Surroundings, San Sebastián

Numerous routes and places of interest are to be found outside the confines of the city proper.

To the French Frontier



The motorway and N I cross the Río Urumea to the industrial town of Rentería, on the Río Oyarzun. North of Rentería is the port of Pasajes, at the mouth of the inlet of the same name.
Pasajes is made up of three parts - San Pedro, the commercial port of Ancho (Basque Antxo) and the little port of Pasajes de San Juan (Basque Pasaia Donibane) which is situated in a beautiful land-locked bay and which consists of a single street. Lafayette sailed from here in 1777 to aid the American revolutionaries. Victor Hugo lived in the village for some time in 1843.


From Pasajes the road crosses the Basque hills to the frontier town of Irún, the most notable features of which are the 16th Century church of Nuestra Señora del Juncal, with a Romanesque figure of the Virgin, and the 17th century Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) in the Plaza de San Juan.


3km/2mi north, on the bay at the mouth of the Río Bidasoa, is the little fishing town and holiday resort of Fuenterrabía, formerly a frontier stronghold which was frequently the scene of fighting. In the picturesque little streets of the old town, which is entered through the 15th century Puerta de Santa María, are many old houses with coats of arms on the facade.

Nuestra Señora de la Asunción

In the church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Gothic; enlarged in the eighth century) was celebrated the marriage of Louis XIV of France and the Infanta María Teresa of Spain -though the Infanta herself was not present, being represented by a Spanish minister.

Palacio del Rey Carlos V

From the terrace of the 12th century Palacio del Rey Carlos V (now a parador), in the Plaza de Armas, there is a fine view of the mouth of the river and the lighthouse on Cabo Higuer to the north, probably on the site of an ancient temple of Venus.


From Fuenterrabía there is a very attractive road up the bare sandstone ridge of Jaizquibel (584m/1,916ft), with the pilgrimage church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe and the commandingly situated Hostal Provincial de Jaizquibel (alt. 448m/1,470ft).

Along the Cantabrian Coast



Leave San Sebastián on N I, heading south, and after passing through the Antiguo district turn right into N 634, which runs west through the Basque uplands to Usúrbil (alt. 45m/148ft), with a handsome church and the old mansion of the Soroa family.


N 634 continues through the broad valley of the Río Oria to Orio (alt. 34m/112ft), a little fishermen's and seamen's town on the fjord-like estuary of the river, with a beach at its mouth.


After crossing the Col d'Orio the road descends to Zarauz, a little town on the flat and sandy coast, at the west end of a plain surrounded by hills; it was a summer residence of Queen Isabella II in the 19th century. With its long and beautiful beach it is still a popular holiday resort. In the 16th Century Zarauz was famed for its shipyards; among the ships built here was the "Victoria", in which Juan Sebastián Elcano, the companion of Magellan, carried out the first circumnavigation of the globe in 1519-22. In the picturesque streets of the town are a number of handsome old buildings, including the 18th century Casa Consistorial (Town Hall), the 15th Century Palacio del Marqués de Narros, with a beautiful park, and the massive Torre Lucea (15th C.).


At Zarauz begins the Cornisa Cantábrica (Cantabrian Corniche), a magnificent road running close to the rocky coast. The fishing port of Guetaria is picturesquely situated on a promontory, its harbor sheltered by the fortified island of San Antonio, which is connected with the mainland by a causeway.
Below the 13th century Gothic church of San Salvador lies the harbor, with attractive fish restaurants.

Juan Sebastián Elcano

From the lighthouse at the tip of the promontory there are fine views. In the town's main street stands a tall monument (1922) to the navigator Juan Sebastián Elcano (1487-1526), a native of Guetaria, who ended his circumnavigation of the globe in his home town.

Town Hall

In the Town Hall are frescoes by Zuloaga (1922) depicting Elcano's voyage round the world.


The coast road continues from Guetaria to the resort of Zumaya, at the foot of Monte Santa Clara. The Gothic church of San Pedro has a retablo by the Basque artist Juan de Anchieta.

Zuloaga Museum

At the entrance to the town is the Villa Zuloaga, built by the painter Ignacio Zuloaga (1870-1945) on the ruins of the 12th century monastery of Santiago Echea. His house is now a museum, which displays the artist's collection, including works by El Greco, Zurbarán and Goya.
Address: Casa Santiago Zumaya, Carretera de San Sebastian, E-20750 Zumaia, Spain


From Deva N 634 turns inland and comes in 21km/13mi to Eibar (alt. 120m/394ft), where the Spanish Republic was proclaimed in 1931. During the Civil War the town suffered much destruction. Along with Elgóibar, Eibar is a center for the manufacture of arms and munitions.


N 634 continues, with many bends, to the little resort of Deva, at the mouth of the Río Deva. The beautiful 14th century church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, which was restored in the 17th Century, has a fine 13th century doorway and contains Romanesque bas-reliefs, also of the 13th Century.

To Arantzazu

Monastery of San Ignacio de LoyolaMonastery of San Ignacio de Loyola


From just beyond Zumaya, on the Cantabrian Corniche, C 6317 runs south through the Urola valley, between wooded hills, to Azpeitia (alt. 85m/279ft), a small industrial town with handsome old patrician houses. The Gothic church of San Sebastián, in which St Ignatius of Loyola was baptized, has a fine portico by Ventura Rodríguez (1767).

Monastery of San Ignacio de Loyola

C 6317 continues up the Urola valley to the monastery (off the road to the left) of San Ignacio de Loyola (alt. 115m/377ft), an extensive range of buildings erected between 1689 and 1888 to the design of Carlo Fontana, a pupil of Bernini. The monastery now houses a Jesuit college.


The church at the Monastery of San Ignacio de Loyola, with a 65m/213ft high dome by Joaquín de Churriguera, is one of the finest of its kind in Spain; it was completed only in the mid-18th century. The interior is richly decorated with marble and semi-precious stones, and on the sumptuous Baroque high altar, between twisted columns, is a silver statue of St Ignatius.

Monasterio de San Ignacio de Loyola Santa Casa

In the left wing of the monastery is the Santa Casa, the house in which St Ignatius of Loyola was born, which has a Mudéjar-style exterior. Visitors are shown the room in which the saint was born and the sickroom in which he resolved to abandon a military career.


After passing through Azcoitia (alt. 130m/427ft), an old market town in a beautiful situation, the road continues on a winding course to Zumárraga (alt. 357m/1,171ft), on the right bank of the Río Urola, with a road and railroad junction and the birthplace of Miguel López de Legazpi, conqueror of the Philippines, who is commemorated by a monument erected in 1897.


From Zumárraga C 6322 winds its way up to the Puerto de Descarga (487m/1,598ft), from which there are fine views, and then runs down to Vergara (alt. 145m/476ft), at the junction of the Río Anzuola with the Río Deva. The church of San Pedro has a figure of Christ by Montañés (1657). Also of interest is the 16th century Palacio Jaúregui with its very individual facade.


C 6322 runs south from Vergara in the direction of Mondragón (Basque Arrasate). Just before that town, at San Prudencio, a road branches off on the left and traverses beautiful scenery to Oñate. This little town, once famous for its university, has preserved a fine university building (16th C.) with a richly sculptured Plateresque facade. The monastery of Bidauerreta has a Renaissance facade. The most notable feature of the 15th century church of San Miguel is the cloister, with a stream flowing through it.


From Oñate a narrow road leads up to the shrine of Arantzazu (alt. 800m/2,625ft), where a shepherd is said to have discovered a figure of the Virgin in 1469. The original 16th century chapel was replaced in 1950 by a modern church decorated by contemporary artists. From the church there are magnificent views of grand mountain scenery.

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