photo credit: kezka via photopin cc

A Quick Guide to the Basque Country

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We know this region like the back of our hand because Totally Spain started out in the Basque Country and we were one of the first tour operators arranging trips into the region after the Guggenheim opened in 1997. We know and have worked with all of the best hotels, restaurants and pintxos bars in the area and thought, we’d explain what visitors here can enjoy….

New York JFK Basque Country Vitoria VIT direct flight

Vitoria’s city centre (the capital of the Basque Country) is buzzing with stylish cafes and tapas bars

Laguardia Abbot's Tower Rioja Alavesa lunch

Less than an hour by car to Laguardia in the Rioja Alavesa

New York JFK Basque Country Vitoria VIT direct flight

So close to La Concha beach in San Sebastian. photo credit: Nacho Vegas via photopin cc

New York JFK Basque Country Vitoria VIT direct flight

Two of the Basque Country’s most famous chefs: father Juan Mari and daughter Elena who serve modern Basque cuisine at the 8th Best Restaurant in the World – Arzak in San Sebastian. photo credit: candice and jarrett via photopin cc

The Gastronomy of the Basque Country – the Best in the World

It’s never been a better time to visit the Basque Country and taste some of the wonderful Basque cuisine in the city’s many tapas bars and wonderful restaurants. As you know, San Sebastian is home to three of the World’s Best Restaurants in 2014 – Mugaritz (number 6),  Arzak (number 8) and Martin Berasategui (number 35). Don’t forget that you also have Azurmendi (number 26) and Asador Etxebarri (number 34) in the Basque Country. San Sebastian is also well known for its brilliant tapas bars which are groaning with some of the nicest and most handsomely presented pintxos you’ll ever see.

Wooden presses La Rioja Marques de Riscal

Old production techniques are still maintained for some wines at Marques de Riscal in Elciego

The Wines and Wineries from and near the Basque Country

The wine-regions of La Rioja and La Rioja Alavesa are literally sneezing distance away. You can visit the Frank Gehry designed Marques de Riscal winery, Calatrava’s Ysios winery and of course lots of the smaller more traditional spaces. Many of the wineries offer tastings, tours and you can also dine there too. What could be more romantic than a special meal in one of Spain’s top wineries? Oh – and you have to try the Txakoli dry white wine from the Basque Country. Less well known internationally but very nice too…

New York JFK Basque Country Vitoria VIT direct flight

Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbao with the ‘Maman’ spider sculpture by Louise Bourgeois. photo credit: patxidelpamil via photopin cc

The Big Basque City – Bilbao

Although Vitoria is the capital of the Basque Country, Bilbao is the largest city and the location of the international airport. Best known for its stunning Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao is one of Europe’s popular city destinations. Once a declining industrial city, it is now wonderfully modernised – and you can easily spend a few days here exploring the new and old architecture, enjoying some art, shopping and great food again. Architecture fans have a lot to admire – we especially love the Fosteritos – the metro stations entrances. And the walk from the Guggenheim by the riverside into the old quarter is brilliant.

photo credit: <a href="">kezka</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

One of the many Basque traditional festivals you’ll come across. photo credit: kezka via photopin cc

Basque Culture, Traditions & Festivals

You probably know that there is a Basque language  – Euskera. And you may have seen pictures the traditional ‘boina‘ or beret. You’ll find there are fantastic festivals celebrated and traditions marked in this region. The Basques were a sea-faring nation and you’ll see this today – in the strong rowing traditions and in the cuisine. But inland, there is just as much to see and celebrate. Basque rural sports such as stone carrying and wood chopping and the tug-of-war always attract a crowd.  In every village and town you’ll see regional sports such as the Basque pelota and you may come across ochotes – choirs of eight men – especially popular in Bilbao.

When to Travel? Tips for Trips?

Whether it’s a long weekend (we did one of those in Vitoria recently) or the beginning of an extensive journey around Spain or a short trip before connecting onto Portugal, we have lots of suggestions.  Or maybe you want to walk some of the Camino de Santiago – well it passes through the Basque Country. Check out our Basque Country suggested tours  – some of the most popular of our suggested tours.

Where to Stay?

If you are looking to stay near Vitoria, we recommend the parador at Argomaniz which is just 15 mins by car from the airport. It’s been recently renovated (as we saw on our recent trip) and is a wonderful old palace and a great touring base for the region. Get in touch with us for details of the best hotels in the cities of Bilbao, San Sebastian and of course, the handiest hotels for visiting the wineries in Rioja Alavesa and La Rioja.



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Posted in Basque Country, Bilbao, Camino de Santiago, Entertainment, Festivals, Food & Drink, Green Spain, Paradores, San Sebastian, Vitoria, Wineries and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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