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Vitoria, Spain

Vitoria-Gasteiz, founded towards the end of the 12th century, is today a city of exceptional urban design. The Basque capital has a medieval city centre, in which it is possible to find countless places of great traditional flavour, such as Plaza de la Virgen Blanca (White Virgin Square) and historic buildings like the cathedral of Santa María. From here, the city harmonically unfolds into the Romantic new suburbs, a network of wide avenues, gardens and buildings that are a reminder of the grandeur and stateliness of Vitoria.

From here, the city harmonically unfolds into the Romantic new suburbs, a network of wide avenues, gardensand buildings that are a reminder of the grandeur and stateliness of Vitoria.In addition, Vitoria enjoys an intense cultural life, as evidenced year after year by its most famous event: the Jazz Festival. Its traditional recipes —based on fresh orchard products and always accompanied by a unique Basque wine— will not disappoint.Present day Vitoria was founded on a small hill in 1181 by the Navarrese King Sancho VI, under the name of Nueva Victoria. Later on, in 1200, this fortified town went to the Castilian monarch Alfonso VIII. Soon, a flourishing vocation for crafts began to emerge in the village. In the 15thcentury, Juan II of Castile granted Vitoria the title of city. Through the 18thand 19th centuries, the expansion of the city into the new suburbs took place.The Basque capital reveals a medieval quarter where it is possible to find the most charming little corners, gardens and tree-lined boulevards, which make the capital of Alava a remarkable green space that does not disturb the careful urban layout, where medieval streets harmoniously intermingle with Renaissance palaces and Neoclassical churches. The nerve centre of the city is Plaza de la Virgen Blanca (the White Virgen Square), presided over by the Battle of Vitoria monument. It is also the site of the church of San Miguel, which houses the image of the White Virgin, the city's patron saint. The present building dates between the 14thand 16th centuries, as evidenced by the mixture of Gothic and Renaissance elements. The church has a rectangular floor-plan, with three naves crowned with flamboyant Gothic ribs and a high reredos, made by Gregorio Fernández.The Gothic portico of San Miguel leads to Los Arquillos, an arcaded walk that connects the historic quarter with the nineteenth-century suburbs. We are in front of the church of Saint Vincent and the Palace of Villa Suso(16th century), located in Plaza del Machete, place where city-council officials were traditionally sworn in.The cathedral of Santa María, also known as the Old Cathedral, was erected at the highest part of the city. The construction of this magnificent Gothic temple began in the 13th century and continued into the 14th. Later remodelling was done as the city grew. In 1496, the church became a collegiate church, until finally, in 1861, it achieved the rank of cathedral. The imposing building, declared a Historic-Artistic Monument, has a pronounced Latin cross floor-plan, crowned with ogive vaults, as well as a magnificent ambulatory. From the outside, you can see the monumental sculptures of the fourteenth-century main front, very worthy of mention, the sculpture in the central front, devoted to the Virgin, the left front, dedicated to San Gil, while the right front depicts the Last Judgement and Saint James the Apostle.The surrounding area of the cathedral holds the most ancient streets of the city, as revealed by their guild names: "Cuchillería" (Cutlers), "Herrería" (Blacksmiths), "Correría" (Couriers), etc. Taking a stroll around this area, you will see the most significant Renaissance palaces in the capital. On Herrería street you will find the Escoriaza-Esquibel palace, with its gorgeous plateresque courtyard, as well as the Urbina Zárate palace. On Correría, you will admire the Portalón (Large Doorway), the House of Maturana-Verástegui and the Tower of Anda. Finally, on Cuchillería, you find the Palace of Bendaña (16th century) and Casa del Cordón, declared a Historic-Artistic Monument. This old trading house from the Low Middle Ages (built in the 15th century) has a Gothic façade with two pointed arches. Before leaving the old quarter, admire the Palace of Floral de Álava, home to the City Council and built in the 19th centuryand the slender Tower of Doña Otxanda, the present site of the Natural Science Museum. This fortified structure, built in the 15th century on top of an older one, was commissioned by Andrés Martínez de Iruña and Catalina de Álava.The New SuburbsAround the historic quarter, the rationalist Vitoria, the Vitoria of the nineteenth-century expansion, unfolds. In the new suburbs that arose as a consequence of this expansion, you find the square Plaza de los Fueros, designed by the prestigious Basque artist Eduardo Chillida during the '80s. Further ahead you will find the cathedral of María Inmaculada, also known as New Cathedral, built in the early 20th century, following a Neogothic style. Next to the temple, you will see the Basque Parliament(19th century), the site of the present autonomous parliament.Both buildings flank the gates to the central Florida Park, one of the most emblematic in the city. It was built back in 1820 and is remarkable for the wide variety of plant species that it houses. Other green spaces found in the capital include Judizmendi Park, situated on top of an old Jewish cemeteryand the San Juan de Arriaga Park, the largest in the city. Among the many small palaces in this Romantic city, it is well worth stopping at theAugusti Palace, home to the Museum of Fine Arts. This eclectic building, built in 1912, has been declared a Historic-Artistic Monument. ThePalace of Ajuria Enea, also from the beginning of the 20th century, is a clear example of Basque stately architectureand it is presently the site of the Basque Government.Culture, gastronomy and outskirtsVitoria enjoys an intense cultural life. Its extensive musical tradition is reflected in the Vitoria Jazz Festival. Each year in July, internationally acclaimed musicians bring the most varied styles to the Basque capital, brightening the streets of Vitoria for a week. A perfect excuse to come and discover the charm of the capital of Alava.The Parador de Argómaniz (Argomaniz Inn), a majestic Renaissance palace, is located only 12 kilometres away from Vitoria-Gasteiz. There you can sample some of the most typical dishes of the region, such asperretxikos (a kind of mushroom), snails with sauceand goxua (a sponge cake with whipped cream and caramel). Vitoria-style beans (habas a la vitoriana), vegetable stew (menestra de verduras), fried peppers (fritada de pimientos) and white haricot bean stew (alubias pochas) are some of the specialities that make up this rich, traditional cuisine. The region ofRioja Alavesa produces excellent wines, which are included in theDesignation of Origin - Rioja.The Pilgrim's Route to Santiago de Compostela has left a particular artistic mark in the province. The Zalduondo country house, home to the Ethnographic Museum, is the first stop on the pilgrimage in Alavan territory. In this town you can admire the Lazarraga Renaissance palaceand the parish church. Erected in the vicinity of Eguilaz, the Dolmen of Aizkomendi is one of the megalithic compounds of the Basque Country. The journey continues to Salvatierra, a medieval village with remains of the old walland large Renaissance houses. Worthy of mention are the churches of San Juan and Santa María. Upon reaching Alegría and Vitoria-Gasteiz, the path continues to Domingo de la Calzada, in the Rioja territory.The natural heritage of Álava is tremendously diverse. This fact is proven by the amount of protected spaces that it has, among which it is worth mentioning the Valderejo Nature Reserves, to the west of the province, the Izki Nature Reserve, which preserves one of the most extensive melojo-oak forestsand the Área de Gorbeia Nature Reserve, located at the boundary between Alava and Biscay, considered to be one of the biggest natural tourist attractions in the Basque Country.

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