Vitoria-Gasteiz has all the charm and very friendly locals
VITORIA-GASTEIZ, SPAIN: Believe it or not, there are three main cities in the Basque Country. Might not the discovery of the year. I am sure you know Bilbao, host of the Guggenheim museum, and heard about San Sebastian, the city of all the Michelin-stars. While Bilbao has the smell of the sea, and San Sebastian the beaches, Vitoria-Gasteiz has all the charm, the parks, the quality of life, history and just a step away from the wine region of Rioja. There is something about Vitoria and I will present ten reasons for a visit.
The locals. The main reason for a first visit is the friendly locals who always are ready to show you the city that they all are so proud of. You will discover that the people maintain strong links with natural resources and Basque traditions.
Gastronomy. This is the place to experiment with food and observe the way of living. A tasteful key to success is a tour of some bars to taste their important pintxos, the Basque name of tapas, which is a little bite-size creation, while enjoying cider or wine from the Rioja Alavesa. The affection to food is present inn all aspects of life here and eating and drinking well is something everyone can afford.
There are beginners course in pintxos and if tasting them is fantastic, learning to make them is thrilling. There is no McDonalds in Vitoria.
Places to eat. Pintxos is the new way of dining. The tiny snacks are made with great care and they are hard to resist.
For lunch and dinner, try restaurant PerretxiCo, Address: San Antonio 3, Vitoria-Gasteiz. Tel: 945 137221. Perretxico.es
Sagartoki is another pintxos bar and restaurant worth to visit. Here I was served the most tasteful small dishes in town. Address: Calle Prado 18. Tel: 945 288676, sagartoki.com
Food crawl. Txikiteo is similar to a pub-crawl, except it’s with focus on delicious pintox. The idea is to go from one bar to another sampling pintxos and having something to drink and is most popular on Friday and Saturday nights.
Pintxo-Pote is another popular activity. You order a drink, which is a pote and you get the pintxo of the night for free for a price of one or two Euros The pintxo-pote is less about gastronomy and more about the social aspect.
The Green Capital. This city is always green, not because it’s raining quite much but because of the Green Belt, woods, endless of parks, huge trees along streets and boulevards and a water land surround the city with all the birds. You can get around by foot or a bike can take you along 47kilometres of smooth tracks and walkways. The locals like to tell visitors about the largest numbers square metres of green per inhabitant. And we have to follow up with facts; Vitoria-Gasteiz is a European Green Capital.
Music. If music is your thing, you are spoilt of for choices this summer. The Classical Music Week, the Azkena Rock Festival in June and the International Jazz Festival in July. Don’t forget The Feast of the White Virgin, a city fiesta that takes place 4-9 of August.
And Azkena Rock Festival taking place in June every year.
Azkena Rock Festival
Santa Maria Cathedral. If you are interested in seeing gothic architecture, ruins of the 13th-century and restoration, the old Santa Maria Cathedral on the highest point of the hill is the place to visit. Here the settlement of Gasteiz first began. Even if the restoration is ongoing guided tours are possible.
New Cathedral. Even if Maria Inmaculada never was finished it is worth a visit. The construction started in 1907 and stopped after only seven years. After 1946 the construction continued slowly supposed to be similar to the Notre-Dame of Paris. It was consecrated in 1969, but never finished.
Florida Park. This park in the very center of the city definitely has a romantic aura, hidden corners and 90 species of trees. Originally created in 1820 as botanical garden.
Festival. Virgen Blanca Festival is an annual event taking place from the 4th to the 9th of August attended by packed crowd in the Virgin Blanca Square following five days full of activities, events and lots of partying. The Vitorianos love to invite guests to join this Fiesta.
Other activities. Try Coffee tasting at La Brasilena Coffee, visit the impressing La Plaza market and the Thursday local producers market and drop into the nearby Artepan, a bakery making bread and pastry in the old fashion way, Artepan.com
Easy reach. Bilbao, San Sebastian and Vitoria-Gasteiz are different but at the same time ideal bases to discover the Basque Country. There is something with Vitoria, an urban model alongside parks, rivers, fauna and flora – and a Cathedral not even planned to be finished for years to come. Vitoria-Gasteiz is down to earth and has it’s own soul. A visit to this city is better late than never.
Make it Happen!
Touch Down: International flights to Bilbao. Vitoria-Gasteiz is one-hour drive from the airport and one-hour drive from San Sebastian. Train connection from San Sebastian and only bus service between Bilbao and Vitoria-Gasteiz.
Stay: Ciudad de Vitoria Hotel is four star hotel located in the city centre. Here they serve a complete breakfast and they have bar and private parking. Hoteles-silken.com
Eat: Restaurant Ikea is ne of the best restaurants in Vitoria offers a mixture of tradition and modernity. Address: Calle Castilla 27 Restaurant Portalón is the most traditional restaurant of Vitoria. It has been around since the 15th century. Located at the Bullerías Square, right next to the Anda Tower. Address: Calle Correría, 147-151
Play: Real nightlife happens mostly during weekends. I like to suggest two places to meet the young and beautiful people. At Gasteizbi barman Raul and his staff are experts on mixing any cocktail made of gin. Depending on what’s in a cocktail they cost between 6 and 10 euro. Gasteizbi, Address: Mateo Benigha Morzza 23. Tel: +34 34945142954 Tolono is another combination of tapas, drinks and cool music. Address: Cuesta San Francisco 3. Tel: 945233336
Mini Guide: Getting around by tram, foot or by bike. Most of the 3, 4 and 5 stars hotels in the city have a bike loan service available for tourist and you can rent a bike also at: Activate en Alava, Campus Bike, Capital Bikes and at Lokoloka. They also organise bike tours in English. Tourist Office; Plaza de Espana 1. Tel: 945 16 1598, email: [email protected] – Vitoria-gasteiz.org/turismo