Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Bay of Biscay. The three bodies of water that surround the Iberian Peninsula give Spain 8,000 kilometres of coastline to contemplate and enjoy. Today we focus on one of them, the Bay of Biscay, also known as the Cantabrian Sea. This arm of the Atlantic Ocean is lined with enchanting seafaring towns whose harbours are a delight to visit. The counters and terraces of their bars, with their sea views and exquisite food, are best enjoyed with some of Familia Martínez Zabala’s best labels.
Beaches, maritime neighbourhoods, fishing ports, friendly locals and first-rate cuisine. This is our selection of the five seafaring towns you should definitely see when you visit northern Spain. Perfect places to enjoy Familia Martínez Zabala wines and a picnic overlooking an endless horizon of sea and sky.
HONDARRIBIA, BASQUE COUNTRY
This is one of the most visited towns in the Basque Country and famous for its wide variety of establishments whose bar counters are replete with an colourful array of finger food, the famous pintxos.
Hondarribia is magical, picturesque and filled with colour. The Marina district, with its colourful houses and flower-filled balconies, is the most emblematic part of the town and a unique place that is always brimming with life.
Another must-see is the old town, where traditional Basque-style houses are intermingled with Baroque buildings, which is very well preserved and seems to be undergoing a process of rejuvenation.
Comillas is a must for any visit to Cantabria. It boasts a large number of stately buildings in the local versions of Romantic and Art Nouveau styles. Worthy of seeing first of all are the buildings Palacio de Sobrellano and Capricho, designed by Gaudí, the Fuente de los Tres Caños fountain and the old town with Plaza de la Constitución, the main square. For lovers of settings reminiscent of the Romantic movement, the half-ruined cemetery with amazing sea views can’t be missed.
The restaurants of Comillas specialise in bonito, scallops, octopus and dishes from the nearby mountain regions.
SAN VICENTE DE LA BARQUERA, CANTABRIA
This is one of the prettiest towns on the northern Spanish coast and is set in the heart of the Oyambre National Park. The Maza Bridge that serves as the gateway to the town, medieval walls, castle, old town and fishing port are its most famous sights, but a simple stroll through its streets and the smell of the sea will be enough to enchant you. The church of Santa María de los Ángeles and the path along the cliffs of San Vicente de la Barquera are other surprises in store for you.
For a taste of Cantabrian cuisine, it isn’t hard to find eateries that do the best squid in the area.
We start our visit to Lastres at the Mirador de San Roque, a vantage point offering the best views of the town. Incredible vistas of the town and La Griega Beach are to be had from beside the chapel of San Roque. After strolling down some of its most iconic streets, such as Calle Real, and admiring the Torre del Reloj (Clock Tower) and stately mansions, we arrive at the fishing port, bustling with activity as small fishing boats arrive to bring in the daily catch. This charming place has featured many times in film and gained international fame as the location of the series Doctor Mateo.
We recommend a visit to one of the most magical places in the area, the Lastres lighthouse, four kilometres from the town. This visit is guaranteed to work up an appetite and allow you to enjoy the seafood for which Lastres is famous.
The town of Ribadesella dates back to the prehistoric age, and the Tito Bustillo Caves are a legacy of that distant time. The old town, the mansions of the Indianos – locals who returned after making their fortune in the Americas – the riverside street Paseo del Muelle and Vega Beach should be enjoyed at least once in a lifetime. Its tascas marineras, eateries that once catered to fishermen, serve excellent red bream and other delights from the sea that will leave a wonderful taste in your mouth.