Burgos City Guide Burgos City Guide

Burgos City Guide



The best travel guide to Burgos: top things to do, hotel recommendations, best restaurants and tips by local experts

Many times over-looked by tourists on many occasions. Burgos is a historical city which makes for a perfect stop on your way to the North if you drive from Madrid, or to the South if you drive from the Basque country (the city is located half-way from Madrid to Bilbao or San Sebastian). An amazing cathedral and some exceptionalñly beautiful monasteries, a museum of human history that is the show-case for the Unesco site of Atapuerca (25 km drive from Burgos), the best blood pudding in the world, excellent wines from Ribera del Duero…. Discover in this Burgos city guide why this small city in Castilla Leon deserves your attention.

Burgos travel guide - Contents

5 Top Reasons To Visit Burgos

The Cathedral. The silhouette of the Cathedral can be seen from the distance while drivers approach Burgos from the Meseta. The Cathedral is without a doubt Burgos´landmark, and one of the most beautiful cathedrals not only in Spain but in Europe.

Atapuerca. In search of our ancestors. One of the most important archeological sites in the world. Atapuerca is located northeast of Burgos, 25 minutes drive from the city. Designated in 2000 as a Unesco heritage site and Site of Outstanding universal value (declaration made in 2015). In one of its caves, more than 30 bodies have been found, and this cave is one of the best examples in the world of a prehistorical colony. The Museum of human evolution in Burgos has been built thanks to the material obtained at Atapuerca.

Plaza Mayor and bar hooping. Burgos is a city that accommodates itself with no problem with the idea of slow travel. It’s a beautiful Plaza Mayor, a walk next to the river Arlazón… and its many bars. Burgos is best known in Spain for the quality of local blood pudding. You should remove any mental barriers and try it. Simply delicious!

The route of the Cid – El Cid (Ruy Rodrigo de Vivar) was born near Burgos in 1043 AC. El Cid is a legend and a symbol of the Reconquista against the Moors. The epic poem El Cantar del Mio Cid played a key role in the perception of the Cid. The way of El Cid is a route in Spain that follows the steps of El Cid. This route covers some beautiful villages near Burgos like Covarrubias, San Esteban de Gormaz or el Burgos de Osma.

Monasteries. Santa María la Real de las Huelgas is a beautiful monastery built by Alfonso VIII as a pantheon for her wife, Doña Leonor. It was also used as a retreat for ladies of high social classes. Other monasteries include La Cartuja de Miraflores. Or San Pedro de Cardena. They are all great examples of how life was in the middle ages.

Best Time To Visit Burgos

Unless there is a local event, Burgos is not too busy on weekends so, any day of the week is a good option though many restaurants will be closed on Monday.  

Our favorite months to enjoy Burgos are April, May, June, September and October

Weather In Burgos

Due to its altitude (900 meters above sea level), winters in Burgos are cold and long and ther eis an important temperature difference between day and night. 

From November till March you can expect average high temperatures of 50-55 F. Warmest months are July and August with high averages of 75-80 F. Burgos is dry and the likelihood of rain is below 20% in all months but April and November, when it gets near 30%.

Video of Burgos - The city in a nutshell

Burgos and La Ribera del Duero wine region

Located in up to 4 provinces in Castilla (Burgos, Valladolid, segovia and Burgos) the area of Burgos is with no doubt the one holding the largest extension of vineyard. The wine region of Ribera del Duero is gradually becoming one of the most recognized within Spain and was ranked amongst 52 Places to Go in 2018 by The New York Times. Ribera del Duero is 175km North of Madrid and it is actually one of the best day tours from Madrid. For those of you who don´t yet know much about this wine region in Spain – Ribera del Duero lies in the Northern Iberian Peninsula – approximately 2300ft above sea level. Within the wine region there are also 4 provinces consisting of Valladolid, Soria, Burgos and Segovia. Ribera del Duero belongs to what is called a Denominación de Origen (Designation of Origin in English), but what is it mean? The Designation of Origin is a classification system based on meeting regulatory standards which means that for wines to obtain a sticker, stating it is officially recognised coming from Ribera del Duero, the producers must follow certain rules. But what else is it that gives this Spanish wine region its charm? It is not only the vineyards but also the monuments, monasteries, Islamic watchtowers and medieval castles that can excite the curious traveller. If you visit this region, you will see for yourself the incredible heritage of the Christians and Moors.

Ribera del Duero´s hidden underground caves

Just as in many other parts of the world where wine is produced, Ribera del Duero has underground caves – dug during the Middle Ages for the sole purposes of: the ageing process and storage. But why underground? The caves are situated roughly 15 metres below the ground, meaning that the temperature remains constant at 11-13°C. For the ageing process as well as storage of wine – such conditions are vital for the results to be good. Do all of Ribera del Duero´s wineries have underground caves to age and store their wines? No. The ones with ancient caves are mainly located in teh Burgos region. Modern wineries have renovated their facilities to implement more innovative methods in the production process, therefore use air conditioners and humidifiers to maintain ideal conditions. The traditional wineries in Ribera del Duero that use the caves allow tours and it is quite impressive to explore the underground tunnels which on average contain up 1000 barrels and ancient wine-making equipment. This being said, both traditional and modern wineries in the region are unique in their own way.

Cave in Ribera del Duero
Tempranillo grapes in Ribera del duero

Which grape varieties are used in Ribera del Duero?

It is indeed true that the regulatory authority in the north of Spain has strong control on wine production, with 100% of the grapes being checked by an inspector after they are harvested. As this wine region in Spain solely permits the production of red wines, the only red-grape varieties that can be used are the following: Tempranillo, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Merlot, Garnacha and Malbec. There is one type of white-grape permitted called Albilo which can only be added in small quantities to a red wine. Wines produced in Ribera del Duero must consist of at least of 75% Tempranillo to be officially recognized, which makes this wonderful type of grape symbolic of the region. The Tempranillo grape is a type which ripens earlier compared to other red varieties and is harvested in September. Want to know another interesting fact about the Tempranillo grape? The skins have evolved according to rapid change in weather conditions – something which occurs frequently in this Spanish wine region. As a result the   skins are strong and have very concentrated tannins. You can expect the aromas of Tempranillo wines to be quite satisfying with hints of cherry, raspberry, plum and dried fig (low level of acidity).

Burgos gastronomy

If you go on a trip to Ribera del Duero, you cannot miss out on one of the greatest highlights: the superb gastronomy. The wine region in Spain has a signature dish which is roasted suckling lamb – cooked in an open clay oven with some of the best seasoning. This typical dish is always satisfying to the tongue thanks to its tender, juicy meat and wonderful crispy skin. Naturally you will find other kinds of typical Spanish foods served such as Sopa de Castellana (Castilian Soup), black pudding (rice mixed with pork meat) or even a variety of pastries. Wines from Ribera del Duero pair incredibly well with all the aforementioned dishes. As you can see, most dishes in Spain a lot of meat which makes it great for meat lovers. If you vegetarian, there are still many other options including Tortilla (potato omelette) and Croquetas (can be requested without ham).

Best Time To Visit Burgos

Unless there is a local event, Burgos is not too busy on weekends so, any day of the week is a good option though many restaurants will be closed on Monday.  

Our favorite months to enjoy Burgos are April, May, June, September and October

Weather In Burgos

Due to its altitude (900 meters above sea level), winters in Burgos are cold and long and ther eis an important temperature difference between day and night. 

From November till March you can expect average high temperatures of 50-55 F. Warmest months are July and August with high averages of 75-80 F. Burgos is dry and the likelihood of rain is below 20% in all months but April and November, when it gets near 30%.

Attractions Near Burgos

Atapuerca Caves

Atapuerca is the most important prehistoric site in Europe. It is located in Northern Spain, near the City of Burgos. It is home to, among other things, the Homo Antececessor, an 800,000-year-old specimen that is the oldest hominid discovered in Europe. The site was discovered by accident in the 1800s while building a railroad. 

Atapuerca is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is one of the most important archeological sites in the world.  

History of Atapuerca  

In 1895, a British company began construction on a railway line to transport iron and coal from mines in the north of Burgos to factories in Vizcaya, in the Basque Country. At one point, the director of the company, an engineer named Richard Preece, modified the initial project to pass through an area rich in limestone, in the foothills of the Sierra de Atapuerca.

Preece went to great lengths to get the mining train through the rugged terrain. The company literally blew apart mountains, carved through hills, cut down trees, and fitted rails. In his efforts, Preece would end up uncovering the most important set of paleontological sites in Europe.

That first site is known today as the Railroad Trench, a 1 kilometer-long furrow into which several caves filled with human and animal skeletal remains were uncovered open. The sites are known as Sima del Elefante, Galería and Gran Dolina, now open to the public, and Cueva Mayor, which itself is made up of Portalón, Sima de los Huesos and Galería del Sílex, and Mirador. These sites are only accessible to researchers.

Preece’s venture was ultimately a failure, but by the time the railway closed in 1911, a large number of fossil remains emerged amid a ghostly landscape of abandoned bridges, slopes and tunnels, attracting illustrious prehistorians such as Hugo Obermaier and Henry Breuil. However, that interest faded and in the 1950s the Railroad Trench was transformed into a quarry.

Then, in 1964, Professor Francisco Jordá led the first archaeological excavations in the abandoned Railroad Trench. The project continued through the seventies and eighties. Emiliano Aguirre, one of the preeminent paleontologists in the world joined the dig and with his help, the foundations of the investigation in Atapuerca were laid.

The biggest breakthrough came in the 1990’s. Emiliano Aguirre was reaching the end of his investigation and turning over the project to a team led by Juan Luis Arsuaga, Eudald Carbonell, and José María Bermúdez de Castro.

This new team would uncover a site that would raise Atapuerca to prominence. In 1992, the year of the Barcelona Olympics, the Sima de los Huesos returned a bone puzzle that, once put together, formed archaic-looking skulls. The scientists named the discovered skulls “skull number 4” and “skull number 5”, but they are commonly known as Agamenón and Miguelón (Miguelón was chosen in homage to Miguel Indurain, Spain’s greatest cyclist).

Miguelón ended up being a 300,000 years old hominid (Homo heidelbergensis) relatively similar to modern humans.

Then, in 1994 a male pelvis was recovered from the Sima de los Huesos in midsummer. This specimen was named Elvis, and was another Homo heidelbergensis, like Miguelón and Agamemnon. And in 1998 Excalibur was uncovered. Excalibur is an exceptional hand ax, made of quartzite, which represents the tools of the humans who inhabited the mountain range in the Paleolithic.

Homo Antececessor

Gran Dolina, one of the three sites revealed by Richard Preece, comprises twenty meters of sedimentary fillings from the Pleistocene, that would end up revealing a couple of essential paleontological keys to understand human evolution.

The Gran Dolina excavation began in 1981, and this project’s big breakthrough came on July 8, 1994. On that date, 800,000-year-old human remains were discovered.  Thousands of years of human history were compacted in this relatively small area: Human fossils, hundreds of stone tools, and the skeletal remains of several different vertebrates were uncovered. There was even a new species of bear uncovered, Ursus Dolinensis.

Three years later, after an exhaustive review of the remains extracted from this site that is know known as the “Aurora stratum”, it was determined that the human that had been uncovered was a new member of the genealogical tree: Homo Antececessor. This finding became the oldest known European hominid.

New findings are discovered every year at Atapuerca. In 2008 remains of a species still to be defined were discovered, in addition to the oldest stone tools in the entire mountain range. A human jaw was discovered in 2011 at the Sima del Elefante. And a new dig began in 2016 after evidence was discovered that possibly the largest deposit of remains of Atapuerca was still underground.

Since 2000, Atapuerca has been a World Heritage Site and is without a doubt the epicenter of European prehistory.

Where is Atapuerca?

A short history of Burgos

In 882 Alfonso III of León reconquered the city from the Arabs. Subsequently, Count Diego Rodriguez Porcelos built a castle and established a settlement, mostly composed of brave troops. During the course of the following century, Count Fernán Gonzalez, founder of the province of Castile, made Burgos the capital of the province.

The area up to the boundaries had to be continuously defended during the struggle with the Arabs until it became an independent kingdom under King Ferdinand I. In 1075 King Alfonso VI moved the episcopal seat from Oca to Burgos and subsequently had the first Romanesque Cathedral built here.

The city of Burgos became very important when all foreign trade of Castilla was put under its jurisdiction (this model was later used at la Casa de Contratación in Seville that regulated trade with America). But Burgos’s political and economic importance declined when Madrid was declared the only Corte.

In 1808 the French defeated the Spaniards at Burgos and the city was re-gained by British troops in 1813. Burgos was used as a base for campaigns to gain Madrid and Northern parts of Spain by Franco during the Spanish civil war. The economy of Burgos today is a mix of agriculture and manufacturing. Tourism has grown in importance and to the Cathedral, medieval art, and gastronomy, the Museum of the Human Evolution has increased its interest in family tourism.

More cities in central Spain

Cuenca City Guide

Cuenca City Guide

Check out our Cuenca city guide and discover everything the city has to offer. Cuenca is full of history and stunningly beautiful. … Read More

Salamanca City Guide

Salamanca City Guide

Check out our Salamanca city guide and discover everything the city has to offer. Salamanca is full of history and has the best food in the region. … Read More

Avila City Guide

Avila City Guide

Check out or Avila City Guide! here you will find everything you need to know before visiting this medieval city of Castilla y León. … Read More

Segovia city

Segovia City Guide

Segovia city and capital of the province same name, and in the region of Castilla y Leon, played an important role even in ancient times. Standing on a rocky out-crop between the two river valleys of the Eresma and Clamores it looks like a stranded ship. Discover in this city guide of Segovia all the information to ensure you make the most out of your visit. … Read More