Gipuzkoa is a gem in the heart of the Basque Country.
Having made the decision to move here from Manchester in July 2020, I may be slightly biassed. But for me, Gipuzkoa has everything!
It has the mountains, the coast, the rugged cliffs, the picturesque towns and of course, the incredible Basque food. What’s not to love?
Whilst most people will visit San Sebastian (and rightly so) Gipuzkoa’s charm extends far beyond the borders of its glittering capital, San Sebastián.
In this post, I’ll run through some of my favourite places that I’ve visited whilst living in Gipuzkoa.
The best places to visit in Gipuzkoa
Most of the places below can be reached via. public transport from San Sebastian.
1. San Sebastian (Donostia)
We start with Gipuzkoa’s main attraction, San Sebastian. The heart of Gipuzkoa, San Sebastian beats with a rhythmic blend of beauty, culture, and history.
We have plenty of content dedicated to exactly what to do when visiting San Sebastian, so we’ll leave you with the highlights below:
- The golden sands of Playa de la Concha, a beach that curves around the bay in the centre of the city. Consistently voted as one of the best beaches in Europe, it’s a haven for sunseekers and water enthusiasts.
- Alongside three beaches in San Sebastian, there are three mountains in the city. You can’t miss the historic Castillo de la Mota, perched on top of Mount Urgull, serving as a lookout that has watched over the city through the ages.
- The elegant Palacio Miramar, stands as a testament to the city’s Royal past. The place offers breathtaking views and a glimpse into the lavish lifestyles of bygone eras.
San Sebastian encapsulates the essence of Gipuzkoa – a blend of natural beauty, historical depth, and a vibrant culture. We haven’t even mentioned the food, which is arguably the city’s star attraction!
Nestled along the Basque coast, Hondarribia is a mosaic of history and charm. Whilst small in size, there’s plenty to do in this small fishermans town:
- An Old Quarter that breathes life into the past. Wandering through its cobbled streets, you can’t help but be enchanted by the colourful, traditional Basque houses with their wooden balconies.
- The ancient walls that guard the Old Quarter invite visitors to step back in time. There are some of the best preserved Mediaeval walls which show tales of past centuries.
- The beautiful port, a bustling hub of activity where traditional fishing boats dance on the waves, and the fresh catch of the day promises some of the best seafood in the province.
Hondarribia is a perfect blend of history, culture, and scenic beauty, making it a must-visit destination in Gipuzkoa.
Zarautz, renowned for its surf culture, is a paradise for those who love the water. This lively town boasts:
- A long, sandy beach, stretching over two kilometres, making it a favourite spot for surfers from all over the world! The rolling waves provide the perfect backdrop for surfers of all levels, from beginners to pros.
- If you prefer dry land, well, Zarautz is also an excellent spot for hiking. There’s a stunning coastal walk from Zarautz to Getaria, alongside some countryside hikes in the Txakoli vineyards.
- An array of local seafood restaurants along the promenade, where you can savour the freshest catch while enjoying stunning sunsets.
Zarautz combines the thrill of surfing with the relaxed vibe of a beach town, making it an irresistible spot in Gipuzkoa.
If you make the trip, consider our post on all the things to do in Zarautz.
Getaria, a picturesque fishing village, just some 4.5 km from Zarautz. Despite being another small coastal town, it’s a treasure of culinary and cultural experiences.
The Getaria highlights include:
- The village’s fishing heritage, evident in its bustling port and fish markets, where the daily catch is an event in itself. Some of Gipuzkoa’s best restaurants are located in the port of Getaria.
- The Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum, a homage to the fashion icon born in this town, showcases his works and contributions to the world of haute couture.
- A gastronomic paradise, Getaria is not only renowned for its fresh seafood, but also for their famous Txakoli wine. You can visit one of the many vineyards in the town, or try a bottle in a restaurant.
Getaria is a blend of history, fashion, and gastronomy, offering a unique experience on the Basque coast.
Pasaia, located just 5 km from San Sebastian is a hidden gem. It’s a picturesque coastal town with its narrow streets, colourful houses and stunning opening to the Bay of Biscay.
Key attractions include:
- The impressive harbour, alive with the sights and sounds of maritime life. It offers an authentic glimpse into the town’s maritime soul.
- The town’s layout, with its historic buildings huddled around the water (on the east side), creates a postcard-perfect setting that’s ideal for a leisurely stroll.
- Surrounding hiking trails provide breathtaking views of the Bay of Biscay. One of my favourite walks is the hike from Gros in San Sebastian to Pasaia. The hike from Pasaia to Hondarribia through Jaizkibel is also on my wish list!
Pasaia is truly a serene escape, where the charm of a coastal town meets the beauty of its natural surroundings.
In the heart of the Basque Country, Astigarraga stands as the undisputed capital of Basque cider, an iconic drink from the region.
This town is celebrated for:
- Its numerous Basque cider houses (sidrerías), where tradition and taste fuse in a glass of crisp, tangy Basque cider. The cider houses are not just about the drink; they’re about an experience, accompanied by the traditional Basque cider house menu.
- The annual ritual of Txotx (January – April). It’s a time of year that signals the tasting of cider directly from the barrels! It’s as fun as it looks.
- The charming rural atmosphere that envelops the town, making it a delightful destination for those looking to experience the authentic Basque countryside.
Astigarraga invites visitors to indulge in its unique cider culture, offering a taste that is as refreshing as it is steeped in history.
Tolosa, once the capital of Gipuzkoa, is a vibrant town that retains its historical charm.
It’s renowned for:
- The historic centre, where ancient buildings line narrow streets, echoing stories of the past.
- The bustling weekly market, held every Saturday. It’s a kaleidoscope of local flavours, crafts, and traditions. A place where locals and visitors gather to shop, socialise, and soak in the vibrant atmosphere.
- The celebration of traditional Basque festivals, such as the colourful Carnival of Tolosa, which transforms the town into a hub of music, dance, and festivities.
Alongside the town itself, Tolosa is also famous for its alubias de Tolosa (Tolosa beans). A hearty autumnal dish, you can try the Tolosa beans at some of these restaurants.
Zumaia stands out as a geological marvel along the Basque coast. If you can only go to one place outside of San Sebastian, then this is it!
This town is famous for:
- The stunning Flysch cliffs, a breathtaking natural phenomenon formed over millions of years, offer a visual timeline of Earth’s geological history. Check out our guide to the flysch here.
- Itzurun Beach, known for its striking rock formations and as a filming location for Dragonstone in the hit HBO series “Game of Thrones”.
- The picturesque setting where the mountains meet the sea, making Zumaia a popular spot for both nature lovers and photographers.
Zumaia’s unique geological wonders provide a captivating backdrop for exploration and discovery. Here’s our full post on what to see and do in Zumaia.
9. Aralar Natural Park
The Aralar Natural Park is a haven of natural beauty, showcasing:
- Lush green landscapes and sprawling meadows. A contrast to the rugged coastline of Gipuzkoa.
- A network of hiking trails that cross through the diverse terrains. You can find both gentle walks for families or challenging treks for avid hikers.
- Rich wildlife and flora, providing nature enthusiasts with a chance to observe the park’s ecological diversity up close.
Aralar Natural Park is a breath of fresh air, an escape into the heart of nature’s untouched beauty in the Basque Country.
Arantzazu is a spiritual and cultural beacon nestled in the mountains near Oñati.
The small Basque town is renowned for:
- The Sanctuary of Arantzazu, an architectural marvel blending modern design with spiritual significance, drawing visitors from around the world.
- The scenic beauty that surrounds the sanctuary, providing a peaceful and contemplative environment.
- Its role as a starting point for several hiking trails, offering an opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the Basque mountains.
With the meadows of Urbia and the mountain range of Aizkorri on your doorstep alongside the Sanctuary, it’s no wonder Arantzazu is a popular spot in Gipuzkoa.