If there’s one thing about the museums in Alava it’s their quality and the wide variety of themes. Fine arts, archaeology, natural sciences, armoury, and, of course, the world-famous Fournier playing cards are what people will find this winter in the museums of Vitoria-Gasteiz. Particularly noteworthy is BIBAT, with two museums in one: the Fournier Playing Card Museum, housed in the Renaissance Bedaña Palace, and the Archaeology Museum located in the new modern annex.
Alava Fine Arts Museum
Located in the Augustín Zulueta Palace, this museum is dedicated to 18th- and 19th-century Spanish art, with a focus on Basque art from 1850-1950. Some of the most outstanding names include Aurelio Arteta, Ignacio Zuloaga, Juan de Echevarría and Francisco Iturrino. Two local painters stand out, Ignacio Díaz Olano and Fernando de Amárica. Three rooms are dedicated to latter through the Fernando de Amárica Foundation.
The Armoury Museum of Alava takes visitors on a journey through the history and evolution of weapons from the origin of man to the early 20th century. The exhibition consists primarily of European weapons, although it also includes exhibits from Africa and Asia, and a range of military uniforms, decorations, medals, and coins. A fascinating collection of artefacts is dedicated to the Battle of Vitoria, led by the Duke of Wellington in 1813.
Natural Science Museum of Alava
This museum is a key reference for understanding the ecosystems and evolutionary history of the Atlantic-Mediterranean transition zone. The museum houses the most extensive natural history collections in the Basque Country and surrounding area. A permanent exhibition is dedicated to the fossils and amber outcrops dating from the Lower Cretaceous discovered in Peñacerrada. The first floor features a 20th-century mineralogy collection from across the Iberian Peninsula and the second floor is devoted to the flora and fauna of the region
Archaeology Museum of Alava
The museum’s permanent exhibition is spread over three floors which tell the history of Alava from prehistoric times to the end of the Middle Ages. The collection contains more than 1,500 archaeological objects and fascinating video material. Located in BIBAT.
Fournier Playing Card Museum of Alava
The 16th-century Bendaña Palace, originally conceived as a family home in the heart of Vitoria-Gasteiz’s medieval quarter, was built over a medieval tower that once stood here. Since 1994 it has been home to the Fournier Museum, one of the very few museums in the world dedicated exclusively to playing cards.
The collection includes more than 20,000 decks of cards, as well as other objects related to card printing techniques. The museum was initiated in 1916 by Félix Alfaro Fournier, grandson of Heraclio Fournier, founder of the Vitoria-based card factory.
The collection features decks of cards from around the world, dating from the Middle Ages to the present day. Playing cards were designed for just about everything, from playing all manner of card games to learning the alphabet, geography, history, and more. Many of the cards have curious designs and striking colours, such as round playing cards from India and exotic cards from Japan. There are decks with individually hand-painted cards, and cards decorated with gold and silver leaf. Some are even for musicians and others for magicians. Admission is free of charge.