Laguardia is one of the most perfectly preserved medieval villages in Spain. It is also located right in Rioja wine country and is the perfect base for your wine tour of Spain’s most well-known red wine region. Laguardia is a medieval hill hamlet (called “villa” in Spanish), reminiscent of Tuscan hilltop villages. It is surrounded by an ancient wall, and has a delightful jumble of cobble-stoned streets lined with “Tabernas”, wine shops, palaces, and cafes. Laguardia was founded in the year 1164 by King Sancho Abarca, and the spectacularly preserved wall dates back to the 15th century. The entire village became protected as Patrimony of Spain in 1964. The name “Laguardia” originates from “La Guardia de Navarra”, the “Guard” of Navarra, referring to its strategic importance in the kingdom of Navarre.
Before the medieval village was built (as we can see today), deep tunnels were carved out in the hill and the village of Laguardia was actually underground. The tunnels were used as a defense tactic, but over the centuries came to be used to store wine and eventually to even make wine. In 1486, Laguardia was incorporated into the Kingdom of the Catholic Monarchs (Isabel and Ferdinand), who would unite the kingdoms of Castille and Aragon in 1492, to form what is now “Spain”, and the village was built on top of the existing village. The medieval wall was erected as were many aristocratic palaces, many of them restored and still standing. In the 19th century, much of the medieval wall was destroyed during the “Carlista” wars and the War of Independence.
These days, Laguardia is a wealthy hamlet, full of gourmet restaurants, charming small hotels, beautiful views over vines and the amazing backdrop of the Cantabrian Mountains. Whether you visit Laguardia with Cellar Tours or on your own, the important thing is that you come to spend a few days and that you eat and drink well. A visit to Laguardia is like stepping back in time, and the village is simply one of the loveliest places you could hope to visit in Spain. We hope to show you Laguardia soon!
Gastronomy & Wine
Laguardia is a village where the locals live to eat and drink. For such a tiny village, there is an abundance of dining options. The village pertains to La Rioja geographically but to Basque Country politically and culturally. It is one of the most important wine villages in Rioja Alavesa called so because it is also part of the sub-region of “Alava”. The cuisine is some of the best in Spain, with roast, milk fed lamb, hake, and a colorful array of vegetable dishes being the main players on the dinner table. Roast artichokes, sautéed spicy roast peppers (Pimientos de Piquillo), Swiss chard stuffed with ham and cheese, white asparagus dressed in balsamic vinegar and Olive Oil, potatoes (“Patatas a la Riojana”), Fava beans with chorizo and wild mushrooms are all quite typical in local dishes. And then the wine…the choices are endless in this part of the world. Even tiny, hole in the wall restaurants have wine lists that look like encyclopedias. The principal wines available are of course Tempranillo and Mazuelo based reds from la Rioja, Garnacha based rosé wines from neighboring Navarra and Verdejo based white wines from the up-and-coming wine region of Rueda. The white wines from La Rioja, based on the Viura grape, are waning in popularity, although the historic winery of Marques de Murrieta makes a smashing white wine. While not made in the area, the sparkling wine “Cava” is a classic aperitif. After your 6 or 7 course taster menu at any of the local gourmet haunts, a digestif is essential. The most common digestif in La Rioja (as well as Navarra and Basque Country) is Pacharán (Sloe Berry Liqueur).
La Plaza Mayor de Laguardia
The main square of this village has a pretty arcaded Town Hall (which dates back to the 15th century) with a Royal Coat of arms dedicated to Carlos V and a very unusual clock with dancing hands (called the “Reloj de Carillon”). The square has a wonderful wine shop, with amazing wines such as Ramirez de Ganuza, Artadi and Finca Valpiedra at very competitive prices. The main square is the center of village life, and during the local festivals and fiestas, it comes alive. There is an unusual Bagpipe festival in Laguardia in May, an event that originated in the middle ages. The villagers make a parade with bag pipe musicians, jugglers and entertainers.
La Muralla- the Medieval Wall
The fortification of Laguardia is the most impressive aspect of the pretty village. The wall wraps clear around the hamlet, and in the fall, the locals hang peppers out on the wall to dry in the sun. There are four main vaulted entrances into the village through the Muralla, and various turrets and towers. The storks, so typical in La Rioja, have claimed the towers and church tops of Laguardia as their home, and you can see the beautiful birds flying overhead daily.
In 1935, the Hoya archaeological site was discovered by a villager from Laguardia. What the archaeologists discovered was breathtaking- a Bronze Age settlement dating back 3,500 years!