On the Road: Vitoria Gasteiz, in the Heart of the Basque Country

There´s a local joke about Vitoria Gasteiz: in the capital city of the Basque Country there are two stations, the train station and the winter season (in spanish language – just like in portuguese – the word ‘estación’ has a double meaning, it can be used to refer to a station or to the season).

Here is the first coincidence: I arrived in Vitoria Gasteiz exactly by train and in winter, in the last days of January. And another coincidence: I took with me a book called ‘Victoria’, written by Knut Hamsun, a norwegian author.

Forgetting the name coincidence, there´s a better literary recommendation related to the city: ‘The Silence of the White City’ is a trilogy written by the local author Eva García Sáenz and follows the footsteps of an investigator, chief Ayala, trying to unravel a series of crimes.

Vitoria Gasteiz is a modern city with a medieval uptown, my favorite area to be honest: viewed from the sky, this area has the form of an almond, thanks to the Santa Maria cathedral, surrounded by streets that converge to her from both sides.

Santa Maria cathedral is, in fact, part of another highlight of Vitoria Gasteiz: a skyline composed of four towers: besides Santa Maria´s cathedral, another three religious spires adorn the local sky, the San Miguel, San Pedro and San Vicente´s churches.

But don´t worry, if you´re not into religion, there´s a lot to do and to see in the city. One of my favorite activities was to discover the local street art. Vitoria Gasteiz has an impressive collection of murals, thanks to an initiative called ‘La Ciudad Pintada’ (‘The Painted City’). It was hard to decide my favorite one…

Anyway, the most creative and interesting local street artist is, definitely, Relata. A collection of cans color the walls and compose phrases that make you wonder around the city.

Besides the coincidences, there was another fact to confirm I arrived in Vitoria Gasteiz at the right time: it was a sunny long day and the streets were crowded with smiley people outside, talking and laughing.

This friendly and vibrant mood inspired me to roam around the medieval old town, with my Hamsun´s novel, and suddenly I found dozens of locals sitted in the street, surrounding the door of a place called Aldapa. 

Aldapa is a bar and one of the local hidden gems: it serves a collection of homemade drinks that mix coffee and alcohol. Every drink has a geography name related and I took the house suggestion, Jamaicano. Spoiler alert: although the recipe is secret, it includes cream.

Another suggestion: by the evening, and after your Jamaicano in Aldapa, walk up, a few meters to the viewpoint in front of San Miguel church, and admire the sunset that composes the west side of the city. 

Then return to the downtown: follow the cobblestone stairs and reach the center by the Virgen Blanca square, right in the heart of the city, where every year the local festivities take place, on the 4th of August.

A visit to Vitoria Gasteiz is not complete until you discover the Green Belt, a collection of pedestrian paths composed by palaces (such as the impressive Fine Arts Museum) and romantic gardens, with the cherry on the cake: the Armentia forest.

I spent three wonderful days discovering a unique and peaceful city. I left with beautiful memories… and a wish: to seize Vitoria Gasteiz for a longer period. Any suggestions on how to concretize it??? 

For now, I think I’ll start by contacting the local authorities to help chief Ayala to solve the crimes plotted in the ‘white city’ trilogy by Eva García Saénz.

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Follow my photographic journey in Vitoria Gasteiz the next few days on Instagram

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45 responses to “On the Road: Vitoria Gasteiz, in the Heart of the Basque Country

    • Dear Tas, thank you so much for your comment 🙂 it´s, in fact, this kind of feedback one of the reasons that motivates me to write and to share my travels here at the blog 🙂 have a wonderful week!! best regards, PedroL

      • Likewise, I find feedback invaluable – “You never know just how you look through other peoples eyes”.
        Keep traveling and keep writing, even if it’s just for yourself 🙂

  1. I would love to see it in person. Is it far from the Camino de Santiago? That is on my wish list and now that you show this amazing city I want to go there too! It would be nice to see both. Que bellisimo!

    • Hi Irena and thanks for your message 🙂 I went to check if Vitoria Gasteiz was part of the French Way for Santiago but it doesn’t… Anyway, it passes in the region, so if you manage to walk it you should, definitely, stop in this beautiful and amazing city eheh have a wonderful weekend, PedroL

  2. I visited the Basque region last year and fell in love with it, it inspired me to read Aramburu’s book Homeland. It’s great to see some of these places thanks to your blog 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your comment 🙂 and honestly, I didn’t know about Aramburu, will check it out because I’m very interested in this region 🙂 can’t wait to return to the Basque country, in fact I’m lucky because there’s a night train that goes directly from Lisbon there eheh have a great week, best regards, PedroL

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  5. Looks lovely. We have never been to the Spanish basque country only to the French portion…maybe one day we will be able to start travelling again so we can visit. Stay well. (Suzanne)

    • I’m truly excited to discover the French Basque country, for sure it is also interesting 🙂 stay safe too and thanks for the comment 🙂 PedroL

  6. The Basque region is on my bucket list. Alas, my trips to Spain usually go no farther than Barcelona. More frequently, you can find me enjoying a day trip to Figueres… I love that town.

    • thanks for your comment Léa 🙂 some years ago I went to Barcelona and took 3 days to discover some smaller cities, like Girona and Figueres! I found both so lovely and in Figueres I visited Dali´s museum, it was so amazing, would love to return 🙂 wishing you a greeat weekend, PedroL

      • My pleasure and I have fond memories of my trips to Spain. I was there last back in October so it hasn’t been too long and when this quaranteen lifts, I would love to spend another day in Figueres. I’ve been in Dali’s museum more than I should probably admit and a huge fan.😉😉 It is only about an hour and a half from my house… 😉 Léa

      • that’s so cool Lea, to have the chance to be in one hour in Figueres and visit Dali’s museum 🙂 I totally understand you, I would visit the museum again and again if I could 🙂 you should read a book called ‘Travels in Catalunia’ by Josep Pla, it´s truly amazing 🙂 PedroL

      • It is a bit over an hour but well worth it. 😉 I still have to get to the beach to see Dali’s beach house in Roses. I understand about the museum. 😉 The book is being added to my list. Perhaps it is in our village library? There is a large family in the village with the name of Pla.

      • it might be, Pla was one of the best writers from Catalunia, it wouldn´t be hard for you to find it and i´m sure you´ll love it 🙂 all the best, PedroL

      • Thank you so much. I am surrounded by books but always manage to make room for another… 😊

  7. Medieval town! That’s enough to pique my interest! And the photos look great too. Another place I hope to see someday (my bucket list is ever-expanding, especially after visiting your blog these days :D).

    • ahah that’s such a great feeling to read you and know that I contribute to my readers 🙂 and, in fact, I’m sure anyone will love Vitoria Gasteiz, it’s such a fascinating city… I’m just hoping this pandemic ends to get the night train from Lisbon there ahah have a great week Stuti and thanks a lot for discovering and commenting my blog too 🙂 PedroL

  8. We loved this region. We spent a week in San Sebastian and Bilbao a few years back and loved everything about this part of Spain. Thanks for making it possible to relive that week. Beautifully described.

    • thank you for your comment 🙂 it is truly a special region, I had a great time discovering all these 3 cities and now really want to spend more time in the Basque country, for sure there´s a lot more to see eheh wishing you a great week, cheers from Lisbon! PedroL

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