Things to do in Rioja- Part 1
With rolling landscapes of gold, burnt orange and fiery red, Rioja in autumn is a magical place to visit. This autumn harvest season has inspired us to write about the top things to do in Rioja, as this region has so much beauty and culture to offer no matter the time of year. All throughout the year Rioja affords us different opportunities to see the stunning landscapes and wine towns shaped by hundreds of years of wine production follow the natural rhythm of the seasons, and discover their ancient traditions. Dotted with beautiful little wine towns, castles and churches, Rioja holds so much history and culture to discover.
1. Visit the wineries and taste the wine of Rioja
We all know that Rioja is famous for its exceptionally high quality wine, but once you step inside the boundaries of Rioja you will discover that Rioja and its towns and its people all live for, and by, wine production. Wine has been produced here since the Roman times and has continued uninterrupted since that era, leaving an incredible number of ancient wine growing areas and traditional wineries to visit in its path. Alongside the beautiful old wineries that have been in the area for centuries, there are also new wave of architecturally daring wineries that stand out against the ancient landscapes, such as Marques de Riscal. Whether you would like to visit Rioja wineries on a self-guided Rioja Winery Pass trip and take your time to explore the area, or enjoy an exclusive 1 day tour of Rioja with a senior wine guide, we have something for you.
2. Eat traditional pinchos in Calle Laurel, Logroño
Calle Laurel in Logroño is famous for being a fantastic local street full of traditional Riojan tapas bars, or we should say ´pincho´ (or ´pintxo´) bars, the northern term for tapas. Hailing from the Spanish verb ´pinchar´, to pierce, pinchos traditionally come with a topping fixed to a piece of bread with a cocktail stick. However, the term ´pincho´ can also more recently refer to alternative small plates, which are termed tapas dishes in more southern areas of Spain, such as a small plate of paella.
Regardless of the terminology, this street is well-known as the most emblematic place to enjoy traditional Riojan tapas in the somewhat unassuming wine town of Logroño (the street itself even has its own website, Calle Laurel). They even have a section online for food intolerances like celiacs, and lifestyle vegetarian or vegan diets (a list of the vegetarian bars are already online, and we have also written to then to request that they also upload the gluten free options for the celiacs). With dozens and dozens of traditional dishes to try, and a glass of fantastic local wine as cheap as 0,80 cents, you could spend all afternoon here bar hopping and trying what there is on offer.
3. Hiking and walking routes
The vineyards of Rioja in harvest season
For those of you that love the outdoors, Rioja´s fantastic countryside are full of ancient pilgrim routes. Whether you would like to follow an ancient route from one wine town to another, or walk further afield, Rioja has many walking and hiking options. All around the wine region of Rioja you will find surprising ancient churches and monuments on your walks, as well as walk amongst vineyard landscapes. The famous Camino de Santiago (St James´ Way) also runs various routes through Rioja, which you can join as part of a longer walk to Santiago, or just through Rioja. This is a fantastic way to discover Rioja up close in an ecological and healthy way.
4. Visit the Vivanco Wine museum
The Vivanco wine museum is a place that is better to visit, to see it and to feel it. It attempts to pay homage to the relationship between man and the vine over the past 8,000 years, and has rooms dedicated to how wine was produced in ancient times, wine making, interactive wine colour and aroma projects, wine art and symbols and the history of how wine was served, plus much more. Seen today as an icon in global wine culture, the museum has 6 exhibition rooms and is an absolute not-to-be-missed visit for anyone who likes wine.
5. Visit a medieval castle
Rioja´s castles are proof of its fearless and medieval past, reminding us of battles and ancient nobles. There are some impressive castles in Rioja, such as the Davalillo castle (a short 6km drive from the tiny town of Briones), the ruins of the Castle of Cornago (which you can take a guided tour of), and the ruins of the Castle of Clavijo (which is free to visit). On particular castle that is worth visiting is the castle of Sajazarra. Although the castle is not open to the public, the castle can be visited if contact is made directly with the owners, as the castle is maintained to a certain level of quality and is decidedly better shape than other castles of the area that are today without roofs and windows. If you are interested in visiting this castle, please do get in contact with us.
The castle of Cornago in the small town of Cornago
6. Attend a local festival
The wine battle in Haro traditionally starts outside the town in the countryside
It is no surprise that many local festivals in Rioja revolve around the grape harvest season, and are centred around the humble grape. Two very special festivals that take place in Rioja, which we also talked about in our previous post on the best food festivals in Spain, are located in Logroño and Haro.
In the 3rd week of September the local town of Logroño celebrates the San Mateo fiesta, perfect timing for the harvest season in Rioja. You can join in with grape stomping, do some local wine tasting, listen to live local music and soak up the festive atmosphere, and even stay at a wine hotel in the area. The king of Rioja festivals, though, can be found at the wine battle of Haro. Similar to the famous Tomatina festival in which participants throw tomatoes, the wine battle consists of throwing- yes, you guessed it- wine