Pasaia – a fishing village

Pasaia (Spanish: Pasajes) is a town and municipality located in the province of Gipuzkoa in the Basque Autonomous Community of northern Spain.

Pasaia lies approximately 5 kilometres east of the centre of San Sebastian, lying at the foot of Mount Ulia and the Jaizkibel massif. It clusters around the Bay of Pasaia in four nuclei, namely Pasai San Pedro, Pasai San Juan (or Donibane in Basque), Antxo and Trintxerpe, with each part showing distinctive features.

It is a fishing community, commercial port and resort with one small beach on the Costa Vasca (Basque Coast) of the Atlantic resorts of Spain.

It was a major source of revenue for the municipal coffers on the strength of its strategic position in the commercial sea-routes. It was the Guipuzcoana Company’s main port, numbering up to seven shipyards in the mid-17th century. Historically the area was controlled by two competing baronies, i.e. Hondarribia, controlling Donibane, the right bank, and Donostia (San Sebastián), with jurisdiction over San Pedro, the left bank. Donibane detached from Hondarribia in 1770, and San Pedro segregated from Donostia in 1805.

Main attractions

Of the Pasajes districts, without a doubt San Juan (Donibane) is the most picturesque and the one with the most interesting buildings. The neighborhood of San Pedro, more marine, also has some interesting monuments; while Pasajes Ancho and Trincherpe are modern neighborhoods that lack notable monuments.

The main street of the district of San Juan (Donibane) is the street of San Juan (Donibane Kalea). This street alone forms the old part of the town. It is a long, winding, narrow and cobbled street that makes its way between the old pier of the town and the fishermen’s houses, which seem almost hanging from the mountain. The passageways, stately and maritime houses give this street a very particular atmosphere, which makes a visit highly recommended. Almost all the monuments of San Juan (Donibane) are located along this street.

In the case of San Pedro, the old quarter of the town is made up of San Pedro Street (San Pedro Kalea), the People’s Square (Herriko Plaza) and Tirri Tarren Square. It has similarities with the old town of San Juan, although it has a more modern appearance due to the area “reclaimed from the sea”, since until the 1960s the sea reached the facades of the houses, in the same way that it continues to happen today in San Juan.

In San Juan (Donibane) we find the parish church of San Juan Bautista. Work on this church began in the 16th century and ended in 1643 when it was opened for worship. It mixes the baroque style with the neoclassical. Inside, the Baroque altarpiece by Sebastián Lekuona and carvings by Felipe Arizmendi stand out.

In San Pedro, the Parochial Church of San Pedro stands out, completed in 1774 and which replaced the old parish, which occupies the place of the current cemetery and whose remains are the oldest in this neighborhood.

The church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen, in Trincherpe, inaugurated in 1953, houses the main altarpiece of the old basilica of the Aranzazu Sanctuary.

In addition to the religious temples, certain civil buildings on Calle Donibane are noteworthy. Among them are number 79 (Casa Cámara), a house with a rectangular, narrow and deep floor plan that stands out from the others, and Casa Gaviria, better known as Casa de Víctor Hugo, where the famous French writer lived for a few days in 1843. Victor Hugo immortalized his stay in the Basque lands in his book Alps and Pyrenees.

Other outstanding buildings are the Palace of Villaviciosa, in the Renaissance style of the 16th century, or the Baroque-style Arizabalo Palace (currently the new headquarters of the Pasaitarra city council). In the Plaza Santiago is the old Town Hall (previously the Town Hall of San Juan).

The ruins of the old defenses of the port of Pasajes deserve special mention. From San Juan you can continue along a walk (called “Puntak”) that borders the mouth of the port until you reach the ruins of the Fort of Santa Isabel that defended the entrance to the port. This fort was in operation from 1621 to 1867. Remains of fortifications and other defensive elements are preserved on the slopes of Mount Jaizkibel and Mount Ulia.

Best restaurants

There is one Michelin list restaurant in the city: Txulotxo, Donibane 71, Pasai Donibane, 25 – 52 EUR • Seafood


There is one small beach (cave) in the city: Playa de Kalaburtza. 20 min walk from the town square of Pasaia San Juan, at low tide there is sand and it has 3 showers.

How to get to?

By car:

From San Sebastian 14 min (5.5 km) via Alcalde J. Elosegi Hiribidea

From Vitoria 1 hr 19 min (106 km) via AP-1 and AP-8

From Bilbao 1 hr 14 min (106 km) via AP-8

From Madrid 4 hr 47 min (463 km)via A-1 and AP-1

Main information

Area: 11 km²

Coordinates: 43°19′35″N 1°55′09″W

Population: 15 867

Languages: Spanish, Basque

Currency: Euro

Visa: Schengen

Time: Central European UTC +1

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