The Parador of Hondarribia is near the French border just a short distance from San Sebastian, and within easy visiting distance of Bilbao and the wonderful Guggenheim museum.
Parador Hondarribia is a 10th century castle built by the King of Navarre in the early days of the Christian re-conquest. The powerful Caliph, Al-Mansur, was a constant threat to the area in the those times, but King Sancho Abarca and the castle at Hondarribia were spared because the King had given one of his daughters in marriage to the Caliph - there have always been advantages to "keeping it all in the family!"
The castle was remodeled in the 16th century by Emperor Charles the Fifth. Napoleon stayed here for some time during the wars between Spain and France and many other notable figures in the history of Spain and Europe have stayed here as well.
The Parador of Hondarribia is situated on the banks of the Bidasoa estuary and provides beautiful views out to the sea. This is every bit the castle people imagine castles to be with its monolithic stone walls (still pockmarked by cannon-fire from old wars), and interior decorations of medieval armor, weaponry and tapestries. The Parador contains many charming nooks and corners perfect for quiet sitting, reading and intimate conversation.
Interesting nearby excursions from Parador Hondarribia:
- The fishermen's area of the waterfront, and the La Marina quarter.
- The wonderful castle at San Telmo.
- Nuestra Señora de la Asunción y Manzano parish church, Gothic 15-16th c.
- Calle Mayor and Plaza de Guipúzcoa (admire the many stately houses).
- There are nearby golf courses, and plenty of opportunities for diving, sailing, surfing and fishing.
Interesting day trips include:
- Pamplona - Parador Hondarribia is a good place to find accommodations during the Fiesta San Fermin (running of the bulls) when they are nearly impossible to get in Pamplona itself.
- Bilbao - the Guggenheim museum is a "must see."
- Rioja wine country - visit the wineries and vinyards along the Ebro river near Logrono.
- Biarritz and Bayonne - wonderful beaches, casinos and nightlife.
The Hondarribia Parador does not have a restaurant, but there are fine restaurants within a short distance, and the cuisine of this area of Spain is renowned. A well, the fascinating city of San Sebastian is only a few miles away, and it has some of the finest restaurants in all of Spain. The Parador does serve a buffet breakfast in a wonderful little dining room overlooking the water.
For intrepid travelers visiting north central Spain or Southwestern France - the Parador of Hondarribia makes a historically fascinating and culturally interesting place to stay for a night - or for a week of nights!
This article was posted on November 24, 2005