Study in Vitoria, Spain

Study in Vitoria, Spain

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Rooftops of Vitoria

Also known by the longer name Vitoria-Gasteiz, Vitoria is the capital city of the Basque Autonomous Community and of the province of Araba/Álava in northern Spain. The city hosts the autonomous community's House of Parliament, the headquarters of the Government, and the Lehendakari's (Prime Minister's) official residency.

The municipality of Vitoria, which comprises not only the city but also the agricultural lands of 63 nearby villages, is the largest in the Basque Autonomous Community, with a total land area of roughly 107 square miles (276.81 km2), and it has a population of 242,082 inhabitants as of the latest census in 2014.

Residents of Vitoria-Gasteiz are called vitorianos or gasteiztarrak, while traditionally they were dubbed babazorros (Basque for 'bean sacks'). Vitoria is a multicultural city with strengths in the arts, commerce, education, healthcare, architectural conservation, aeronautics, the automotive industry, oenology and gastronomy. It is the first Spanish municipality to be awarded the title of European Green Capital (in 2012) and it is consistently ranked as one of the 5 best places to live in Spain.

The old town holds some of the best preserved medieval streets and plazas in the region and it is one of very few cities to host two large Cathedrals. The city also plays host to a variety of well known festivals, such as the Azkena Rock Festival, FesTVal, Vitoria-Gasteiz Jazz Festival, and the Virgen Blanca Festivities.

Sadly, Vitoria-Gasteiz is often overshadowed by the other more prominent Basque cities, but this municipality has plenty to offer for tourists and locals alike. A very down to earth place, Vitoria boasts one of the best preserved medieval centers in the Basque region, as well as a very impressive collection of renaissance architecture. Vitoria-Gasteiz isn’t wholly on the tourist radar yet and that only adds to its appeal and authenticity.

Things to Do and See in Vitoria, Spain

Although it lacks the sandy beaches of San Sebastian and the prominent Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao, Vitoria does offer a wealth of attractions worth visiting. Some of these include:

The Museum of Fine Arts

The Fine Art Museum of Vitoria contains a beautiful collection of 18th and 19th century Spanish art, as well as Basque art from 1850 to 1950. The works here represent the Romanticism and Realism styles of art and focus primarily on rural Basque life as well as the bourgeoisie life in an industrializing Bilbao.

The building that houses the Museum of Fine Arts is surrounded by a beautiful garden, and is one of the most splendid mansions in Vitoria. It was built between 1912 and 1916 in an eclectic style, mixing Baroque and Romantic architecture with a little bit of neo-Basque. The owners of the palace were once Ricardo Augustin and Elvira Zulueta, therefore it is sometimes known as the Augustin-Zulueta Palace.

The Fortified Wall

The almond-shaped medieval town of Vitoria is set upon a hill that serves as the only elevation in the plain of Álava Province. The fortified wall that surrounds the town was built during the second half of the 11th century (new findings suggest that parts of it may be even older), and its strategic position on the hill helped Old Vitoria to become a defensive stronghold in the region, coveted by the Kingdoms of Navarra and Castile during the 11th and 12th centuries.

Santa Maria Cathedral

Known to locals as “the Old Cathedral,” the Santa María Cathedral is a marvelous example of Gothic-style architecture. The building was conceived at the beginning of the 13th century by then King of Castile Alfonso VIII as a church-fortress, rising at the highest point of the hill where the settlement of Gasteiz first began.

In 1994, the cathedral was closed to the public and attempts to save the crumbling structure began. The restoration is still ongoing and the Santa Maria Cathedral Foundation is in charge of the work and manages guided tours. If you are interested in seeing the live restoration in progress, as well as the archeological ruins of a 13th-century sanctuary, then a visit to the old cathedral might be a great way to spend an afternoon.