The city of Burgos, crossed by the Arlanzón River, is a few kilometres away from the prehistoric site of Atapuerca, which was declared World Heritage. A military hamlet in its origins, the city slowly became a powerful commercial city in the Middle Ages. A critical factor in this development was that Burgos was the capital of the unified kingdom of Castilla-Leon between the 10th and 15th centuries; its privileged location on the Pilgrim's Road to Santiago de Compostela, and the monopoly it held over the trade of merino wool, also contributed. All that splendour left a profound mark on present-day Burgos. On the foothill of the fortified Castle Hill, which has the best views of the city, the medieval quarter unfolds. Some of the remarkable buildings of this place include the Mudejar Arch of San Esteban, and the Gothic church by the same name, which houses the Reredos Museum. Another important temple is the one devoted to San Nicolás, where we can see a magnificent polychromatic alabaster reredos.
But beyond all doubt, the architectural masterpiece of Burgos is the cathedral, declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Erected on top a Romanesque temple, the cathedral was built following a Norman French Gothic model. The filigree work in the spires of the towers, and in the exterior of the High Constable Chapel, are some of the masterpieces found in this cathedral. Such beauty and incredible genius lead to a long list of exceptional works of art in its interior. These include the starry dome that covers the tombs of El Cid and Doña Jimena, the choir, the sarcophagi, and the Golden Staircase, built by Spanish architect and sculptor Diego de Siloé, a prominent figure during the Spanish Renaissance.
Beautiful examples of civil architecture include Casa de Miranda, which houses the Burgos Museum, with an important collection of archaeologic artefacts, and Casa de Angulo, which houses the Museum of Fine Arts. The most remarkable house, however, is Casa del Cordón, where the Catholic Monarchs received Christopher Columbus after he returned from his second trip to the New World.
To both ends of the historic quarter of Burgos we find important buildings. In the west end lays the Royal Monastery of Huelgas Reales, with an impressive Gothic cloister, and the famous Chapel of Saint James the Apostle. Next to it is the Museo de Ricas Telas, a textile museum that exhibits, among other things, the historic banner that was snatched from the Arabs in the Battle of Navas de Tolosa, in 1212. East of the capital, in the Carthusian monastery of Miraflores we find an amazing polychromatic reredos, among other works of art. The legend is that this reredos was plated with the first shipment of gold that arrived after the Discovery of America.
Burgos in full
The privileged location of the capital of Burgos lets the visitor cover the whole province by following interesting routes to the heart of Castilla-Leon. One of these routes goes from Burgos along the bank of the Arlanza River, unveiling medieval churches and convents, feudal castles, and Renaissance palaces. These authentic gems of the architecture of Burgos are located in towns such as Lerma, Santo Domingo de Silos, and Quintanilla de las Viñas.
The Pilgrim's Road to Santiago de Compostela, declared World Heritage, goes across the province of Burgos. It consists of an artistic and cultural route lined with churches, hermitages, and pilgrim hospitals, along the towns of Belorado, Villafranca Montes de Oca, and Castrogeriz.
Ribera del Duero, the birthplace of one of the most acclaimed Designations of Origin for wine, surprises the visitor with beautiful historic towns. Aranda, Peñaranda, and Roa (all within the region of Duero) exhibit Gothic relieves, Renaissance coffered ceilings, and interesting cellars.
Popular architecture spreads around thick valleys, high plateaux, and bleak lands. There are lots of towns where, in addition to admiring their artistic and cultural patrimony, one can play environmentally-sound, outdoor sports. These include Miranda del Ebro, Treviño, and Villasana de Mena.
Something that all these places have in common is their charismatic cuisine. Burgos cuisine is enriched by a great variety of local products, like pulses, cured sausages, game meat, etc. Suckling lamb baked in a wood-fired oven, soused trout, and cod stew are some of its best main courses. For dessert, try the delicious "yemas" (a sweet made with egg yolks and sugar), fresh cheese with honey and walnuts, or caramel almonds. All this should be had with some of the famous wines that hold the label Designation of Origin - Ribera del Duero.