Vitoria-Gasteiz with your dog
It doesn’t have the Concha beach or the Guggenheim Museum, but Vitoria boasts a green belt where we mutts can have a great time – indeed, the capital of the Basque Country is one of Europe’s greenest cities, and also has restaurants and cafés where we well-behaved furry friends are welcome.
I spent a couple of days in Vitoria in August 2018, where I wandered around the city and accompanied my human companion for a few drinks. Yes! In Vitoria we dogs are allowed to enter a handful of bars, restaurants and cafés! You can see a list of them on this post – I went to most of them as well as some others that the locals suggested to us. As we didn’t stay overnight on either of the two days, we looked into and put together a small list of hotels we know and happen to allow pets.
To get around Gasteiz, you can use the tram provided that you are on a leash. On buses, however, only small dogs are allowed and must be in a pet carrier. As is often the case with taxis, you need to call the Radio Taxi Gasteiz switchboard to request one that allows pets, as if you simply try to stop one on the street, it’s more than likely they won’t allow dogs. Another option is to get to know the city on the Gasteiztxo tourist train (it operates from early June to mid-October).
And what plans does the city offer? To start with, forget about entering museums or other tourist attractions – we didn’t find any. Plans involve wandering around the city, going into some shops and enjoying its green spaces, and in this case it must be said that Vitoria is noteworthy for its parks within city limits and for the forests and wetlands surrounding it.
The main parks in the centre are La Florida, La Senda, San Martín, El Prado and Arriaga. La Florida is the one beside the Maria Inmaculada Cathedral, very close to Plaza de la Virgen Blanca, where you can find the most photographed place in the city – the huge floral letters bearing the city’s name. There are times when you’ll have to queue up here to take a selfie with your human companion.
Beside the square rises the oldest part – the medieval almendra or “almond-shaped” quarter. It’s almost completely pedestrianised and, as it’s built on a hill, has escalators to make it easier for humans to go up and down (careful not to hurt your feet). Of special note in this area is the Santa Maria Cathedral. The author Ken Follet was inspired by the church’s reconstruction to write “World without End” and its sequel “the Pillars of the Earth”, which has made the Old Cathedral, as it’s known in Vitoria, internationally famous. It’s just a pity that we well-behaved dogs aren’t allowed to enter.
The last stage on this beautiful tour was calle de la Cuchillería, where we couldn’t leave without recharging our batteries with a fine pintxo in one of its dog-friendly bars (see list).
As regards regulations for walking on the street, the municipal website specifies that “dogs on public thoroughfares and in parks and other places frequented by people must be attached to a chain or with leash and collar. Generally speaking, there is a certain tolerance, except in cases of potentially dangerous dogs, and municipal police are in charge of dealing with all complaints in the event of any dispute caused by a dog”.
But returning to the green belt on the outskirts, you’ll love wandering around the Armentia forest, the Salburua ponds, the parks of Zabalgana and Olarizu, the Zadorra riverside park and the Alegria riverside promenade. Forests, rivers, wetlands and meadows await you just a stone’s throw from the city. Getting excited already? Remember that on these routes, we furry friends need to be on a leash (there are wild species that have to be protected) except in specifically-designated recreational areas in each place.
And if you have the time, head for Rioja Alavesa to enjoy its incredible landscapes of vineyards dotted around little villages, wine cellars and prehistoric dolmens like La Chabola de la Hechicera, in El Villar, which you can see on this page. It’s one of the best preserved in the Basque Country and is the setting for an annual akelerre (witches’ coven) in August.