- Calle Calera 25.
- Tel: 947 26 58 75.
(free Sat & Sun).
Plaza de Alonso Martínez 7, Tel: 947 20 31 25 .
Tue, Wed, Sun.
San Lesmes (30 Jan); Pedro and San Pablo (29 Jun).
Founded in 884, Burgos has played a significant political and military role in Spanish history. It was the capital of the united kingdoms of Castile and León from 1073 until losing that honour to Valladolid after the fall of Granada in 1492. During the 15th and 16th centuries Burgos grew rich from the wool trade and used its riches to finance most of the great art and architecture which can be seen in the city today. Less auspiciously, Franco chose Burgos as his headquarters during the Civil War.
The city’s strategic location on the main Madrid–France highway and on the route to Santiago ensure many visitors; but even without this Burgos would justify a long detour. Despite its size and extremes of climate, it is one of most agreeable provincial capitals in Castilla y León.
Approach via the bridge of Santa María, which leads into the old quarter through the Arco de Santa María , a gateway carved with statues of various local worthies. The main bridge into the city, however, is the Puente de San Pablo, where a statue commemorates the city’s hero, El Cid. Not far from the bridge stands the Casa del Cordón , a 15th-century palace (now a bank) which has a Franciscan cord motif carved over the portal. A plaque declares that this is the spot where the Catholic Monarchs welcomed Columbus on his return, in 1497, from the second of his famous voyages to the Americas.
The lacy, steel-grey spires of the cathedral are a prominent landmark from almost anywhere in the city. On the rising ground behind it stands the recently restored Iglesia de San Nicolás , whose main feature is a superb altar-piece by Simon of Cologne (1505). The crowded carvings vividly depict a number of scenes from the life of St Nicholas. Other churches worth visiting are the Iglesia de San Lorenzo , with its superb Baroque ceiling, and the Iglesia de San Esteban , which opens to the public only during the summer months and has a museum of altarpieces. The Iglesia de Santa Águeda is the place where El Cid made King Alfonso VI swear that he played no part in the murder of his elder brother, King Sancho II.
Across the river, the palace of the Casa de Miranda houses the archaeological section of the Museo de Burgos , with finds from the Roman city of Clunia. Nearby, the Casa de Angulo contains the Fine Arts section, whose prize exhibits are Juan de Padilla’s tomb by Gil de Siloé, and a Moorish casket in enamelled ivory.
Two religious houses, on the outskirts of Burgos, are worth visiting. Just west of the city is the Real Monasterio de Huelgas , a late 12th-century Cistercian convent founded by Alfonso VIII. One of the most interesting parts is the Museo de Ricas Telas , a textile museum containing ancient fabrics from the convent’s many royal tombs. Other highlights include a Romanesque cloister dating from the late 12th century, and the Gothic cloister of San Fernando, decorated with Moorish designs. In the Capilla de Santiago is a curious wooden figure of St James holding a sword, with which, according to tradition, royal princes were dubbed Knights of Santiago.
To the east of Burgos is the Cartuja de Miraflores , a Carthusian monastery founded during the 15th century. The church includes two of Spain’s most notable tombs, attributed to Gil de Siloé. One holds the bodies of Juan II and Isabel of Portugal; the other contains that of their son, Prince Alfonso. The altarpiece by Gil de Siloé, allegedly gilded with the first consignment of gold brought back to Spain from the New World, is spectacular.
Ten km (6 miles) southeast of Burgos is the Monasterio de San Pedro de Cardeña , while 15 km (9 miles) to the east are the Yacimientos de Atapuerca , the site of Europe’s earliest human settlement.
The Arco de Santa María in Burgos, adorned with statues and turrets
(free Sat & Sun).
free on Wed.
Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar was born into a noble family in Vivar del Cid, north of Burgos, in 1043. He served Fernando I, but was banished from Castile after becoming embroiled in the fratricidal squabbles of the king’s sons, Sancho II and Alfonso VI. He switched allegiance to fight for the Moors, then changed side again, capturing Valencia for the Christians in 1094, ruling the city until his death. For his heroism he was named El Cid, from the Arabic Sidi (Lord). He was a charismatic man of great courage, but it was an anonymous poem, El Cantar del Mío Cid , in 1180, that immortalized him as a romantic hero of the Reconquest. The tombs of El Cid and his wife, Jimena, are in Burgos cathedral.
Spain’s third-largest cathedral was founded in 1221 by Bishop Don Mauricio under Fernando III. The groundplan – a Latin cross – measures 84 m (92 yds) by 59 m (65 yds). Its construction was carried out in stages over three centuries and involved many of the greatest artists and architects in Europe. The style is almost entirely Gothic, and shows influences from Germany, France, and the Low Countries. First to be built were the nave and cloisters, while the intricate, crocketed spires and the richly decorated side chapels are mostly later work. The architects cleverly adapted the cathedral to its sloping site, incorporating stairways inside and out.
10am–7pm daily (Mar–Oct: 9:30am–7:30pm).
9am, 10am, 11am, 7:30pm daily; noon, 1pm, 2pm Sun.
The lacy, steel-grey spires soar above a sculpted balustrade depicting Castile’s early kings.