Palacio Viejo

10 tips visiting Rioja wine region

Table of Contents

La Rioja is a province in Spain that is known for its vineyards and authentic villages. You can compare La Rioja with the Tuscany of Italy, only the difference is that you will not find many tourists here. If you want to discover a part of Spain that is completely different from the rest of Spain, where you can admire beautiful villages, monasteries, churches and lively parties, this province is something for you to discover.

In this article, we share 10 tips for visiting Rioja wine region, the best place to stay, and other personal tips.

Olite Palace
Things to do in La Rioja

What are the best things to do in La Rioja wine region?

La Rioja is a large province that can be divided into 3rd parts for travelers, namely:

  • East: abandoned villages and big empty plains;
  • South: mountains and natural parks;
  • North/west: vineyards, authentic villages, monasteries and churches.

We recommend discovering the north/west of La Rioja because the best places to visit can be found in this area.

A couple of activities from this list aren’t located in the province of La Rioja but just across the provincial border of Navarra. These activities are awesome to do that it would be a pity not to visit when you are so close.

Tip: use the below map to see where all the best things in La Rioja are located. Click on the right top corner to view the map bigger. If you click on the star symbol next to the title you can save this map in your Google Maps account. In the map you can show or hide different categories. You can then use this map to navigate when you reach your destination.

#1 Follow a wine tour

La Rioja is the province of Spain where the best wine is produced. If you are curious about the production process of La Rioja wine, you definitely should follow a wine tour. During a tour, you will discover everything that goes into making the La Rioja wine. You can try different wines during the tour.

You have two options for following a wine tour. You can follow a day tour where you visit a local wine brewery and the countryside of La Rioja with a guide. This includes several meals + wine). These tours aren’t cheap but you get a unique experience. Check prices and availability here.

Another option is to visit a ‘bodegas’ independently, which means wine cellar. In Haro you have two wineries called Bodegas CVNE en Bodegas La Rioja Alta that you can visit. You can book tickets for a tour via the Bodegas website.

You can also choose to visit a wine culture museum in Briones. Here you will learn all about the history of the wine and how they produce the wine. More information can you find here.

Wine tour

#2 Discover the medieval village Olite

Olite is located in the province of Navarra, about an hour’s drive from Logroño. Olite is one of the most beautiful medieval villages you can find in Spain. In Olite you can discover some beautiful places. What you don’t want to miss in Olite is visiting the royal palace, the church, and the old square.

The royal palace was built in the 13th century and is very unique because it is very luxurious built. King Carlos III was known as the noble king who loved luxury for himself and his workers. You can visit the castle independently for €3.50 per person. During your visit, you will admire the different halls, take the time to enjoy the inner garden, and climb a few towers to have a panoramic view of Olite.

Next to the royal palace, you can visit the church Iglesia de Santa Maria. The outside of the church is very impressive because of all the statues and the old gate. The inside also seems to be worth a visit, unfortunately, we were not able to visit the church because it was closed.

Another special place is Palacio Viejo, which is located on the beautiful Plaza de Los Teobaldos. This is the old palace of Navarre. Visit the information center which is located on the left side and ask if you can follow a tour when you are interested. Opening hours are very different.

Besides these three buildings, a visit to the main square Plaza de Carlos III is worthwhile, standing here will make you feel like you are stepping into a scene from the Middle Ages. It is also recommended to simply walk around the village and enjoy the small streets.

Iglesia de Santa Maria

#3 Monasterio de Yuso

The Yuso Monastery, dating back to the 16th century, is one of the most impressive monasteries we have ever seen. The building is huge. When you arrive you immediately notice the huge tower. When you stand in the courtyard and take the time to look at the different statues, you probably wonder how people could build such imposing buildings at the time.

The special thing about this monastery is that in the Salón de la Lengua monks started writing down the Spanish language we know today. Strange feeling to stand at the place where the literature of Spain started. These books can be found in the museum Prado in Madrid.

You can follow a tour (€7 per person), which takes about 50 minutes. In the courtyard of the monastery left of the toilets is an entrance where you can buy the tickets.

Monasterio de Yuso

Where to stay in La Rioja

We stayed at Hostal Labranza and highly recommend it. The rooms are neat and big enough. The beds are wonderful and the facilities are excellent. The owners welcome you with a big smile and do everything they can to make your stay as pleasant as possible. Even if you arrive in the middle of the night, if you call in advance, this isn’t any problem. The service is perfect. In addition, they can explain a lot about the area which is useful if you are looking for specific information. Check the current prices and availability here.

In case Hostal Labranza is fully booked you can make a reservation at Pensión Úbeda. This place is appreciated by other travelers. You can check prices and availability here.

#4 Monasterio de Suso

In the village is located the Yuso monastery, on top of the mountain you can find the Suso monastery. This monastery isn’t as impressive in size as Yuso, only in terms of history and antiquity this monastery is very important. This monastery was built in the 6th century and is 10 centuries older than Yuso. In this small monastery, you can find many details from different periods. We recommend following a tour so you learn more about it and the history of Spain.

You can buy tickets for Suso at the ticket office of Yuso Monastery. It isn’t possible to visit Suso without a guide. Tickets are €4 per person. Tour will be +/- 45 minutes.

Monasterio de Suso

#5 San Vicente de la Sonsierra

If you are going to travel to La Rioja, you probably have a certain expectation of what the wine region of La Rioja looks like. The beauty of San Vicente de la Sonsierra exceeded all our expectations. This village is located on a hill between the vineyards. From a distance, it looks magical. Once in the village, you can visit the two main attractions, namely the castle and the church which are located on the hill. From the village, you have to walk a bit. Both buildings are free to visit.

The unique thing about the church is that this is the last place in Spain where they perform flogging. The castle is old but it is still impressive to see. Climb into one of the towers and enjoy a beautiful view.

San Vicente de la Sonsierra

#6 Pamplona

If you are staying near Logrono, you should consider visiting Pamplona. Pamplona is world-famous for the San Fermín festival where bulls run through the streets. We do not recommend visiting the city during this period (from 6 to 14 July).

Besides San Fermín, Pamplona has a lot to offer. Pamplona is a small city, so one day is enough to visit the most important sights. First of all, in the historic center, you can visit the cathedral of Pamplona, ​​which was built in the 15th century. Next to the cathedral is a monastery located from the 13th century where the kings of Navarre were baptized. You can also admire the world-famous Plaza del Castillo in the historic center, this is the central square that is surrounded by various restaurants and bars. Besides all these great things you can also visit Ciudadela de Pamplona (defense line) and the city walls. For a small city, there are a lot of awesome things to discover.

#7 Logrono

Logroño is the capital of the province of La Rioja and is recommended for travelers who want to visit a modern city in Spain. Naturally, due to its location, you will find many bodegas and places to enjoy wine from the region. The best part of the city is visiting the old center. The nicest street that you should visit is Calle del Laurel. In this old street, you can find the best restaurants, tapas bars, and wine places. If you want to learn more about wine, you can visit two good bodegas in Logroño. These are Bodegas Franco Espanolas and Bodegas Marques de Murrieta. Bodegas Franco Espanolas is a special place because they produce the most famous wines of La Rioja here, such as Diamante. A nice city that is modern but where you can still find authentic places.

Visit La Rioja

#8 Santo Domingo de la Calzada

When you arrive in the village of Santo Domingo de la Calzada it doesn’t look like an exited place to visit but once you walk into the historic center and you’re at the cathedral you will understand why this is included in this list. The cathedral is magnificent to see because it is partly Romanesque and partly Gothic. In the tomb of the cathedral, you can find the remains of Santo Domingo. It is recommended to walk around the historic center and make a stop at Plaza de España. It’s a nice stop that you can combine with activity#3 Monasterio de Yuso.

Tip: try to be in the village around 2 o’clock to enjoy Menú del día at La Strada. Here you can enjoy a 3-course menu for €14 per person. Especially the asparagus as a starter is recommended to try.

Santo Domingo de la Calzada

#9 Haro

Close to Logroño is located Haro, which many consider being the ‘real’ wine capital of the La Rioja region. Unlike other places, here you will find old surrounding vineyards and authentic bodegas. The city has a pleasant and cozy historic center where you can see many elements of wine production. For example, on the central square, you can see wine barrels that were used for transport.

As you have read in activity #1, you can visit the best bodegas in Haro independently. The two wineries we recommend visiting are Bodegas CVNE and Bodegas La Rioja Alta. You can book tickets for a tour via the link.

A fun fact about Haro is that a wine festival is celebrated on June 29, people engage in some kind of water fight with each other with red wine.


#10 Other activities

When you have a lot of time you can expand the list of sights with the activities below.

#10.1 Hotel Marqués de Riscal

If you’ve seen the Guggenheim in Bilbao and want to see more of designer Frank Gehry, a visit to Hotel Marqués de Riscal is recommended. Just like the Guggenheim, this hotel is built in a unique style. The hotel is located at Elciego which is a medieval village surrounded by vineyards of La Rioja. For this reason, the style of the hotel is entirely devoted to wine culture.

#10.2 Tierra Rapaz 

People with children can have a great day by visiting the Tierra Rapaz. This park is specialized in birds so if you want to know more about them it is recommended to visit. More information can be found here.

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How many days do you need for La Rioja?

La Rioja is a large province where you can do many fun activities. We recommend staying at least 3 days / 4 nights in La Rioja to discover the best sights. You can choose to stay shorter in La Rioja, but we do not recommend this because you are not able to do all the fun things in La Rioja. If you want to do all the activities from this list, we recommend that you plan 5 days / 6 nights for La Rioja.

Where to stay in La Rioja?

We recommend staying centrally so that the distances between the various activities are as small as possible. In addition, it is advisable to choose a village that is large for the region’s concepts. In such villages, you find a few eateries, bakeries, and a supermarket. This means you have all facilities nearby. We stayed at Fuenmayor and recommend this because this is a wine village where you can immerse yourself completely among the locals.

We stayed at Hostal Labranza and highly recommend it. The rooms are neat and big enough. The beds are wonderful and the facilities are excellent. The owners welcome you with a big smile and do everything they can to make your stay as pleasant as possible. Even if you arrive in the middle of the night, if you call in advance, this isn’t any problem. The service is perfect. In addition, they can explain a lot about the area which is useful if you are looking for specific information. Check the current prices and availability here.

In case Hostal Labranza is fully booked you can make a reservation at Pensión Úbeda. This place is appreciated by other travelers. You can check prices and availability here.

Tip: be early to book as there are few choices in the village of Fuenmayor and La Rioja in general. This region is not touristy, so options are scarce. If you know your travel dates it is wise to make your reservation directly via one of the links above.

Where to eat in La Rioja?

La Rioja is huge, so you can find plenty of places where you can eat well. We recommend the two places below.

If you are staying in Fuenmayor as we did, Bar las Parras on the square is the best place to visit. Do not expect magnificent food but a local bar where joy is the most important thing. You can order salads, sandwiches, or meat with fries. The salad with tuna is delicious, all ingredients are grown by the owners themselves which you can taste! It is a great place to chat with the locals and forget that you are a tourist yourself. We ate here every night because we liked it!

When you are in Santo Domingo de la Calzada try be their during lunch time so that you can order Menú del día at La Strada. Here you can enjoy a 3-course menu for €14 per person. Especially the asparagus as a starter is recommended to try. In addition, if you are with 2 persons you get a bottle of wine from the region, delicious!

La Strada

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How do you get to La Rioja?

La Rioja can be reached by car or public transport. First, you need to travel to Logrono and from there you can travel to the accommodation. Logroño has an airport, only domestic flights are performed here. If you want to travel by plane, you need to fly to Bilbao and take a bus to La Rioja or rent a car.

You can easily visit La Rioja by car, this is also the recommended way because you will have access to a car during your stay which is nice if you are going to visit different places. If you are traveling from Europe by car to La Rioja you will pass by San Sebastian, we recommend visiting it for two reasons. First, because San Sebastian is an awesome city and secondly you shorten the journey from your place by 2 hours.

If you are in Spain you can travel to La Rioja by public transport. For this, you first have to travel to Logroño by train and then use the bus to get to your final destination. Tickets can be purchased here (you can also buy other public transport tickets via the link). We do not recommend traveling by public transport from outside Spain to La Rioja because of the long travel time.

If you travel to Spain by plane and you are looking for a car to rent, you can rent it through Rentalcars. We use Rentalcars when we want to travel by car to discover new destinations. They’re easy to use and book with.

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What is the best period to visit La Rioja?

La Rioja can be visited all year round because it isn’t located next to the sea. Therefore temperatures are pleasant all year long. The most popular time to visit La Rioja is during the spring and summer period from April to September because of the temperature. The best period is September because the harvest period starts and many local festivals are organized. It’s a unique experience to see one of those festivals!

Want to see more of Spain?

If you are traveling through Northern Spain, you can use our Northern Spain itinerary for inspiration and gain knowledge. If you follow our itinerary, Zaragoza is your next destination.

If you do not follow our itinerary but you are still curious about which places you can travel from La Rioja, it is recommended to go to Bilbao, San Sebastian, or Picos de Europa. In Picos de Europa you can do some great hikes. San Sebastian is a port city with a beautiful historic center along the sea. In Bilbao, you can visit the world-famous Guggenheim Museum. Click on one of the links to open the article.

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Hello, we are Cynthia & Alexander, the team behind Travel Your Memories! Traveling is our passion. When it comes to exploration, we love sharing our tips and adventures to inspire you. Welcome to Travel Your Memories, where we share our love for travel with you! Read our story.

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