The Old Quarter is an obligatory visit in Hondarribia. A highlight is its grid street plan, characteristic of cities founded in the medieval period, as well as its narrow cobbled streets. The ideal plan is to make a small tour starting at the Santa María Gate, one of the city’s main entrances ‒the other being San Nicolás Gate‒ which takes us to Calle Mayor, the main street, which is fully cobbled.
Santa María Gate. Old Quarter. Hondarribia
Hondarribia City Council
Nuestra Señora de la Asunción y del Manzano
Charles V Castle and Plaza de Armas
SANTA MARÍA GATE
This is one of the main entrances to the City. It was comprised of a variety of elements, such as a drawbridge, gatehouses and even a chapel. Only this simple arch remains, which on its inner part still preserves the gate’s hinges. Featuring prominently above the arch is the City’s coat of arms, from the year 1694. To the left, the 16th-century Santa María Turret.
The eaves of the buildings protrude, some double and others single, with carved corbels, wrought iron balconies and coats of arms. In particular, watch for houses no. 26, 24 and 22. The Town Hall, no. 20, in Baroque style (1735); the Casadevante House, no. 5, where the terms of the 1638 Siege truce where negotiated; Zuloaga House, no. 8, ancestral home of the count of Torre-Alta, which houses the Historical Archive and the Municipal Library; Iriarte House (entrance through Calle Tiendas no. 2) striking thanks to the framework on its facades, its wood modillions and its beams. The Ladrón de Guevara House, no. 2, with its vitrified blue brick facade, is unique in its style.
The Parish Church of Santa María de la Asunción y del Manzano, built over the fragments of ancient walls and replacing an earlier Romanesque church. Gothic style with Renaissance-style additions. Built in the 15th and 16th centuries. The 18th-century bell tower, Baroque, is by Francisco de Ibero. The oldest part of the church is the north-facing side, in fine Gothic style, with a beautiful ogee arch over the entrance. To the left is the primitive coat of arms of the City. Continuing the path we reach the Brecha (Avenida de Javier Ugarte) from where we can enjoy a stunning view of the Bay of Txingudi. Behind us, the rooms of the Parador that used to be the rooms of the palace-castle. Beside it, and down to the road below, the remains of the Santiago Bastion (16th century).
PLAZA DE ARMAS
Used by the garrison to exercise with weapons and by the City for proclamations, receptions, bullfights and other popular celebrations.
CHARLES V CASTLE
Its primitive construction is attributed to Sancho Abarca of Navarre, and its extension and fortification in 1190 to another Navarrese king, Sancho the Wise. The restrained facade corresponds to the period of Charles V. It was at the same time a castle and a palace. It had six floors for housing troops, storage rooms, the munition and gunpowder magazine, dungeons and stables. In 1968 it was furnished as a Tourism Parador (state-run hotel).
CALLE SAN NICOLÁS
A street with narrow, deep buildings. Ground floor in ashlar masonry with lintelled doors and windows. Single or double eaves. Look out for building no. 5 from the year 1757, no. 13 from the year 1665 and the Mugarretenea House (no. 2).
CALLE JUAN DE LABORDA
This is the location of the stately home of the Eguiluz family where, according to tradition, Joanna the Mad, daughter of the Catholic Monarchs and Philip the Handsome stayed when travelling from Brussels to Toledo to be proclaimed heirs to the throne, spending three days in Hondarribia (year 1502).
PLAZA DE GIPUZKOA
A recently built, beautiful square. Several art galleries are located there. A variety of open-air cultural events are held here.
One of the City’s gunpowder magazines. Built in the 17th century. The structure contains an ashlar vault.
It was built in the 16th century and is one of those that best preserves its original layout, along with its countermine gallery.
SAN NICOLÁS GATE
The outer gate is from the 16th century. It had a bridge that was part drawbridge and part fixed, to overcome the height difference between the gate and the moat. The walkway has been recently restored and is now one of the most practical entrances to the old part of the city. At the back, the San Nicolás ravelin, an outwork that defended the gate and which has been restored recently. The inner gate, the remains of an old Gothic gate, belongs to the City’s medieval wall. There ends San Nicolás street, which descends from Plaza de Armas.
THE QUEEN’S BASTION
Its strategic location meant that it suffered fierce attacks during the numerous sieges that the City endured. Built in the 16th century, it was restored, in part, under the direction of M. Manzano Monís, architect. Along the walkway called Murrua, we can see the thickness of the walls.
These are visible remains of the wall that surrounded the City in medieval times, built with limestone masonry. The medieval wall is present throughout the perimeter, but hidden by current buildings.
This is a well called the «Frenchman’s well», the construction of which dates back to the 16th century. The walled City, often under siege, had a large number of public and private wells. It has a depth of 15 metres and always contains water, even in the driest periods.
A prominent feature of this street is the building belonging to the family of Antonio de Ubilla, the first Marquis of Rivas, a native of Hondarribia. Also look out for building no. 4, with the coat of arms of the Arsu family.
Plaza de Gipuzkoa
San Nicolás Gate
The Queen’s Bastion
Ubilla family Tower House
Calle San Nicolás
CALLE DEL SOL
It still preserves its primitive layout, with narrow, deep buildings separated by firewalls.
A street with interesting buildings, ground floors with dimension stones and lintelled openings. The upper floors project from the ground floor walls. Worth highlighting is Rameri House, no. 16, the headquarters of the Association of Friends of Hondarribia’s History and the future museum of the City.
CALLE DE LAS TIENDAS (SHOP STREET)
One of the most typical in the City. Its name evokes the days of guilds. In addition, there are two more streets called Canicería (Butchers) and Platería (Silversmiths).
CALLE DEL OBISPO (BISHOP STREET)
It is one of the oldest streets. At the far end, Palencia House, also called Echevestenea, of medieval origin. Cristóbal Rojas y Sandoval was born there in 1502. He pursued an ecclesiastical career, becoming Archbishop of Seville. He was Charles V’s chaplain and the protector of Saint Teresa of Jesus. He is buried in the Collegiate Church of Lerma (Burgos). The City of Hondarribia raised a statue to him opposite his birthplace, in the square that bears his name.
BASTION OF SAN FELIPE
The last to be built (17th century). A Casino was built in its interior in the 19th century, which is now a senior citizens’ day centre, known as Kasino Zaharra.
The wall around the Old Quarter is some of the clearest proof of the medieval origins of the town. Its layout has been extended on various occasions as a consequence of urban development.
Significant construction work to fortify the wall was carried out in the late 15th century and early 16th century. Proof of this fact comes in the form of turrets, bastions, defensive ditches and drawbridges, which were constructed in order to protect those who lived on the hill. Access to the space between the walls was gained through two gates- the Santa Maria and San Nicolas gates, each preceded by a drawbridge. Both remain standing to this day.
From the 17th century onwards, the walled area was extended through the construction of San Nicolas’ and Guevara’s ravelins, as well as the counterscarp.
The thick and high masonry walls, built using mount Jaizkibel limestone, surrounded the city until the end of the 18th century.
The Santa Maria Turret, the Queen’s Bastion, the San Nicolas Fortress and the Santiago Bastion are structures that have survived until today. However, we cannot say the same about the Magdalena Bastion, the remains of which are to be found below ground level in today’s urban landscape.
It is possible to walk comfortably around the entire walled enclosure, appreciating the sobriety and dimensions of the fortification. Departing from the Santa María Gate in the direction of the Guernica tree gardens, you will find the best-preserved sections of the wall.