If you have the time on the drive between San Sebastián and Hondarribia, pay a visit to the picturesque fishing village of Pasajes de San Juan, also known as Pasaia Donibane in Basque. You can even reach it by a one-minute ferry ride on the Itxas Zerbi water taxi from Pasajes San Pedro, on the other side of the river, which separates the four districts of Pasaia (San Juan-Donibane, Antxo, San Pedro and Trintxerpe).
Or…. it’s easier to reach from Hondarribia, taking the road, following the signs to the top of Mount Jaizkibel, which will take you past the Fuerte de Guadalupe, a restored 19th-century military fort and the Shrine of Guadalupe, both offering spectacular views out over the Bidasoa Txingudi, the bay that forms the border with France.
After stopping for the views or to visit the fort, you continue west on the G1-3440, the Route of the Towers, part of the northern route of The Way of Saint James, where you’ll have even more expansive dramatic views along the coast from the second historic stone watchtower. From there you continue down the road until it ends at the old town of Pasai Donibane, a typically atmospheric Basque costal village with one street, part of which passes beneath the first floors of some of the villages historic houses, Victor Hugo, considered to be one of the greatest and best-known French writers (Les Misérables), lived here for part of 1843, in a house, now known as the Victor Hugo House, overlooking the water.
Noted ceramicist and painter Daniel Zuloaga, uncle of Ignacio Zuloaga Zabaleta, also lived and worked in the ceramics factory in Pasai for a couple of years in the early part of the 20th-century creating numerous works for the bridges, hotels and houses in San Sebastian.
What to see and do in Pasajes
Visit the Iglesia San Juan Bautista, also known as Parroquia de San Juan Bautista, which dates from the 16th-century with a facade of a mix of Neoclassical and Baroque architecture and where you will find two beautiful polychrome images of San Joaquin and Santa Ana.
Visit the Mater Museum Ship, a classic Cantabrian tuna boat, a floating museum on artisanal fishing. Open March-December, Thursday and Friday from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm (Tuesday-Saturday in July and August), Saturdays from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm and 4:00 to 7:00 pm and on Sundays and holidays from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. Tickets are 7€ for adults, 5€ for children.
Albaola, the Sea Factory of the Basques, is located at the entrance of the Bay of Pasaia where you can watch the construction of the replica of one of its most famous Basque ships, the 16th-century whaling ship SAN JUAN. Access to the museum can be made by the sea thanks to a maritime transport service located at “Muelle del Hospitalillo“. You can park for free at the Trintxerpe parking area at the wharf where you board the green boat for an exciting tour. Closed Mondays.
Plan on stopping by to see the Victor Hugo House, a typical 17th-century 3-story house in the center of the village where Victor Hugo stayed in 1843. The museum was inaugurated in 1902, and includes the permanent exhibit, “Victor Hugo, travelling down the memory”. Closed on Mondays. Entrance is free.
Take a boat ride around the Bay of Pasaia with the Itxaszerbi Maritim Services company which provides regular service starting Monday-Saturday at 6:30 am, 7:45 am on Sundays between Pasai San Pedro and Pasai Donibane. Tickets are 0,80€, no charge for children under 3 yo. The Discovering Our Bay tour is available for a maximum group of 10 for only 60€.
Lunch In Pasajes
If you find yourself in Pasajes in the early afternoon or evening, there are a few good options for sampling the local cuisine. Of course having reservations always helps.
This casual restaurant at Donibane Kalea (Calle San Juan), 71, with a terrace offering an excellent views of the port, has been awarded a Bib Gourmand for 2019, and offers Txangurro al horno (baked spider crab), and impeccably grilled fish. Try the menu of the day for 23€ + VAT, available Monday to Friday. Reservations required. Closed seasonally from the last two weeks of January through March 6.
Tel: (+34) 943 523 952
This 17th-century mansion at the entrance to the port at Calle San Juan, 79, is a charming place to eat and watch the boat traffic on the river. At the center of the restaurant you’ll find the fish tanks, where the 4th-generation of the Pablo Cámara family keep the lobster and spider crab (txangurro) pots under the floor and raise them up to the diners to make their selections. Hake cheeks, (kokotxas), monkfish and seafood bisque are specialties, reasonable prices Recommended in the Repsol Guide. Closed Sunday evening and all day Monday. Closed seasonally from 13-29 November.
Tel: (+34) 943 523 699
Stop in at Calle San Juan, 91, for a lively way to enjoy the seasonal cuisine and purchase gourmet products including Mendaro chocolates. Open from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm Mondays and Wednesday-Saturday, and from noon to 11:00 pm on Sundays.
Tel: (+34) 943 510 395
This popular family restaurant, air-conditioned, serving traditional cuisine and elaborate pintxos, can be found acoss the river at Avenida Euskadi, 19, (Trintxerpe), a 5-minute drive from the center of San Sebastián-Donostia. Open Thursday-Sunday afternoons only.
Tel: (+34) 943 399 043 / 943 390 219
Another bar-restauant in the Trintxerpe district of Pasajes, popular with the locals, can be found a few steps away at Avenida Euskadi, 13. Closed Sunday evening, Tuesday, Easter and in September.
Tel: (+34) 943 399 062
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