La Rioja – Spain
La Rioja - Spain
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Birthplace of Castilian and Basque languages

Another weekend, and another excitement for getting to new places never been before, with the addition of those being in Spain, at the world renown region of La Rioja, from where some of the world’s best wines are produced. Spain might not look like a huge country, but it’s big, with each of the 17 autonomous regions very clearly defined with their own traditions, culinary and even architecture. And for me as Spanish that I am, it’s been so far impossible to be on every capital of province nor every region. That’s good news anyway as it means there are many trips to Spain to look ahead in the coming years.

Logroño is the capital of the autonomous region of La Rioja. A very small city which does not require any longer than half a day to visit in full, but the perfect base in order to visit some of the most famous wineries in the world. Not only for their exceptional wines, but for their incredible breathtaking 21st century architecture blending with the ancient buildings. More and more is this trend of getting a top architect to create a new masterpiece, and the “wine route” is nowadays both ways: for the wine lovers itself, and for the architecture lovers.

This was our main point on this weekend where apart of visiting the city, we also managed to go to the top 4 wineries, each of them by an incredible architect. It is sadly to mention here the death of one of the architects just few days before, Zaha Hadid. Her pavillion added onto the historical buildings of the Bodegas Lopez de Heredia in the village of Haro is one of the most delicate I’ve ever seen.

Not far from Logroño, barely 50 kilometres to the southwest is another of our key destinations planned for this trip. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Suso and Yuso Monasteries, in San Millan de la Cogolla. One from the 6th century, Suso (meaning lower), the other from the 11th century, Yuso (meaning  upper); are not only splendid architectural monuments, but as UNESCO acknowledges, it is the birthplace of the modern written and spoken Spanish language, hence its undisputed fame.

Since Logroño is a very small city and everything is very straightforward, I leave further description on the wineries we visited and monasteries listed in the next section below.

For more information about Logroño check the Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Spain’s currency is the Euro. Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.

What to see and do in Logroño

  • Puente de Piedra The Stone Bridge from 1884 is right along the Saint James’ Way to Compostela, links the old town to the new districts across the River Ebro.
  • Puente de Hierro The iron bridge from 1882 is the second of the bridges to spam the River Ebro linking with the old town.

-Saint Jame’s Church Right by the south side of the bridge. Built in 1527 om the grounds of a much older church believed to be place where apostle Saint James prayed.

  • Calle Portales Is the main street running through the historic old town passing by the Parliament, Market Square, Cathedral and to the Old Town Hall.
  • Calle del Laurel Parallel to Portales is the most famous for the large amount of bars and restaurants serving great pintxos (tapas) and local wines everywhere.
  • Market Square The main square and heart of the city surrounded by beautiful buildings all around.

-Cathedral La Redonda With construction started in 1516 that lasted another 3 centuries later in Gothic style. It is the icon of the city, and both twin towers a landmark visible from the distance.

  • San Bartolome Square Few streets behind the Cathedral.

-Old City Hall In the Chapiteles Palace, nowadays the Cultural Department.

-San Bartolome Church Is the oldest church in the city, from the 12th century, combining Romanesque and Gothic styles. It is a stopover along the Saint Jame’s Way to Compostela.

  • Santa María de Palacio Church Built between the 12th and 15th centuries, it hosts also the title of Imperial since the donation of King Alfonso VII of his palace in this grounds in 1130 for the creation of this church.
  • City Hall Square With the new City Hall designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, located to the east from the Cathedral.
  • Parliament of La Rioja Housed on an old tobacco factory, west from the Cathedral.
  • Arch of Revellin One of the key elements from the medieval walls that once encircled the old town, built between 1548 and 1540. To the west of the Parliament building.
  • El Espolón Gardens Located to the south of the Market Square. There is the statue of General Espartero in the central fountain.
  • Parque Ebro Along the riverside of the Ebro, the gardens have recently been revamped and redesigned and are a great area for a walk and admire the river and bridges.

What to see and do across La Rioja region

  • Suso and Yuso Monasteries In San Millan de la Cogolla, 50 kilometres to the south of Logroño. Both listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites not only for their architectonic interest and history, covering from the early 6th century onwards; but because of being the birthplace of the modern written and spoken Spanish language.
  • Wineries There are hundreds all over the region, many of which world wide renown as having some of the best wines in the planet. While majority of tourist get on a Wine Tour (there are many to choose from depending where you are in La Rioja), we decided to only visit the most important not too far from Logroño, and also the most striking on the design of their new buildings by the hand of world architects.

-Bodegas Lopez de Heredia In the village of Haro, 40 kilometres to the west of Logroño on the limit between La Rioja and the Basque Country autonomous regions. The new pavilion by the sadly recently deceased architect Zaha Hadid is a beautiful element within the historical old buildings of this large winery. Everywhere in the village of Haro you can find many more beautiful and historical wineries. Simply walk down the main road from the Lopez Heredia towards Mugal Winery and you will cross a few.

-Marques de Rical In the village of Eltziego, 25 kilometres west from Logroño. This is without any doubt the masterpiece of any winery in the region architecturally speaking with the hotel and pavillion designed by Frank Gehry.

-Bodegas Ysios In the village of Guardia, just 7 kilometres south from Eltziego. Another masterpiece created by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava that blends with the landscape, the vineyards and the historic winery itself.

-Bodegas Darien On the outskirts of Logroño few kilometres east and near the airport. Designed by Spanish architect Jesús Marino Pascual.

Transports

Although the city is served by a newly built airport, it has flights only to Madrid and Barcelona. The nearest international airports are therefore Vitoria and Bilbao, being the later one the best choices in terms of number of routes served across Europe. From Bilbao airport it is 130 kilometres to Logroño city centre, with buses departing the main bus terminal of Bilbao; or around 1 hour drive if you are renting a car. From Madrid Barajas airport there are also buses departing to Logroño with ALSA, the national bus company. Our flight was to Bilbao with British Airways.

From elsewhere in Spain, the city is off the mainline railway Madrid-Bilbao, Madrid-Valladolid, where a high-speed branch from Miranda de Ebro takes direct trains to the newly revamped train station in the city centre. Buses from the main cities in Spain are also a good option. Check RENFE for the Spanish National Railways and ALSA for the national bus company.

Within the city and due to its reduced size, there is no need for taking any public transport to move around. Walking from one end to the other of the old town is matter of minutes. However, if you are planning on visiting the wineries nearby, you will definitely need your own transportation, or getting onto one of the many wine tours available.

Accommodation

Although the city is small, its importance worldwide rely of the wines produced in the region, meaning it is one of the most visited regions in the “world of wine”. The choice of hotels is very spread through the entire region and it is not just limited to the capital city. For instance, many wineries have now their own hotels giving you the chance to have a wine experience of all senses. Notably for this is the Marques de Riscal in Eltziego, with the striking architecture of the hotel designed by famed Frank Gehry.

Prices however, do not come cheap in La Rioja in general. Hotels are expensive, and as mentioned before, limited with majority being more family ran businesses. As usual, a good point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred hotel search engine websites such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.

As we were 5 of us this weekend travelling, we decided to check airbnb for a whole apartment, and boom, there were very good deals and a great choice of beautiful apartments. This worked perfectly for all of us, and we just paid a fraction of what a hotel would have cost us. In the other hand, this only worked as we were 5 people, as if we were 2 of us, then the hotel would have been cheaper.

Photo Galleries

Album of the capital city Logrono

Album of the region of La Rioja

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