Hondarribia – The Spanish gem that watches France

Hondarribia – The Spanish gem that watches France

3 minutes to read

 “Do you see those lights across the river? All those houses? The girl on the bicycle? The couple walking the dog? Well, that’s France.”

It’s a rare experience to be in Spain, surrounded by the lively and upbeat atmosphere that you can come across in any Spanish town, yet to be able to simultaneously watch the calmer and quieter world go by in France just across the river. For the locals of Hondrribia it’s the norm. That’s because Hondarribia rests on the banks of the Bidasoa, the river that acts as a border between France and Spain. And although both sides of the river share a Basque culture and identity, the differences between the two nations stand out here more than anywhere, in spite of the geographical proximity.

© DoloresGiraldez (bars, cafes and restaurants in Hondarribia's old town)
© DoloresGiraldez (bars, cafes and restaurants in Hondarribia's old town)

Is that the French I can see?

In Hondarribia, you’ll have a clear view of France from anywhere along the river. But for me, the place from which I perhaps enjoyed this rarity most was Pub Uxoa, and the time was at night. Located right beside the Paseo Butrón riverside promenade, Uxoa is a great place for night owls as its doors stay open till later than anywhere else in town. The vibe is always bubbly, especially when they have live bands performing. But it’s from the pub’s outdoor terrace, facing the river, where I was able to enjoy some cold beers among Spaniards whilst watching the lights of France shine across the water.

© Aljndr (Lights twinkling at night from both the Spanish and French side of the river Bidasoa)
© Aljndr (Lights twinkling at night from both the Spanish and French side of the river Bidasoa)

Take a short boat trip to France

It was a couple of guys at Uxoa, both fans of Athletic Bilbao, who told me how to make the short trip to France. “Come back to this exact spot tomorrow and just outside the pub, there’s a small pier where the local boats arrive. Here you can catch a boat across the river and go to drink some French wine.” I did exactly as they had suggested and arrived at Paseo Butrón the next morning for the Hondarribia-Hendaye boat. The boat was a small one and the journey was only about 6 or 7 minutes long with views of the sea on one side and the mountains on the other. At a price of only €1.90 it’s safe to say that’s the cheapest I’ve ever paid to travel from one country to another.

© philipimage (A view of Hondarribia in Spain taken from the port of Hendaye of France)
© philipimage (A view of Hondarribia in Spain taken from the port of Hendaye of France)

Back on Spanish soil

After a stroll around the small French town of Hendaye, trying out the French cuisine and wine, visiting Hendaye beachthe longest beach in the Basque Country – and being around a different language, the cultural difference between the two countries is obvious. For a start, Spain is a lot louder and there are more people outdoors. Or as a friend of mine put it “Spain has a certain magic in the air”. And that magic became even more apparent as I hopped off the boat and took a stroll through Hondarribia’s Barrio Marino, the colourful Calle San Pedro and in particular the old town within the medieval walls where the streets and plazas are full of colour, charm and an eagerness to enjoy life.

© photooiasson (Bunting in the colourful sreets of Hondarribia's Barrio Marino)
© photooiasson (Bunting in the colourful sreets of Hondarribia's Barrio Marino)

“There is no night life in Spain. They stay up late but they get up late. That is not night life. That is delaying the day.” – Ernest Hemingway

Mentioned places


The author

Adam L. Maloney

Adam L. Maloney

Adam is a Londoner who travelled to over 20 European countries and lived in both Portugal and Spain for several years. Adam is a fan of exploring intriguing neighbourhoods and meeting locals.

Stories you might also like


Responses

About cookies

We use cookies to understand how you use our site and to improve your experience. This includes personalizing content. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, revised Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.