A small, fascinating territory, studded with natural and architectural treasures, where intense and authentic experiences are just waiting for you to enjoy. Welcome to Gipuzkoa, a destination you will not forget.
“The small cask holds good wine”, a traditional saying goes, which works perfectly when you talk about Gipuzkoa. In just a few kilometres, this territory of the Basque Country overlooking the Bay of Biscay holds an enormous number of attractions, enough to surprise any kind of traveller. From the elegant and magnificent San Sebastián, an unmissable cultural and gastronomic seaside destination, to the enchanting coastal and inland villages, the inhabitants of which jealously guard age-old traditions, passing through natural parks, museums, spectacular cliffs and sanctuaries, these are just a few of the experiences not to be missed on a trip to discover the province of Gipuzkoa.
1. From bar to bar to taste the best pintxos
They say that the quality of life in San Sebastián (or Donostia, as it is called in Basque or Euskara) is among the best in Spain; undoubtedly owing to its unique position, between the ocean and the mountains, its vibrant cultural life that includes one of the most important film festivals in the world and its good food, which is renowned throughout the country. It was here, in this city, that pintxos were created – the “little snacks” peeking out from every counter of the bars and traditional taverns of the old town. Be aware however, that the tasting of these delicious culinary miniatures made with traditional products requires certain considerations: pintxos are consumed strictly at the bar, accompanied by a beer, a glass of Txakolí wine or a cider. Without wasting any time, because once you have finished, you go straight on to the next bar and then to the next, as long as you have the energy and the stomach to do so.
In San Sebastián’s old town, you will find many little places where you can try pintxos; if you are in doubt about which to choose and what to try, just copy what the locals choose, and you cannot go wrong!
2. Feeding creativity at Tabakalera
Once a tobacco factory, as its name suggests, today, San Sebastián’s Tabakalera is a vibrant contemporary cultural centre. Not only are unmissable exhibitions organised there, but you can also take part in seminars and workshops designed to stimulate creativity in all its guises, such as film, art, music, gastronomy and digital technology. Take a look at the centre’s packed diary of events and, before you go in, observe the emblematic building that houses it, inaugurated in 1913.
3. Admire the beach huts in Zarauz, the longest beach on the coast
Zarauz beach appears endless, with its typical beach huts covered with blue and white striped tents, which follow one after another all along its two and a half kilometres. This extensive shoreline is well-known internationally by surfers, who come here in droves, attracted by the waves but also by the relaxed and lively atmosphere of the town, which has become a famous tourist destination. After a day spent on your board, which you can rent in one of the many surfing schools overlooking the sea, take a walk to discover the little streets of “casco viejo”, where you will experience the most authentic essence of this seaside town and where you can taste some delicious pintxos.
4. Retrace the history of the Earth in the Basque Coast Geopark
There is a section of coastline in the province of Gipuzkoa where it is possible to find in the rocks signs of the great events that have marked the 60 million years of the history of humanity. This is the Basque Coast Geopark, a unique environment formed by spectacular cliffs, which is protected by UNESCO since 2005. The park’s incredible rocks, called Flysch, have unusual shapes smoothed by the water and can be viewed in one of the many guided tours offered by the organisation. Pay attention, because under your feet there could be a layer of black earth that bears witness to the impact of the asteroid that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs millions of years ago!
5. Stroll among the Chillida sculptures
Eduardo Chillida was one of the most important Spanish sculptors of the twentieth century. Born in San Sebastián, his spectacular works are exhibited in the major museums and visible in numerous cities around the world. If you pass through Hernani, a few kilometres from Donostia, you will have the exclusive privilege of being able to visit the museum and home of this eclectic artist: Chillida Leku. An authentic village, which houses more than 40 works scattered both in the fields and in various interior spaces. Strolling among the trees in the garden and suddenly finding yourself faced with the incredible works that call out to be touched and explored is a truly magical experience.
6. A spiritual break at Loyola Sanctuary
Ignatius of Loyola was a Basque cleric, founder of the Society of Jesus, and was declared a saint by Pope Gregory XV in 1622. Against the splendid natural backdrop of the valley of Urola, a territory defined by the National Geographic as the “most fascinating and complete valley in the Basque Country”, stands the sanctuary dedicated to Ignatius around the house where he was born in 1491. After having visited the religious complex and admired the basilica with its impressive 65-metre-high dome, you can also access the birthplace of Saint Ignatius to find out more about the everyday life of his family and then finish the day out with a trip to discover the wonderful surrounding mountains.
7. Let yourself be won over by the charm of Hondarribia
Hondarribia is one of the most beautiful villages in Spain, and if you are on holiday in the province of Gipuzkoa you absolutely cannot miss a stop here. Located at the of the mouth of the Bidasoa river, half an hour by car from San Sebastián, Hondarribia is a picturesque, fortified seafaring town, which will welcome you with its traditional colourful houses with brightly painted wooden balconies and windows. Stroll through the narrow streets of the old town, enjoy a relaxing break in one of its beautiful squares and then, when you start to feel hungry, head for the Marina quarter, where, on the lower floors of the beautiful little houses, once inhabited by fishermen, you will find fantastic bars where you can revive yourself with fresh fish and excellent pintxos.
8. Discover the txotx ritual
In the province of Gipuzkoa there are 70 cider houses, typical places that have been dedicated for centuries to making cider, an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting apples, with traditional methods. When the seasonal cider is ready, between January and April, the Basques visit the cider houses in droves for the traditional ritual of txotx, during which cider is drunk before it is bottled and to eat there is a menu made up of traditional dishes (which includes, among other things, beef ribs, cod omelette and cheeses). A unique chance to get close to the local culture and traditions and enjoy a convivial and fun atmosphere.
Have we convinced you to explore the wonders of this region of the Basque Country? If you still need more reasons to get going, have a look at this page, where you will find the top ten things to do in Gipuzkoa!