Visit the incredible Abbadia Castle Observatory in Hendaye

Hendaye
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As every year, the castle of Abbadia and its gardens reopened their doors to the public after the annual closure in January. Emblem of Basque culture , this enchanting place erected on the steep cliffs of Hendaye is a real invitation to travel and escape ... Unique in its kind, this building with extravagant architecture elegantly cultivates its own style. inspiring from very different universes, from neo-Gothic exuberance to exotic orientalism, from the opulence of the Empire through African and Egyptian touches. A kaleidoscope of influences reflecting the extraordinary personality of the explorer Antoine d'Abbadie .

Life-size kingdom of scientist Antoine d'Abbadie

Imagine a sublime completely unusual stone residence , perched on a promontory overlooking the ocean, along the coastal path between Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Hendaye . The decor is set for a fairly extraordinary guided tour . An unmissable detour to the Basque Country that does not fail to surprise visitors!

Abbadia Hendaye Observatory Castle


At the origin of this architectural wonder , a science enthusiast. More than a passion, this castle straight out of his imagination is a childhood dream come true: an observatory post offering a 360 ° view and a full- size laboratory available. This dream is that of a great man with multiple hats: Antoine d'Abbadie (1810 - 1897), explorer, anthropologist, geographer, scientist, linguist, philologist ... the list goes on!

Frequent traveler , he was the first to map Ethiopia after an eleven year stay in this country. Geodesic and astronomer, he seriously considered the problems of the variation of the vertical, micro-seismicity, sources of the Nile or even celestial cartography. Member of the Academy of Sciences in 1867, he was elected President of this prestigious institution in 1892.


A private residence and a workplace facing the ocean

Built between 1864 and 1879 by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc , the residence of Antoine d'Abbadie, rich in history, culture and elegance immerses us truly in the heart of his universe, his vivid imagination and spaces for reflection and learning. In the company of a guide , the visit transports us from the East to Africa in settings mixing neo-Gothic styles and Orientalism , captivated by the eclecticism and the romantic soul of a place that bears the seal of Sponsor.


Visit of the Château d'Abbadia: decorative madness and exuberance

When we arrive at the castle, we are first invited to discover the character of Antoine d'Abbadie in the scenographic space of the reception pavilion for ten minutes before the start of the guided tour. A little introspection in the incredible life of this whimsical scientist and scholar! Then, the visit begins. Huge trees trace a shaded path to the castle.

Abbadia Hendaye Observatory Castle Abbadia Hendaye Observatory Castle

Animals adorn the exterior of the castle


Inspired by the models of medieval castles , the imposing residence with high walls is almost intimidating. On its exterior facades nestle elephants , monkeys , snails as gargoyles. Huge crocodiles carved in stone welcome us on the steps of the entrance porch of the castle, located in the hollow of two wings arranged at right angles. The front door is surmounted by an inscription in Gaelic engraved in the stone "One Hundred Thousand Welcome". Everything is there to make this enchanted place , listed as a Historic Monument in 1984, a haven of exoticism and serenity, timeless.

Abbadia Hendaye Observatory Castle

Abbadia Hendaye Observatory Castle Abbadia Hendaye Observatory Castle

Abbadia Hendaye Observatory Castle

Abbadia Hendaye Observatory Castle

The entrance hall and the impressive staircase

Once through the door, we discover the hall and the main staircase overlooked by a colored window. The dim lighting inside the chateau restores the subdued atmosphere of the house at the time of Antoine d'Abbadie. The richness of the decoration mixes family coats of arms, fantastic animals and horns of Ethiopian mammals. Surely the overloaded style does not please everyone. And yet entering the heart of this sumptuous home is an architectural experience for all the visitors of our group amazed by a "decomaniac" spectacle as you have rarely seen. The visit continues in the observatory .

Abbadia Hendaye Observatory Castle

The observatory

Abbadia Hendaye Observatory Castle


Abbadia Hendaye Observatory Castle Abbadia Hendaye Observatory Castle

The library

In this vast room strategically devoid of any ornament, the astronomer observed the stars by calculating their position on the celestial vault . Become a high place of international astronomy, the observatory operated from 1879 to 1975 and the astronomers of Abbadia published 14 stellar catalogs documenting nearly 50,000 stars!

The library , located in the heart of the castle, is the workplace of Antoine d'Abbadie and revolves around shelves in chestnut wood. Composed of scientific, astronomical and literary works, the library also shelters a good number of curiosities of the past centuries like this calculator with roller and other calculating machines. Our eyes scrutinize this abundance of objects and old books carefully before heading to the bedroom of Virginie, the wife of Antoine d'Abbadie. We then admire the Ethiopian bedroom , the Jerusalem bedroom , and the tower bedroom , all of remarkable beauty.

Abbadia Hendaye Observatory Castle

Virginie's room

Abbadia Hendaye Observatory Castle

The Tower room

Abbadia Hendaye Observatory Castle

The Arab living room


We follow the guide through the living rooms of the couple: the dining room, the large living room, the Arab living room and the master bedroom. Architecture and polychromy are worked to the smallest detail: the walls and ceilings are covered with paintings and ornaments, Arabic calligraphy and proverbs from the other side of the world. The orientalist influence of Antoine d'Abbadie's travels in Ethiopia and Egypt is widely found in all the interior decoration. Between the earthenware of Gien, the velvets, the engravings, the embroideries, the fireplaces, the furniture brought back from expeditions…. I quote you a little in bulk, but such opulence confuses!

Abbadia Hendaye Observatory Castle

The Chapel


The guided tour ends in the chapel bathed in a soft light filtered by sumptuous stained glass windows. Created by Duthoit with pronounced tastes for Sicilian and oriental art , it is here that Antoine and Virginie rest in a crypt below the altar.

This castle steeped in history and magic is undeniably one of the most sumptuous residences in the Basque Country. Following the guided tour of about an hour, we take the time to stroll through the immense 400 hectare park composed of a landscaped garden, an agricultural park, a scientific laboratory and even a golf. The panorama from the top of the cliffs is breathtaking!


Did you like this report? Discover more on our BLOG and by subscribing on the Facebook page of the Basque Country Guide. We also have an Instagram page @guidedupaysbasque.

Photos and Article written by Lesley Williamson for the Guide to the Basque Country


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