La Rioja

Learn Spanish Spain La Rioja

Wine culture, medieval villages and the origin of the Spanish language

La Rioja is an autonomous community in the North of Spain, known for its famous Rioja Wine. The region borders with Álava, one of the 3 regions of the Basque Country.

La Rioja Alavesa is located in the Basque Country, in the south of Álava between the Ebro River and the Cantabria Mountains.

Its geographic location and climatology make La Rioja and Rioja Alavesa ideal place for wine cultivation. The wine brand for wines both in Rioja and Rioja Alavesa is Origen Calificada Rioja .

But wine and wineries, some of the designed by famous architects such as such as Frank O. Gehry or Santiago Calatrava, are not the only attractions of this area. Medieval villages, museums and the place where the first words written in Spanish were found and some of the other reasons for visiting La Rioja.

Laguardia

A visit to Laguardia is like stepping back in time. This perfectly preserved medieval village in Spain, retains intact its historic walls from the 13th century and has a delightful network of cobblestoned streets full of “Tabernas”, wine shops, palaces, and cafes.

What to see

  • Plaza Mayor Square: The main square of this village has a pretty arcaded Town Hall and a very interesting clock with dancing hands called the “Reloj de Carillon”.
  • Panoramic views of the Sierra de Cantabria from “El Collado”
  • The church of Santamaria (special tour can be hired in the Tourism Office).

Cellars

  • El Fabulista winery: “The Fabulist” winery  stands out among the underground cellars. It is situated under the house where the writer Samaniego was born. In your visit you will have the opportunity to taste the wine that is still produced in the traditional way.
  • Ysios winery: The spectacular Ysios winery by architect Santiago Calatrava was inaugurated in 2001. The Ysios winery is part of the Domecq group, one of the biggest producers and exporters of wines in Spain.
Special Events
  • Bagpiper’s Day: This festivity, attended by bagpipe players from around the world, is held on May 19th.
  • Festivities in honour of San Pedro and San Pedro: Daily routine is left aside in Laguardia from the 23rd to the 29th of June. Bars, cellars, streets, everywhere is crowded with hundreds of visitor.

 Labastida is located in the south-east of the Basque Country and Alava, in the Rioja Alavesa region.
What to see
  • The Old Quarter: Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, the Town Hall, Toloño and Larrazuria Arches, and Calle Mayor (Older street).
  • Cellars: If you are looking for an unmatchable experience don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Marqués de Riscal wine cellar. A mix of innovation and tradition, the oldest winery in La Rioja was redesigned by Frank Gehry, the architect of the Guggenheim in Bilbao.
La Rioja
This area of Spain has over 500 wineries and is internationally famous for the quality of its wines. Culture, wine, amazing natural attractions, and high mountain areas together make an extraordinary combination.

Towns and Villages

Haro is considered the Rioja Wine Capital. The most important wineries in La Rioja are located there. It is worth a visit, not only for its wineries, but also because of its medieval town, its bars and restaurants and the wonderful views of the vines and the “Sierra the Cantabria”.
What to see
  • The Old Town
  • El Torreon Museum
  • The Church Square

Wineries and Wine Culture

  • The Rioja Wine Interpretation Center,  located in the century-old Haro Oenological Station, which since 1892 has been satisfying the region’s viticultural research and training needs, always taking care to ensure the quality of Rioja wine and the opening of new horizons.
  • Wineries: Alberto Gutiérrez Andrés Winery, Bilbainas Winery, Berceo Winery, C.V.N.E. Compañia Vinícola del Norte de España Winery, Carlos Serres Winery, César Óscar Muga Foncea Winery, Cooperativa , Virgen de la Vega Winery, Federico Paternina Winery, Florentino de Lecanda Winery, Gómez Cruzado Winery, Ibaiondo Winery, Juan José Peñagaricano Akutain Winery, La Rioja Alta Winery, López de Heredia Winery, Martínez Lacuesta Winery, Muga Winery, Ramón Bilbao Winery, Rioja Santiago Winery, Roda Winery, Viña Olabarri Winery
Special Events
  • St. John, St. Felices and St. Peter Fiestas in June. The most famous attraction of these Fiestas is the Wine Battle (la Batalla del Vino) on June 29th (Saint Peter). This celebration has been classified as a tourit attraction of special interest. It is celebrated on the hilltop of Riscos de Biblio. It is a battle where people dressed in white clothes throw wine one to another. It is advisable to dress in old clothes.
 
Logroño is the capital of La Rioja, a charming region famous for being a stopover on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Perfectly situated between cities like Bilbao Pamplona, San Sebastián, Burgos and Zaragoza, Logroño is well worth a stop on any trip around northern Spain.

What to see

  • Palace of the Chapiteles (the old Town Hall)
  • Plaza de Abastos (Food market)
  • Laurel Street. Without a doubt, it’s the most popular street in Logroño. There are over 40 bars and restaurants waiting for you with their specialties in this bustling street.
  • The Parliament of La Rioja and the Library (the old Mercedario convent).
  • Defensive wall and Ravelin, the museum of the city of Logroño.
  • Co-cathedral of Santa María de La Redonda.
  • Church of Santa María de Palacio
  • The Way of St James: this famous tour that passes through La Rioja, is considered as the leading European Cultural Route and a Heritage of Humanity.
Special Events
  • The festival of San Bernabé (the patron saint of the city): It is celebrated on June 11th. A great number of activities take place throughout the week: fairs, circuses, street markets, historical representations of the siege, expositions, street exhibitions of all kinds, fireworks…
  • The festival of San Mateo (the grape harvest festival): A week of non- stop festivities: bulls, floats, markets, the international fireworks contest, the traditional hand-ball game championships…Most of all, this festival is a gastronomic delight with rioja wines and regional cuisine.

One of the Rioja towns most deeply linked to the Pilgrim’s Route to Santiago de Compostela, is Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Its medieval streets, declared a National Historic Interest Site, store a valuable heritage, particularly its walls, the Cathedral and the old Pilgrims’ Hospital.

Special Events

  • The theatrical representation of ” The Miracles of the Saint”: It takes place in August.
  • Constitution holiday week: The Medieval Market is held during the week.
The village famous for its twin site monasteries of Suso and Yuso, was declared World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO. It’s known for being the birthplace of the first written words in the Spanish language.

What to see

  • Marqués de San Nicolás Palace.
  • Dinastia Vivanco Museum & Winery: Is an impressive wine museum created by the winemaking family Vivanco.
How to get there to the Rioja Alavesa
Best way to arrive there and visit the most interesting spots is by car. But there are also many buses that allow visitors without a car to have a very good idea of this area:
  • Enobus: Every weekend April to October, there is a bus that leaves from Bilbao and visits 2 or 3 towns of La Rioja Alavesa, including wineries. The bus leaves from Plaza Moyua (Bilbao).
  • Autobuses La Unión. This company connects Bilbao with Haro, Logroño, Labastida, La Guardia, Santo Domingo de la Calzada and most important places of La Rioja and La Rioja Alavesa.