Inside Hondarribia’s fortified city walls, lies the charming Old Town. The Santa María Gate originally was and still is, the main entrance to town. This medieval gate greets visitors and leads them to Kale Nagusia (Main Street), where some of the most beautiful buildings of the Old Town can be found. One such building is the town hall of Hondarribia which is housed in a baroque building from the 18th century.
There are two other impressive baroque buildings found on the Kale Nagusia. One is the Zuloaga Palace, an urban palace from the 18th century that today houses the municipal library and historic archive. The other is the 17th century Casadevante House which is now the Hotel Pampinot (unfortunately the hotel is temporarily closed).
Just meters away from the Casadevante House stands the Church of Santa María de la Asunción y del Manzano.
The main street ends at Weapons Square (“Plaza de Armas” in Spanish), which for centuries has been the main square of Hondarribia and witness to celebrations, receptions, proclamations, any many other important events. The highlight of the Plaza de Armas is a magnificent building called Castle of Charles V which now functions as a Parador Hotel. It is possible to get a glimpse even if you are not staying in the hotel by visiting the bar that has a separate side entrance.
From Weapons Square, we recommend to weave back and forth through the streets of the Old Town, making sure not to miss other highlights of the area such as the Guipuzcoa Square. You can eventually make your way down to the Marina Neighborhood.
Santa Maria Church
The Church of Santa María de la Asunción y del Manzano was built in the 15th and 16th centuries on top of the ruins of old walls and a roman church.
Although the construction of the building started in 1474, it lasted much longer than expected, since at the time Castile was trying to conquer the Kingdom of Navarre. At some point, the renovation of the medieval fortifications was so urgent, that material for the construction of the church had to be transferred to the fortifications.
Finally in 1549, after many battles, the first construction phase was considered to be finished and the building was consecrated.
Although the church was mainly built in gothic style, during the 16th century, some renaissance style elements were added such as the entrance that we see today. Another highlight of the building is the baroque bell tower from the 18th century from Francisco de Ibero.
If you are able to enter the church, make sure you head upstairs and check out the beautiful organ.
Castle of Charles V – Parador of Hondarribia
The impressive building that today houses the Parador of Hondarribia was originally a fortress built at the end of the 10th century by King Sancho II of Pamplona. Today, it is known as the “Castle of Charles V” because of the extension and restoration works ordered by Charles V in the 16th century.
Its location on the hill overlooks the Bidasoa River, Hendaye and Txingudi Bay, making it the perfect position for defensive purposes. For this reason, the castle was mainly used as a barracks and also for the house of the governor. Generally, it is said that it functioned as a “palace-castle.”
The most important guest to have ever stayed at the Castle of Charles V was probably the Spanish Royal Family, who in 1660 lived in the castle while waiting for the marriage of the King’s daughter, the Infanta María Theresa, with the future King of France, Louis XIV. That marriage, together with the Treaty of the Pyrenees that was signed on the nearby Pheasant Island, put an end to a long conflict between France and Spain.
Hondarribia saw many battles due to its location right on the border with France. These battles took a toll on the Castle of Charles V. At the end of the 18th century the building was severely damaged by French troops and remained a ruin until it was rehabilitated and transformed into a National Parador in 1968. Since then, the castle has served as a hotel managed by the Spanish government.
The Marina Neighborhood is located right next to the old port (“Kai Zahar” in Basque) and is where the fishermen of Hondarribia lived for many centuries. Situated between the walled Old Town and the water, it is an area full of beautiful Basque style houses with colorful shutters and balconies.
Apart from its lovely architecture, the Marina Neighborhood is famous because of its high concentration of bars and restaurants (see the Restaurants and Pintxo Bars sections for more info). There is always a lively atmosphere in the area, especially around the San Pedro and Santiago Streets. When the weather permits, the terraces from the bars and restaurants open up and add to an already nice atmosphere.
While in the Marina Neighborhood, it is also possible to take a walk by the Butrón Boardwalk (“Paseo de Butrón”) that stretches along the water. From there, you can enjoy the fantastic views of the ocean, the estuary of the Bidasoa River and the Txingudi Bay with Hendaye (France) on the other side.
Hondarribia is home to a beautiful 800 m beach. The beach has lifeguards, bathrooms, showers, changing rooms as well as some activities to keep children entertained.
Because of all the facilities and its quiet waters, Hondarribia’s beach is popular among locals and tourists alike, especially families with children.
There is also a very nice seafront promenade that surrounds the beach and the port, continuing south next to the water to the old port (“Kai Zaharra" in Basque).
Paid parking is available right next to the beach.
The Bay Path (“Camino de la bahía” in Spanish) is a trail that spans a distance of 14 km (about 8.7 miles), starting at the eastern end of Hendaye’s beach (France). The path continues by the waterside up to the bridge that crosses to Irun. It also goes further into Spain, crossing the town of Hondarribia.
Following the Bay Path right next to the water in Hondarribia, you will see the walls that surround the Old Town to cross next the Marina neighborhood. The path continues surrounding the beach to finally end at the Higuer Lighthouse.