Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of Basque Country, has been also named the Green Capital thanks to the so-called Green Ring, a perimeter around the city formed by six large parks that can be explored on foot or by bicycle.
Although Vitoria is a perfect destination for sustainable tourism, it’s a charming place and has no shortage of museums, galleries and fine dining restaurants. The city is situated less than an hour away from Bilbao and a short distance from Rioja Alavesa, a world-class wine area. That makes Vitoria is a great addition to any travel plans when exploring the Basque Country.
I combined my visit with some quality time with my school friend, Artur, who is lucky to call Vitoria his home. He was my fantastic host, showing me around and sharing some interesting insights and stories.
Exploring Old Town is a must, especially starting with Plaza de la Virgen Blanca. It’s one of the oldest meeting points in the city. In the middle of the square there is a monument to La Batalla de Vitoria, a battle which took place during the Napoleonic wars.
While in that area it was entertaining to learn about Celedón since his statue is also located near the square. The character of Celedón is supposedly based on a real person. His name was Juan Celedonio de Anzola and he was from the village of Zalduondo in Alava. Celedón wears a beret and a traditional blouse. Above all these parts of his outfit, he is always accompanied by an umbrella. The villager (or more precisely his dummy) opens all the festivities of Vitoria each year, by performing an impressive slide down the rope, using that umbrella. It’s a tribute to the villagers from the past, who would travel to Vitoria to join the celebrations. That’s especially the case for Fiestas de la Virgen Blanca also known as La Blanca.
There is an interesting fact about the city. My friend always likes to bring up that Vitoria-Gasteiz has not just one but two cathedrals. There is a Gothic-style one, the Cathedral of Santa María de Vitoria and a neo-Gothic one. The Cathedral of María Inmaculada de Vitoria that was built in the first half of the 20th century.
Music in the Park
Churches and cathedrals aside, the other place that is really worth visiting is the Florida Park. The birth of Florida is dated 1820. The ring and the park that surrounds the bandstand was built back then. These days many concerts take place in La Florida. In addition to that, every summer Vitoria is a home to the Jazz Festival.