Zarautz

ZARAUTZ

Overview of Zarautz, Spain

Zarautz is first and foremost, a beach holiday destination. The town is home to the longest beach in the Spanish Basque Country and also to famous waves that attract surfers from all over the world. If you are looking for a beach destination that is a little bit more laid back than San Sebastian but still has amenities within walking distance, then Zarautz might be a good choice.

The small town of Zarautz, situated on the Spanish Basque coast, is mainly known for one thing – its 2.5 km long beach. This massive stretch of sand, known as “the queen of the beaches,” has been attracting beachgoers since the 19th century when Queen Isabella II of Spain chose Zarautz as her summer getaway destination. Soon after, many aristocrats followed and they built their mansions along the beach. Most of these palatial buildings have since been taken down to make way for newer and larger apartment buildings and hotels and in the 1970’s and 80’s the town transitioned into becoming a more affordable tourist destination.

During most of the year, Zarautz is a pretty relaxed place with not too much going on. However, during the summer months, its population of around 22,000 nearly triples and the atmosphere completely changes! The town is full of amenities and is a great place for water sports, especially surfing. There are a number of surf schools operating in Zarautz as well, for those looking to learn.

Interesting Historical Facts
The town of Zarautz was founded in 1237 and for centuries, fishing was the main economical activity in town. When around the 16th century the Cantabrian whale started to disappear, locals were forced to dedicate to other activities such as agriculture, ship building, etc. Rumor has it that the shipyard of Zarautz built the ship that made the first trip around the world, the Nao Victoria, commanded by Juan Sebastián Elcano, born in neighboring Getaria.

 

Zarautz's Top Things to Do & See

Zarautz's Top Things to Do & See
We have put together a hand selected list of the most important things to do and see in Zarautz – if it deals with Zarautz tourism, we’ve got you covered.
1  

Beach

Zarautz Tourism
Zarautz's beach in summer
Zarautz Beach
Zarautz's characteristic beach huts

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 and one of the longest along the Cantabrian Sea.

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).

2  

Surf

Surfing in Zarautz

Surfing is one of the most popular sports in Zarautz. The waves of Zarautz are famous worldwide and several competitions are held here throughout the year. Every September the town is home to the Rip Curl Pro Surf Zarautz championship.

Zarautz’s beach is ideal for surfing: there aren’t big currents, there are good waves all year around, regardless of the tides. However, generally speaking summer is the best time for beginners and winter for experts. Autumn is known as the “surfing season” because it is when the conditions are usually best for experienced surfers.

But don’t worry if you are not a professional yet because it is also a good place to learn. If you are up for it, there are several surf schools in Zarautz that will be able to help you out:

3  

Iñurritza Protected Biotope

At the eastern end of Zarautz’s beach, stands the protected biotope of Iñurritza, formed by the estuary, the sand dunes and the marshlands. Although Zarautz is very proud of having the biggest dune system of the province, with 177.200 m2, most of its extension is occupied by a golf course. There is a walkway that allows visitors to walk through the public part of the dunes, but again most of it is behind the fence next to the walkway.

The best place to enjoy the views of the Iñurritza Protected Biotope is the top of the Mount Talaimendi.

4  

Mount Talaimendi

Zarautz Beach
Mount Talaimendi as seen from the beach

At the eastern end of the beach, the path that goes along the dunes continues crossing the river estuary and up to Mount Talaimendi. At the top of the mount there is a lookout point which originally was a watchtower for whale hunting. From this lookout point, you can enjoy the beautiful views of the town and the rocky island of Mollarri.

5  

Santa Barbara Lookout Point

Views from the Santa Barbara lookout - Zarautz, Spain
Views from the Santa Barbara lookout

There is another interesting lookout point in Zarautz, located in the western corner of the town, by the Santa Barbara hermitage. To get there, start by heading to the Mutxio or Montetxio park, located at the bottom of the mount Santa Barbara. At the park, there is a path up to the hermitage with the same name (it is also possible to get there by car). The path is full of beautiful green scenery and surrounded by txakoli vineyards. From the church, it is possible to enjoy the beautiful views of Zarautz and its beach.

On those same hillsides, there is also another park called Vista Alegre (which is the name of that neighborhood). At its highest point there is an interesting construction built in 1913 as viewpoint known as “el torreón” (the tower). Unfortunately, it is now falling apart.

rentalcars.com
6  

Old Town

There isn’t too much to the old town of Zarautz, however, there may be a few buildings worth checking out if you need a break from the sun. Everything of interest can be found at western end of the beach. Wandering through the main street (“Kale Nagusia” in Basque), a building that stands out is the Luzea Tower. Built in the 15th century, it is a good example of Basque defensive architecture. Unfortunately, it is not open to the public. There is also a nice little market right across from the tower.

At the western end of the main street, there are two important buildings from the 15th century: the gothic church of Santa María la Real and the Zarautz Tower located right next to it. Together they form an archeological site, which contains remains that show the history of Zarautz from the 5th century B.C. until today. The Zarautz Tower is home to the Museum of Art and History and is the oldest building in town.

The last building of interest is the Palace of Narros which can be found on the western most side of the town, directly on the beach. It was constructed in 1536 and is where Queen Isabella II of Spain stayed during her summer visits to Zarautz. Today the Palace of Narros is a private house, so all admiring must be done from the outside.

PRACTICAL INFO
Website of the archaeological site of Santa Maria la Real: www.menosca.com

Eat & Drink in Zarautz

Eat & Drink in Zarautz
Apart from the beach and the surf culture, the other main attraction of Zarautz is probably its food scene. Due to its geographical location, fish and seafood are at the core of the local gastronomy. However, that isn’t the only food available since there is a wide variety of culinary options for all tastes and budgets.
Arguiñano, Zarautz
Restaurant Arguiñano in Zarautz
Okamika, trendiest pintxo bar in Zarautz
Okamika, trendiest pintxo bar in Zarautz

If you like fish and seafood, then you are at the right place in Zarautz. Among the most typical dishes are merluza a la koxkera (hake koxkera style), chipirones en su tinta (squid in its own ink) and bacalao a la vizcaína (codfish in Biscayan sauce). However, these dishes can be found all over the Basque coast but there is one dish that is specifically typical from Zarautz and every visitor should try. That is the chipirones a lo Pelayo (squid with onions).

Although fish and seafood are the main local specialties, meat-lovers will also find several “asadores” (grill restaurants) serving the famous Basque txuletones (huge aged ox-steaks). Beef, lamb and chicken are also raised in the farms of the area and commonly found in most restaurant menus.

Whether you are sitting down at a restaurant or just having a pintxo, make sure to accompany your food with a glass of the local white wine, txakoli. The txakoli is a young, fruity and slightly sparkling wine with a very long history in the Basque coast but it has just started to become popular in recent years. Zarautz belongs to the geographical area of the Getariako Txakolina D.O. (Designation of Origin), which is the most famous region and probably the best one.

If you are interested in learning more about txakoli, there are almost 20 wineries within a 15 minutes drive from the center of Zarautz and about half of them are open for visits and tastings. For more information about visiting wineries in the area, check out the official website of the Getariako Txakolina D.O.

Restaurants

As previously mentioned, there is a large number of restaurants in Zarautz. Generally speaking, most of them offer traditional Basque cuisine, but you will find many different alternatives. It would be impossible for us to mention all the restaurants in Zarautz, but here just a few recommendations:

Kirkilla Enea Jatetxea – It opened its doors in 1983 and has since offered cuisine that mixes tradition and vanguard, always with Basque soul. The atmosphere is welcoming and the restaurant has an open kitchen that allows guests to see how their food is prepared. Daily menu for lunch for 16.90€ from Monday to Friday and 21.90 € on the weekend. Tasting menu for 38.5 €. (Calle Santa Marina 12, +34 943 13 19 82, www.kirkilla.com)

Karlos Arguiñano – The famous Basque TV chef Karlos Arguiñano owns one of the best restaurants in Zarautz. Currently run by five of its children, they offer traditional cuisine with a modern touch, respecting the local produce and using what is in season. They also have a bar with a wide variety of pintxos and a terrace right in front of the ocean. Tasting menu for 37.95 €. (Calle Mendilauta 13, +34 943 13 00 00, hotelka.com)

Sidrería-Asador Izeta – This is a ciderhouse and grill restaurant at a privileged location, between the mountains and the ocean, only 4km away from Zarautz. We recommend the “ciderhouse menu,” which includes the famous txuleton (aged ox-steak). (Barrio Elkano 4, 20809 Zarautz; +34 943 13 16 93, www.izeta.es)

Telesforo – This is a very popular restaurant among locals. They offer traditional cuisine at a very good quality-price ratio. They have a daily set menu for lunch for 10.50€ from Monday to Friday and 15 € on the weekend. (Plaza Donibane 7, +34 943 83 09 01)

RESTAURANTS LOCATIONS
Skip to Map of Zarautz

Pintxo Bars

Like in any other Basque town, pintxos are an important part of the local food culture and can be found at the counter of nearly every bar in Zarautz. Here just to mention a few of them:

Okamika – It is a newer establishment in Zarautz with a very nice contemporary decoration. At Okamika, they take care of the detail. They not only offer delicious pintxos and raciones but also have a large wine selection as well as a very complete cocktails/gin-tonic menu. (Ipar Kalea 1, +34 943 561 328, www.okamika.es)

Taberna Naparrak – It is one of the most traditional pintxo bars in town. It offers a large variety of pintxos, both cold (at the counter) and warm (ordered from the menu and cooked at the moment). It also works as a restaurant and its menu offers traditional Basque cuisine. (Plaza Barren 1, +34 943 13 31 70)

Taberna Salegi – The taberna offers a nice atmosphere and cuisine in the center of Zarautz. Guests can choose between cold and warm pintxos as well as cazuelitas. (Plaza Barren 3, +34 943 13 32 72)

BARS LOCATIONS
Skip to Map of Zarautz

Festivities in Zarautz

Festivities in Zarautz
Like in any other Basque city, town or village, there are several festivities and events celebrated every year in Zarautz. Here are some of the most important ones:
  • San Pelayo (25th - 27th June): Every 25th of June, the txupinazo (small firework rocket) starts the celebrations in honor of San Pelayo. On that afternoon, there is a children's drum parade, followed by the adults later at night. During the 26th of June, there is a feast atmosphere all over the town and the youth of Zarautz traditionally make a pilgrimage to the hermitage of Saint Pelayo. There is also a giants parade and other activities for both children and adults.
  • Fiestas de la Virgen (14th - 16th August): The Fiestas de la Virgen are celebrated around the middle of August in honor of Santa María la Real. During those days, there are activities for everyone: religious celebrations, sport competitions, free concerts, fireworks exhibitions, parades, theater, etc. On the 15th of August the procession of the Sleeping Virgin (Virgen Dormida) takes place.
  • Euskal Jaiak (1st - 9th September): Celebrated in honor of the Virgin of Aranzazu, the Euskal Jaiak (Basque Feast) is a celebration of everything Basque. From the September 1st to the 9th locals put on their regional outfits and all types of activities having to do with Basque traditions are organized. For example, there are exhibitions of Basque music and dance, sport competitions, etc.

Hotels in Zarautz

Hotels in Zarautz

Get In & Around

Get In & Around

Once in Zarautz, everything is reachable by foot. However, it may be interesting to know that there are actually two local bus lines, connecting the center of Zarautz with other neighborhoods. A standard ticket costs around 1.1€.

TRANSPORT LINKS
Zarautz's local bus lines

Arriving to Zarautz

PLANE – The closest airport is the one of San Sebastián/Hondarribia (40 km away). However, there isn’t a direct bus from Zarautz to the airport, it is necessary to first go to San Sebastian and change buses there.

The airport of Bilbao is 85 km away, but there are good bus connections, since the bus that goes from the airport to San Sebastián stops in Zarautz (Lurraldebus, line DO50B). There is one bus every hour during the day. The trip takes about 65 minutes and costs around 15 €.

CAR – Zarautz is located right by the AP-8 highway, known as highway of the Cantabrian (“autopista del Cantábrico” in Spanish) that connects San Sebastián and Bilbao. Be aware that the AP-8 is a toll road. If you don’t want to pay for it, you can take the N-634 road, which actually crosses the town of Zarautz. Although it will take you a little bit longer, you will be rewarded with prettier coast and interior landscapes.

If you are getting into Zarautz by car, you will soon realize that you have to pay for parking almost everywhere in town. If you decide to risk and go without paying, you will most probably get a fine (especially during the summer months), since there are always police officers checking the parked cars.

BUS – There isn’t a proper bus station in Zarautz, so be careful and make sure you know where to catch or get off the bus.

The company Lurraldebus offers multiple bus lines that connect Zarautz with both Bilbao (line DO01) and San Sebastian (lines DO01, DO02, DO50B and UK10) as well as other towns in the area. The trip to San Sebastián takes between 15 and 45 minutes depending on the number of stops in between. With the line DO02 from Lurraldebus it is also possible to go to Vitoria.

The company Alsa offers one bus per day from Zarautz to Bilbao. During the summer (from the end of June to the beginning of September) La Burundesa also offers buses from/to Pamplona.

TRAIN – The train station of Zarautz is located at the western end of the Lapurdi street, about 5 minutes walk away from the beach. The Euskotren line Bilbao-Donostia stops in Zarautz. It takes between 20 and 30 minutes to arrive to San Sebastián. The trip to Bilbao lasts around 2 hours, stopping in other places like Eibar and Durango.

The closest station connecting to the Spanish train RENFE is San Sebastián.

Other Places of Interest in the Surroundings

In the Surroundings

Map – Things to Do in Zarautz

Wait, don’t close me!

Is Eusko Guide helping you plan your trip?

If so, please consider booking your hotel through the links to booking.com found on our website or use the following link:
http://www.booking.com/index.html?aid=360107

That way, you get the best rates on your hotels and at the same time, it helps us to continue contributing to this site. Everyone wins!