The team's home kit is blue and white-striped shirt, blue shorts and white socks. It holds home matches at the 19,840-seater Mendizorrotza Stadium and uses other facilities located in Ibaia dedicated to training.
Founded in 1920 the initial name of the club was Sport Friends, but on 23 January 1921 the name was changed to the current one, and this is considered the official foundation date. Alavés was the first club to win promotion from the Segunda División to La Liga in 1929–30, a stint which would last three years. In its first season in Primera División Alavés finished 8th from 10 teams, just 1 point away from being relegated.
In 1953–54 the club would reach the top league again for a two-year spell. With Roman Galarraga as a coach, the club reached long-awaited promotion to Segunda División in the 1973–74 season. In June 1983, after having avoided the relegation in the previous season, Alavés went down to Segunda División B, where remained until the 1985–86 campaign. After years of seriously facing disappearance which lasted well into the 1990s (playing in the fourth tier during the late 1980s), Alavés finally achieved a promotion back into the Segunda División in 1994–95 after two consecutive years of winning their group in Segunda División B – created as the new third level in 1977 – but failing in the promotion play-offs.
After winning the Segunda División in 1997–98, Alavés returned to the top level after a 42-year hiatus. Following their return season in which they escaped relegation by a single point, they achieved two wins against Barcelona in the following campaign and would qualify for the UEFA Cup for the first time upon finishing sixth (to date, their highest-ever placing, coming just 12 years after their lowest-ever: eighth in their group in the fourth level).
As well as concluding the domestic campaign in tenth position, in 2000–01 the Basque club reached the final of the UEFA Cup after beating Internazionale,Rayo Vallecano and 1. FC Kaiserslautern, the latter in a crushing 9–2 aggregate victory. The final ended in a 4–5 loss against Liverpool, Alavés losing to an "own-golden goal" after taking the match to extra time. The match also featured two red cards and two disallowed goals in extra time in addition to the nine goals which did count, and has been described by some observers as one of the greatest showpiece games in the competition's history.
Alavés ended 2001–02 in seventh position and qualified for the UEFA Cup for a second time, although the European campaign of 2002–03 was far less successful than two years earlier, with an opening win over Ankaragücü followed by a defeat to another Turkish Süper Lig side, Beşiktaş. On 26 January 2003, the club celebrated their 100th win in La Liga after defeating Real Valladolid 3–1.
Although Alavés were relegated after 2002–03, they regained top flight status two years later. In this time, Alavés was bought by Ukrainian–American businessman Dmitry Pietrman, and several clashes followed with the club's coaches, players and fans alike. The top-division return only lasted one season as the club went through three head coaches and finished in 18th position, one point from safety. Piterman departed in 2007, leaving the club deep in debt after his tenure. After two years of battling against relegation to the third level, Alavés eventually succumbed in 2008–09.
On 10 September 2016, Alavés got their first win of their return season in La Liga by defeating defending La Liga champions Barcelona 2–1 at the Camp Nou. On 7 February 2017, Alavés qualified for the 2017 Copa del Rey Final after eliminating Celta de Vigo in the semi-finals of the competition. This was the first time in their history that the club had qualified for the final of the national cup, their previous best being the semi-finals in 1998 and 2004. Their opponents in the final would be Barcelona, and coincidentally the two clubs met in the league directly after their cup semi-finals; the Catalans inflicted a 6–0 defeat on Alavés in their own Mendizorrotza Stadium, exacting revenge for the result earlier in the season. Barcelona also won the final, held at the Estadio Vicente Calderón with a 3–1 scoreline, meaning there would be no return to European competition for Alavés. In the La Liga that season Alavés finished 9th with 14 wins, 13 draws and 11 losses.
The club's primary reserve team is Deportivo Alavés B, founded in 1960 and currently playing at the amateur Tercera División level of the senior Spanish system. When that team gained promotion to Segunda División B in 2000, a further reserve side Deportivo Alavés C was formed, later partnering with local team Club San Ignacio, but the C-team was discontinued in 2005 due to the poor financial situation at the club. San Ignacio and most other teams in the vicinity of Vitoria-Gasteiz continue to operate as partner clubs of Alavés.
In 2007, Alavés operated a team in the USL First Division in the United States called the California Victory. The team played at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco, California, and wore the Alavés colors. However, Alavés, under new ownership, pulled its support for the club later that year, after which the Victory folded.
In May 2017, Alavés signed a ten-year partnership deal with NK Rudeš, freshly promoted Croatian First Football League club, with Rudeš acting as a feeder club to Alavés.
In June 2018, Deportivo Alavés and NK Rudeš ended its partnership agreement.