Estella-Lizarra, the mediaeval star on the Way of St James
A city whose Basque name means star. Like the ones in the Milky Way that guided the pilgrims as they walked. And you can feel the Way of St James everywhere here, with all its pilgrims, symbols, bridges, churches and palaces. Perhaps that is why it’s known as the “Toledo of the north”. And its Jewish quarter, which surrounds the entire city, was the third in importance after those of Tudela and Pamplona. That’s why Estella belongs to the network of Jewish quarters Red de Juderías de España - Caminos de Sefarad.
Take note of these three Romanesque jewels: the Palace of the Monarchs of Navarre, the cloister of San Pedro de la Rúa, and the portal of San Miguel.
Church of San Pedro de la Rúa
Perched on high ground overlooking the city, this church welcomes you with a beautiful, richly decorated13th-century portal with a lobed arch of Arab influence, an imposing tower and an interior which houses, among other things, the chapel of San Andrés, patron of the city, and a 12th-century cloister, considered one of the finest exponents of Navarrese Romanesque stonework.
And don’t overlook the capriciously entwined Solomonic column holding up one of the central arches, an idea which can also be found at the Cathedral of El Burgo de Osma (Soria) and the Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos (Burgos).Visit the San Pedro de la Rúa Church
Palace of the Monarchs of Navarre
In the charming Plaza de San Martín stands the Palace of the Monarchs of Navarre, the only example of Romanesque civil architecture in Navarre and declared a National Monument in 1931.I want to discover the palace and the museum
The palace dates from the 12th century and has a beautifully harmonious façade, arranged in three heights; the ground level consists of an arcade with robust semi-circular archways and the one above it has large windows, each divided by four small arches which rest on fine columns with capitals. The façade is framed by two columns with historiated capitals, one of which depicts the fight between Roland and the giant Ferragut, and two towers adorn the roof of the building. A little gem that's well worth a stop on your walk.
After restoration work carried out in 1975, the palace was converted into a museum devoted to the painter Gustavo de Maeztu.
Church of San Miguel
This church is located on the left bank of the River Ega, in the district of San Miguel, built in the second half of the 12th century and home to both Franks and Navarrese residents.
One of its finest features is the north portal, which is truly representative of late Romanesque sculpture, with Christ in Majesty on the tympanum, surrounded by the symbols of the Four Evangelists, and the Virgin and St John interceding at the Judgement.
The impressive exterior of the building consists of contrasting volumes, such as those of the Baroque tower beside the chevet and the bulky mediaeval tower at the foot of the nave.More information about the chruch of San Miguel
And if you don’t want to miss a single church
Be sure to see the 14th-century portal on the church of Santo Sepulcro, the doors of the church of San Juan Bautista, the church of Santa María Jus del Castillo, now converted into an Interpretation Centre of Romanesque architecture and of the Way of St James, and the Basilica of Nuestra Señora del Puy, the patron saint of the town.
There’s art all around in Estella-Lizarra.
There are also plenty of palaces
If you wander through the streets at your leisure, you’ll discover beautiful palaces and houses of the nobility, such as the palace of Eguía (16th century), now the city library, the stately house of Ruiz de Alda (17th century), the house of Fray Diego, now the city’s culture centre, the Governor's Palace (17th century), now the Carlism Museum, and a set of ancient Gothic arches which used to be the entrance to shops and Way of St James hostelries.
Don’t miss Calle Mayor, with its emblazoned buildings and an 18th-century Baroque palace at number 41. Or the Station building (1927), which used to be a narrow-gauge railway station and is now the coach station.I want to visit the Carlism Museum
The city's green spots
The Los Llanos park on the meander formed by the Ega river is the lung of the city and strolling through its trees and green areas is a delight.
The Sumac Route bears the name of a shrub that came from the East and whose bright red colour can only be seen for a few weeks in autumn. A walk that combines countryside and city, and has a lot of history. Oh! And don't leave without trying Rhus craft beer, which uses the plant as its main ingredient.
And as a final stop, the Vasco-Navarro Railway Rail Trail, which joins Estella with Bergara (Basque Country) over 123.5 km, a great way to get to know Tierra Estella and its wealth of cultural and railway heritage.
A mandatory rest point on the Way of St James
Estella-Lizarra is the typical “Way of St James city”, emerging as a consequence of the commercial bustle that the route left in its wake. It should come as little surprise then that craftsmen, inns and civil and religious monuments soon filled the San Pedro district, where the pilgrims first entered the town.
So if you’re doing the Way, our recommendation is that you schedule a long stop of more than one day to have a good rest and be able to calmly appreciate its food, culture and history, which, as you can see, is no joke.
And you’ll see how quickly you get infected by the great atmosphere still found in its streets today.
Estella-Lizarra, the mediaeval star on the Way of St James
Here’s the menu: seasonal vegetables, potxas beans, chickpeas, truffle, cod ajoarriero-style, chilindrón (lamb stew) and roast suckling pig. The typical desserts to choose from include alpargatas (puff pastry), Rocas del Puy (chocolate and hazelnuts), Tarta de Santiago, sanchicos (filled chocolates) and delicious D.O. Idiazabal cheese.
And don’t forget that this is a land of fine wines, so you can visit one of the nearby wineries if you like.
Want to see everything Estella-Lizarra has to offer?
Explore the city with a street map