The historic capital of the Kingdom of Castile, Burgos is picture book city packed with Gothic and renaissance architecture. These lovely 15th and 16th-century buildings are built with local white limestone, which gives the Burgos cityscape its own regal character. You can visit the resting place of several kings and queens and see where Christopher Columbus was granted a royal audience in the 15th century. There’s history of a different kind just outside the city, where Europe’s earliest human fossils have been discovered and date back 350,000 years.
Grand European Tour Burgos
We began this morning with a nice breakfast and on the bus heading towards the town of Burgos. The extraordinary Gothic cathedral of Burgos is one of Spain’s glittering jewels of religious architecture. It looms large over the city and skyline. On the surface, conservative Burgos seems to embody all the stereotypes of a north-central Spanish town, with sombre grey-stone architecture, the fortifying cuisine of the high meseta (plateau) and a climate of extremes. But this is a city that rewards deeper exploration. Below the surface lie good restaurants and, when the sun’s shining, pretty streetscapes that extend far beyond the landmark cathedral.
We started with a Gothic city gate that leads into a large square by the Burgos Cathedral. This gate is on the modern Camino and has been such for centuries. It is almost across the street from some hotels and leads directly to the cathedral, identified as Spain’s most spectacular Gothic cathedral. It was begun in 1221.
You can have a lengthy detailed tour of it, including the tomb of El Cid, but we arrived early in the morning and nothing was open. The cathedral was indeed very ornate, but it is easy to see so many cathedrals as to be less moved. After being told our leave time we quickly continued on through the heart of the old city, past plazas, palaces, and memorials to Columbus and El Cid. Some quick photos and video, we then walked up to the Convent de las Huelgas, founded by the sister of Richard the Lion Heart in 1187. There was an ancient fort, but so little is left of it we were told it was not worth going in to it. Apparently when Napolean’s forces left the city in defeat, they took as much loot with them as they could and destroyed defenses.
That brought us back to town for lunch time. We were both quite hungry and did not find the place someone recommended, so we just picked one on the Camino route. Their English was less than my Spanish, without English language menus. Unfortunately the few terms we know for food mostly did not appear on the menu. Kim ordered a Ceasar salad and I ordered the smallest hamburger listed. Both were huge and we left stuffed. The burger came complete with huge meat patty, cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and a fried egg sunnyside up on top. The bun was useless. Back on the bus for our next destination.
In the last 20 years or so, the Basque city of Bilbao has become a major hub for art, architecture and design and is home to many museums, galleries and architectural marvels.
Bilbao in Northern Spain is a perfect city for a relaxing weekend escape. It’s big enough to keep you entertained with the restaurants and cafes, the beautiful buildings and gorgeous scenery. The nightlife is great and of course there’s the incredible Guggenheim Museum which you won’t want to miss. There is plenty to do but it is also small enough so you don’t feel like you need to rush around and tick all the sights off your list. Bilbao is the largest city in Northern Spain but it is by no means a hectic place. It is the kind of city where you can take your time and stroll around; Stop for a coffee, or head to a pinchos bar for wine and delicious snacks. We took a walk through the old town and browsed the boutiques and traditional stores that felt like they’ve been there since the beginning of time.
Bilbao is so small that you can walk around the whole city in a day. We only had a few boring hours near the museum. You can easily see all the highlights, all the beautiful buildings, the quaint little shops and stunning churches and also soak up the vibe of the city.
You will find it to be charmingly relaxed with a quaint yet stylish feel. It is undeniably Spanish, you only need to look up at the buildings or into the faces of the locals to feel the infectious Spanish attitude. There are rustic and wonky Spanish apartments that tower above narrow, winding streets – these are the type where you expect to see old ladies shouting rapidly from the top windows and drying their washing from their small, flower filled balconies. There are beautifully grand, dominating buildings that sit next to sleek, modern buildings. These buildings contrast so markedly that it makes them both seem even more spectacular by emphasizing what they may or may not have.
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