Must-see places in Getxo
A few kilometres away from Bilbao, on the Cantabrian coast, Getxo is the perfect destination for architecture and sea lovers.
The Vizcaya Bridge, striking palaces that belonged to the industrial bourgeoisie, a maritime atmosphere, the impressive geologic nature of the cliffs in the area, beaches, cultural events, or traditional festivals are just a few of the main attractions in Getxo, a town with a unique environment.
On the left bank of the River Nervión, at the point where the estuary meets the Bilbao Abra Bay, lies a town whose life has always revolved around the sea: Getxo. Its neighbourhoods, each one of them with a different personality, still maintain their rural charm, a connection with their industrial past, and the testimonies of those who have dedicated their lives to the sea. A few minutes away from Bilbao by underground, Getxo blends an amazing natural environment with a vibrant cultural offer and a wide range of adventure activities.
Here are some of the places you should not miss if you pay a visit to Getxo:
The Vizcaya Bridge. Connecting the neighbourhood of Las Arenas to Portugalete, this colossal iron structure over the Estuary of Bilbao was the first transporter bridge in the world. Declared a World Heritage Site in 2006, this icon of the industrial architecture of Biscay–popularly known as ‘Puente Colgante’–has been carrying people from one bank to the other for 125 years. Apart from all that, from its 50-metre-high pedestrian walkway, the Vizcaya Bridge also allows its visitors to enjoy a wonderful panoramic view over the Estuary and its mouth.
Old Port of Algorta. Getting lost in the narrow streets of the Old Port in Algorta, among its colourful fishermen’s houses, is like going on a journey to the times when fishing was the main occupation in the neighbourhood, a truly unique experience. The old Chapel of San Nicolás, Etxetxu–home of the Fisherman's Guild–,or Erriberamune–the place where the sailors met to look over the sea–bear testimony to the life of a town dedicated to fishing. It is also a great place for having txakoli wine and pintxos.
The Grand Villas. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, the iron industry brought about the establishment of an industrial bourgeoisie that displayed their taste in the villas and small palaces they built all over the town. Between the Quays of Las Arenas and Arriluze, you can follow an itinerary with informative panels that tell the story of these fine buildings and explain the typical architectonic styles of the period, which were masterfully tailored by the then leading architects in Biscay. This pleasant walk along the sea will thus allow you to admire the palatial architecture of the time.
Galerías Punta Begoña. Located next to Ereaga Beach, this is one of the most singular places in Getxo and a representative example of the urban development that took place in the town at the beginning of the 20th century. Built using reinforced concrete, a novel technique back then, the Galerías Punta Begoña have unceasingly kept watch over the boats that come into the Bilbao Abra Bay and the Estuary of Bilbao, looking towards the iron ore mines that lie on one of its banks and the beaches and cliffs that sit on the other. This singularly decorated space is ideal for strolling and experiencing how the industrial bourgeoisie used to spend their free time.
La Galea. Getxo is home to one of the most spectacular geological shows on the Biscayan coast: Punta Galea’s imposing cliffs. They stand just opposite the bay that lies at the mouth of the River Nervión. There, in front of the sea, a stately white mass of rock has been formed by the sediments that have been accumulated and folded over thousands of years. The scenic path that runs along the cliffs gives exceptionally beautiful views over the sea and the natural areas that surround it, and it will take you to interesting places like Fort La Galea, La Galea Lighthouse, or the church of Andra Mari–a church that still preserves vestiges of its original construction back in the 12th century.
The Aixerrota Windmill. Situated next to La Galea cliffs, this is one of the few windmills that remain in Biscay. Built at the beginning of the 18th century after a drought that caused watermills–more commonly used in the region–to stop, this landmark has become one of the most recognisable symbols of the town. Nowadays, it houses an exhibition hall and a restaurant.
Beaches. One of the major attractions of Getxo is the charm of its beaches, each of them with their own personality. Las Arenas, only a few minutes’ walk from the Vizcaya Bridge and Churruca Quay, is a quiet beach on the Bilbao Abra. Ereaga, stretching between the Old Port of Algorta and the Arriluce breakwater, is ideal for the practice of water sports, relaxing or playing on the sand. Arrigunaga, located at the bottom of La Galea cliffs, offers a calmer sea. Gorrondatxe Beach is wilder and features a unique landscape of dunes, having exceptional geological features and perfect waves for surfing. Between Getxo and Sopela is Barinatxe, known as ‘La salvaje’, a long beach that attracts surf and paragliding lovers alike.
Enjoy the sea. Apart from being home to beautiful beaches, Getxo organises plenty of activities so that everyone can make the most of the Cantabrian Sea. For instance, the El Abra-Getxo Marina has all the equipment and services you need for yachting. For those who want to explore the Bilbao Abra, sail up and down the estuary and get to the centre of Bilbao, or admire the Biscayan coast from the sea there are frequent boat trips you can take from Getxo. Besides, it is also possible to go scuba diving and discover what is hidden at the bottom of the sea, to take up activities like surf, e-foil or wing foil, to ride a jet ski, or to relax on a SUP board.
Culture. Having a calendar that is full of events all year round, Getxo is one of the main cultural destinations in Biscay. Photography and camera lovers cannot miss GetxoPhoto, an international festival whose atmosphere permeates the whole town. Tons of activities, talks and book signings are organised at the Getxo Comic and Manga Fair, which brings together these two genres for their fans. In summer, music fills the streets of the town thanks to GetxoJazz and Getxo Folk, two flagship international music festivals.
Traditional festivals. The annual local festivals that are celebrated in Getxo and its neighbourhoods are living proof of how well preserved popular traditions are. The streets of Algorta, the Old Port, Andra Mari, Las Arenas, Romo, and Neguri are flooded with pilgrimages, folk dances, rural sports, and joy during these days. Everyone is free to enjoy these festivals, where having fun is the only thing that matters. Special mention must be made of the Aixerrota International Paella Competition, held on July 25 every year. Some even say that our kalimotxo–a mixture of red wine and coke–was first fixed during one of these competitions, which are the perfect excuse for friends to meet, eat, drink, and have a good time together.