Logroño is the capital of La Rioja, the land of the most popular Spanish red: Rioja. Since the 16th century, locals built huge cellars under their houses in order to produce high quality wine. These basements have been preserved and are a must when in the city. However, you can also take a tour - a powerful journey for your senses - around the modern bodegas that were much appreciated for celebrities such as Hemingway or King Alphonse the 13th. But Logroño is so much more than that. Logroño has been for centuries the natural lieu of passage of the great Ebro River, as well as a crossroads of kingdoms, a step on the Camino… You will see its history sculpted in every stone of the city. Keep reading to discover the great Logroño: wine and patrimony at La Rioja!
A bit of history
Old local myths assure that Noah’s grandson left Israel and headed West. Sailing the Mediterranean Sea and then the Ebro River, he ended up in Logroño, called Vareia at Roman times, located at the plain in front of the Cantabria mount. Other legends claim that here existed a city, destroyed by the Visigoths. It is indeed a peculiar mountain, with holes that look like windows or eyes pointing at the other side of the river, at Logroño. Some excavations have indeed found this formerly lost city, surrounded by mighty walls, used over the centuries whenever the plain was not safe. The question about the purpose of its “eyes” has not been answered yet, but it looks like it could have been a place to deposit some monks’ corpses.
Being the best place to cross the huge Ebro River, the Spanish river that flows more water, Logroño grew to be a key city. Actually, this fact may have been at the origin of its name, which is Celtic for “the passage” -the local Celtics were the Beronians.
In the beginning, Logroño was an important pier, very popular for trading. Then, on the 11th century a bridge was built, and this construction meant so much to the city that it was included on its coat of arms. Pilgrims used it on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Plus, Logroño was located at the border of three different kingdoms. A king of Castile granted the city many laws to make it attractive for traders, so it grew and grew. If you cross the bridge, you will arrive first thing to the Ruavieja street, which literally means “the old street”, being the most ancient in town. Here you will find many nobiliary houses, and one of the main “calados” of Logroño.
What are the “calados”? Well, they are the cellars I told you about. They were subterranean bodegas, and Logroño’s underground is just full of them, most dating back to the 16th century. At that time, every important family made their own wine, and brewed it in these huge basements. They were all built the same way: with a North-South orientation, which kept the wine at the perfect temperature. The most important one is the Calado de san Gregorio, from the 17th century. It is more than thirty metres long, and nowadays it has become a great place to host wine-related events. This tour will take you to other traditional “calados” outside Logroño, nowadays property of the greatest bodegas of the country.
Back to Logroño, if you look closely at the oldest streets, you will spot holes that allowed the gases from the wine to go outside. Fun fact: on the 16th century, the transit was restricted in this area, for the local authorities considered that the constant rattling of the wagons disturbed the peace and quiet the wines needed.
Wine and gastronomy
Nowadays, the popular Rioja wine is no longer made under the surface. You can find some of the greater bodegas of Spain right here, and you must absolutely do a wine-tasting tour to learn everything about their red. And of course, you are at La Rioja, which is one of the greatest culinary destinations in Spain. Do not dare to leave town without going to Laurel Street, a busy alley filled with bars where you can have a glass of wine and a tapa with it. You should try the “patatas riojanas” or the Riojan cod, but there are just so, so many choices, it is difficult to have only one meal here!
Last but definitely not least, a walk around Logroño’s city centre will take you to some beautiful buildings, full of history. The link to the Camino is visible in every stone: you can visit the Pilgrim’s lodge, the Pilgrim’s fountain… The Medieval religious impulse made the locals built up to four churches at the ancient city centre, all of them with Romanesque origins. The most important one is Santa María la Redonda (which means the round one, because the original temple had this shape). Located at the heart of the Old Quarter, its first records date back to the end of the 12th century. Inside La Redonda there is a painting entitled El Calvario (Calvary), attributed to the great Michelangelo.
The oldest church is San Bartolomé. So old that we have lost memory of some of its items. For instance, there is a chapel with two 14th century eccentric sarcophagi, supported by sculptures of lions. The lid depicts statues of knights dressed in Medieval costume and a cap with a quartered shield of an eagle and handcuffs. Who is buried there, we do not know. Also, its bell tower is believed to have been part of the Logroño fortress. The other popular tower belongs to Santa María de Palacio. This one is called “the needle”, and it dominates Logroño’s skyline. It is the only church that has preserved its original cloister, so it is worth having a look at it.
Concatedral de Santa María de la RedondaC. Portales, 14, 26001 Logroño, La Rioja, España
City of LogroñoLogroño, La Rioja, Spain
Also, if you are a nature lover, I would advise a walk around the Logroño’s parks, like Parque de la Ribera, an idyllic landscape, away from the madding crowd. As you can see, Logroño has everything you can hope for on a holiday destination, and I am sure it will make every item of your checklist. Great touristic attractions, ideal no matter if you are on a budget or not. If you are looking for a place to stay, whether you travel light or travel and work, this lovely apartment is right at the city centre and has all the facilities you can wish for. Lastly, Logroño is very close to Bilbao, Pamplona or Haro, and you can get here by train or by car, it is very quick! Because, trust me, it is worth the visit to Logroño: wine and patrimony at La Rioja.
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Sara Rodriguez Romo
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