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Hondarribia: A Culinary and Cultural Delight

Hondarribia, also known as Fuenterrabía in Spanish, is not just one of the most charming towns in the Basque Country, but it’s also home to some of the region’s finest bars and restaurants. If you have a penchant for Basque cuisine, then your journey wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Hondarribia. Its well-preserved old town, laid-back maritime atmosphere, and fantastic food are just a few of the reasons why Hondarribia ranks high on our list of favorite destinations.

Hondarribia is undeniably one of the most beautiful towns in the Basque Country, and it officially holds the title of a “city,” which was bestowed upon it in the 17th century after several battles against the French. If you’re only planning to visit one town in the Basque Country, this should probably be it. This colorful fishing village, rich in both architecture and gastronomy, is a feast for the eyes and the taste buds.

hondarribia

In recent years, Hondarribia has experienced an incredible boom in its culinary scene. This is thanks to young chefs who, after studying under the tutelage of famous Basque cooks such as Martin Berasategui and Pedro Subijana (see Michelin Star Restaurants), have brought their knowledge and talents to Hondarribia. The quality of their new gastronomy undoubtedly rivals that of San Sebastian, the other Basque gourmet mecca.

Hondarribia is becoming increasingly touristy, but fortunately, that doesn’t mean you’ll find a lot of souvenir shops. Instead, more and more restaurants and pintxos bars continue to open. This competition has led to only the best establishments surviving, and there are indeed many amazing options. The selection, combined with the value for money, makes Fuenterrabía a tough place to beat.

In addition to its impressive culinary scene, Hondarribia is also home to a well-preserved Old Town surrounded by a medieval wall, the only one in the province of Guipuzcoa. The Old Town is filled with beautiful Basque-style houses, most of them sporting colorful wooden balconies. There are also numerous Baroque buildings that add to the charm of the Old Town. With its maze of narrow cobblestone streets, the Old Town begs to be explored.

Aside from the Old Town, the other area you shouldn’t miss when visiting Hondarribia is the Marina neighborhood. This is where most of the bars and restaurants that have given the town its fame are located. The main street that runs through the neighborhood is pedestrianized, lined with trees, and full of beautiful houses and dining establishments.

Hondarribia’s other tourist attraction is its beach, which stretches for 800 meters, offering sand and calm waters to both locals and tourists.

Touring Hondarribia from San Sebastian

If you’re planning to visit Hondarribia from San Sebastian, then this tour might be the perfect way to explore this beautiful town. It also includes stops in the traditional fishing villages of San Juan (Pasaia) and San Pedro.

Top Things to See and Do in Hondarribia

We’ve carefully selected the best things to see and do in Hondarribia. From indulging in pintxos in the Marina neighborhood to exploring the Old Town, here’s everything you need to know about tourism in Hondarribia.

Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas

The Plaza de Armas is dominated by a magnificent building called the Castle of Carlos V, which now serves as a Parador. You can get a glimpse inside the building even without staying there by visiting the bar, which has a separate entrance on the side of the building.

 

From the Plaza de Armas, we recommend wandering through the streets of the Old Town, making sure to visit other notable areas like the Plaza Guipuzcoa. After strolling through the Old Town, you can gradually descend to the Marina neighborhood.

Puerta de San Nicolás

Puerta de San Nicolas

The Puerta de Santa María, a medieval gate, was and still is the main entrance to the town. This gate welcomes visitors and guides them to Kale Nagusia (Main Street), where you’ll find some of the most beautiful buildings in the Old Town.

One of these buildings is the town hall of Hondarribia, housed in an 18th-century Baroque construction.

Palacio de Zuloaga

Zuloaga Palace

There are two other Baroque buildings that particularly catch the eye on Kale Nagusia. The first one is the Zuloaga Palace, an 18th-century urban palace that now houses the municipal library and historical archive.

 

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Church of Santa Maria

The Church of Santa Maria de la Asunción and del Manzano was built in the 15th and 16th centuries on the ruins of a Roman church and ancient walls.

Although the construction of the building began in 1474, it lasted longer than planned, as Castile was trying to conquer the Kingdom of Navarre at that time.

At a certain point, the renovation of the medieval fortifications of Hondarribia was so urgent that materials for the construction of the church had to be transported to the walls.

Finally, in 1549, after multiple battles, the first stage of construction was completed, and the building was consecrated.

Although the church was primarily constructed in the Gothic style, some Renaissance elements were added to the building during the 16th century, such as the entrance we see today.

Another noteworthy feature of the church is the Baroque bell tower (18th century) designed by Francisco de Ibero.

If you have the opportunity to enter the church, be sure to climb the stairs and admire the beautiful organ.

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Old Town Hondarribia

Old Town

From the Plaza de Armas, we recommend wandering through the streets of the Old Town, making sure to visit other notable areas like the Plaza Guipuzcoa. After strolling through the Old Town, you can gradually descend to the Marina neighborhood.

Fuenterrabia Castillo de Carlos V Parador Nacional El Emperador 01

Castle of Carlos V – Parador de Hondarribia

The impressive building that houses the Parador de Hondarribia was originally a fortress built at the end of the 10th century by King Sancho II of Pamplona. It is now known as the Castle of Carlos V due to the restoration and expansion work carried out by Carlos V in the 16th century.

The most important guests that the Castle of Carlos V has seen in its many centuries of history were probably members of the Spanish Royal Family.

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Marina Neighborhood

The Marina Neighborhood is located next to the old port (“Kai Zahar” in Basque), and it’s where Hondarribia’s fishermen lived for centuries. Situated between the walled Old Town and the sea, it’s an area full of charming Basque-style houses with colorful balconies and shutters.

Paseo del Butrón

Another attraction of the Marina neighborhood is the Butrón Promenade, which stretches along the water and is perfect for a leisurely walk. From the Butrón Promenade, you can enjoy beautiful views of the Cantabrian Sea, the estuary of the Bidasoa River, and the bay of Txingudi with Hendaye (France) on the other side.

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Fuenterrabia Beach

Hondarribia is home to a beautiful 800-meter-long beach. The beach offers lifeguard services, bathrooms, showers, and changing rooms, as well as some activities to keep children entertained. Due to all the facilities and calm waters, Fuenterrabía Beach is very popular among locals and tourists, especially families with children. There is also a promenade that surrounds the beach and the port, continuing south along the water to reach the Butrón Promenade in the old port (“Kai Zaharra” in Basque). There is paid parking next to the beach.

 

Hondarribia offers a delightful blend of history, culture, stunning architecture, and exceptional cuisine. Whether you’re exploring the charming Old Town, savoring pintxos in the Marina neighborhood, or taking in the breathtaking views along the Bay Path, this town in the Basque Country promises a memorable and enriching experience for all travelers.

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Irene was born and raised in Bilbao. She has a deep rooted passion for her country and culture. She has a Bachelors degree in education and has traveled to over 85 countries throughout the world.
List of professional guides in the Basque Country

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Zachary was born in Michigan, USA. He has lived in the Basque Country for over 10 years, and fell in love with the natural beauty and quality of life found here. He earned a Bachelors degree in economics from DePaul University in Chicago.

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