Castle of Charles V (Parador de Hondarribia)
Holding court atop Hondarribia’s highest point, the Castle of Charles V has watched over the colorful Basque fishing town since the 10th century, when it was constructed for King Sancho Abarca. Updated with Renaissance flourishes for King Charles V in the 16th century, the castle fortress is now a parador, which is a government-run hotel.
At a strategic point on the border between Spain and France, Hondarribia’s monolithic hilltop castle was an enormously important asset. Walk through the castle's tiny entrance adorned with a two-headed eagle, from the coat of arms of Charles V. Explore the castle’s tapestry-covered interior and peaceful inner courtyard, and stop for a drink on the terrace with an expansive view of the Bidasoa River and the Basque coastline. From the castle, admire the stately palaces along Nagusia Street or have a swim at the sandy beach.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Castle of Charles V is an ideal spot for history lovers.
- Admission is free.
- The castle has a cafe and a large terrace and a restaurant in the courtyard.
- Both the castle and the beach are accessible to disabled visitors.
- Enjoy an extended visit by staying overnight in the castle.
- Remember your swimsuit and towel if you’d like to take a swim.
How to Get There
The Castle of Charles V is located on the Plaza de Armas in the center of Hondarribia, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) east of San Sebastián along the Atlantic Coast. Expect approximately 30 minutes on the road. Buses and trains run regularly and take roughly one hour to one hour a half.
When to Get There
Come for a meal or an aperitif at the castle. Peak tourist season in Basque Country is August, when swarms of European travelers holiday along the coast. Beat the crowds and come during the spring (April - June) and fall (September - October) when the weather is temperate and not so rainy. September 8 is Virgin of Guadalupe Day, celebrated with a military procession.
Hondarribia’s Intact Walls
The tall, thick defensive walls enclosing Hondarribia’s historic center were built in the 15th century and successfully protected the picturesque town from invaders. Ttwo gates guard the town entrance. Look for the main gate, Puerta de Santa María, which displays Hondarribia’s coat of arms (complete with mermaids, lions, and angels) along with a sundial from the 19th century. The second gate, San Nicolás, has a door made of ashlar stones, showing the exquisite skill of the masons.
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