We continue our road trip through Northern Spain and travel from the town of Santo Domingo de Silos to the town of Burgos. It is not a very well-known place (unless you’re one of the pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago), but I can highly recommend a stop here of (half) a day!
Burgos is the old capital of the Kingdom of Castile and León Spain and is located about 250 kilometers North of Madrid and 200 kilometers South of San Sebastian. The city was founded as an outpost during the Reconquista and is located next to the Arlanzon River. Burgos has stunning medieval architecture including the landmark structure: Burgos Cathedral.
On my road trip along the Romanesque Heritage route from Castile Leon Spain to Northern Portugal, I travelled together with Transromanica, a network of Romanesque heritage sites. As part of the Council of Europe’s Cultural Route, Transromanica shows us the shared cultural heritage in Europe and really take us on a journey without boundaries, through different countries and cultures, space and time. I
Last year, I also travelled with them to another part of the route: the region of Saxony Anhalt in Germany, and there are many more cultural routes to explore in the rest of Europe. Make sure to check out their website for the full route.
On this year’s route, I also visited the Spanish cities of Santo Domingo de Silos and Zamora and in Portugal, we visited Lousada, Amarante and Porto, on which I will be writing city guides and give you a full northern Spain itinerary soon!
What we'll cover in this article
- ONE DAY IN BURGOS ITINERARY
- PLAN YOUR TRIP TO BURGOS!
- Products from Amazon.com
ONE DAY IN BURGOS ITINERARY
How to Spend Your Morning in Burgos?
Admire Arco de Santa María
Burgos used to be a walled city, but these days only the 12 gates that gave entrance to the city are left.
For example, there is Arco de San Juan (the very first arch that was part of the gate through which the pilgrims accessed the centre of the city through the wall) and Arco de San Martin (the second arch from the 14th century, in Mudejar style, that was the exit gate for pilgrims who were on their way to Santiago de Compostela).
One of the most stunning arches however, is the Arco de Santa María, which provides an almost magical entrance to the main square.
This arch was built during the 14th-15th centuries and was remodeled (by Juan Vallejo and Francisco de Colonia) during the 16th century with the splendor that you can admire today, it was the main entrance to the city throughout the Middle Ages. It was also the Town Hall until the end of the 18th century.
The building has a museum, a place to hold art exhibitions and was declared a National Historic-Artistic Monument in 1943.
If you look closely to the main façade of the arch, you can see it is in the shape of an altarpiece. It represents, among others, emperor Carlos V, El Cid (a Spanish hero who is buried here), Diego Porcelos (the city’s founder), the guardian angel and the city’s patron saint: The Virgin Mary.
For the structure, they used Local white stone and made it look like a castle with two tall circular towers. The city is one of the official stops of El Camino (the Pilgrim’s Way of Saint James) and as soon as we arrive, we see some pilgrims on horseback, which was amazing to see!
We arrived here by crossing the bridge over the Arlanzon River and walked under the gate to the Plaza de San Fernando, where you can find the Burgos Spain Cathedral. That’s where we are going on our next stop!
Visit Burgos Cathedral
Burgos Cathedral Spain was built in the 13th century on command of King Ferdinant III and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was officially named the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos, or even more officially: Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de Santa María de Burgos.
The building is one of the best examples of French Gothic architecture in Spain. The cathedral of Burgos had multiple restorations and additions in the last centuries and got it’s current Gothic style at the end of the 18th century. While the church is built with white limestone, it looks like marble!
When you look at the façade of the cathedral Burgos, you can see it was inspired by the cathedrals of Paris and Reims, except that in Burgos, there are two additional twin towers that end in a spire, which -according to our funny guide León- makes it the best cathedral of them all.
Thought the outside of the cathedral looked good? Then it’s time to have a peek inside, where you can find Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance styles all together. There are no less than 15 chapels, so it’s easy to spend some time here and look at all the rich details.
Don’t miss the tomb of El Cid and his wife Doña Jimena Diaz in the transept and the stunning Renaissance Golden Staircase. Also the Chapel of the Constable is one not to skip on your visit.
On the upper floor, you can find the Cathedral Museum, where there are many tapestries of the 16th and 17th centuries on display, as well as works of art having to do with the church.
Another thing not to miss is the Papamoscas, otherwise know as the “flycatcher” clock that opens its mouth to the sounding of the bells. You can see it below:
Because the heritage of the Burgos Cathedral is so unique, it got added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1984. This made it the first ever cathedral in Spain to get onto the list on it’s own!
For about 7 Euros (2 for kids under 14) you can get a ticket with an audio guide (reduced prices if you’re doing El Camino!) and have a look at the stunning Burgos cathedral interior.
Interested in seeing more churches in Burgos? Here are some more suggestions:
- St. Lesmes Abad Church & St. John’s Monastery – With the mortal remains of the patron saint of the city of Burgos. The interior of the church is decorated in Gothic style, with a late 18th-century baroque altarpiece.
- Church of San Nicolas – A 15th-century Gothic church completed by generous donations from wealthy local merchants. The interior of the church has a monumental limestone altarpiece, something that hadn’t been done in that time.
- Church of San Gil – A Gothic church built between the 14th and 16th centuries. It has a simple facade, three naves and there are many funerary chapels inside. The Nativity Chapel has a starred vault and an impressive Renaissance altarpiece.
How to Spend Your Afternoon in Burgos?
Stroll Around Paseo del Espolon
After a visit to the cathedral, walk back under the entrance gate to step onto the Paseo del Espolon. This tree-lined shaded promenade forms a natural air-conditioning because the branches of the trees are intertwined above you and form a green umbrella!
It runs between the arch of Santa Maria and the bridge of San Pablo, parallel to the Arlanzo River.
Along this promenade, you can find stunning buildings from all different areas, as well as many sculptures, nice restaurants, cafes, shops and a lovely band stand with some seating around it, so it makes for a perfect place for a relaxing afternoon!
We walked here during the day, but I am sure that the promenade will liven up even more at night, with the locals going for a drink or a bite to eat.
Besides the tree-covered promenade, there is another green space in Burgos: Parque Isla. This park is almost one kilometer long and runs along the banks of the River Arlanzón. There is a fountain with a waterfall made from stalactites and stalagmites from the Atapuerca cave, so quite impressive!
From the promenade, you also get to Plaza Mayor, the hexagon-shaped square where you can find the City Hall that was built at the beginning of the 13th century in a Gothic style.
Plaza Mayor used to be a weekly market in Medieval times, where local farmers and travelling merchants sold food, textiles and many other items. It became an important place of commerce, but these days it’s mainly government administrative offices occupy the buildings.
In the middle of the square you can find the statue of King Carlos III (made by artist Alfonso Giraldo Bergaz in 1784) and all around are colourful buildings with plenty of restaurants and bars. Tapas Time!
Also don’t miss a quick visit to Plaza de la Libertad, were you can spot the stunning looking Palacio de los Condestables (also known as Casa del Cordón) in this old market square.
Casa del Cordón is the most important building of Burgos civil architecture and was constructed in the 15th century for the Constable of Castile Pedro Fernandez and his wife Mencia de Mendoza. The architect of this building was Simon de Colonia.
At Plaza Mio Cid, you can find a large bronze statue of medieval military leader and Burgos’ national hero El Cid Campeador on horseback (erected in 1955 by sculptor Juan Cristobal Gonzalez Quesada) in the middle of the road.
If you want to learn more about El Cid, then make sure to read the Cantar del Mio Cid, a medieval poem written in Old Castilian that narrates his adventures expelling the Moorish from the Iberian Peninsula. There was also a movie called “El Cid” that starred Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren as El Cid’s wife Jimena Diaz.
Close to the statue, you can find the Puente de San Pablo bridge, built in the 13th century across from where the medieval gates of San Pablo used to stand. The bridge is lined with statues of Castilian noblemen from the Middle Ages.
From here, you can find a shopping district where even the most modern shops are housed in decorative old buildings, such as the H&M you can see on the picture below!
How to Spend Your Evening in Burgos?
In Spain, there is a siesta between 2 PM and 5 PM, so you might want to have lunch early (and something that will fill you up) and finish the day with the typical Spanish tapas! In Burgos, there are plenty of places to go for a nice drink and bite, so you won’t have any problems there.
Here are some suggestions on where to go:
100 Montaditos – Tapas and brewery with sharing platters
- Rincon de España – Restaurant overlooking the cathedral with outdoor terrace
Cervecería Morito – Delicious food for low budget
- Cerveceria Flandes – Sample a wide selection of beers and ciders in a cosy atmosphere
- Jarra’N’Heavy – Bar with rock music
- Cooper Club – Clubbing time with new wave classics & cocktails
- Casa Quintanilla – Shop for local products in this vintage store
- Queso de Burgos – Cheese of Burgos (white, soft cheese)
- Jamon Serrano – Ham
- Morcilla de Burgos – Pig’s blood sausage stuffed with onions, herbs and rice
- Sopa Castellana – Cow’s stomach
- El Postre del Abuelo – Fresh cheese from Burgos with local honey
- Tinto de Verano – Spanish summer wine (Sangria’s fizzy cousin)
Do You Have More Time in Burgos?
Explore the Region of Burgos
Besides the city of Burgos, there is so much to explore! Here are some suggestions:
- Archaeological sites of the Sierra de Atapuerca (UNESCO World Heritage Site). This is the site which has provided 90% of all the fossils found in the world – it’s estimated only 2% of the fossils have been found so far!
- The birthplace of El Cid: Vivar del Cid. Everything in this town is dedicated to this Spanish national hero.
- The church in the Carthusian Monastery at Miraflores (first built in 1401, rebuilt in 1484) offers a glimpse into the class roles that once dictated medieval life.
- The Monasterio de Las Huelgas is a working Romanesque monastery filled with historical and religious artifacts, including medieval textiles, a unique 14th-century music manuscript and Royal tombs. Visits with a guided tour only.
- At the Museum of Human Evolution in Burgos (Museo de la Evolución Humana), you can learn all about the changes in humanity and the relationship of humans with nature over the past few millennia.
Visit Burgos Castle
Another place you might want to visit, that we unfortunately didn’t have time for during our visit, are the remains of Burgos Castle (raised in 884). I didn’t even know this when I visited, but Burgos has a castle that is located on San Miguel hill and rises 981 meter above the sea! From the top of the towers, you can have a fantastic view over the city and the cathedral.
The lookout is called Mirador de Castillo and this short circular tower offers you a sweeping panorama over the city. From the Old Town, you can walk there in just 200 meters. Enjoy the sunset here with a drink from la Ciudadela, the restaurant adjacent to the viewpoint.
Inside the castle you can find a small museum, where you can find a comprehensive Burgos history of the building and its location. Admission to the castle is only two Euros.
PLAN YOUR TRIP TO BURGOS!
I hope this article helped you deciding what to do in Burgos. Here is more information to help you plan your trip:
Time Zone in Burgos? Castile Spain is in the Central European Summer Time (GMT+2)
Currency in Burgos? Euro (EUR). Check the latest exchange rate here.
Electrical Plugs in Burgos? In the Castile region Spain, you can use plug types C (two round pins) and F (two round pins with two earth clips on the side). The country operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz.. We recommend getting a universal travel adapter to never worry about having the right plug on your travels!
Languages Spoken in Burgos? While you can get by with English just fine in Northern Spain cities (especially in the larger villages), in the rural villages most people prefer to speak Spanish (Castilian, or castellano). In the restaurants, you can find English-language menus, but you will find that places such as museums will mostly have Spanish labels, so it’s always wise to download the Spanish language set on the Google Translate app and to learn a few words! In Burgos tourism is quite developed, so it’s easy to get by if you don’t speak Spanish.
Best time to visit Burgos? Average temperatures in Burgos vary greatly, but in general the warmest time to visit is July, August and June, but of course this is also the busiest time for tourism. In fall, you can expect chilly Burgos weather because of humidity and wind. It rains or snows for about 3-7 days per month. Winters are very cold and windy with temperatures regularly dropping below freezing.
Don’t let the fact that you’re in Castilla Spain fool you: Burgos is known as one of the coldest cities in the country due to its altitude (over 850 meters above sea level). It has one of the most harsh winters in the Iberian Peninsula.
Insurance for Burgos? Make sure to get travel insurance! We recommend checking out worldnomads.com
How to get to Burgos? Burgos is located about 2,5 hours drive to Madrid and 50 minutes drive from Santo Domingo de Silos. The train station in Burgos (called Rosa de Lima) is very modern, but located quite a bit from the city centre. Buses are frequent and the city is well connected by high-speed train to other parts of Spain and Europe. You can take the train to Burgos from Madrid from Chamartin Station (about 2 hours and 20 minutes, about 50 Euros).
How to get around Burgos? Central Burgos is small enough to walk around on foot. From the train station, you can take a taxi of about 10 Euros to get to the Cathedral Square.
Where to stay in Burgos? For Burgos hotels check Booking.com for the best deals of Hotels in Burgos Spain.
Northern Spain Map of Burgos
Where is Burgos? I didn’t know either before visiting, that’s why I created this map with all highlights. I really thought that Burgos was one of the nicest cities in Northern Spain regions!
Find all things to see and do in Burgos with our handy map of Northern Spain travel:
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Disclaimer: I was invited by Transromanica on this trip including Burgos travel, and was compensated for creating content on our website and social media channels. All photos and words are our own, as always.