The town of Artziniega was founded in 1272 by King Alfonso X, the Wise, and its urban area was soon protected with defensive walls and towers. Visitors can still see remains of these town walls today and visit one of the best preserved medieval historic centres in the north of Spain.
In fact Artziniega maintains its medieval centre almost intact, located in promontory with the characteristic layout of parallel streets: the Top one, the Middle one and the Bottom one, linked to each other by means of passageways. The preservation of its medieval section and the quality of the heritage elements explain why it was declared an Historic-Artistic Monument Site in 1995.
The town was an important centre of trade during the Middle Ages and this circumstance led to noble families establishing their homes in the town A total of 46 different family crests, town houses, tower houses, palaces, the forge and other public buildings all bear faithful witnesses to the mercantile past of Artziniega.
Its heritage encompasses a variety of styles and features, from Gothic-Renaissance to Neoclassical and that from the 16th to the 20th century. The most outstanding buildings are the Ortiz de Molinillo de Velasco Tower from the end of the 16th century, the 16th century Convent of the Augustinian Mothers, the 17th century Valle Mansion, the 16th century Bengoa Tower and several palaces bearing coats of arms from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
The 16th century parish church of Our Lady of the Assumption, poses a challenge to whoever studies its doorway: find the anachronisms included in the paintings done by local artists (computer, bottle of beer ...).
Also notable among this wealth of heritage:
Our Lady of the Holly Oak Sanctuary, majestic Gothic style sanctuary that the visitor can easily walk to in ten minutes from the centre of the town. As an outstanding artistic element it houses an early 16th century Spanish-Flemish style altarpiece, recognized as an historical-artistic monument, plus the Sacred Museum where it possible to view pieces of great ecclesiastical value.
A more than 500 year old holly oak anchors its roots next to the temple and this receives special protection as a “Unique Tree”.
Ethnographic Museum. Magnificent exhibition covering more than 3,700 square meters, recreating the rural and urban ways of life of the inhabitants of Artziniega and the whole of the Ayala valley. It is housed in a restored historic building on Arteko Aldapa street and information regarding times and prices can be found at www.artziniegamuseoa.org
The museum hosts different activities throughout the year: Living Museum on the last Sunday in February, Santa Águeda on 4th February, painting competition in May, the summer solstice on 21st June, night opening on “Noche de las Animas” in October, the Txarriboda or Slaughtering of the pig in November and a visit from Olentzero on 24th December.
Pablo Respaldiza’s Forge. Various documents testify that blacksmiths had been plying their trade in Artziniega since the Middle Ages and Pablo Respaldiza’s Forge, located in the historic centre of the town, shows how iron was hand crafted to manufacture household implements, tillage tools, horseshoes, nails, screws or gates.
The hearth, where the raw material was heated, and the anvil, where the desired shape was produced, are the main elements of this traditional workshop.
Santxotena Museum-Workshop. The artist Xabier Santxotena, who studied under Jorge de Oteiza, was born into a family traditionally linked to wood crafts and is the creator of many exceptional pieces. His work can be seen in this museum workshop, where the visitor can enjoy the collection in direct contact with the sculptor in a unique and exclusive experience that immerses the visitor in the world of art as if they were a sculptor. An original, unique museum format that leaves no one indifferent, it is also signed with Braille and free from architectural barriers. www.santxotena.org
Artziniega is heritage and culture, but also gastronomy, nature and active tourism. The town is nestled in a spectacular natural environment that offers visitors attractive hiking routes suitable for all levels: the route along Mount Peñalba, the highest peak in the municipality, and the pathways to Mendieta and the Sojoguti mill are only just some examples.
Guided tours of Artziniega’s medieval centre, Pablo Respaldiza’s forge and the Holly Oak Sanctuary are available.
The office is closed on 25th December, 1st and 6th January.
Artziniega is 55 kilometres from Vitoria-Gasteiz, in the north of Álava, and 28 kilometres from Bilbao. From Vitoria-Gasteiz take the N-622 and the A-624, while from Bilbao it can be reached via the BI-636 and BI-2604, or the AP-68. Public transport and train can be used