Burgos, the Heart of Castile


Though located at the edge of Spain’s central plain, the city and province of Burgos is the capital not only of the modern-day autonomous community of Castile and León but historically was the capital and very heart of the kingdom of Castile, so key to the history and development of Spain. You will not be surprised to learn, therefore, that it makes for a visit ranging from impressive to spectacular.

The central pride and joy of Burgos is its Gothic Cathedral of St. Mary, built between the 13th and 15th centuries with its distinctive twin tracery spires, sculptures by reknowned artist Gil de Siloé, and tomb of the legendary knight Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (better known as El Cid) – plus a particularly whimsical touch called the Papamoscas (“Flycatcher“), a bearded statue whose mouth opens when the clock below it strikes the hour.

Another pair of religious buildings constitute stand out among Burgos’ top landmarks. The 12th-century Cistercian Monasterio de las Huelgas Reales is actually on the edge of the city, and as a visitor you should get thee to this nunnery; it is extraordinarily atmospheric, with its royal tombs, lovely cloister,  and museum of mediaeval textiles (there are also still several dozen nuns in residence). And the 15th-century Cartuja de Miraflores, one of Spain’s most important Gothic buildings, is a Carthusian monastery in Fuentes Blancas Park in the southeast of the city.

Apart from these, it’s a delight merely to stroll the picturesque streets, lanes, and plazas of the historic centre. Museums abound, as well; the top of the list is the Museo de Burgos in the 16th-century Renaissance Casa de Íñigo Angulo, with a variety of treasures from artifacts of the Neolithic period and Roman Hispania to a fine-arts collection from the mediaeval period through the 20th century.

The newest museum, meanwhile, opened in 2010, and is worth the 20-kilometre (12-mile) trip out of town. The Museo de la Evolución Humana is indeed focused on evolution, as well as prehistory, including fossils found the nearby archaeological site of Atapuerca, with tours offered of its digs and caves.

Evenings can be especially lively hereabouts, thanks to the huge university (10,000 students, a significant percentage of the city’s less than 200,000 inhabitants). Nightlife is centred around the historic centre neighbourhoods of La Flora, Las Llanas, Las Bernardas, and La Calzada, with their multitude of pubs and restaurants, and on some nights you’ll see kids out in the streets till 5 AM. Culinarily, the local speciality is asado de cordero lechal (roast suckling lamb), and great eateries abound, from tapas bars like Casa Pancha (Calle San Lorenzo) to more formal dining spots such as Restaurante 24 de la Paloma (so called because its address is Calle La Paloma 24), with its delicious updated takes on traditional Castillian fare.

More information in English: TurismoDeBurgos.com

Best Iberia fares to nearest airport, Madrid-Barajas (236 kilometres/147 miles away) from the U.K., from the USA.

image | Camino del Cid