Until the 1980s, when the Basque Country earned autonomous status from the Spanish government, Vitori-Gaitez was just another quaint provincial capital, notable for its two outstanding cathedrals, Gothic 14th-century Santa María and 1907 María Inmaculada, surrounded by scores of monumental buildings, some housing museums focusing on art, history, and in the 1525 Palacio de Bendana’s Museo Fournier, playing cards.
The hilltop old town was founded in the 6th century, though the oldest surviving structures are part of the well-preserved Medieval stronghold. This is surrounded by newer (14th to 18th-century) plazas and shady pedestrian promenades lined with shops and cafes.
The more affluent and energetic modern center of the young capital, however, showcases today’s talented architects, heralding the bright future of the Basque region.
Although Vitoria-Gasteiz isn't (yet) a top tourist destination, make reservation in advance during the popular July International Jazz Festival and August Azkena Rock Festival.
The city is home to tiny Airport Vitoria-Foronda (VIT), with direct flights to Madrid, but most visitors fly into Bilbao or Zaragoza. There are also train connections to Madrid and Barcelona, and buses to most major Spanish cities.