10 Best Things Do in Basque Country

What is the Basque Region Famous For?

Valitettavasti tätä sivua ei ole vielä käännetty kielellesi...

    Basque Country in northern Spain offers a kaleidoscope of traveller's delights, from its scenic parks and ancient Roman trails to medieval village streets and avant-garde architectural wonders like the Guggenheim.

    The people of this autonomous region speak a distinct language and celebrate their rich cultural heritage through colourful festivals unique to the region and the preservation of historic treasures like the Cathedral of Santa María. Basque Country also offers a bounty of great food and wine to savour, whether you’re exploring the gastronomic offerings of San Sebastian, browsing a busy market or indulging in fresh seafood at small-town cafés along the coast.

    1

    Visit the Basque Museum of Bilbao

    A deep dive into Basque culture

    While most visitors to Bilbao make their way to the glittering Guggenheim, it’s worth venturing to the Basque Museum for a fascinating peek into the region's rich history and culture. Found in the Old Town, the museum is housed in a 16th-century building formerly used as a Jesuit church and school.

    Exhibits set over 3 floors explore Basque maritime traditions, shepherding culture, ironworks and gunsmith industries and traditional arts and crafts. Take some time to linger in the museum’s majestic inner courtyard with medieval and prehistoric sculptures on display.

    Sijainti: Unamuno Miguel Plaza, 4, 48006 Bilbo, Bizkaia, Spain

    Aukioloajat: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday from 10am to 7pm, Saturday from 10am to 1.30pm and from 4pm to 7pm, Sunday from 10am to 2pm

    Puhelinnumero: +34 944 15 54 23

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    2

    Wander the scenic streets of Getaria village

    Birthplace of famed fashion designer Balenciaga

    Found 30 minutes from San Sebastian, the fishing village of Getaria offers dreamy sea and mountain views and a lovely old town to explore. Set between the 2 small beaches of Gaztetape and Malkorbe and surrounded by vineyards, Getaria is the perfect place to stop for a meal of freshly caught seafood and a taste of the local txakoli white wine.

    Stroll the narrow Nagusia Kalea main street to browse for local products and soak up the old town architecture or walk up to the top of Mount San Antón near the port for beautiful views over the town.

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    Valokuva: Miguel Ángel García. (CC BY 2.0) muokattu

    3

    See the Cathedral of Santa María in Vitoria-Gasteiz

    Home to one of the finest gothic porticos in Spain

    Santa Maria forms an imposing presence at the top of the hill in the town’s Old Quarter. Sections of medieval wall from the 11th century still remain, while the stately church dates back to the 13th century.

    Restoration work is ongoing but visitors can explore the cathedral on a guided tour where they’ll also have the chance to watch the work in progress. The tour also takes you up to the 17th-century bell tower to enjoy panoramic views of Álava Valley and through the old crypts that are now a museum.

    Sijainti: Cantón de Santa María, 3 - 01001 - Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain

    Puhelinnumero: +34 945 255 135

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    4

    Join a lively Basque festival

    The Running of the Bulls and beyond

    Among the many colourful festivals of Basque Country, the best-known is San Fermín in Pamplona, also called the Running of the Bulls. It’s held every July, when each morning for a week some feisty bulls race through the streets towards the town bullring while brave festival participants try to run as close to them as possible. Visitors are welcome to join, though you could more safely enjoy the festivities by watching the action from a street-view balcony.

    Another boisterous Basque event is the Batalla del Vino – the Battle of Wine – in the town of Haro, where festival-goers douse each other with wine-filled water guns or buckets, followed by some friendly feasting and dancing.

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    Valokuva: Ken Lund (CC BY-SA 2.0) muokattu

    5

    Hike the scenic trails of Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park

    Follow the footsteps of ancient pilgrims

    With its lush mountain landscape crisscrossed with nature trails and medieval roads, Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park offers both breathtaking scenery and historic sights to explore.

    Enjoy spectacular views over Álava Valley by hiking up Aratz or Aizkorri mountains, the highest peaks of Basque Country. Venture through the San Adrian tunnel, a cave that forms a natural covered passage that was used as a trade route for centuries. Avid walkers could follow the still-visible ancient Roman road to Vitoria-Gasteiz, part of the legendary Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail.

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    Valokuva: Namiac (CC BY-SA 3.0) muokattu

    6

    Explore the modern architecture of Bilbao

    An old city brimming with cutting-edge designs

    Bilbao's glittering Guggenheim Museum is not only the city’s most prominent landmark, but also one of the world's most celebrated architectural achievements. When the Frank Gehry-designed museum opened in 1997, it was described as “a fantastic dream ship of undulating form in a cloak of titanium.”

    The opening of the Guggenheim inspired a wave of avant-garde development around Bilbao, from the sail-like Zubizuri bridge to the Basque Health Department Headquarters, which rises from the street like a shimmering iceberg. Another eye-catching building is the Azkuna Zentroa art and culture centre, a former wine warehouse given a modern makeover by designer Philippe Stark. Explore on your own or join a guided architectural tour.

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    7

    Take a culinary tour around San Sebastian

    Where Michelin starred restaurants mingle with tasty local eats

    With an impressive number of Michelin-starred restaurants, it’s no secret that San Sebastian is a dream city for food lovers. Many will be tempted to treat their taste buds to a gourmet meal at a world-renowned restaurant like Arzak or Mugaritz, but it’s also fun to walk the city’s historic streets to see what new flavours you might discover on your own.

    Gastronomic wanderings are sure to lead to a pintxos bar, with hundreds around the city selling the flavourful Basque version of tapas. Spend hours browsing for deli meats, cheese and fresh vegetables at La Bretxa market, then in the evening relax at one of the traditional cider houses around the city.

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    8

    Visit the wineries of La Rioja

    A rich history soaked in wine

    Producing some of Spain's finest wines, the Rioja region’s verdant hills are sprinkled with wineries where you’re welcome to stop for a tour and taste. Before venturing out to the vineyards, take some time to explore Laguardia, a medieval fortress city on the hilltop with centuries-old streets lined with Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical buildings.

    Enjoy ample choices for wine tasting in and around the town of Haro, in the wine shops and bars set along its narrow streets and the bodegas in the surrounding hills. Among the best known is Viña Tondonia, one of the oldest wineries in the region run by descendants of the man who founded it in 1877.

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    9

    Enjoy panoramic views at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

    Seen on TV as the “Dragonstone” fortress in Game of Thrones

    Gaztelugatxe, which means "Castle Rock" in the Basque native language, is a beautiful island found along the Bay of Biscay, about an hour's drive from Bilbao. A 1,000-year-old stone bridge connects the island to the mainland and leads to a path of steps that wind their way up to the hilltop.

    Aside from the spectacular views, you'll find a small abandoned monastery dedicated to John the Baptist. It's customary to ring the church bell 3 times for good luck once you've reached the top.

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    10

    Surf and stroll at Zarautz Beach

    Check out the Zarautz Summer Music Festival in August

    The former fishing town of Zarautz is now a surfing hotspot, with its 2.5-km-long length of sand known as the "queen of the beaches". The beach once attracted Spanish royalty seeking a summer escape but now appeals to anyone seeking some fun in the sun and great wave action. The beach heaves during the summer months with sunbathers and all kinds of water sports activities, including surfing lessons.

    Take a walk in the fresh sea breezes along the beachfront promenade, which extends along the craggy coastline for about 5 km to the town of Getaria.

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