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Burgos has one of the most beautiful cathedrals of Spain. The Cathedral was recently cleaned and is outstanding. If one cannot take the time to stay there overnight, one can make a day trip from Madrid. It is ideal to stay 2 nights in Burgos, but many tourists do not have the time, so the day trip may be an alternate way to know the city.
One can take the train to Burgos from Madrid from the Chamartin Station. The Alvia 04087 leaves Madrid at 08:00 and arrives in Burgos at 10:21, taking 2 hours and 21 minutes. To return to Madrid one can take the Alvia 04166 leaving Burgos at 19:34 and arriving in Madrid at 22:00. This will give one about 9 hours in Burgos, enough to see the important sites. The train trip costs about 50.30 euros. Check the Renfe site because schedules do change.
Read Buying Renfe Tickets Online.
The train station at Burgos is called Rosa de Lima and is located 5.7 km from downtown. According to the Tourist Office in Burgos, a taxi from the train station to the Cathedral will cost about 8 euros. There is also Bus 25 which will take one to the Plaza de España, which is 1.8 km from the Cathedral and will take about 22 minutes walking (according to Google Maps). However the frequency is every 60 minutes and it does not run on weekends. So it is better to just take a taxi to the Cathedral so as not to waste time.
Burgos Cathedral (Santa Maria)
The City of Burgos is famous for its very impressive Cathedral, built in the Gothic and most extravagant style. The Burgos Cathedral is the third largest cathedral in Spain, after the ones in Seville and Toledo. It was begun in 1221 and completed in the mid 13th century. It is built with white limestone that looks like marble. The two towers (84m high) were built in 1458 by John of Cologne. Above the main door, the Door of Santa Maria, is a wonderful rose window, and over this are eight statues of kings. The church is filled with many other Gothic statues, more than a hundred inside and outside the church. King Felipe II said that this cathedral seemed more the work of angels than of men.
The interior of the church is 84m long. Over the nave is an octagonal lantern that is 59m high and is a masterpiece of Plateresque art. The main chapel has a high altar that is richly gilded, made by Rodrigo and Martin de la Haya in 1580, during the Renaissance.
There is a two story cloister and on the upper floor is a large Cathedral Museum which contains many tapestries of the 16th and 17th centuries, and many works of art having to do with the church. There are beautiful gold masterpieces created by goldsmiths of the past. Among these are communion cups, processional crosses, and reliquaries. In the Chapel of Corpus Christi there is a wooden chest that El Cid (Rodrigo Diaz) left as a security for a loan. It is said that El Cid filled it with gravel and used it as collateral to trick the moneylenders. El Cid was born in Burgos and he is buried in the Cathedral, together with his wife Doña Jimena Diaz. They are found under the lantern like dome under the floor, where their names are inscribed in the floor. The cloister has a modern mural of El Cid in front of the City of Burgos, painted by the artist Candido Perez in 2007.
There is also the elaborate Golden Staircase in the north transept, built in the 1488 by Juan and Simon de Colonia. Behind the altar, at the crossing of the dome and transept, there is a design like a star that allows light to enter from above. It was built by Juan de Vallejo in 1568. It is a beautiful 8 sided star window made of stained glass.
There are 17 chapels that are filled with impressive altars and artwork. The Visitation Chapel was built in 1442, ordered by Bishop Alonso de Cartagena. The chapel contains the bishop's tomb, done in alabaster, created by Gil de Siloe. The Presentation Chapel was built in 1524 by Juan de Matienzo . It was commissioned by Canon Gonzalo de Lerma and it contains his alabaster tomb, created by Felipe de Vigarny. The Chapel of the Constables has the tombs of the Constable of Castile and his wife (Pedro Fernandez and Mencia de Mendoza), built at the end of the 15th century. The tombs were carved in Carrara marble in 1534 by the artist Felipe de Vigarny.
The Cathedral is very well organized and there are signs directing visitors where to go next. All the chapels have signs with their names. Everything important is labeled.
There is a very good restaurant that overlooks the Cathedral. During warm weather the outside terrace is a good place for lunch.
Restaurante Rincon de España
Calle Nuño Rasura, 11
Church of San Nicolas
The Church of San Nicolas is located to the left of the main facade of the Cathedral. It is a Gothic church constructed early in the 15th century from donations by the prosperous Burgos merchant Gonzalo Lopez. The facade is quite simple and has a portico with a pointed arch with the figure of San Nicolas. The treasure of the church is the monumental high altarpiece, created by the workshop of Simon de Colonia. It was done in stone, something rare at that time. The altar design shows images of saints and apostles from the Bible. There are two tombs, those of Gonzalo Lopez, his brother, and their wives. The central lane has the sculpture of San Nicolas, and many angels that surround the Coronation of the Virgin Mary.
Church of San Gil
The Church of San Gil is a Gothic church built between the 14th and 16th centuries and is considered as one of the most beautiful Gothic churches in Burgos. The church is located at Calle San Gil, 12, beside the medieval wall and it has a simple facade. The church has three naves and there are many funerary chapels in the church. The tombs are excellent examples of Gothic and Renaissance funerary art. The Nativity Chapel has a starred vault and an impressive Renaissance altarpiece. The Chapel of the Good Morning (so called because of the early hour that the priests say Mass) has an excellent Gothic altarpiece, created by Gil de Siloe. Legend says that Santa Teresa used to hear Mass here. The third interesting chapel is the Chapel of the Cross that was created by Juan de Vallejo in the 16th century.
Paseo del Espolon
The Paseo del Espolon is the park that is adjacent to the Arlanzon River and is a wide avenue that has many trees, flowers, and sculpture. It goes from the Plaza of Mio Cid to the Arch of Santa Maria. This is one of the main meeting points of the local populace. There are many restaurants and stores located beside it. It is also close to the Plaza Mayor and the Town Hall.
Casa del Cordon
The Casa del Cordon is the most important building of Burgos civil architecture and was constructed in the 15th century. It is located at the Plaza de la Libertad. It was built for the Constable of Castile Pedro Fernandez and his wife Mencia de Mendoza, and its architect was Simon de Colonia. The main door of the Casa del Cordon has a Franciscan cord that frames the doorway, giving the building its name. Above the doorway there is the coat of arms of the Constables. The main facade has two towers, one at each end of the building. The building was the site of many historic moments. The Catholic Kings received Columbus here in 1497 on his return from his second voyage to America. It was also here that the Prince Juan married Margarita of Austria. In 1506 Felipe the Handsome, the husband of Juana la Loca and son-in-law of the Catholic Kings, died in this palace. In 1515 the pact to join Navarra and Castile took place here. Felipe IV and Isabel de Borbon also got married here.
Museo de la Evolucion Humana
Paseo Sierra de Atapuerca, s/n
Tuesday to Friday: 10:30 to 14:30H., 16:30 to 20:30H.
Saturday, Sunday, and holidays: 10:00 to 20:00H.
This is the first museum that the human species has dedicated to itself. The museum has an area of 15,000 square meters. The museum is an anthropological museum and covers the history of man since 1,300,000 years to today. There are 200 fossils from Atapuerca, and has the biggest fossil collection in the world. The most famous fossil in the museum is the skull of Homo heidelbergensis (500,000 years old), which was found in 1992 in Atapuerca. Atapuerca is the site which has provided 90% of all the fossils found in the world, and the site is still being worked by scientists. It is estimated that only 2% of the fossils in Atapuerca have been found. The museum has three hours of audiovisual material for visitors to see, besides the fossils exhibited.Arch of Santa Maria
The Arch of Santa Maria is located at the Paseo del Espolón. This was part of the ancient wall around the city and in 1553 it was remodeled by Juan Vallejo and Francisco de Colonia to make a triumphal arch in honor of the Emperor Carlos V. Local white stone was used. It looks like a castle with two tall circular towers. There is a crown of four small towers on top of the building. In the central part there are several niches that contain statues of people who were important in the history of Castile. The lower body contains the statues of Count Diego Porcelos, Judge Lain Calvo, and Judge Nuño Rasura. The upper part has the statues of Carlos V, El Cid, and Count Fernan Gonzalez. Above them is a statue of the Guardian Angel, flanked by figures of macebearers. Lastly, at the very top is the statue of Santa Maria, the patron saint of Burgos. The sculptor of these figures was Ochoa de Arteaga. The building has a Pharmacy Museum and a place to hold art exhibitions. There is a central room with a large mural by the artist Vela Zanetti that honors Count Fernan Gonzalez. The Hall of Poridad has a wonderful Mudejar coffered ceiling, and some items related to El Cid, such as a reproduction of his famous sword Tiz. The building was declared a National Historic-Artistic Monument in 1943.
Royal Monastery of Las Huelgas
The Royal Monastery of Las Huelgas is located at Calle Compases de Huelga, a bit out of the town center. The Spanish word “huelga” has several meanings. For this monastery, it means “recreation”. This was the place where the Spanish kings went to relax and for recreation, as well as a place for spiritual retreats. The monastery was started in 1187 by Alfonso VIII and his wife Leonor, and continued in the 13th century. The Cistercian nuns occupied the monastery when it was started. Today one can still go to the monastery for spiritual retreats because it has its own little hotel.
There are two important cloisters that are famous for being very beautiful. The first is called the Little Cloisters and was built at the end of the 12th century in the Romanesque style. It is characterized by double pointed arches with artistic capitals and a wooden roof. The second cloister is Gothic in style and was constructed in the middle of the 13th century. It is called the San Fernando cloister and is named for Fernando III, el Santo. The arches have the Mudejar style and there is plenty of typical Mudejar plasterwork.
There are three naves in the church. One of the naves of the church is called the Santa Catalina Nave and it is the Royal Pantheon of the Castillian Dynasty. Buried here are Alfonso VIII and his wife Leonor of England. One also find the tombs of Princess Blanca of Portugal, Enrique I and his wife Berenguela, and the Infante Fernando de la Cerda. The central nave contains the choir in the middle.
The Chapter Room has the standard captured from the Moors in the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, which occurred on July 16, 1212. This battle was the most important battle of the Reconquest.
The Plaza Mayor of Burgos is a very attractive plaza and has the shape of an irregular hexagon. There is a statue of Carlos III, and the artist was Alfonso Giraldo Bergaz, who made it in 1784. The Ayuntamiento building was built in 1787 by Ventura Rodriguez, who also designed the buildings beside it, all using the Neoclassic design. The Ayuntamiento was built over the arches of the old Gate of the Wagons, and this is beside the Paseo del Espolon. The Session Hall of the Ayuntamiento is decorated with paintings done by Marceliano Santa Maria.
Plaza del Mio Cid
The Plaza del Mio Cid contains the very large bronze equestrian statue of El Cid, designed by the sculptor Juan Cristobal Gonzalez Quesada. The plaza was redesigned and inaugurated on July 2, 1955. The plaza pays honor to El Cid, who has his sword called Tizona in his hand, pointing it forward. El Cid was Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar and he was born in 1043 in Vivar del Cid, a small village of 120 inhabitants located 7 km from Burgos. He died in 1099 in Valencia. El Cid is the local hero of Burgos and probably was the most famous Spanish warrior of the Middle Ages. There was a movie called El Cid that starred Charlton Heston as El Cid, and Sophia Loren as his wife Jimena Diaz.