Burgos is an unassuming town in the foothills of Spain’s Northern mountain regions that deserves to be considered on any road trip of the Iberian Peninsula. It is also a town build on legends like the famous El Cid, a Castilian hero in the 11th century any Spanish speaker will be familiar with. Thus the city has an air of grandeur about it that we felt looking down its historically intact streets and medieval walls.
It is just a little over two hours drive North of Madrid and very easy to reach along the direct highway. We felt instantly at home as the city outskirts have all the trappings of modern life, stores, malls, apartment high rises and the fantastic old city sits walled around a lazy river backed up against a hilltop cliff.
Burgos has the layout typical of most Spanish cities, with plazas, churches, restaurants and shops kept in such a way that space is a premium. It is an incredibly flat and walkable city with large stretches of road being set aside for pedestrian only traffic. The famed Catedral de Burgos, considered one of Spain’s best cathedrals, known for its vast size and Gothic architecture. It is a reminder that one is closer to France and its architectural influences than those of the Mozarabic South.
Historic architecture and buildings are not in short supply here. Some other Burgos sights you’ll want to take in include the Abbey of Santa Maria la Real de las Huelgas, an 11th century royal convent, and the Arco de Santa María, an impressive access gate to Burgos during the Middle Ages which is the main image of this article.
Some of the best walks in the city are on the north side of the river, which in summer winds gently between green banks; the high stone embankments are reminders that these are the foothills of the Picos de Europa and floodwaters come high and heavy in Spring and Fall.
Even in the midst of summer the weather stays mild here because of the trees and greenery around. We were reminded how late Spaniards stay up to have dinner by the noise and bustle in the streets outside, especially in early July when the city hosts its annual holidays. It’s possible to bump into merrymakers even in the early hours of a sunrise walk, but all things considered it is a very safe city.
One of the nicest things about Burgos is that despite its population of 350,000 people it feels like a small town. It is very easy in just a short walk or drive to be back into the forested nature of the countryside. One of the best hikes we recommend is the hour or so walk from the city center to the Cartuja de Miraflores. Just heading directly east on the south side of the river walkway brings you through woods to this 15th-century monastery which was built by Queen Isabella and where some of the most reclusive monks in the world live till this day.