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Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Friday, February 24, 2012

What to See in Burgos

Burgos was founded in 884. It has played a significant political and military role in Spanish history ever since. Romans fortified the hill overlooking the Arlanzón River.  For a lot of great history on Burgos, see Linda Kay Davidson’s book The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago

 El Cid is famous in Burgos. 
Spain’s medieval epic, the Poema de mío Cid tells how Cid raised money to provision his army by borrowing from Burgos’s Jewish moneylenders.
He then tricked them by offering a chest full of stones as security 
while requiring their oath not to look into the chest for a year!  
Would you agree???
Well, the Jews provided the gold, which Cid never repaid.
 He later rode into Burgos to pray at the Cathedral, before crossing the river to camp.
Maybe he was praying for forgiveness...

Burgos grew very wealthy from the wool trade. 
The wool from merino sheep have a very soft, fine, crimped staple.
It makes lovely soft wool fabric.
Burgos' wool wealth financed much of the great art and architecture 
seen in the city today.

No Spanish town had more pilgrim hospices than Burgos. 
In the late 15th century, there were 32. 
Some were founded by royalty, some by private citizens, 
some by merchant guilds, and some by religious and military orders. 

Because of its strategic location on the Camino de Santiago 
and the main Madrid-France highway,
 Burgos got (and still gets) its fair share of tourists.

Burgos is not a town to rush through, as Davidson says. 
It contains a staggering wealth of art,
 more than any other city along the road. 
It’s worth staying an extra day to see the wonders offered. 
Here is a list of some things to see while in Burgos:

The Cathedral was founded in 1221 by Bishop Maruicio under Fernando III.
This is Spain’s third-largest cathedral. 
The ground plan is a Latin cross. 
It was constructed in several stages over 3 centuries and involved 
many of the greatest artists and architects in Europe. 
The style is almost completely Gothic. 
Plan on spending anywhere from 2 to 6 hours to see completely. 
It is chock full of beauty! 
Here are a few photos I took in the Cathedral:

 Davidson’s book has several pages dedicated to the art contained in this cathedral.

Retablo at Iglesia de San Nicolás Bari
 Iglesia de San Nicolás Bari contains a superb altarpiece by Simon of Cologne (1505) 
The carvings depict scenes from the life of St. Nicholas. 
This church was a showpiece of the merchant guilds.
Arco de Fernán González
 The Arco de Fernán González is a Renaissance commemorative arch (1592)
Photo by R.S. Antonio
The Castillo de Burgos is erected over the ruins of a Roman fortification. 

The Iglesia de San Esteban has a museum displaying 18 retablos 
from the 15th through the 18th century collected from churches
 in the province of Burgos.

Old postcard of Arco de San Esteban in Burgos
 Arco de San Esteban: 12th Century entrance showing Mudéjar characteristics.

Santa Agueda (Agatha) carries her breasts on a plate
  Iglesia de Santa Agueda
This is where El Cid made King Alfonso VI swear he played no part
 in the murder of his Elder brother, King Sancho II.

Casa de Miranda
 Casa de Miranda and Archaeological Museum

Museu de Burgos has finds from the Roman city of Clunia

 Arco de Santa María
This was the rincipal gate of the city in the 14th Century.
It is carved with statues of various local personalities

Statue of El Cid
Named for his heroism, El Cid was a charismatic man of great courage. 
The tombs of El Cid and his wife are in Burgos Cathedral. 

Casa del Cordón and Capitanía General:
A 15th century palace with a Franciscan cord motif carved over the portal. This is the spot where the Catholic Monarchs welcomed Columbus on his return in 1497 from his second voyage to the Americas. 

 Iglesia de San Lesmés honors the patrón of Burgos, San Lesmés.

 Cartuja de Miraflores is a Carthusian monastery founded during the 15th century.  
The church includes tombs containing Juan II and Isabel of Portugal 
(the parents of Isabel the Catholic) and her brother, Prince Alfonso. 
Also here is the multicolored altarpiece by Gil de Siloé, 
allegedly gilded with the first gold brought to Spain from the New World. 

Monasterio de las Huelgas – Access by guided tour only. 
A rural palace given over to a convent by Alfonso VIII. 
His goal, opposite of the Cistercian ideal, 
was to create the world’s most sumptuous convent, 
an opulent refuge for widowed nobility.  
 It contains the Museo de Ricas Telas, 
a textile museum containing ancient farics from the convent’s many royal tombs. 
 The Gothic cloister of San Fernando 
is decorated with Moorish designs of peacocks and stars.

 Sorrowful Mother in Iglesia de San Gil Abad

Iglesia de San Lorenzo has a beautiful Baroque ceiling.

Paseo de la Isla – a park created to reclaim the Arlanzón riverbank. 

 Hospital del Rey

If you have time, be sure to take the bus that carries you from the archaeological museum
 to the caves of the Sierra de Atapuerca. 
These caves contain a rich fossil record of the earliest human beings in Europe, 
from nearly one million years ago and extending up to the Common Era. 
They represent an exceptional reserve of data,
 the scientific study of which provides priceless information 
 about the appearance and the way of life of these remote human ancestors.

As you can see, Burgos is rich in culture and history.
Do yourself a favor and take a rest day here.
There are many inexpensive hostals and pensiones;
find one near the old town,
and enjoy the local cuisine from the wild fruit plates served at El Morito
 to the Patatas Bravas served in almost every bar
to the morcilla (blood sausage),
famous in Burgos
There are strange looking bars like Meson El Cid
and lovely dining rooms like this one at Hotel Ciudad
Try some churros y chocolate
which is more like a thick pudding
Or buy a pastry from one of the many wonderful pasty shops
Oh, and see the Cola Cao in the yellow packet above?
That is instant hot chocolate
and you can get it everywhere.
For those who don't drink coffee,
it's a great alternative.
As is the fresh squeezed orange juice you find in every restaurant.
Just ask for zumo naranja!

Oh yes, I almost forgot.
Don't forget to have your photo taken 
with the Naked Pilgrim!
Almost every Pilgrim has a photo of this fellow.

I think that's enough for today.

Buen Camino!

See my website at 
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Pilgrimage Trails of Europe
Walking the Camino Santiago


  1. You did a good job again Annie!

  2. I didn't mention you can pick up a shuttle from the Archaeological museum to Atapuerca, which is the site of the oldest human remains found anywhere. So much to see in Burgos!

  3. Thanks for the helpful hints of what not to miss in Burgos. It's my camino resume point in 2 weeks. How did I miss Naked Pilgrim and the pastry shops last time?

  4. I recently discovered the Burgos museum, which is on the same street as the bus station. This small museum is fascinating and has historical items from the city's past. The cost is minimal; I think I paid around €3 to get in and it was well worth a visit.

  5. I loved the Burgos museum. Another good museum and free is the Military museum of Burgos on Plaza de Alonso-Martínez. It's near the Hotel Norte y Londres. Also found a good organic grocer a block or two NE of the museum at Calle de Antonio Valdes y Bazan, 1.

    1. How about these:


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