The most important sight in Vitoria is the medieval district, whose Gothic buildings were constructed on a series of steps and terraces. Most of the streets, arranged in concentric ovals, are named after medieval artisan guilds. The northern end is marked by the Catedral de Santa María, its southern flank by the Iglesia de San Miguel.
One of the most intriguing streets in the barrio is Calle Cuchillaría, which contains many medieval buildings. You can enter the courtyard at no. 24, Casa del Cordón, which was constructed in different stages from the 13th to the 16th centuries. Number 58, Bendana Palace, built in the 15th century, has a fine ornate staircase set into its courtyard.
Catedral de Santa María (the "old" cathedral), Calle Fray Zacaras (tel. 94-525-51-35; www.catedralvitoria.com), was built in the 14th century in the Gothic style. It contains a good art collection, with paintings that imitate various schools, including those of van Dyck, Caravaggio, and Rubens, as well as several tombs carved in a highly decorated Plateresque style. Santa María is at the northern edge of the Old Town. The cathedral is closed for general visits not arranged in advance because of upcoming renovations, which may last for several years to come. However, you can call the number above and ask to be included in a group, as only group visits are allowed. Such tours are possible daily 11am to 1pm and 5 to 7pm by appointment only, for 5€. Groups can be spontaneously formed if enough people are interested. For more details, contact the tourist office .
This cathedral is not to be confused with the town's enormous neo-Gothic "new cathedral," Catedral María Inmaculada, Calle Monseñor, Cadena y Eleta s/n (tel. 94-518-19-18), just north of the Jardines la Florida. This cathedral is from the 20th century and can be skipped, although on-site is its Museo Diocesano de Arte Sagrado (tel. 94-525-06-31), a small but choice collection of ecclesiastical paintings gathered from various churches, including a minor work by El Greco. The cathedral is open Monday to Saturday 11am to 2pm, charging no admission. The museum can be visited Tuesday to Friday 10am to 2pm and 4:30 to 6:30pm, Saturday 10am to 2pm, and Sunday 11am to 2pm. There is no charge for admission.
The major historic square is Plaza de la Virgen Blanca, a short walk south of the medieval quarter. Its neoclassical balconies overlook a statue of Wellington. The square is named after the late Gothic polychrome statue of the Virgen Blanca (the town's patron), which adorns the portico of the 13th-century Church of San Miguel at the square's upper edge. The 17th-century altarpiece inside was carved by Gregorio Fernández. The church is open Monday through Friday from 11am to 3pm.
At Plaza de España (also known as Plaza Nueva), a satellite square a short walk away, the student population of Vitoria congregates to drink.
The Museo de Arqueología de Alava, Calle de la Correría 116 (tel. 94-518-19-22), behind a half-timbered facade, exhibits pottery shards and statues unearthed from digs in the area. Some of these date from Celto-Iberian days; others are from the Roman era. The museum is open Tuesday to Friday 10am to 2pm and 4 to 6:30pm, Saturday 10am to 2pm, and Sunday 11am to 2pm. Admission is free.
Museo de Bellas Artes de Alava, Palacio de Agustín, Paseo de Fray Francisco 8 (tel. 94-518-19-18), has a collection of several unusual weapons, a Crucifixion and portraits of Saints Peter and Paul by José Ribera, and a triptych by the Master of Avila. This museum also contains a fine selection of Spanish art dating from the 18th and 19th centuries and a collection that traces the development of Basque art from 1850 to 1950. It's open Tuesday to Friday 10am to 2pm and 4 to 6:30pm, Saturday from 10am to 2pm, and Sunday from 11am to 2pm. Admission is free.
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