Bilbao and the Basque Country: Places to Explore

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Vitoria-Gasteiz

Vitoria's standard of living is currently rated among the highest in Spain, based on such criteria as population (235,661), green space per inhabitant (31.3 square meters), sports and cultural facilities, and pedestrian-only zones. Indeed Vitoria-Gasteiz was chosen as the European Green Capital for 2012 because of its abundance of green space, including its ring of six parks, all within easy access of the city center.

The capital of the Basque Country, and its second-largest city after Bilbao, Vitoria-Gasteiz is nevertheless in many ways Euskadi's least Basque city. Neither a maritime city nor a mountain enclave, Vitoria occupies the steppelike meseta de Alava (Alava plain) and functions as a modern industrial center with a surprisingly medieval Casco Medieval (Medieval Quarter), which serves as a striking example of the successful integration of early and contemporary architecture. Founded by Sancho el Sabio (the Wise) in 1181, the city was built largely of granite rather than sandstone, so Vitoria's oldest streets and squares seem especially dark, weathered, and ancient.

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