With a population of 233,399 inhabitants, Vitoria-Gasteiz is the capital of both the autonomous community of the Basque Country and the province (or “historical territory”) of Alava. It stands at the centre of a wide plain, ringed by mountains. Architecturally, it contains Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Neo-classical and Romantic features. Today it continues to embrace new styles and bold new urban landscapes. Throughout its long history, the city has always been marked by careful planning, from the first medieval enlargement of the city in the early thirteenth century right down to today’s outlying developments and suburban parks.
More information on City of Vitoria/Gasteiz and Wikipedia
The city of Nueva Victoria was founded and granted its first charter in 1181 by King Sancho VI of Navarre (Sancho the Wise) at the highest point in the old town on the hill of Gasteiz. The town, originally designed as a defensive fortress, was conquered in 1200 by Alfonso VIII of Castile, who commissioned the first Gothic enlargement on the western side of the town. In 1256, it was extended eastward by Alfonso X with new streets for the different guilds. Until the expulsion of the Jews by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492, the city had an important Jewish quarter. King John II granted its city charter in 1431.
Over the years, “Victoria” was shortened to “Vitoria”. Inside the city walls, the mingling of different cultures throughout the town?s history has left its mark, with a wide range of different artistic styles in evidence.
Capital of Euskadi
Vitoria-Gasteiz became the capital of the fledgling autonomous community of the Basque Country under the Seats of Government Act of 20 May 1980, the first bill passed into law by the newly formed Basque parliament. It houses all the region?s main organs of government: the office of the first minister at Ajuria Enea; the Basque Government, in Lakua, and the Parliament, on Calle Becerro de Bengoa.
Its position as regional capital has brought new life to the city, with greater protagonism in Spain and beyond, increased administrative business and an influx of new inhabitants, people on official business and dignitaries paying their respects to the authorities.
With four and a half million square metres of urban green areas (an average of around twenty sq. m. per inhabitant), Vitoria-Gasteiz stands above the European average and on a par with cities like London. More than half of this area is distributed in large parks and gardens in different styles, of which the best known are the La Florida and El Prado parks, the city?s original “lungs”, with their own particular charm and historical feel.
As well as the green zones inside city limits, Vitoria-Gasteiz also has an extensive network of nature parks ringing the city. These currently cover an area of around 4,210,000 square metres and with new zones under development, this figure is soon set to reach 7.5 million square metres. The result will be a green belt running along the banks of the River Zadorra and taking in the suburban parks of Zabalgana, Salburúa, Olárizu and Armentia.
Vitoria-Gasteiz plays a leading role in the international Healthy Cities movement and has won numerous national and international awards for its environmental quality. It is a just reward for a city conceived as an integral ecosystem.
In a land renowned for its fine cuisine, Vitoria-Gasteiz’s best known dishes are snails and perretxikos (mushrooms), picked every year at the beginning of spring. Served in small casseroles, they are particularly popular on the feast day of Alava’s patron saint, St. Prudentius, and together with green beans are one of the most popular dishes among local people. But local gastronomy has many other fine dishes to offer.
Typical Basque cuisine can be found in both luxury restaurants and more modest-looking establishments which nonetheless serve the best of food, including top quality meat, shellfish, fish and vegetables, washed down by the fine wines of the Rioja Alavesa region.