Basque Country

Situated between Spain and France on the Bay of Biscay, the Basque Country (known as “Euskadi” in Basque)lies both in Spain and France .Its major part is in the spanish side. Its urban hubs are Bilbao and San Sebastián.Bilbao the former heavily industrialized city after the opening of the the Guggenheim Museum witnessed a transformation in many aspects. SanSebastian or Donostia is a seaside resort widely regarded as one of the world’s great food meccas and Nowdays is one the the gems of the Spanish North and one of the major destinations in Spain

In many ways, the Basques are a bit different from the rest of Spain and actually Europe.Their pagan-influenced traditions, distinctive cuisine and folk music,their ,like no other, enigmatic non-Indo-European language make the region seem like a country within a country.A few decades earlier there where a lot of terror Incidents involving ETA (Organization for the Liberation of the Basque country). At the time being there is no Tendency to Separatismus and there is no fear at all.we travelled at the countryside ,in small villages at the bigger cities and we felt completely safe.

One of the main topics about Basque Country revolves around its food.San Sebastián is renowned for its Basque cuisine. San Sebastián and the surrounding area is home to a high concentration of restaurants with Michelin stars, including Arzak (San Sebastián), Berasategi (Lasarte), Akelarre (district Igeldo) and Mugaritz (Errenteria). It is the city with the second most Michelin stars per capita in the world after Kyoto, Japan. According to The World’s 50 Best Restaurants ranking in 2013, two of the world’s top ten best restaurants were in San Sebastian. As well as these restaurants, the city is known for pintxos (small-plate dishes similar to tapas) which are found in the bars of the Old Quarter and elsewhere in the city.

And locals know how to wash things down, since one-third of the Rioja D.O.C. (Denomination of Origin)—arguably the most prestigious winemaking region in Spain—lies in the Basque Country. The lusty reds (mostly tempranillo blends) taste sublime in situ, especially when the winery happens to be an architectural masterpiece like Marqués de Riscal or Bodegas Ysios, designed by Frank Gehry and Santiago Calatrava, respectively.

Also there’s no shortage of breathtaking scenery . Along the rocky coast, peek into San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a 10th-century hermitage built on an islet connected to the mainland by a stone bridge. Fishing villages like Lekeitio, Bakio, and Getaria, with their picturesque harbors are ideal places to relax for a few days.

Though public transportation is surprisingly efficient , it’s worth renting a car,like we did especially if you enjoy vineyard-hopping, discovering unknown villages, and lounging on secluded beaches.



We flew to Bilbao end of Spring and we were lucky to have amazing weather.The initial plan was to have a relaxing long weekend in Bilbao and San Sebastian but it turned out that the Region had very much to offer so we tried to make the most of it crossing 2 countries and visiting as many villages ,bars,restaurants,museums as we could. We arrived at afternoon so resting for a bit and heading for the Pintxos ,the Wine and the Nightlife of Bilbao.



Biarritz is a city on the Bay of Biscay, on the Atlantic coast in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in the French Basque Country (Cote Basque)in southwestern France. It is located 35 kilometres from the border with Spain. It is a luxurious seaside tourist destination known for the Hôtel du Palais (originally built for the Empress Eugénie circa 1855), its casinos in front of the sea and its surfing culture.From the 11th century, Biarritz was a village dedicated to whale hunting, until Victor Hugo, found it in 1843. The writer made to Biarritz the following compliments on his book “Alpeak eta Pirinioak” :

«I have not met in the world any place more pleasant and perfect than Biarritz. I have never seen the old Neptune throwing joy and glory with such a force in the old Cybele. All this coast is full of humming. Gascony’s sea grinds, scratches, and stretches on the reefs its never-ending whisper. Friendly population and white cheerful houses, large dunes, fine sand, great caves and proud sea, Biarritz is amazing. My only fear is Biarritz becoming fashionable. Whether this happens, the wild village, rural and still honest Biarritz, will be money-hungry. Biarritz will put poplars in the hills, railings in the dunes, kiosks in the rocks, seats in the caves, trousers worn on tourists.»

Either for good or for bad, Victor Hugo’s prophecy was fulfilled. Biarritz planted poplars, tamarinds, hydrangeas, roses and pittosporums on the slopes and the hills, set railings on the dunes, covered moats with elegant stairs… and polluted with the speculation of the land and the money-hunger.

Humble and proud tourists praise Biarritz’s coast.Various hotels were made, as well as a municipal casino, the club Belleuve and the casino were opened in 1857, the thalassotherapy house, and wonderful luxury houses. Luxurious store shops from London and Paris were also set up in Biarritz, and 36 small newspapers were published in the village.

Biarritz became more renowned in 1854 when Empress Eugenie (the wife of Napoleon III) built a palace on the beach (now the Hôtel du Palais). European royalty were frequent visitors.

Biarritz’s casino (opened 10 August 1901) and beaches make the town a notable tourist centre for Europeans and East Coast North Americans. The city has also become a prime destination for surfers from around the world, developing a nightlife and surf-based culture.

Ιn 1957, the American film director Peter Viertel was in Biarritz with his wife Deborah Kerr working on the film The Sun Also Rises. One of his Californian friends came for a visit, and his use of a surfboard off Biarritz is recognized as the first time surfing was practised in Europe. Biarritz eventually became one of the most popular European surfing spots.

St Jean de Luz

St Jean de Luz

Between Biarritz and the Spanish border, the Atlantic fishing village of Saint-Jean-de-Luz combines Basque charm with pleasant, family-friendly beaches on the bay.Not to be missed are a walk across the Sea at the Jacque Thibaud Promenade and marvell the typical basque style houses at the beautiful old town.Nowadays it is a popular resort town for both spanish and French visitors.

The French Basque Country has numerous well manicured villages and towns with rustic charm. A majority of them are scattered throughout the interior among the green hills of the countryside and often only occupy a street or two. Saint Jean de Luz is one of the exceptions that is actually located on the coast and it is also rather unique since it combines traditional old Basque architecture found in the interior with stately mansions that have a French influence. This is due to the fact that in the 17th century the town transitioned from being one of France’s most important fishing ports to a center for Basque corsairs. These corsairs looted and plundered and brought back incredible wealth to Saint Jean de Luz, the evidence of which can still be seen. Today, Saint Jean de Luz is a sleepy beach town that is the perfect place for families or couples who are seeking to relax in the sun while experiencing the charm of a gone-by era.

It is also the birthplace of Basque gastronomical societies, with the oldest recorded mention of such a txoko back in 1870. In addition, San Sebastian hosts the first institution to offer a university degree in Gastronomy, the Basque Culinary Center.

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

San Sebastian, officially known as Donostia–San Sebastián lies on the coast of the Bay of Biscay, 20 km (12 miles) from the France–Spain border. The capital city of the province of Gipuzkoa, the municipality’s population is 188,102 as of 2021, with its metropolitan area reaching 436,500 in 2010.[6] Locals call themselves donostiarra (singular), both in Spanish and Basque. It is also a part of Basque Eurocity Bayonne-San Sebastián.

The main economic activities are almost entirely service-based, with an emphasis on commerce and tourism, as it has long been one of the most famous tourist destinations in Spain. Despite the city’s small size, events such as the San Sebastián International Film Festival and the San Sebastian Jazz Festival have given it an international dimension. San Sebastian, along with Wrocław, Poland, was the European Capital of Culture in 2016.

The city was first made famous during the Belle Époque era and is where Queen Maria Cristina established her royal summerhouse. Since then, San Sebastián has attracted wealthy beach-goers in search of sun and sophistication. And it’s no wonder why. The city’s main beach, called La Concha, is for sure the most beautiful urban beach in Europe. Luxurious beachside mansions run along La Concha, as well as the famous spa called La Perla (The Pearl) and its boardwalk is lined by an ornate white railing that has become a symbol of the city. If that already weren’t enough, there are two additional beaches in San Sebastian, one of which is also very popular with surfers.



The main highlight of Zarautz is, without a doubt, its 2.5 kilometers long sandy beach, which is the longest of the Spanish Basque Country .

The beach is popular not only among Basques, Spanish and French, but it also receives visitors from all over the world: families with children, young and old couples and, of course, surfers.

The beach is divided in three different areas. The western end is dedicated to families and bathers, the center is for surfers and the eastern end is less sparsely packed and a good spot for those that want to bare it all.

The beach is also framed by a nice promenade. There are various sculptures along the path as well as slides and swings for children. The path even continues west out of Zarautz until reaching neighboring Getaria (about 4 km away).



The village of Hondarribia is located on the Basque coast and is situated on the border with France. It is full of perfectly manicured houses with colorful wooden balconies. The architectural features reflect a kind of mixture between Spanish and the French Basque Country characteristics and make it very interesting . In addition to being a pleasure to explore, it is also home to some of the Basque Country’s best restaurants and is quickly becoming a foodies paradise.

Hondarribia is packed with a huge number of amazing restaurants and bars – some of the very best in the region in fact. If you are into Basque gastronomy, your trip won’t be complete if you don’t visit Hondarribia. The well-preserved Old Town, a relaxing maritime atmosphere and fantastic food are only some of the reasons why Hondarribia is a real hidden gem .


Every year, more than one million people descend on Bayonne for what is France’s largest festival, the Fetes de Bayonne. It is reminiscent of the San Fermin festival of Pamplona, where the bull plays an important role in many of the events throughout the week. It is a picturesque place with a nice mixture of Basque and French architecture as well as a massive gothic cathedral with a cloister from the 13th century. And if you are into food, then you might also want to check the local chocolatiers and the infamous Bayonne ham.

In the French Basque interior, the most beautiful village is Espelette. Its picture-perfect streets are lined with traditional Basque houses, many of which feature Espelette’s number one export, the Piment d’Espelette (“Espelette pepper”). These drying peppers proudly dangle from lines that are attached to the facades of the houses, creating the symbol of the entire village. It is a pleasure to stroll down its streets and take in the unique scenery while stopping once in a while at the stores and boutiques that sell not only the famous peppers but also many more local products such as chocolate and cheese.

Deep in the French Basque Country’s hinterland lies another beautiful village, St. Jean Pied-de-Port. It’s unspoiled and surrounded by a green landscape making it a great place for those interested in hiking and those in search of solitude & relaxation. It is a walled village and has numerous gates. The most well known is the Porte St-Jacques which was made a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1998. St. Jean Pied-de-Port is also a popular starting point for many pilgrims traveling along the Camino de Santiago. The camino is also listed as a World Heritage by Unesco.

The San Fermín festival and the legendary running of the bulls, attracts over a million visitors every year to Pamplona. The festival starts the 6th of July at 12:00 PM with the “txupinazo,” a small firework that is fired from the balcony of the City Hall. During the week of San Fermín, Pamplona is flooded with party-goers from all over the world each donning a white t-shirt and a red handkerchief. The activities and events of the festival consist of concerts, rural sport competitions, Basque dance and music, nightly fireworks shows and much more.

However, the most famous event of San Fermín is, without a doubt, the running of the bulls (“encierro” in Spanish). This event, which was immortalized in Ernest Hemingway’s book, “The Sun Also Rises,” takes place every morning at 8:00 AM between the 7th and the 14th of July. Runners are chased by six bulls for approximately 800 meters until they reach the bullring (“plaza de toros” in Spanish). This is a very dangerous activity and while some people train all year preparing for it, others decide to join at the last moment, convinced by the amount of alcohol drank during the night before. This makes the running even more dangerous and unfortunately 15 people have died doing it since 1924. Nevertheless, the running of the bulls is an extremely popular activity and something unique that is worth seeing at least once.

A Rioja is synonymous with Spanish wine and for good reason. Although Spain in general has very good wines, the bulk of the best wines are without a doubt coming from La Rioja. The region is divided into 3 areas: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa. Only Rioja Alavesa is located in the Basque Country and most points of interest are located within this region. However, if you are really into wine, it might be worth it to explore the entire region as the wine from the three different parts have their own particular characteristics. La Rioja wines are of the highest quality, which is reflected in continuous ratings of 90+ points from Robert Parker, the world’s leading wine critic.

Not only is the wine amazing, but there are also many points of interest to be explored. Laguardia is a small, walled town set atop a hill in the heart of La Rioja Alavesa. The town once held a strategic military position and, because of this, tunnels and cellars were built under the houses. After it was no longer of any military value, the villagers began to take advantage of the cellars perfect conditions for creating wine. And the rest is history. Today, there are several wineries that still use the cellars and it is possible to tour them. It’s like stepping back in time before state-of-the-art facilities existed and the products were still very artisanal in nature. Laguardia is a definite “must see.”

There are literally hundreds and hundreds of bodegas in the region. Some are very traditional and some very modern. Modern examples can be seen at the Ysios Bodega from Santiago Calatrava and the Marques de Riscal Bodega from Frank Gehry.