Game Of Thrones Filming Location In The Basque Country, The Most Beautiful Part Of Spain

Why the Basque Country with kids is one of the most beautiful places in Spain

Visiting the Basque Country with kids

Spain will often come out top of the list when planning a European holiday with kids. But deciding where to base yourself can be more of a challenge. If you’re planning a family holiday Northern Spain can be magical. The Basque Country in Northern Spain is still relatively undiscovered. It’s practicality deserted when compared to more popular Spanish family holiday destinations such as the Costa Del Sol or Andalusia. This is why I think you should definitely visit the Basque Country with kids.

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a lovely place to visit in the basque country with kids is donostia san sebastian

This makes it an absolutely perfect choice for taking the kids to Spain. And has everything you might want from a family holiday.

rugged and beautiful beaches in the basque country

Here are 10 epic reasons to visit the Basque Country with kids. I’m sure you’ll love it too.

Pretty Donostia San Sebastian

Often said to be the most beautiful city in the Basque Country. Donostia San Sebastian is a great place to set up base with kids.

Whilst the town is definitely one of the top foodie destinations in Europe as its home to more Michelin starred restaurants per resident than anywhere else in the world. There’s also heaps of things to do with kids in San Sebastian.

donostia san sebastian with kids is a great place to visit when in the basque country with kids

The traditional theme park Mount Igueldo is sure to delight the whole family with family friendly rides such as a house of terror and a carousel. Kids can go on all the rides when accompanied by an adult. The view back down to Donostia-San Sebastián is without a doubt the best I have seen.

donostia san sebastian is a lovely place to visit in the basque country with kids

You reach the top of Mount Igueldo by an old, wooden furnicular. Which is a great way to start the fun in San Sebastian with kids!

San Sebastian also has a few lovely sandy beaches. La Concha is probably our favourite. Its curved in shape making it pretty sheltered from the wind. The views are lovely and the sea is pretty calm making it perfect for a dip over the summer months.

And finally, if you’re looking for things to do with kids in San Sebastian on a rainy day (as is often the case in the Basque Country) then the Eureka Science Museum is a wonderful place to engage little minds. Most of the exhibits are hands on and interactive. We could easily have spent a full afternoon exploring them all.

The Artistic city of Bilbao

Bilbao was a quiet, industrial city until the fabulous Guggenheim Art Museum arrived. The building, designed by Frank Gehry is absolutely stunning and is clearly the most popular thing to do in Bilbao. Read more about our visit to the Guggenheim Bilbao with kids here.

ath artistic city of bilbao in the basque country

The artistic heritage doesn’t stop there, the Fine Arts Museum was even more popular with Piper with it’s fantastic selection of contemporary and traditional art and clever way of navigating the museum.

gorgeous old buildings in the city of bilbao in the basque country

It’s not just art museums, Bilbao is a city full of historic buildings and cultural monuments. Make sure you explore the old town and soak up the lively atmosphere from some of the pavement cafes.

lovely old building in the fantastic basque country the most beautiful place to visit in spain

You can read more about our time the city in my guide to visiting Bilbao with kids.

San Juan de Gatztelguxte

A visit to Game of Thrones Dragonstone is a must when in the Basque Country. This was probably the highlight of our trip and we’re not even particularly fans of the show.

thinking of somewhere to visit in the basque country with kids, the islet of san juan de gatzelguxte is perfect

San Juan de Gatztelgutxe is a tiny, rugged Islet off the coast around 20km from Bilbao. You need to hike for about half an hour down the cliff to reach it. Then take on the 240 steps to reach the chapel at the top.

Read all about our hike to Gaztelugatxe here and see some more stunning pictures of the area.

The Hanging Bridge

Another must visit if you’re on a family holiday in the Basque country is the Bizkaia or Vizcaya Bridge which links the towns of Portugalete and Getxo across the Nervion Estuary.

the best thing to do in the basque country, the vizcaya bridge

The bridge was announced as an UNESCO world heritage site in 2006 due to its unique design and operation and is the oldest shuttle bridge in the world.

view from the top of the vizcaya bridge in the basque country

You can cross the river in 3 ways. As a pedestrian foot passenger on the gondola, buying your ticket at the machines next to the bridge entrance. As a car passenger – just drive on and pay the operator on board. (this requires precise parking and a bit of confidence in your handbrake!) Or walk over the top – buying your tickets for the small gift shop on the Portugalete side.

The trip across the top was by far my favourite. Although the lift on the Getxo side is currently out of order so you can really only walk across and back.

the UNESCO world heritage hanging bridge in bilbao spain

I’ll admit the journey up 50 m in the rickety old elevator had me pretty weak at the knees. And it took me a while to be able to stop and take in the views. It really was stunning and amazing to think how long it has been taking people across the river.

The walkway is open between 10:00 and 14:00 and again between 16:00 and 19:00. It costs €8 each to cross.

If you choose to cross by the hanging gondola, the whole journey is under 2 minutes. It costs €0.40 per foot passenger and €1.60 per car.

Delightful Basque villages

If you’re visiting the Basque Country with kids, don’t just stick to the main cities, make sure you head out and visit the surrounding villages. They’re stunningly beautiful, relatively unheard of and often have the best restaurants in the region.

best thing to do in the basque country with kids including delightful little villages

I recommend the Old Town of Pasai Donibane which overlooks a stunning cove which locals swim in on pleasant days or Laguardia, a walled hill town surrounded by rolling vineyards dating from the 10th century.

The many, many playgrounds

You’re never far from a kids playground in the Basque country, there seems to be play equipment every few blocks as you wander the cities.

playground in the basque country a great place for kids

Even better, most of these are outside pinxtos bars and cafes so you can enjoy a peaceful coffee whilst watching your little ones try out the slides, monkey bars and swings.

Piper loved meeting new friends, even though her Spanish is pretty non existent she still managed to communicate, taking turns to push others on the swings.

a great playground to visit tin the basque country with kids

It seemed pretty popular to pick the kids up from school and head to a playground, groups of mums and dads sat chatting over a glass of wine whilst their kids played. I wish the UK could catch on to this!

The Rugged Beaches

The dramatic beaches of Northern Spain are where I dream of spending summer days during dark winter months. The cliffs are rocky and unforgiving, the sand is soft and the surf can be fierce.

piper quinn having fun on the beach in the basque country

They’re so much quieter than other European beaches we’ve visited during the summer holidays which makes it easy to find a peaceful spot for your beach towel and an empty rockpool for crabbing.

The sea can be chilly but refreshing, I prefer building castles in the sand while Piper and her Dad play in the waves.

beautiful beaches in the basque region of spain

Some beaches such as Playa de Laga are super well equipped with surf schools, beach bars and toilets. Others are pretty much undiscovered and only accessible with a hike down a cliff face.

Possibly the best food in Spain

As mentioned, Donostia San Sebastian is home to heaps of Michelin stars and these are well worth a visit if you’re after a fancy meal out.

We really enjoyed our dinner at Bernardo Etxea a fabulous seafood restaurant on Triunfo 3, near the Bay of La Concha. The menu is small and freshly cooked, the chef/owner comes out to greet you and the wine is super reasonable.

piper quinn enjoying dinner in bernardo etxea a seafood restaurant in the basque country

This is not a family restaurant but as with most in Spain, nobody minds and our waiter took Piper to see the fish. She even had her first taste of fish eggs!

Bernardo Etxea is closed on Wednesday afternoons

Lunch: 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Dinner: 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Piper quinn eating fish eggs at Bernado Etxea in donuts san sebastian

Reservations Email

Another of our favourite restaurants in the Basque Country is Garbatella in Portugalete. This is a colourfully furnished, relaxed restaurant near the Vizcaya bridge. They have a varied menu including flat bread pizzas and suckling pig.

Colourful garbatella restaurant a lovely place to eat in the basque country

The puddings are absolutely heavenly, and they even have a kids menu which seems quite rare in the Basque Country. We also loved that it was open for lunch until a little later meaning we could enjoy a meal closer to Pipers usual dinner time.

Kitchen hours from Monday to Sunday:

Lunch 13:00 – 16:00

Dinner 20:00 – 23:00

Reservations: Phone +34 946 011 991

piper quinn enjoying a chocolate desert at a restaurant in the basque country

You won’t just find fancy restaurants though, bar snacks are the preferred way to get you through the long afternoon when most restaurants close between 3 and 9pm.

enjoying the lovely pinxtos traditional basque cuisine

These are called pinxtos and are available in every bar you’ll pass.

They vary widely in presentation but are all delicious. You can try a slice of Spanish omelette, cheese toasties, or small plates of sardines on toast, all for a few euros each. Little and often is my favourite style of eating so this was my idea of heaven!

tapas bars in the basque country

Great value hotels in the Basque Country

As the Basque Country is still growing in popularity and has quite a way to go before it reaches the mass tourism of the Costa del Sol, hotels are still relatively good value.

best family hotel in the basque country, the URH palacio de oriel

We stayed at the URH Palacio de Oriel on the coast of Santurtzi near the Vizcaya Bridge. This is a lovely 4 star hotel close to the train station making it easy to get into Bilbao but being a little further out and a bit quieter.

the URH palacio de oriel a fantastic hotel in the basque country

The URH Palacio has a few child friendly features which made our stay more fun. There’s a small play area outside (yep those ever present playgrounds!) and spacious rooms, plenty big enough for our family of three. Free wifi worked well around the whole hotel meaning Piper could keep up with her Youtube habit and I could get some work done.

playground at the URH Palacio a lovely hotel just outside of bilbao

The hotel breakfast offered a nice selection each morning although there was no variety each day. We filled up on Spanish Tortilla and Chocolate donuts each morning before heading out.

the breakfast selection at the URH palacio a great hotel in the basque country

Bilbao airport is just twenty minutes away by car. The hotel has a private underground car park which is €15 extra per night. Parking in the small car park was a bit of a challenge at times but we managed to find a spot each night.

Address of the URH Palacio de Oriel

Cristobal de Murrieta Hiribidea, 27
Santurce 48980 Spain
Tel: +34 94 493 41 00

design features at the URH palacio de Oriel hotel near bilbao

We paid under £80 a night including breakfast during April which was great considering the standard of the hotel.

Check the latest prices for the URH Palacio de Oriel here.

From the hotel we walked across the Vizcaya bridge to Getxo a few times during our stay where we found lots of lovely restaurants and Pinxtos bars, a sweet little beach and plenty more playgrounds.

pretty purple flowers in santurtzi a lovely town in the basque country

The town of Santurtzi itself is a lovely place to walk along the Nervion river and take in some stunning views of the Serantes Mountain. Make sure you visit the Church of San Jorge, a beautiful building which dates back to 1075.

The Weather in The Basque Country

The Basque region is far cooler than southern Spain with plenty of rain most months of the year. For this reason the land is green and feels a lot more alive than the rest of Spain.

the weather in the basque country means the land is green and pretty

If you’re visiting over the UKs school summer holidays the heat is much more bearable for little ones meaning you can enjoy a day at the beach without worrying about sweating off your suncream.

piper quinn looking out to sea enjoying the weather in the basque country

If you visit out of season, the weather is pretty similar to the UK and it probably will rain. Just take a waterproof and a brolly and you’ll be fine.

even when it rains in the basque country its a always a good time to visit

I think the best time to visit the Basque country is Spring, when the flowers come alive, filling the villages with wonderful colours and scents, the weather is pretty good and everything is a lot cheaper.

How to get to the Basque Country

It’s pretty easy to get to the Spanish Basque country from the UK. Your options are to fly into Bilbao or take a ferry into Bilbao. Flights from London can be as little as £30 with Ryan Air. Brittany Ferries sails from Portsmouth to Bilbao on a luxury ship which will take 24 hours and cost quite a lot more!

Book flights to Bilbao | Book a ferry to Bilbao

piper quinn pulling her suitcase in bilbao airport in the basque country

If you’re in Europe with kids for an extended holiday then I highly recommend getting around by train. Read how in my family friendly guide to planning an interrail adventure.

Planning a trip to the Basque Country with kids? Make sure you pin for later.

10 reasons why the basque country with kids is a great choice for a family holiday in spain

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