West of Gipuzkoa, Biscay is a territory whose capital is Bilbao. Its 150 km of coastline are attractive and its dynamic coastal towns and villages. It is the most populated territory in the whole of the Basque Country, there is respect for traditions and the modernity of a young territory, always on the move. Medieval villages, mountains with breathtaking panoramas, heritage of great interest, it is a perfect destination for those who love the diversity, the hustle and bustle of big cities and the calm of countryside localities…
Map of Biscay
The coast and cliffs of Biscay
We start the visit of Biscay, by a place which sets the tone : Ondarroa is a big fishing port. It is in pleasant right where to spend a day, far from the tourist flow. You can eat in good restaurants that will be honored to serve you specialties from the port (it is now reached by a pretty modern bridge). On the steep slopes, is the old town (pass the old bridge, stop at the tower of Likona, as well as at the Gothic church Santa Maria), which is worth a visit, because we discover a beautiful point of view on the Golf de Gascogne. Maybe that will make you want to go soak your feet ? Meet at Saturraran Beach. Here, as in the western tip of Gipuzkoa (where the neighboring town of Deba is therefore located), there are Flyschs, these folds of sandstone and shale. Observe in particular the Rocher des Moines.
The fishing port of Ondarroa
The catch of the day
The Rocher des Moines
Lekeitio is a pleasant little coastal and fishing town, distinguished by its small bay and its Isla de Garraitz (or San Nicolas its second name). You can access it at low tide and thus enjoy a lovely view of the city and its colorful Basque houses scattered on the hillside of the Otoio mountain. For swimming, there are two nice little beaches in Leketitio : Karraspio and Isuntza. History teaches us that a certain rivalry has been created (which still persists on occasion...) with the neighboring town of Ondarroa. For the tourist, it will result in nothing more than chauvinistic jokes here and there. Take a stroll to see the 15th century town hall, the beautiful Basilica of the Asunción de Nuestra Señora (and its golden altarpiece), the Baroque palaces and the two towers including that of Zahar which is the oldest in the city. During a walk on a 2km coastal path in Lekeito, take a trip to the Lighthouse of Santa Catalina, where there is a navigation interpretation center.
Coastal town of Lekeitio
Isla de Garraitz or San Nicolas and theport of Lekeitio
Fancy mountains and forests ? Direction Kortezubi further south in the mountains, it is a place rich in caves and chasms, the landscape heritage is remarkable. You are also in the heart of the Urdaibai biosphere reserve. The Santimamiñe cave is not (yet ?) Open to the public, but there is an interpretation center and a virtual tour of this Mecca of cave painting in the Basque Country. Do not be disappointed and go see the overwhelming Painted Forest of around 5 ha, the Oma Forest, where the artist Agustín Ibarrola made Land Art with paint on the trees (information here). Have you seen animals in the forest ? To get a closer look, visit the Basondo refuge where injured, confiscated or endangered animals are welcomed and treated well. A large natural park that will appeal to children, a pleasant occupation for half a day. Heading towards Guernica, you arrive at Urdaibai Bird Center, which contains information on migratory birds and avian fauna in the region. A place to discover even for amateur visitors !
The Urdaibai Bird Center museum with an exhibition of photos of migratory birds
We arrive at Gernika-Lumo (Guernica), a city that art lovers and most schoolchildren know by the lines of Picasso's brush. It is one of the historical and spiritual capitalsof the Basque Country, which was 2/3 destroyed by bombing in April 1937, fires spread and then ravaged the city and its inhabitants. Considered one of the first massacres of civilians by air aviation at that time, this raid shocked the spirits and many artists seized it to symbolize their rejection of the war. Passing through the city, go see the Tree of Gernika near Casa de Juntas (the House of Assemblies), the symbol of the political importance of the city, it is under its leaves (another tree at the time) that the autonomy of the Basque people in the Middle Ages was decided. Visit the Peace Museum (Museo de la Paz), which is moving and full of reflections. Also visit the Museo Euskal Herria Museoa which offers an ethnographic scenography of the Basque people and culture.
Painting by Picasso "Guernica" Gernikara
The Tree of Gernika, the symbol of the political importance of the city
The Peace Museum (Museo de la Paz)
Elantxobe is a village which will make you grasp the true meaning of the word "steep". The houses are hung on the slope of Cape Ogoño, and the slope is so steep that there is an access from the bottom of the city and another from the top. It is very pleasant to walk there, but you really need good shoes. It is a small fishing port, have fun going to see the bus stop where a turntable rotates coaches which, without this ingenious system, could not turn around ! Not far away is Ibarrangelu, hidden behind Cape Ogoño and protected. Its main attraction are the two superb beaches of Laida and Laga. At the heart of the Urdaibai Biosphere Natural Reserve, Ibanrrangelu perfectly summarizes its attractions : wetlands, a rich landscape heritage which combines with the architectural heritage. In the center, go see the pediment and the church whose wooden frame is superb.
Mundaka, this is where to take your surfboard . There is a world famous left wave , beautiful and perfect, up to 5m high. It is famous and for this reason, the population of surfers is cosmopolitan in this place ! Be careful however, it is recommended for experienced surfers... Mundaka is not just a wave, it is also a cute village that smells of iodine, where to see beautiful palaces and buildings (the hermitage of Santa Catalina with its beautiful view) and a shopping place not to be missed : Mundaka BC, which sells Basque brands of clothing.
Surfing in Mundaka
We continue to the west, Bermeo is an interesting village town that will appeal to lovers of long strolls by the sea. In the Busturialdea region, it is also a large fishing port in Cantabria. Start with a tour of the city, which like many in Biscay is damn steep. The multicolored houses are interspersed with pretty palaces and charming houses. Pass by the Tower of Ercilla which is the only survivor of the 30 towers that surrounded the city in medieval times, the cloister of the Santa Maria church which is of recent architecture, that of Santa Eufemia which on the contrary, is the older. As you walk through the city, you will see remains of the wall. Heading towards the port, you will see a park (where the summer festivities take place) which joins it. On the harbor, there are some boats that you can visit, such as the Interpretation Center of whale fishing "Aita Guria" in a whaler from the XVIIth century. Picturesque… It is at the water's edge that Bermeo offers its most beautiful promenade, the rock island of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. It's a very nice place with lots of stairs (which will remind Game of Thrones fans Peyredragon… Some scenes were filmed there !). There is a whole string of small islands to discover: AkatzIsland, Izaro Island... And for a quiet swim in calm water, Aritzatxu Beach, a sort of delightfully blue cove... If you have time, do a boat trip to admire the coast and approach the islands.
Béroo and its port
Continue the coast towards Bakio to admire the view from its cliffs. At sunrise, it is a treat (towards the Askada belvedere, or from Birjilanda). In the city, a route offered by the Town Hall offers a visit to heritage, palaces, beautiful residences. Do not miss the very interesting Txakolingunea museum, (the Txakoli Museum), to find out all about this fruity and very sweet wine. You can take guided tours of the museum, by appointment and even a tasting, um... ! If you have time, go to the San Pelayo hermitage which is a peaceful place surrounded by mountains.
Gorliz is a tourist and popular place. There are many vacation accommodations. It is normal, the bay is beautiful and lends itself to a multitude of nautical activities in season and all year round for the less chilly. There is a large beach of over 800 m that will appeal to lovers of sunbathing and beach games. You can cycle and walk along the landscaped promenade where you will come across Gorliz Hospital, a large building with modern design. There are buses and even a metro to go to Bilbao, which is why many city dwellers come to walk there on weekends. Towards Bilbao, only 25 km from the city, there is Plentzia beach and its pretty medieval town and its Ria (its bay), as well as the beaches of Barrika.
The great beach of Gorliz
Sopela is a town that has bet on its natural space to develop leisure and sports activities. The very beautiful and large beach is bordered by steep cliffs that frame the panorama. If you want to try your hand at surfing, mountain biking, why not golf or paragliding and visit the region rich in attractive localities (not far from Bilbao), this is the perfect place. In Sopela, there are also beaches reserved for nudism, Arrietara-Atxabiribil or Meñakoz if you want to be more peaceful in the small coves. The sea is strong in Sopela, the cliffs sometimes make it difficult to access, so you can swim there, but be careful.
Paragliding by the sea
Getxo is north of Bilbao, we go there for its beaches and its port, it is a tourist place. Go see the pretty metallic suspension bridge of Biscay (Puente Bizkaia), it is a transporter bridge as we see few ! You can borrow it or climb to the top to walk there (expensive, but the view is breathtaking). It is a large municipality with 5 urban areas , which reserve many attractions. Take the cliff road (the coast is 10 km, but the walk is short) and stop at the Moulin d'Aixerrota and Fort de La Galea, a military construction dating from the 18th century. The La Galea Lighthouse was used to watch whales. In the Algorta district, go see the fishing port and the palaces by the sea. It is a friendly place to go out at night, go eat pintxos. Go up to the Mirador d'Usategi to get a good view. Sea excursions are organized in Getxo and those who want to practice water sports will find clubs near the coast. To keep the kids busy if it rains, there is a small aquarium with beautiful reef fish for an affordable price.
Biscay suspension metal bridge
Fancy a vacation close to Bilbao but far from the hustle and bustle ? Choose Mungia which is very well connected with neighboring localities and has all the good points of a pleasant vacation spot. Stroll through the city center to see the Fuente de la Concordia (Fountain of the Concorde), the Villela-Torrebillela tower house. Around the city there are farms and mills, the Landetxo Goikoa farm is among the oldest in the province. Children will be happy to stop at the theme park focused on Basque legends and culture Izenaduba Basoa (book in advance online, to avoid queues).
We arrive in Bilbao which is the capital of the province of Biscay and one of the largest cities in the Basque Country with 350,000 inhabitants (1 million in the mainland). It is a place rich in colors and flavors, with an attractive cultural and night life ! On vacation in Bilbao, you will not be bored... It is a city founded in 1300, 300 years later it becomes the capital of Vizcaya thanks to its rich economic activities around iron ore, shipbuilding and agriculture. The magnificent coast is undoubtedly not for nothing and the city was one of the richest in Spain at the beginning of the last century. Bilbao has suffered, like many industrial cities, from a graying image with the decline of its primary activities and that is why it was renovated in the 90s. The abandoned brownfields and industrial complexes are returned to service, tourism is favored with the revitalization of the banks of the Nervion river. In 2004 Bilbao was rewarded for its efforts and its ambitious and well-conducted restoration policy. It should be noted that considerable efforts have been made to make it a clean city, a model which interests other urban centers which wish to bring a pleasant living environment to their inhabitants.
Bilbao enjoys an oceanic climate which makes it mild all year round. It is easy to get there thanks to the large international airport and to get around, a multitude of public transport exists : bus, metro, tram etc. The two main centers of the city (the new and the old city) are easy to walk around.
Bike ride in town
Bilbao tram and velib
The reconstruction of Bilbao was orchestrated around a magnificent museum, very famous and which we recommend you visit even if you are not keen on modern art : the Guggenheim museum which opened in 1997. Walking around is already an artistic discovery, since life-size works (including a giant vegetated dog) decorate the forecourt. Inside the modern and refined building, sculptures, paintings from the 1950s to today. A wonder ! Not far from the museum, there is a very beautiful park, the Republica de Abando Park (which was occupied by brownfields before the renovation of the city) you will see the Iberdrola Tower, 41 stories high. To continue the cultural visits in Bilbao, you have the choice because there are 11 museums scattered around the city :
The spider in front of the Guggenheim museum
The Guggenheim Museum Tulip Dog
From the Guggenheim Museum, discover Ensanche, the XIXth districts of the city. A modern architectural ensemble, the Gran Vía, awaits you, in the continuity of the museum. It is the place where to see beautiful shops on the commercial arteries, it is a bourgeois district. At the beginning of this district, the Arriaga theater in neo-baroque style is magnificent with the Paseo Arenal park just opposite. You are not very far from Abando Station and its very large glass roof.
Bus Tour in the bourgeois district to visit the city
We continue inmodern architecture, if you like it, go seeAlhondiga, an old wine warehouse that designer Philippe Starck took by storm to modernize it. A cultural center :Azkuna Zentroa, is located inside this large building and what you will like are the 43 singular and amazing columns that support the 3 modules in red bricks that seem to float...
Do you prefer to feel the historic heart of Bilbao beating ? Meet at Casco Viejo, the medieval town which is concentrated around 7 streets (the Zazpi Kaleak). This is where the pedestrian areas are, the small lively bars where you can enjoy pintxos at any time and until late at night (especially in the large Plaza Nueva). In summer it is a place that is taken by storm because the narrow streets and tall buildings are conducive to a saving shade. In this district, the typical Basque facades compete in colors, it's a festival, Plaza Miguel Unamuno is a good example. A cultural break ? Go see the 13th century Santiago Cathedral, then climb the grand staircase of Mallona (300 steps...) to access the hillock where the Basilica of Begoña is located, admire its imposing Renaissance portal with columns. The basilica houses the Virgin of Begoña, very important for Bilbayans and celebrated during festivities in August and October. This reminds us that the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (the northern path) crosses the city, let’s even say that it was built around the path that predates it and which is still an important breeding ground today. economic and tourist.
On the right, the Mercado de la Ribera, the largest covered market in Europe
If Bilbao acts like a magnet, there are no less other charming localities around ! Barakaldo is located on the left bank of the Nervion estuary and on the outskirts of Bilbao. It is a populated place, where there is a convention center (the Bilbao Exhibition Center) which hosts many sports activities, concerts, fairs and other events popular with Bilbayans. It is a pleasant city with pretty green spaces like the Botanical Garden where to walk in all seasons and the park of Munoa. Lovers of beautiful cars will be happy to visit the Mercedes-Benz museum which houses little gems...
Only a few kilometers from these active urban centers is the Trapaga Valley, a haven of greenery that once was rich in mining activity. Today, with the cessation of these activities, the municipality has transformed the area into small lakes for fishing (lagoons in the old quarries of mines) and recreational areas. Stroll through the Arboleda district where you will see wooden houses and can go hiking. To enjoy a beautiful view of the area, take the funicular to the steep Reineta which will take you to the Mine Museum.
We return along the estuary to go to Portugalete. It is located on the other side of the famous Biscay Bridge, the transporter bridge which connects it to Getxo. It is a marine city with an old medieval quarter where you will see the Tower of Salazar, restaurants and the Museum of Industry to understand the economic boom of the Ria. To the north is Santurtzi, a port town in front of the Serantes mountain, where you can do nice and accessible hikes (the view is superb from the viewpoint at the top). Santurzi is a popular place for seatrips, many excursions can take you there. It is also the place to taste seafood, especially sardines. Take a stroll in the open air sculpture museum where many sculptures can be seen during a walk.
Zierbena is about twenty minutes from Bilbao, it is a calm and charming fishing village. There is a large beach over 900 m long, as well as a smaller and calm one, ideal for children. There are of course very good fish and it is nice to cycle there, taking advantage of the cycle path that goes to Portugalete. For walkers who like to climb, make the Cape Punta Lucero from where a beautiful view awaits you.
In Muskiz, we leave the estuary, to reach the coast of Cantabria, it is one of the last coastal cities of Biscay. Beach, cliffs and walks on the program. Along the coast the walk on the cliffs of Itsaslur is to do : it borrows an old railway and offers a beautiful view of the coast. The Cliffs of Cobaron are also suitable for beautiful panoramas. A small museum is worth visiting: Ferreria El Pobal, a heritage complex of 16th century forges.
Beaches and cliffs and Muskiz
Sopuerta is a town south of Muskiz, which also has a mining past. Being a very old and well preserved town, it has an interesting architectural richness which is worth the detour. Observe its many towers, including the Casa de Juntas de Abellaneda, an ancient oven, which houses a museum in this region of the Encartaciones. This is the place to learn more about industrial history and the fortified tower alone is a witness to the past.