Andre Maria Zuria/Virgen Blanca Square of Vitoria-Gasteiz
Haec est Victoria quae vincit
(This is Victoria which triumphs)
|Autonomous community||Basque Country|
|• Alcalde||Gorka Urtaran (Basque Nationalist Party)|
|• Total||276.81 km2 (106.88 sq mi)|
|Elevation||525 m (1,722 ft)|
|• Density||900/km2 (2,300/sq mi)|
Spanish: vitoriano, vitoriana
|Time zone||UTC+1 (CET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+2 (CEST)|
|Official language(s)||Spanish, Basque|
Vitoria-Gasteiz (/ /; Spanish: [biˈtoɾja]; Basque: [ɡas̺teis̻]) is the seat of government and the capital city of the Basque Country and of the province of Araba/Álava in northern Spain. It holds the autonomous community's House of Parliament, the headquarters of the Government, and the Lehendakari's (Prime Minister's) official residency. The municipality—which comprises not only the city but also the mainly agricultural lands of 63 villages around—is the largest in the Basque Country, with a total area of 276.81 square kilometres (106.88 sq mi), and it has a population of 252,571 (May 2019). The dwellers of Vitoria-Gasteiz are called vitorianos or gasteiztarrak, while traditionally they are dubbed babazorros (Basque for 'bean sacks').
Vitoria-Gasteiz is a multicultural city with strengths in healthcare, aeronautics, vehicle industry, and gastronomy. It is consistently ranked as one of the 5 best places to live in Spain, it is the first Spanish municipality to be awarded the title of European Green Capital (in 2012) and it has been also recognized by the UN with the Global Green City Award (in 2019). The old town has some of the best preserved medieval streets and plazas in the region and it is one of very few cities with two cathedrals. The city also holds well known festivals such as the Azkena rock festival, FesTVal, Vitoria-Gasteiz jazz festival, and the Virgen Blanca Festivities.
Vitoria-Gasteiz's vicinity is home to world-renowned wineries such as Ysios (by Santiago Calatrava) and the Marqués de Riscal Hotel (by Frank Gehry); relevant heritage sites including the Neolithic remains of Aizkomendi, Sorginetxe and La chabola de la Hechicera; Iron Age remains such as the settlements of Lastra and Buradón; antique remains such as the settlement of La Hoya and the salt valley of Añana; and several medieval fortresses including the Tower of Mendoza and the Tower of Varona.
Beethoven dedicated his Opus 91, often called the "Battle of Vitoria" or "Wellington's Victory", to one of the most famous events of the Napoleonic Wars: the Battle of Vitoria, in which a Spanish, Portuguese and British army under the command of General the Marquess of Wellington broke the French army and nearly captured the puppet king Joseph Bonaparte. It was a pivotal point in the Peninsular War, and a precursor to the expulsion of the French army from Spain. A memorial statue can be seen today in Virgen Blanca Square.
The official name of Vitoria-Gasteiz is a compound name of its traditional names in Spanish and Basque, respectively. By inhabitants, it is still generally referred to as either Vitoria or Gasteiz, depending on the language spoken. More rarely, it may be referred to by Basque speakers as Vitorixe, a Basque form of the Spanish name.
In 581 AD, the Visigoth king Liuvigild founded the city of Victoriacum, trying to emulate the Roman foundations, as a celebration of the victory against the Vascones near what is assumed to be the hill occupied by the primitive village of Gasteiz. This however is not sufficiently proven, and some historians and experts believe that Victoriacum was located not on the site of present-day Vitoria-Gasteiz but nearby. Several possible locations have been proposed, the foremost of which is the late Roman military camp of Iruña-Veleia (cf. J.M. Lacarra). Veleia is located some 11 km north of modern Vitoria, on the banks of the same river. However, modern archeological studies of the site suggest that Veleia was last inhabited c.5th century AD, and archeologists are still to find a 6th-century visigothic resettlement in the site. Another theory has suggested that Victoriacum was located at the foot of Mount Gorbea where there is a village called Vitoriano. The town of Armentia, nowadays in the outskirts of Vitoria, has also been proposed as a possible location of Victoriacum. In either case, Victoriacum vanishes from history shortly after its foundation.
In 1181, Sancho the Wise, King of Navarre founded the town of Nova Victoria as a defensive outpost on top of a hill at the site of the previous settlement of Gasteiz. The existence of Gastehiz, apparently inhabited by vasconic people, can be traced back to the lower Middle Ages; it is certain that by the 11th century, prior to the foundation of Nova Victoria, the settlement was already walled. It is assumed that Sancho the Wise gave the new city its name in memory of the old settlement of Victoriacum, which must had long since been abandoned. In 1199, the town was besieged for nine months and eventually captured by the troops of Alfonso VIII of Castile, who annexed the town to the Kingdom of Castile. The town was progressively enlarged and in 1431 it was granted a city charter by King Juan II of Castile. In 1463, it was one of the five founding villas of the Brotherhood of Álava alongside Sajazarra, Miranda de Ebro, Pancorbo and Salvatierra/Agurain.
The Battle of Vitoria of the Peninsular War occurred near Vitoria-Gasteiz along the river Zadorra on 21 June 1813. An allied British, Portuguese, and Spanish army under General the Marquess of Wellington broke the French army under Joseph Bonaparte and Marshal Jean-Baptiste Jourdan. The victory assured the eventual end of French control in Spain. There is a monument commemorating this battle in the main square of the city known as the Monument to Independence.
When news came to Vienna in late July of that year, Johann Nepomuk Mälzel commissioned Ludwig van Beethoven to compose a symphony, the op. 91 Wellingtons Sieg oder die Schlacht bei Vittoria (Wellington's Victory, or the Battle of Vitoria) or Siegessymphonie.
Work began on the Institute for Middle Education in 1843, with classes beginning during the 1853–54 academic year. It is now current headquarters of the Basque Parliament and formerly the convent of Santa Clara. The Free University opened in the wake of the revolution of 1868. The University operated from 1869, to just prior to the 1873–1874 term, largely because of the second Carlist War. Chief academics were Ricardo Becerro de Bengoa, Julián Apraiz, Federico Baraibar, and so on. This latter, great Hellenist (1851–1918), was also among the first teachers of Basque in Vitoria-Gasteiz as an off-syllabus subject.
During the Spanish transition to democracy, the Church of St. Francis of Assisi was the scene of a police shooting on March 3, 1976 during a peaceful labour assembly. Under the orders of Interior Minister Manuel Fraga, the police shot tear-gas into the church where 5,000 demonstrators and others had reunited, firing on them as they struggled their way out of the religious temple. It resulted in five dead and over one hundred wounded by gunshot.
On 20 May 1980, by decision of the Basque Parliament, Vitoria-Gasteiz became the place of the common institutions of the Basque Autonomous Community.
Vitoria-Gasteiz has an oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification: Cfb). Winters are much cooler than in lowland coastal areas, whilst summers are similar in terms of high temperatures, with cool nights due to the elevation. Summers show a significant influence of mediterranean precipitation patterns, but enough precipitation usually occurs to remain marine in nature. Sunshine levels are low by Spanish standards and the climate is humid year-round.
|Climate data for Foronda-Txokiza 513m (1981–2010)|
|Record high °C (°F)||18.7
|Average high °C (°F)||8.7
|Daily mean °C (°F)||4.9
|Average low °C (°F)||1.2
|Record low °C (°F)||−17.8
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||75
|Average precipitation days (≥ 1 mm)||10||10||8||11||9||6||4||5||6||9||11||11||99|
|Average snowy days||3||3||2||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||2||11|
|Average relative humidity (%)||83||79||72||72||71||70||70||70||72||77||82||84||75|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||83||108||148||163||196||218||244||226||178||144||92||75||1,886|
|Source: Agencia Estatal de Meterología|
The economy of Vitoria-Gasteiz is diverse, and many manufacturing companies have operations there, including Mercedes-Benz, Michelin, Gamesa, and Heraclio Fournier, the latter being headquartered there. The city has been ranked second in standard of living among all cities in Spain, and first as to green areas and cultural places per capita.
Vitoria-Gasteiz hosts two annual international music festivals:
The Andre Maria Zuriaren jaiak/Fiestas de la Virgen Blanca festival is celebrated every year from the 4th to the 9th of August in honour of the patron saint of the city, and features a programme of special events, activities and free open-air concerts.
San Prudencio Festival is also celebrated in late April..
The liberal arts section of the University of the Basque Country is based in the south part of the city. Focusing on history and linguistics, the Álava campus is also home of the Faculty of Pharmacy, as well as some other technical, teaching and business related degrees.
Its origins date back to 1847 when the first Escuela Normal de Maestros de Álava was established. A number of other colleges and faculties were adopted in 1978 by the emerging University of the Basque Country.
By road: Vitoria-Gasteiz is connected both with the rest of the Basque capital and with Madrid, because the city is a step on the N-1/A-1. There are two motorways in their municipality and a future motorway service: The N-1 Madrid-Irun, the N-622 Vitoria-Altube and its connection with the AP-68 Logroño-Bilbao, and as of the end of 2009, the new AP-1 between Vitoria and Eibar, an attempt to alleviate the problems caused by congested traffic on the N-1/A-1.
Vitoria-Gasteiz railway station is one of the main stops on the Madrid–Hendaye railway. Half a dozen trains each day link the city with Madrid, using Alvia trains on the AVE infrastructure to reach Madrid in 3 hours 43 minutes. There are also connections to Paris, Barcelona, Lisbon and Bordeaux. There is a complete lack of rail services to Andalusia and no direct rail link with Bilbao.
A municipal tram service is operated by Euskotren Tranbia.
The Basque Y high-speed rail network is planned to connect Vitoria-Gasteiz with the French border, San Sebastián and Bilbao within 35 minutes. However, work on this project has been slow and there is no date for its inaugural run.
The Vitoria Airport is 4th in Spain in cargo traffic. Almost all passenger flights use Bilbao Airport (50 minutes away by car), which is the 2nd most important base for Vueling, with the second highest number of destinations offered and 4 million passengers traffic.
From an urban point of view, Vitoria-Gasteiz is a mid-sized city, the line of which is adapted to the traditions of each historical moment. The medieval town is set in almond-shape around the hill foundation, which by its privileged position as the only elevation in the plain of Álava, became a defensive stronghold coveted by the kingdoms of Navarre and Castilla during the 11th and 12th centuries. The walled enclosure was built prior to the war between Castile and Navarre in the 11th century to defend the village. The defensive walls of old Gasteiz were built between the years 1050 and 1100. Because of that first defensive role, its narrow streets surrounding the oval resulted in compact rows of houses parallel both to each other and the medieval walls (of which only some sections and gates are preserved). Between the years 1854 and 1856, an epidemic of cholera served as the excuse for tearing down the gates, fortresses which provided access to the streets Run (fort of Nanclares), Shoe (fort of Soto) and Blacksmith (fort of Abendaño) and which served to protect every neighbourhood association. The entrance of the current Plaza de la Virgen Blanca was the site of Santa Clara, which was joined by the wall at the Convent of San Antonio. In the 19th century, in recognition that the city was small, an expansion was planned in the neoclassical style, and little by little planning for the city has given Vitoria-Gasteiz its current form.
The Old Quarter (Alde Zaharra/Casco Viejo), has many architectural jewels such as Bendaña Palace, the Fournier Museum of cards (erected in 1525 by Juan Lopez de Arrieta, on the site occupied before by the defensive tower built by Maeztu). The Ezkoriatza-Eskibel Palace, built by Claudio de Arciniega in the 15th century. The Villa Suso, where Martin Salinas, ambassador of Charles V dwelt (16th century). And the greatest historical treasure of Vitoria-Gasteiz: the Cathedral of Santa Maria (Old Cathedral).
The history of the Cathedral of Santa María (commonly known as Old Cathedral), is itself a synthesis of the history of Vitoria-Gasteiz. Built on the cemetery of the primitive village of Gasteiz (which today can be accessed through the excavations), the church of Santa María collapsed with the fire of 1202, and Alfonso VIII of Castile (who had conquered the city just 2 years earlier), ordered that it be rebuilt at the site of a former church that was to serve two very different purposes: regular religious services and weapon storage. Thus was born the Cathedral of Santa Maria, a fortress-like church that served as the entrance to the city. The project changed with the centuries, so that each modification was made without taking into account the previous. This was the case in the 15th century (when the church became collegiate), and finally in the 1960s, when it was decided to reverse the previous works of strengthening of the external walls and widen the windows, made purely for aesthetic reasons, which had severely damaged the stability of the building. Today, the cathedral is open again, and offers visitors guided trips exposing the recent archaeological findings. It has become one of the main attractions of Vitoria-Gasteiz. Ken Follett, author of "The Pillars of the Earth", said after his stay in the city that Santa Maria was one of the three most interesting cathedrals of the world.
From the Middle Ages to the 18th century, the population of Vitoria-Gasteiz and the layout of its streets remained almost unchanged. And it was not until the late 18th century, when growth required the expansion of the city outside. To solve the problem of the difference in height between the original kernel on the hill, and the plain below, the arches were erected and the Plaza De España or Plaza Nueva was built, which soften the transition from the old city to the 19th century neoclassical expansion of wide streets and gardens, the greatest examples of which are seen in the Park of La Florida, and the Andre Maria Zuriaren Enparantza/Plaza de la Virgen Blanca, with its façade pulled viewpoints.
Finally, the new quarters of Vitoria-Gasteiz were built, in accordance with a development plan favouring parks, recreation areas and quality of life. While aiming to maintain the identity of the city, and drawing on the district of San Martín, the need to accommodate the growing population has led the city to concentrate its growth in the new neighbourhoods of Lakua, Salburua and Zabalgan. The city of Vitoria-Gasteiz has received several international awards for its urban development. Also worth mentioning is the green ring, a network of parks and green spaces around the city, destined to be the lung of the future Vitoria-Gasteiz, and link the city with the countryside. This ring is formed of the parks Salburua, Zabalgana, Armentia, Alegria river, Gamarra, Abetxuko and Atxa-Landaberde.
Vitoria-Gasteiz held the title of European Green Capital in 2012 due to the high proportion of green public areas, ensuring that the entire population lives within 300m of an open green space, its biodiversity and ecosystems services, as well as for the city's green policies.