The provincial capital of Castilla y León in the north of Spain, Burgos sits along the famous Camino de Santiago route. A medieval city, it’s littered with magnificent structures such as cathedrals, churches, old city gates, and castles. It also has a number of excellent museums. Here are our top things to do and see in the city.
Perhaps Burgos’ most famous sight is its mighty cathedral – one of the most impressive in the whole of Spain. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it began life as a simple Romanesque cathedral, and from 1221 to 1261, it was turned into the grand structure it is today. The main altar is particularly striking with its brilliant gold plating and ornate carvings, as is the magnificent star-vaulted dome, under which is the tomb of El Cid, a nobleman and military leader during medieval times and Castilla y León’s local hero.
An excellent 21st-century museum all about life and the evolution of humans, this is well worth a visit for everyone. On display are exhibits on Atapuerca, the archaeological site north of Burgos where Europe’s oldest human fossil remains were discovered in 2007. There are also several fascinating displays dedicated to Charles Darwin, his discoveries, and theories.
Reigning over the city, as if atop a throne, is Burgos Castle. The original structure and fortifications date back to the 9th century; however, since then, it has been rebuilt many times – once after a fire in 1736 and again after it was destroyed by Napoleon’s army in 1813. Inside there is a small museum, and outside offers some of the most spectacular city views.
The main gate to the old city of Burgos was once part of the 14th-century walls and is a spectacular sight, decorated with statues of kings and noblemen. Occasionally you can go inside when it hosts a temporary exhibition, but it’s best admired from the outside.
One of the most noteworthy monasteries in the whole of Spain, the Monasterio de las Huelgas lies just outside of the city center. It was founded in 1187 by Eleanor of Aquitaine, daughter of Henry II of England and wife of Alfonso VIII of Castilla, and features a charming Romanesque cloister, various tombs of kings and queens, and a spectacular Renaissance altarpiece. Although it is still home to some 30-plus nuns, you can take a guided tour and also explore the Museo de Ricas Telas inside, which displays many jeweled robes and embellished royal garments.
The Burgos city museum is housed in a 16th-century mansion and has exhibits on prehistory and archeology, running all the way from Palaeolithic to Visigothic times. Some of the most important highlights are the human fossils of the Trinchera, a number of Gothic tombs, and the archaeological remains of the Roman city of Clunia. There are also nine rooms dedicated to pre-Romanesque and contemporary art.