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A Guide to the Best of Guéthary, Hidden Gem of the French Basque Country

Last Updated on 10th September 2022 by Sophie Nadeau

One of the most authentic fishing ports along the Basque Atlantic Coastline is Guéthary, a little town nestled in time and steeped in history. Best explored over the course of a few hours, here’s a guide to the best of Guéthary in the French Basque Country, as well as what to know before you go.

A Guide to the Best of Guéthary

In the Basque language, Guéthary is called Getaria. The population of the port hovers around 1300, making it one of the smallest villages on the Aquitaine coastline. The village is classed as a ‘Site Patrimonial Remarquable (SPR)’, which in English means a remarkable heritage site.

guethary architecture

Guéthary is located on the coastline between the resort town of Biarritz and the delightful port of Saint Jean de Luz, with its twin port of Ciboure. The town is also located just 15 km away from the timber-framed city of Bayonne (which is the largest settlement of the French Basque Country).

Guéthary itself is often considered to be the Northernmost coastal linguistic border of where the Basque language (the local dialect) is spoken. The fishing town has existed in some form or another since the 12th-century, when it was founded as a fishing port.

As time went on, the town became particularly well-known for its association with whaling. Boats from the port would also catch sardines and tuna fish. Today, Guéthary is situated within the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department and the town’s main industry revolves around tourism. For more inspiration, be sure to check out our French Basque Country itinerary.

A Guide to the Best of Guéthary

The town is served by its own train station and several buses, including one directly from Biarritz. Due to its small and rather compact nature, all of the attractions in town can be seen over the course of a few hours and can be visited on foot.

Truth be told, myself and my friends hadn’t actually heard of Guéthary until a friendly woman at the bus office recommended us to visit as it is a ‘delightful town’. With this being said, it truly was the perfect place to grab a drink and stroll around for a few hours…

guethary france

Best things to do in Guéthary

The port of Guéthary

Of course, you can’t visit a fishing port and miss its crowning jewel: the port itself. A small yet quaint port, old wooden fishing boats line the quay. From the 11th- 19th-century it was here where all of the action in town took place, back when Guéthary’s main focus was on fishing.

The fishing boats are particularly unique in that they are not moored in the water but are instead on a dry dock. What this means is that after every excursion, the boats are hoisted out of the water until the next time they are required for a trip into the ocean.

Thanks to its small size, the dock of Guéthary is particularly limited when it comes to its moorings and so mooring spots are often booked up many years in advance. There is a beach directly next to the dock, though it is so small that just a handful of visitors would fill it up.

The port of Guéthary
The port of Guéthary

Wild beaches

Guéthary is home to four beaches, though the one next to the port is so small that it can hardly be counted as such. The rest of the sandy stretches in town are what are known as ‘wild beaches’ and are sometimes inaccessible when the tide is high.

The beaches are dotted in rock pools, where it’s possible to spot sea wildlife such as urchins and crabs. Much like the rest of the Basque coastline, the beaches are popular among surfers. The beaches themselves have been popular since 1864 when it became popular so sea bathe (thanks to Empress Eugenie) and the arrival of the railway in town.

Wild beaches

Go shopping

Though there are not very many shops in Guéthary, those that do exist are truly wonderful to walk around. Particular highlights when it comes to shopping in the upper part of the town include Ederra (a woman’s wear brand selling clothing and jewellery) and Yaoya (a Basque and Japanese epicerie).

The Guéthary market is held every Sunday morning between May to September on the Place du Fronton. There, you can purchase local produce including fresh vegetables, meats, and cheeses. French flea markets take place on various mornings from June through to September.

guethary train station

Eat an ice cream at Chez Kutsu

A pint-sized shop on the edge of the bridge which leads over the railway tracks, Chez Kutsu serves up delicious ice creams in cones or cups. There are only a few flavours from which to select, but what the store lacks in choice it more than makes up for in terms of richness and flavour.

chez kutsu

See the town hall

The town hall of Guéthary, known as the ‘mairie’ in French, is particularly renowned for its architecture. Constructed in the neo-Basque style, and painted white with wine red shutters, the town hall is on Place du Fronton, which is one of the liveliest squares in town.

See the town hall

Enjoy the view from Terrasse Pierre-Lious

Hands down, the best view in town is to be had from Terrasse Pierre-Lious, which is indicated by a traditional faïence plaque of a sign. The terraced garden offers breathtaking views of the beaches and ocean below and boasts several benches.

Enjoy the view from Terrasse Pierre-Lious

See Art Deco architecture

Located in the lower town, not far from the port, there is plenty of Art Deco architecture to be enjoyed. Indeed, this part of the French Basque region boasts plenty of Art Deco buildings, including notably in Biarrtiz.

art deco architecture basque country

Museum

There is a small museum in the upper part of town which is known by the name of Musée Saraleguinea de Guéthary. The largely contemporary bart museum is housed within a neo-Basque villa and showcases a permanent modern art museum, as well as temporary exhibitions throughout the year.

museum guethary

Church

The church of Guéthary was constructed in the 16th-century. Église Saint Nicolas is a traditional Basque church with a red raised choir and features oak galleries over three floors (which is very typical of the region and can be found in other towns such as Saint Jean de Luz and Biarritz).

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Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A fan of all things France related, she runs solosophie.com when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She currently lives in Paris. Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.

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