Haro

The city of lights and wine

Haro, in a well-known area like la Rioja Alta, has always been a prosperous city. It was the first Spanish city to have electric lighting. Currently it stands above all as a fundamental destination of wine tourism.

Plan your escape to Haro

In Najera, the Center of Interpretration of wine and the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Vega are a must. They are also some of the many wineries where you can taste and buy wines. If you continue south you will find the monumental towns of Santo Domingo de la Calzada and Nájera. Another option is to hire local tourist activities in the towns Montes Obarenes and Sierra de Cantabria. To choose between the high quality and variety of the catering and hotels offered, and to discover the local dishes, check out Food and Lodging section below.

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The name of the city of Haro seems to come from the word “lighthouse.” Its original location might represent an ancient people responsible for monitoring the lighthouse, at the foot of the hill of La Mota, who guided mariners in the Tirón river that flows into the Ebro river. In this area historians have located the pre-Roman Basque tribe, Berones. During the period of Roman occupation, there was a fort of defense, Castrum Bilibium. The first written reference appears in 1040 in a document signed by Sancho Garcés III of Nájera, king of Navarre.

At the end of the century, Haro was already linked to the Lordship of Vizcaya, and in turn linked to Castile, and in 1187 the Castilian King Alfonso VIII granted a charter which would be ratified later by Alfonso X the Wise. He then moved alternately by Castilian and Navarran hands. Insecurity in those days was so prevalent such that on August 6, 1358, authorities in a dozen towns in the provinces of Alava and La Rioja in Haro met for to grant a mutual assistance ordinance against external attacks. King John II of Castile, to finish solving the problem of insecurity and oppose Navarre, turned the place into county, in 1430, and gave it later to Pedro Fernandez de Velasco, first Count de Haro, as a reward for their help in fighting against the king of Aragon.

In 1520, Haro supported the uprising commoner, rising against the fourth count, confidant of Carlos I. The counts of Haro exercised their jurisdiction until the province of Logroño was created in 1833. During the War of Spanish Independence, it was the first population to adapt to the administrative model of Joseph Bonaparte I, better known as “Pepe Botella”. At the beginning of the century it emerged as an important center of production and wine trade. The introduction of new production techniques and local effort to export their wines were gradually positioning the village as one of the main centers of the wine industry. This process was indirectly benefited by the plagues of phylloxera that devastated the French Mediodía at the end of the century and represented an interesting boost for the riojana production.

Parish Church of St. ThomasEconomic prosperity financed the technical advances.In 1890, Haro became the first Spanish city -along with Jerez de la Frontera- with public electric lighting, a service only available to other major European cities in that time. That’s when the slogan “Haro, Paris and London” arose. The city’s anthem includes the phrase “when you see the lights, we are already in Haro.” It seems that this sentence was exclaimed daily by travelers on night trains passing near the town. The following year the Queen Regent Maria Cristina granted the title of city. One year later, Enology Station and the Bank of Spain opened a branch in Haro to facilitate transactions related to trade in wine.

 

Parish Church of St. Thomas

Economic prosperity financed the technical advances.In 1890, Haro became the first Spanish city -along with Jerez de la Frontera- with public electric lighting, a service only available to other major European cities in that time. That’s when the slogan “Haro, Paris and London” arose. The city’s anthem includes the phrase “when you see the lights, we are already in Haro.” It seems that this sentence was exclaimed daily by travelers on night trains passing near the town. The following year the Queen Regent Maria Cristina granted the title of city. One year later, Enology Station and the Bank of Spain opened a branch in Haro to facilitate transactions related to trade in wine.

Besides being the wine capital of La Rioja, Haro city has a heritage and cultural richness that makes it a place worth visiting. The old town, declared a Historic-Artistic in 1975, is a beautiful framework that revolves around the Plaza de la Paz. In the plaza is the City Hall, perhaps the most important and best conserved building of the city. It boasts a Neoclassical style and was built in the eighteenth century under the supervision of the famous architect Ventura Rodriguez. Its façade, built using stone masonry, displays a baroque shield of the city.

Without leaving the square we can admire the facade of the Breton Theatre, which was begun on the church of the Convent of San Agustin (XV century) in 1840 and currently hosts cultural events, including the National Contest of Garnacha Theatre Rioja. In the same space there is an old tower of the 14th century, known as the Tower of Prisoners. Only the walls from the 12th century that once defended the city of Haro. The latter space has been recovered and restored as the Museum of Contemporary Art: “The Tower”, holding in its interior the collection of contemporary artists from the community.

As a vestige of the past there still remains two of the three doors from the old walled city of San Bernardo and Santa Barbara.

At the foot of Cerro de la Mota (also called La Atalaya) in the original location of Haro is the Parish Church of St. Thomas, built between the 16th and 17th centuries under the impulse of the Constable of Castile. With an open lounge divided into three parts, it highlights the magnificent plateresque. This is a work of the sculptor Felipe Vigarny, conceived as a tableau containing scenes of the Calvary and images of the apostles and the Eternal Father; also it highlights its main tower, topped with a Baroque dome with a lantern. It houses the largest altarpiece of all La Rioja, made in 1730 of polychrome wood.

Around the place where the Virgin appeared in the 10th century rises the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Vega, dedicated to the patron saint of the town. The original Romanesque temple was later renovated and expanded at various points in time. Today the barrroca is being reformed,resulting from the intervention of 1703. The three parts covered with vaults were designed by architects Bernardo Munilla and Juan de Villanueva. Inside it contains an interesting baroque altarpiece, which houses the Gothic image of the Virgen de la Vega (XIV century).

Plaza de la Paz

Despite all this, if there is one architecture that characterizes Haro it’s the streets of the old town that are lined with palaces and stately homes. This is the result of economic power and townspeople who enjoyed in the past. Among these many palaces, we focus on three: The Palacio de los Salazar, two facades built in the 18th century, is a good example of transition from Plateresque style to herreriano style. Another case of transition in styles, between the Renaissance and Baroque, is the Palacio de los Condes de Haro (XVI-XVII century), which highlights its richly decorated main entrance. Finally, the Palace of Bendaña (XV-XVIII century), located in the old medieval walls, is unique throughout the Rioja for its Mudejar gallery of the 15th century showing a series of stars and flowers entwined along it.

Currently, Haro is a city overturned in tourism of which the wine culture is one of its biggest attractions. Not surprisingly, the villa has been known as “The Capital of Rioja” or “La Costa del Vino”. In the district of the station is the largest concentration of ancient cellars in the world, and the rest of the urban core has many more cellars. Some of these are internationally recognized.

With the interest in wine comes one of the town’s main festivities, the Battle of Wine. This is a party of National Tourist Interest, held every June 29th and in which the members of each party throw thousands and thousands of liters of wine in a red tinted color show that any visitor will find it hard to forget (and clean).

Practical data

Coordinates

42° 34′ 37″ N, 2° 50′ 46″ W

Distances

Logroño 47 km, Burgos 91 km,Madrid 330 km

Altitude

478 m

Inhabitants

11 713 (2013)

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