Santurtzi, sardine kingdom
People who carry the Cantabrian Sea on their veins, home to those who have dedicated their lives to the sea.
Santurtzi stands on the coast of north-western Bizkaia, on the El Abra bay in the district of Greater Bilbao, at the foot of the majestic Mount Serantes ( 446 mts).
It is best known for its port – which is one of the main ports in the European Atlantic Sea – and for its grilled sardines, about which popular songs have even been written. Couplets have been dedicated to their people and customs, “Desde Santurce a Bilbao” for instance. Vestiges of its past are still alive in a place where the past and present meet together through the scent of the saltpetre and roasted sardines.
The Bilbao effect
Cities where tradition and avant-garde come together
“Desde a Santurce a Bilbao” (“From Santurce to Bilbao”) famous couplet acquires a new meaning these days being Santurce now the one welcoming people from all places. A town nurtured by the sea; a full live dedicated to the brine with plenty of traces everywhere. Sardiners, ships, boats and whales, nothing is left in this sea postcard.
Santurtzi or Santurce (in Spanish) has a strong relationship to the sea/with the sea; the fishing port is its soul. Saltpetre scent joins the smell of sardines roasted in the coals of the restaurant of the Fishermen´s Guild (Cofradía de Pescadores). Inside the Fishermen´s guild you will find ancient sardiner´s setting for selling sardines, the fish auction. This practice is still alive nowadays in several ports where the fish of the day is sold by auction.
Sardine sellers are one of the flagships of this town; these women brought their basket on their head, barefoot and the skirt rolled up they came to the auction. “Desde Santurce a Bilbao” traditional song is based on these women’s´ day-to-day basis. Moreover, the sculptor from Bilbao J. Lucarini created the monument to the sardine, a copper sculpture that we can see in this town since 1964.
Salpetre in the veins
Hundreds of coloured boats await for a new fishing day laying on the calm waters of the port. Until the beginning of the 20th century, the trainera (small boat) was the essential tool for inshore fishing but lately ships powered by steam or explosion engines displaced them. Agurtza is a vivid example of these ships, our heritage´s treasure. Bonito, sardines, txitxarros and anchovies have known its wooden entrails; now is the time for you to discover the world of our arrantzales (fishermen in basque) by entering into this ship.
Face to the sea you will also find the monument to the Virgin of El Carmen. This is the patron saint of Santurtzi since 1907 and its festivity is the great event of the year. A pleasant festive atmosphere fills the streets with hundreds of events organised for young and old alike. These popular festivities begin with the free tasting of various tonnes of grilled sardines in the Sardine day, green light for 10 days of celebration.
The Sea Procession is the big moment in Santurtzi. It starts at 6 p.m. every 16th July when the arrantzales of the village take on their shoulders the image of the Virgin from the church of Saint George. With the figure on their back, they headed to the sea where placed on a vessel it is taken onto Abra Bay´s waters. There, all fishermen lost at the sea are honoured with a floral offering.
For nature and sea animal’s lovers there is the chance to enjoy one of the most unforgettable experiences ever: whale spotting. A unique experience in life that you can live in your visit to Santurtzi.
Santurtzi fishing port and Bizkaia Bridge (World Heritage by UNESCO since 2006) are linked by a 20-minute seafront promenade called Reina Victoria. This pleasant walk provides a great panoramic view of the Abra Bay. Once you held to Bizkaia Bridge, cross to the other margin to Las Arenas, a town with a special charm.
Learn about sardine sellers living or climbing Serantes to greet those undertaking St. James way, in Santurtzi you will find your perfect route
On the other hand, there is an open-air museum all through Santurtzi´s streets. Sculptures Museum is formed by 15 pieces spread over a nice walkabout. There are 14 official ports in the St. James Way by the sea, and Santurtzi is one of them.
You can sail along the pilgrim´s route docking at any port you want. At the Tourist Information office, you will get your pilgrim credentials and plenty of useful information for your trip.
If you love hiking, you cannot leave Santurtzi without climbing to mount Serantes. The views from the top are special, with the sublime panoramic of the Abra Bay. You have many different routes starting over from Santurtzi centre.
How to get there
Santurtzi is only 15 kilometres far from Bilbao. The municipality is very accessible by public transport: you can get there by metro underground, train or bus. In addition, if you are planning to get there by car, you will be interested in knowing that there is a car park near the port.
From Bilbao, you have to take line C-1 with departure from Abando station from 05:00 to 23:15. It also has a frequency of 5-10 minutes. The journey takes 22 minutes.
The village has its own metro station, Santurtzi, close to the fishing port. From Bilbao, take line 2 (L2 Basauri-Kabiezes) in the direction of Kabiezes. On the other hand, if you feel like walking, we recommend that you get off at Peñota station in Portugalete (next to the Bizkaia Bridge) and enjoy a pleasant 20-minute walk to Santurtzi.
A-3151 Bilbao-Santurtzi. It is the most direct option, by motorway. With departures from Gran Vía, the journey from Bilbao to Santurtzi takes place on weekdays and on Saturdays from 07:05 to 22:05, every half hour. On the other hand, the opposite route, from Santurtzi to Bilbao, the bus leaves from the Central Park on working days and on Saturdays from 06:25 to 22:25, also with a frequency of half an hour. A-3115 Bilbao- Santurtzi, with stops. From Bilbao, departures are from Abando station from 06:00 to 00:15. From Santurtzi, departures are from 05:40 until one in the morning.
Driving from Bilbao you will arrive in just 20 minutes. The fastest route is through the A-8 motorway from Gran Vía. Continue along the A-8 towards Avenida Antonio Alzaga along the BI-3791. Take exit 126B from the A-8. Continue along Avenida Antonio Alzaga and continue after the Kabiezes roundabout along Calle Joxe Migel de Barandiaran. Continue to the right until Avenida Murrieta and turn left towards Parque Santurtzi. At this point, turn right onto Avenida Reina Victoria, you will find the Puerto Pesquero on your left.
Where to eat
Santurtzi is an ideal place to taste the delicacies that the Cantabrian Sea provides. In the village, you will find a rich and varied gastronomic offer. It is worth tasting seasonal fish in the grill.
Sardines are Santurtzi´s best ambassador. In order to taste them in their maximum splendour, we recommend that you eat them in their fishing season, between May and October.
Where to sleep
There are not a large number of places where to stay if you want to spend the night in Santurtzi. Another option is to look for lodging in nearby municipalities such as Portugalete or Las Arenas where you also have at your disposal different options to rest such as hotels or hostels for all kind of pockets.