Burgos: The Complete Guide


Burgos is a city in northern Spain and the historic capital of Castile. It is located at the confluence of the Arlanzón river tributaries, on the edge of the Iberian central plateau. The city has a population of around 180,000 residents, with an additional 20,000 in the metropolitan area. As the capital of the province of Burgos, within the autonomous community of Castile and León, Burgos once served as the capital of the Crown of Castile. The Burgos Laws (Leyes de Burgos), which were the first regulations governing the behavior of Spaniards towards the native peoples of the Americas, were promulgated here in 1512.

Burgos boasts many historic landmarks, including the Cathedral of Burgos, the seat of the Metropolitan Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Burgos, the Las Huelgas Reales Monastery, and the Miraflores Charterhouse. The city is home to numerous medieval churches, palaces, and other buildings. It is surrounded by the Fuentes Blancas and Paseo de la Isla parks.

El Cid Campeador, the renowned Castilian nobleman, military leader, and diplomat, is a significant historical figure associated with Burgos. He was born a few kilometers north of the city and was raised and educated there.

Burgos is a major crossroads in northern Spain, situated along the Camino de Santiago, which runs parallel to the River Arlanzón. The city has a well-developed transportation system and serves as a key communication hub. In 2008, Burgos Airport began offering commercial flights, and AVE high-speed trains are expected to start service soon, stopping at the newly-built Rosa de Lima train station.

In 2010, the Museum of Human Evolution opened in Burgos, featuring remains of the first hominins in Europe, who lived in the area 750,000-800,000 years ago.

Burgos was named the “Spanish Gastronomy Capital” in 2013 and “City of Gastronomy” by UNESCO in 2015. It has been part of the Creative Cities Network since then.

History of Burgos

Burgos, a city in northern Spain, has a rich and varied history that spans over a millennium. Here is an overview of its historical development:

Early History and Founding

Burgos was founded in 884 AD by Diego Rodríguez Porcelos, a nobleman under the orders of King Alfonso III of León. It was established as a fortress to protect the northern Christian territories from Muslim incursions during the Reconquista, the period of Christian re-conquest of the Iberian Peninsula.

Medieval Period

During the medieval period, Burgos rapidly grew in importance due to its strategic location on the confluence of the Arlanzón river tributaries. By the 11th century, it became the capital of the County of Castile and later the Kingdom of Castile. The city’s significance increased further when it became a major stop on the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.

In 1035, Ferdinand I of León established Burgos as the capital of the Kingdom of Castile. Throughout the Middle Ages, Burgos thrived as a commercial and cultural center. Its wealth was bolstered by the wool trade, making it one of the most prosperous cities in medieval Spain.

The Cathedral of Burgos and Other Landmarks

One of the most significant developments in Burgos’ history was the construction of the Cathedral of Burgos, which began in 1221 and continued for centuries. This Gothic cathedral, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is renowned for its stunning architecture and historical significance. Other notable landmarks from this period include the Las Huelgas Reales Monastery and the Miraflores Charterhouse, both of which highlight the city’s religious and architectural heritage.

Renaissance and Early Modern Period

Burgos continued to flourish into the Renaissance period. In 1512, the city played a crucial role in the promulgation of the Burgos Laws (Leyes de Burgos), which were the first set of laws governing the treatment of Indigenous peoples in the Americas by the Spanish. These laws were a response to the abuses reported by missionaries and were an early attempt to regulate colonial conduct.

However, Burgos’ economic prominence began to wane in the 16th century as trade routes shifted and other cities like Seville and Madrid gained importance. Despite this, Burgos remained a significant cultural and administrative center.

19th Century and Industrialization

The 19th century brought considerable change to Burgos. The city was affected by the Peninsular War (1808-1814), suffering occupation and battles during the conflict between Napoleonic France and the allied forces of Spain, Britain, and Portugal. Following the war, Burgos experienced a period of rebuilding and modernization.

Industrialization in the late 19th and early 20th centuries saw Burgos develop new industries and infrastructure, further solidifying its role as a regional center.

20th Century and the Spanish Civil War

During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Burgos served as the headquarters for General Francisco Franco’s Nationalist government. This period was marked by significant political and social upheaval, but also by substantial investment in infrastructure and public works under Franco’s regime.

Modern Era

In the latter half of the 20th century, Burgos continued to modernize, expanding its industrial base and improving transportation links. In 2008, Burgos Airport began offering commercial flights, enhancing the city’s connectivity.

In 2010, the Museum of Human Evolution was opened, showcasing remains from the nearby Atapuerca archaeological site, where some of Europe’s oldest human remains were discovered. This museum has become a significant cultural and tourist attraction.

Burgos was named the “Spanish Gastronomy Capital” in 2013, and in 2015, it was designated a “City of Gastronomy” by UNESCO, recognizing its culinary heritage and contributions to Spanish cuisine.

Cultural and Architectural Heritage

Today, Burgos is known for its rich cultural and architectural heritage. The Cathedral of Burgos remains a focal point, drawing visitors from around the world. The city’s historical sites, such as the Las Huelgas Reales Monastery, Miraflores Charterhouse, and the medieval city walls, offer glimpses into its storied past.

Burgos continues to balance its historical legacy with modern growth, making it a vibrant city that honors its past while looking towards the future.

Visiting Burgos for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Burgos on the first visit. To help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

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Best Time to Visit Burgos

Spring (March to May)

Spring is an excellent time to visit Burgos. The weather is mild and pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 68°F). This season is ideal for exploring the city’s outdoor attractions, such as the parks and historic sites. The blooming flowers and green landscapes add to the beauty of the city’s numerous gardens and promenades. Additionally, spring is less crowded than the summer months, making it a perfect time for sightseeing.

Summer (June to August)

Summer in Burgos is warm and often dry, with temperatures typically ranging from 15°C to 30°C (59°F to 86°F). This is the peak tourist season, and the city is lively with various festivals and events, including the famous Festival of San Pedro and San Pablo in late June. The long daylight hours are perfect for exploring the city and its surroundings. However, it can be crowded, so booking accommodations in advance is advisable.

Autumn (September to November)

Autumn is another great time to visit Burgos. The temperatures are cooler, ranging from 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 68°F), providing a comfortable climate for sightseeing and outdoor activities. The summer crowds have usually diminished, allowing for a more relaxed experience. The fall foliage adds a picturesque quality to the city’s parks and natural surroundings, making it a beautiful time to explore.

Winter (December to February)

Winter in Burgos is cold, with temperatures ranging from 0°C to 10°C (32°F to 50°F). While it can be chilly, the city has a unique charm during this season, especially around Christmas when it is adorned with festive decorations and lights. Winter is ideal for those who prefer a quieter visit with fewer tourists. It’s also a great time to enjoy indoor attractions, such as museums and historic buildings, and to experience the local cuisine in cozy restaurants.

Average Temperatures in Burgos

  • January 9°C 7
  • February 12°C 7
  • March 14°C 7
  • April 18°C 8
  • May 22°C 6
  • June 27°C 7
  • July 32°C 2
  • August 30°C 2
  • September 25°C 4
  • October 22°C 6
  • November 13°C 8
  • December 10°C 7

How to get to Burgos

Traveling to Burgos can be accomplished through various modes of transportation depending on your starting location. Here are the main options:

By Air

Burgos Airport (RGS): Burgos has its own airport, located about 5 kilometers from the city center. The airport offers flights to and from Barcelona, which can be convenient for international travelers connecting through major hubs.

Nearby Airports: If direct flights to Burgos are not available, the nearest major airports are in Madrid (Madrid-Barajas Airport) and Bilbao (Bilbao Airport). From these airports, you can reach Burgos by train, bus, or car.

By Train

RENFE: Spain’s national railway company, RENFE, operates regular train services to Burgos. The main train station, Burgos Rosa de Lima, is well-connected to major cities like Madrid, Barcelona, and Bilbao. High-speed trains (AVE) from Madrid take approximately 2.5 hours to reach Burgos.

International Trains: While Burgos is not directly served by international trains, you can travel to Madrid or Barcelona and then take a domestic train to Burgos.

By Bus

ALSA and Other Bus Companies: Several bus companies, including ALSA, offer services to Burgos from various cities across Spain. Buses are a cost-effective and comfortable way to travel. The main bus station in Burgos is centrally located, providing easy access to the city center and other areas.

By Car

Driving to Burgos: Burgos is accessible by major highways, making it convenient for those traveling by car. From Madrid, you can take the A-1 highway north to Burgos, a drive of approximately 2.5 to 3 hours. From Bilbao, the drive on the AP-68 and AP-1 highways takes about 2 hours.

Car Rentals: Renting a car is a flexible option if you plan to explore beyond Burgos. Car rental services are available at major airports and within the city.

By Bicycle

Cycling: For the more adventurous, cycling to Burgos can be an option if you are traveling from nearby regions. The city is part of the Camino de Santiago route, making it a popular stop for pilgrims and long-distance cyclists.

Local Transportation

Taxis and Public Transport: Once in Burgos, you can use local taxis and buses to get around the city. The public transportation system is efficient and covers most major attractions and neighborhoods.

Walking: Burgos is a walkable city, especially in the historic center where many of the attractions are located close to each other.

Bicycles: There are bike rental services available in Burgos, which can be a convenient way to explore the city.

Choosing the best mode of travel to Burgos depends on your starting location and personal preferences. The options above provide various convenient ways to reach and explore this historic city.

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