The northern part of Spain is rich in medieval villages, picturesque wine regions and gorgeous beaches. From the scenic Picos de Europa to the stylish San Sebastian, check out the best places to visit in Northern Spain.
Explore Gaztelugatxe, a small peninsular islet on the coast of Biscay, connected to the mainland by a bridge. On top of the island stands a hermitage, named Gaztelugatxeko Doniene, which dates back to the 10th century. It is reachable by climbing 231 steps up a rocky slope. In Bilbao you should visit an old part of town (Casco Viejo) and of course the iconic Guggenheim Museum of modern art. Built alongside the Nervion River, it's one of the most admired works of contemporary architecture.
San Sebastian's picturesque shoreline makes it a popular beach resort. The seaside environment is enhanced by hilly surroundings that are easily accessible. Playa de la Concha is one of the most famous urban beaches in Europe. It is located in the stunningly beautiful, shell shaped Concha Bay. This golden sand beach is very spacious and it offers a clear blue water.
Photo: David Gonzalez Rebollo, Shutterstock
How to get there:
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Where to stay:
In Santander, we encourage you to stay at 3* Hotel Costa San Juan De La Canal, with very good reviews and just few minutes’ walk from the beach. It offers rooms with wooden beams, a private bathroom and a TV. Costa San Juan de la Canal’s restaurant has a charming porch and serves traditional Cantabrian food. There is also a café serving snacks and drinks throughout the day.
In the Basque Country we recommend you to book the exceptional 3* B&b Hotel Donostia. This top rated hotel offers stylish, air-conditioned rooms and free high-speed WiFi. It is located in Oiartzun, 15 minutes’ drive from San Sebastián Airport and from the centre of both Irún and Hondarribia. The bright rooms come with air conditioning, a 40-inch flat-screen LED TV, a large desk and a private bathroom. Guests will find a tea and coffee service in the lobby 24 hours a day. Central San Sebastián and La Concha Beach can be reached in 20 minutes’ drive. Guests can visit San Marco Fortress and Jaizkibel Mountain, also a 20-minute drive away.
What to do:
Northern Spain will amaze you with its historic cities, delicious cuisine and rich cultural legacy. You can take a food tour to taste great tapas or explore the traditional wineries of La Rioja region. For example, there are very picturesque vineyards around San Vicente de la Sonsierra.
Northern coast of Spain offers many opportunities for leisure activities, like kitesurfing, boating, and other water sports. The beaches around Santander are offer perfect surfing conditions.
You can also learn to play Basque pelota.
Admire breathtaking panoramas of the Magdalena Peninsula, located near the entrance to the Bay of Santander, Cantabria. It’s a popular recreational destination for both tourists and locals. Visit the historic Palacio de la Magdalena and its surrounding gardens, two beaches and a lighthouse.
El Parque de los Desvelados (Park of the Sleepless) in Estella, decorated with enormous skull sculptures, and Museo de las Brujas (Witches Museum) in Zugarramurdi are perfect for those in search of extraordinary attractions.
The Concha Beach in San Sebastian is the best location for a long walk along the coastline. You can climb to the summit of Monte Urgull, topped by the low castle walls of the Castillo de la Mota and a grand statue of Christ.
Cruise along the Bay of Biscay by ferry or charter a yacht to enjoy the whale and dolphin watching.
The climb down the hill, across the winding medieval bridge and up to the island of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is a small adventure that will reward you with truly impressive views.
Architecture and history enthusiasts should certainly visit the old Roman stone bridge in Cangas de Onis (Asturias). Head to Leon to admire Santa Maria de Leon Cathedral and explore Museo Panteon San Isidoro.
Experience local festivals such as Aste Nagusia (Semana Grande), which starts on the first Saturday after 19 August in Bilbao.
In the Basque capital of San Sebastian, the International Film Festival takes place around 16 to 24 September. On January 19–20 San Sebastian Festival is celebrated, with the famous taborrada drumming.
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