Founded in 1921, Alavés first reached La Liga eight years later, a stint which would last three years. In the 50s it would reach Primera División again.
After years of seriously facing disappearance, which went well into the 90s, the club finally achieved a Segunda División promotion in 1994–95 after two consecutive years winning Segunda División B – created as the new third level in 1977 – but consistently failing in the promotion play-offs.
On the 26 January 2003, Alavés celebrate 100th win in La Liga after defeating 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 Dmitry Pietrman, an Ukrainian-American businessman, and several clashes occurred with the club's coaches, players and fans alike. Pietrman left in 2007 and after two years of battling with relegation to the third level, the club deep in debt eventually befell in 2008–09.
This black period lasted four years until it finally promoted again to the second division in 2013 and could sort out its difficult economy. Three years later, on 29 May 2016, Alavés was promoted to La Liga after beating Numancia 2–0.
On 10 September 2016, Alavés got their first win of 2016–17 2-1 at defending La Liga champions Barcelona.
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.