As in all cities with a lot of history and of a certain size, there are a number of secret places of Vitoria – Gasteiz, places outside the main tourist areas known best by the locals.
According to tradition, the area of the Basilica of San Prudencio de Armentia is the birthplace of its sixth-century Roman-Spanish saint. As a result, a Romanesque temple was built there and became an Episcopal diocese between the ninth and eleventh centuries. The current building dates from the twelfth century and is particularly lively on April 18th, as this day celebrates the patron saint of Álava and it’s the time of a popular pilgrimage. To see the extraordinary Romanesque sculptures and reliefs of the interior, we suggest seeing the reduced opening hours (which respectfully coincide with the liturgical celebrations) by clicking here.
Only eleven kilometers away is another exquisite visit inspired by our Holy Week in Vitoria – Gasteiz: the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Estíbaliz and the Benedictine monastery whose monks take care of it, which are accessible by the A-132 road. The sanctuary is a thirteenth-century building that houses the excellent Romanesque carving of the Virgin of Estíbaliz, as well as numerous Romanesque objects of great interest. To see the opening hours and booking details click here. Its day of celebration is on September 12.
Nature in the City: Salburúa Park
Vitoria – Gasteiz was recognized as a European Green City 2012 for its integration of biodiversity within its city. One of its most successful projects was the restoration of its wetlands that are now protected in Salburúa Park, which houses the new Ataria Interpretation Centre. This beautiful structure of wood and glass offers a lookout point for birds, an extensive museum and biodiversity activities throughout the year. Next to the wetland you can enjoy the stunning appearance of the gigantic building of the old Caja Vital headquarters, which simulates the shapes of vertical reeds.
An Impressive 19th-Century Cemetery
In any historic city, one of the best places to see outdoor art in is its main cemetery. In Vitoria – Gasteiz, you can find the Santa Isabel Cemetery and its nearby chapel of the same name in the northern area of Arriagako Atea Kalea. Here, you can view impressive private chapels, mausoleums and the statues of the most important figures of the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as the monument in memory of the people of Vitoria shot in 1936.
On the Fray Francisco pathway, next to the Ajuria Enea Palace (the official residence of the lehendakari or prime minister of the Basque Country) is the Álava Armoury Museum. This small but interesting building represents the gun-making tradition of the territory of Álava, allowing us to see the evolution of arms from prehistoric times to the beginning of the 20th century (see schedule).
Excursion in Search of Salt and Wine
In the northwest region of Álava you can spend a full day understanding and enjoying two of the most important staples from ancient times in the area: salt and wine. It is no coincidence that two of the main cuadrillas (regions) producing salt and wine hold the connecting point for commercial communication in northern Spain: the Camino Real, which connects the commercial city of Burgos with the old port of Bilbao.
31 kilometres from Vitoria is the medieval Salinas de Añana, a town famous for the age-old exploitation of its natural spring of salt water, which is still being cultivated in a traditional way. We recommend a visit during the second week of July because of its Salt Fair and nightly audiovisual shows.
One of the Basque products that has had the greatest impact in the last decade is the txakolí of Álava. In the region located immediately to the north of the Salt Valley, you can visit the elegant wineries and vineyards of its main towns; practical information can be found on our guide to the Álava txakolí Route.
Government Buildings to Visit
Travellers who come to Vitoria – Gasteiz during the working week can arrange a visit to the Basque Parliament building, which is currently the highest legislative body in the Basque Autonomous Community (above the General Assemblies of the three Historical Territories). This nineteenth-century building is situated in the central street of Becerro de Bengoa. From a historical and artistic point of view, an even more interesting building is the Diputación de Álava (Council of Álava), which can be visited through prior reservation here.