If you are travelling to Spain and have decided to stay in Basque Country, perhaps in San Sebastian, it may be tempting to spend your entire holiday in that one spot. There is plenty to do in San Sebastian, and that may be the way to go for some travellers. But, if you are there for longer than a few days, consider taking a day trip, or two, or three, to cities and places around Basque Country to get a true understanding of the culture, the people and the unique place this region of Spain has to offer Check out these suggested daytrips and decide for yourself if you’re willing to hit the road for a short amount of time to expand your visit to the Basque Country in Spain!
Bilbao is just a one-hour hop over from San Sebastian and while this little city doesn’t have the stunning beaches and cuisine of San Sebastian, it does have an impressive collection of art and history. Bilbao used to be an industrial city with little else to do, but then they built the Guggenheim museum that quickly made it an essential stop for anyone travelling in the northeast of Spain. While you are here, be sure to explore the Old Town, where you can see the cathedral and the Plaza Nueva while enjoying pinchos the whole way. Then, take a walk along the riverside where a majority of Bilbao’s renovations have been made. Finally, if you like parks music, head to the Parque Dona Casilda de Iturrizar where a charming fountain bubbles and dances to the music.
Vitoria is a very small provincial town, which is a major part of its draw. Recently, it also became the capital of Basque Country and is doing its best to keep up with the newfound attention and tourism. If you can time your trip to Spain right, a day trip to Vitoria in June will grant you access to the Vitoria Jazz Festival. Unlike Bilbao, which has just the one cathedral, Vitoria boasts two cathedrals to gaze upon and walk through--Maria Immaculada and Santa Maria. Once you are done looking at the cathedrals, head to the city's many museums. Some of them are about traditional subject matter like the Museum of Fine Arts, and the others are bit more unusual like the Fournier Card Museum that tells the history and progression of how playing cards were made and used.
Guernica is the perfect spot for any history or art buffs in your travelling group. The vast majority of Guernica was destroyed in the 1937 bombing in part as a result of the Spanish Civil War. Franco ordered the bombing, which was carried out by the German Nazis, as a way of disheartening the Basque people, who were on the side of the Republicans. Though there was a munitions factory in Guernica, the attack was strictly a civilian target (the munitions factory was undamaged at the request of Franco, who wanted to use it for his own forces). This incredible attack on such a small city carries incredible symbolic importance in the Basque Country. As you tour the city you’ll be struck by the history that is apparent around every corner and the general respect and appreciation the locals have for their city and its culture. If you want to read more about this historical event try picking up “The Battle for Spain” by Antony Beevor.
If Basque Country is on your bucket list, be sure you use your time wisely. Instead of staying in one spot, think of all the cool cities and attractions you’ll be able to check off your travel to-do list, just by spending a little time on the road to get to your next destination. If you are renting a vehicle abroad to take advantage of all the history and culture Spain has to offer, be sure you have travel insurance cover before you leave so you are protected against the unexpected. No one wants to think something bad will happen on their travels, but it’s better to be safe than sorry in most of those situations.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Jean-Piere Dalbera