated in a neo-Gothic style in 1969 in front of Florida Park. Its decoration with modernist sculptures and intricate reliefs on the façades, arches and columns are of great artistic value; it showcases high-quality creations by modern artisans and artists. In the cathedral’s ambulatory is the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, made up of interesting collections of sculpture, goldsmithery and paintings from the Romanesque period to the present day (see schedule).
The Mysterious Romanesque Temples
Between the city of Vitoria and the old customs and stronghold of Salvatierra – Agurain are two villages with small Romanesque temples that have achieved great notoriety: Gazeo and Alaitza. While they are simple on the outside, these temples both house unusual Gothic mural paintings that are still pending a consensus on their attribution and interpretation. According to the people living in these areas, the church of San Martín de Tours de Gazeo and the church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Alaitza deserve to be dedicated to them. To visit the inside of these churches you should contact the tourist office of Salvatierra – Agurain to arrange an appointment for the morning. Since these are small, isolated places with a small restaurant selection, we recommend that you look at our page for places to eat nearby so you can find a place to have lunch later.
Museums to Visit During Holy Week in Vitoria
A very original and visually stunning sight is the Lantern Museum, which shows the 267 beautiful pieces of polychrome glass that the Brotherhood of the Virgin White carries during their procession in the Rosary of the Lanterns– an impressive night celebration on August 4th, the eve of the city’s patron saint festivities (see schedule).
In the old town you can find the beautiful palace of Bendaña (54 Chuchillería Street), home to the Fournier Card Museum, one of the most important museums in the world dedicated to playing cards. The Fournier family managed to become one of the world’s leading manufacturers of playing cards, assembling over the years an important collection that has grown to more than 20,000 decks. It is a knowledge centre where you can learn everything about this historic mode of entertainment. Next door is the Álava Archaeology Museum, with an original copper and glass façade. Inside, there is an exhibition on the thousands of archaeological pieces from the territory’s sites (see schedule). Afterwards, you can walk down the street to the Casa del Cordón, a 15th century palace with a beautiful exterior, interesting vaults and a lovely courtyard. It was the temporary residence of King Philip “the Beautiful” and the regent Adriano of Utrecht, who was there when he received the news of having been elected Pope.
In the outskirts of the city, surrounded by a beautiful garden, you can discover the beautiful mansion of Augustín – Zulueta. It is home to the Fine Arts Museum of Álava, a small but exquisite museum with a very interesting collection. Most of the pieces are beautiful Basque paintings from 1850 to 1950 (see schedule).
Artium is a museum and centre of contemporary art, with a special focus on Basque art. It is a symbolic declaration of the principles of the people of Álava: modernity is one of their priorities. For this reason, it has a impressive range of avant-garde exhibitions. Its innovative architectural forms inspire many visitors (see schedule).
Excursion to Rioja Alavesa
The most popular option for a day excursion during Holy Week in Vitoria – Gasteiz is to head south along the BU 750 and A 2124 roads, on the 50-kilometre route to Rioja Alavesa. It takes one hour to cross the south of the “Llanada Alavesa,” which includes the area of Treviño in Burgos and the forests of the Sierra de Cantabria. It is a good idea to stop for a moment to admire the stunning plain of the Rioja Alavesa before going further. Then, you will find the beautiful walled town of Laguardia, home of the spectacular Ysios Winery, the dolmens (megalithic tombs) of La Hoya and many other places of interest. In the humid months, if you continue for a couple of kilometres along the road of Logroño, you can see the many aquatic birds living in the lakes of Laguardia, which are on both sides of the road. Back in Vitoria, stop for a while to see Frank Gehry’s magnificent Marqués de Riscal Winery, located in the beautiful town of Elciego.
Holy Week in Vitoria – Gasteiz has some lesser-known options for visitors, which we have gathered on this page about the places in the city that many tourists miss out on.
You can explore the gastronomy of the city, experiencing some of the best bars and restaurants in the area. You can look at the selection of hotels and accommodations during Holy Week in Vitoria – Gasteiz here.
Translated by: Shannen Smith