Celebrated for its magnificent cathedral, the medieval town of Burgos was an important stop on the Santiago de Compostela to Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route. Burgos was also the capital of the Castilla-Leon region from the 10th to the 14th century. This intriguing historic city retains its Old World charm, seen in its beautiful ancient monuments, quaint cobbled streets, and shady boardwalks. Burgos is a pleasant place to explore the sights, from the ruins of the old castle (castillo) on the hilltop to the inviting riverside restaurants. Also on the must-see list are numerous monasteries and churches. Visiting these sanctuaries offers an inspiring spiritual experience and a chance to see masterpieces of medieval and Renaissance art.
1 Catedral de Burgos: UNESCO World Heritage Site
At the foot of Burgos’ Castle Hill is the UNESCO-listed Burgos Cathedral, a masterpiece of Spanish Gothic architecture. The abundance of sculptural decoration and grandiose proportions make this cathedral one of the most impressive in Spain and the third largest after the cathedrals of Seville and Toledo. Built of white limestone, the cathedral is known for its elegance and sense of harmony. While the building is predominantly Gothic, it reveals other artistic styles suggesting later additions (construction was over an extended period from 1221 to 1795). The main facade of the cathedral features the Puerta del Perdóndoorway with a gallery of statues of the Castilian kings. Above the doorway is a beautiful star-shaped rose window called an estrellón . On the Puerta del Sarmental facade are the cathedral’s most exquisite sculptures, depicting the apostles and evangelists.
The awe-inspiring interior is distinguished by the dome of the main nave, with a fine Mudejar vault (Moorish-style) and Diego de Siloé’s 16th-century Italian Renaissance Escalera Dorada (Golden Staircase). In the immense sanctuary there are 19 chapels in the aisles and valuable altarpieces, paintings and sculptures everywhere. At the center of the nave is the magnificent cimborio (lantern), a superb example of Plateresque art, richly decorated with sculpture and coats of arms, gilded balustrade and exquisite reliefs. Behind the ambulatory is the 15th century Capilla del Condestable(Constable’s Chapel), another example of ornate Plateresque style. The chapel houses the tombs of the Constable and his wife Doña Mencia de Mendoza, with lifelike figures carved from Carrara marble. The Capilla de Santa Tecla (Chapel of Saint Thecla) is also notable for its artwork. Be sure to see the 13th-century claustro (cloister), which contains the monumental tombs of Ferdinand III and his wife Beatrice of Swabia.
Address: Plaza de Santa María, Burgos
2 Monastery of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas
A must-see historical attraction, Las Huelgas is a medieval Cistercian monastery and Royal Pantheon of the Castilian Monarchs. The Monasterio de las Huelgas was originally a country residence of the kings of Castile. The Spanish word huelgameans “rest/relaxation”. King Alfonso VIII and Queen Dona Leonor converted the building into a Cistercian convent for noble women (descendants of the royal family) in 1187 at the request of his wife Eleanor, daughter of Henry II of England. The monastery was given wealth and royal status, and the high abbess wore a special headdress and carried a crosier similar to that of a bishop. The monastery is an example of the austere architecture of the Cistercian order, with the church, cloister and chapter house. The original 12th century church was built in a Mudéjar Almohad style, which resembles the architecture of Andalusia. This church is now the Chapel of the Assumption , which contrasts with the Romanesque cloister ( Claustrillas) and Gothic additions from the 13th century. The monastery also displays a collection of precious medieval tapestries.
Address: Calle de Compases, Burgos
3 Miraflores Charterhouse
This Carthusian monastery is located about three kilometers outside the historic town of Burgos. The building was originally the hunting lodge and recreation palace of Henry III of Spain. The palace was restored by his son, King John II, and was renovated again during the reign of Queen Isabella by famous architects. The Carthusian Monastery is a jewel of 15th-century Gothic architecture. The beautiful Gothic church of the monastery is one of Burgos’ most important monuments and contains the mausoleum of King John II and his wife Queen Isabella. Tours are available in the summer.
Address: Cartuja road, Burgos
Official site: https://www.cartuja.org
4 Arch of Santa Maria
St. Mary’s Arch
The Gate of Santa Maria, which guards and allows access to the old town, stands at the end of Paseo del Espolón opposite the Puente de Santa María (bridge) over the Arlanzón River. The Arco de Santa María was originally built in the 14th century as a triumphal arch in honor of Emperor Carlos V. In 1552, the Renaissance-style gate was renovated by Juan de Vallejo and Francisco de Colonia. The massive arch is flanked by two semicircular towers, giving it the appearance of a castle. The gate has statues of Castilian heroes and kings: in the center of the bottom row is Diego Porcelos, the founder of the city, next to Nuño Rasura and Lain Calvo , the first judges of Castile; in the top row are the Cid, the Emperor Charles V and Count Fernán González. As you walk through the arch, you will reach the Plaza del Rey San Fernando on the south side of the cathedral. The interior is often used to display temporary art exhibitions.
Address: Plaza del Rey San Fernando, Burgos
5 Church of Saint Nicholas
A few steps from the cathedral, the Church of San Nicolás is reached by a pedestrian walkway Plaza de Santa María . The 15th-century church was restored to its former glory in 1911 with a renovation project. The interior of the church is remarkable for its beautiful vaults and impressive tombs. The church’s greatest treasure is Francisco de Colonia’s lavish 16th-century High Reredos. This monumental sculptural piece contains reliefs of biblical scenes in the Old and New Testaments with a special focus on the life of San Nicolás and the miracles he performed. With incredible attention to detail, the piece has 465 figures. The reredos was commissioned by a wealthy merchant who wanted the artwork to reflect his status in the community.
Address: Calle Fernán González, Burgos
6 Espolon Walk
Shaded by plane trees and lined with cafes and shops, Paseo del Espolón is the favorite promenade of Burgos residents. This pleasant pedestrian promenade runs along the Río Arlanzón from the Puente de Santa María to the Puente de San Pablo. Opposite the Paseo del Espolón, along the river banks, is a quiet garden with meadows and reed beds full of frogs, a truly peaceful pastorescé. Paseo del Espolón is a wonderful place to take an afternoon stroll or relax on one of the park’s benches.
7 Saint Lemes Church
Just east of the Plaza Mayor is the Gothic Church of San Lesmes. Built in the 15th century, the church housed the remains of San Lesmes, patron saint of Burgos, who cared for pilgrims who stopped in the town on the “Way of Saint James” route to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. The church also has other Late Gothic tombs and altars. In the 16th century, the church was renovated in the architectural and decorative style of the era. Guided tours of the church are available when Mass is not in session.
Address: Plaza de San Juan, Burgos
8 Saint Giles Church
One of the most beautiful Gothic churches in Burgos, this place of worship dates back to the 14th century. The highly decorated interior has many chapels; the most notable are the beautifully vaulted Nativity Chapel and the Buena Mañana Chapels. Tours of the church are available before and after worship.
Address: Calle San Gil 12, Burgos
9 St. Stephen’s Church
A short walk northeast of the Iglesia de San Nicolás is the Gothic Church of San Esteban, built between 1280 and 1350. This ancient church has an impressive facade with a richly carved western doorway. A beautiful rose window illuminates the sanctuary, with ethereal light filtering through the stained glass. The church also has an interesting baroque retablo and a remarkable early gothic cloister.
Address: 1 Calle San Esteban, Burgos
10 Museum of Human Evolution
Housed in a modern, sleek building, this fascinating paleontological museum was set up as a place to display fossils found in the fields of the Sierra de Atapuerca. Highlights of the collection include an 850,000-year-old hominid fossil and El Bifaz “Excalibur,” the oldest symbol of human intelligence. The museum also offers educational exhibits, such as theories about the first Europeans. Realistic reproductions of prehistoric human species are displayed as wax models. This incredible exhibit showcases the earliest known human ancestors and shows the progression of evolution.
Address: Paseo Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos
11 International folk festival
Burgos is known for its International Folk Festival, an excellent cultural event. The festival takes place in the third week of July and hosts hundreds of Spanish folk groups from around the world. Performances take place in public squares and historic locations such as the Plaza de San Juan Square , the Paseo del Espolón Pavilion , and the Main Theater . Artists reflect a wide variety of artistic traditions from different countries, including Italy, Honduras, Bolivia, Mexico, Venezuela and the Philippines.
12 Burgos Museum
The Burgos Museum displays a diverse collection in the Casa de Miranda , an elegant 16th-century palace. The collection includes archaeological objects, antiquities from the province of Burgos and an exceptional assortment of baroque paintings from the 17th century, as well as modern art from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Address: Calle Miranda 13, Burgos
Where to Stay in Burgos for Sightseeing
We recommend these centrally located hotels in Burgos near top sites such as the city’s historic churches and UNESCO-listed cathedral:
- Landa: 5-star luxury hotel, medieval castle, 5 minutes drive from the city, individually decorated rooms, beautiful swimming pools.
- NH Collection Palacio de Burgos: mid-range prices, 16th-century Gothic building, river and cathedral views, rooftop terrace, sauna.
- Hotel Forum Evolucion: 3-star boutique hotel, excellent location, contemporary design, multilingual staff.
- Hostal Rimbombin: budget hotel, central location, modern decor, clean rooms.
Day trips from Burgos
Santo Domingo de Silos Monastery
The Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos is located 58 kilometers from the city of Burgos, accessible via the BU 902 and BU 903 in Covarrubias. The monastery is believed to have been founded in the late sixth century by the Visigothic king Reccared, destroyed by the Moors, and rebuilt by Santo Domingo (abbot from 1047 to 1073). The two-story cloister has fantastic carved capitals decorated with beasts, lions, deer, eagles and other birds, and swirling arabesques. On each corner of the cloister are reliefs depicting New Testament themes. The Mudéjar ceiling paintings of the lower cloister depict scenes of medieval life with various musical instruments. The North Gallery contains the Tomb of Santo Domingo.
Historic city of Palencia
Historic city of Palencia
Tourists can travel 90 kilometers from Burgos to explore the historic town of Palencia. This ancient city was destroyed several times throughout history, first by the Romans, then by the Visigoths and finally by the Moors. In the 11th century, Palencia was rebuilt and prospered in the 12th century when it was the residence of the Kings of Castile and the meeting place of the Castilian Parliament. In the 13th century, King Alfonso VIII of Castile founded Spain’s first university in the city.
Palencia has a striking cathedral on the Plaza de la Inmaculada. The Catedral de San Antolín was built between 1321 and 1516 and contains the remains of a seventh-century Visigothic chapel. Housed in the cloister and chapter house, the Cathedral Museum displays valuable religious art. The collection includes precious 15th-century Flemish tapestries, paintings by El Greco, Zurbarán and Cerezo, religious sculptures and monuments. To learn more about the heritage of the city of Palencia, visit the Palencia Museum website, which is housed in a 16th-century Renaissance house on Plaza del Cordón. This museum displays archaeological finds from the Castile-León region, from the prehistoric era to the Middle Ages. The classical Roman period is especially well represented.
Hermitage van Quintanilla de las Viñas
About 40 kilometers southeast of Burgos, travelers can discover one of the rare extant Visigothic churches Mambrillas de Lara . The hermitage of Quintanilla de las Viñas is an incredible sight dating back to the seventh century. The facade of the church has a beautiful frieze with bas-reliefs depicting vines, grapes, birds, animals and monograms. The interior of the church is remarkably well preserved. Note the horseshoe arch that rests on the repurposed Roman columns, decorated with sculpted figures of angels. An image of Christ and illustrations of the sun and moon decorate the keystone of the arch.