Bermeo is a town with a long fishing tradition, located in the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1984 for being a biodiverse and naturally exceptional setting, and known for its lively old port, its canning industry and for hosting the most famous natural enclave on the Basque coast: San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.
The municipality is 40 minutes away from Getxo and 35 minutes from Bilbao by car.
What to see and do
Both on land and on the coast, Bermeo has a wide variety of tourist attractions to visit.
The Old Quarter
The old quarter of Bermeo is one of the oldest and most extensive in the Basque Country. It is characterised by its adaptation to a hillside, medieval essence and its seafood cuisine with a gastronomic offer concentrated in the old town and the old port. Its streets are home to a series of major monuments:
Ercilla Tower. This is a unique building that is older than the municipality itself. In 1948, it became the Fisherman’s Museum. As its name suggests, its collection is devoted exclusively to illustrating the seafaring practises and style that characterises Bermeo.
San Juan Gate. Bermeo has a medieval past. The original walls had seven arches which connected the municipality with the main roads. The only one that remains intact today is San Juan Gate, so named because from there the road to the hermitage of Gaztelugatxe started.
Santa Eufemia Church. This town became the lordship of Bizkaia and it was in this parish that the Rights of Bizkaia were sworn by the kings and lords of Bizkaia.
San Francisco Church. It is the oldest convent in Bizkaia, founded in 1357, when Bermeo was the Head of Bizkaia. As a result of many confiscations, damages in battles and different uses that were made of it (prison, school, court ...) it has undergone numerous modifications throughout its history. The Gothic cloister is the most important element of this ensemble. Today, it can be visited every day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and admission is free.
Atalaya. An old whale watching point, it isan excellent vantage point over the municipality: port entrance, Izaro island, Laga beach and Cabo Ogoño in the background. It is located in the upper part of the old town of Bermeo and houses a giant mural on the ancient whaling.
Bermeo is characterised by having attractive coastlines which are some of the most representative of the Basque coast:
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. This is one of the spots that must be visited in Bermeo. It is a “rock” which is reached via a bridge, after climbing 241 steps. At the top, there is San Juan Hermitage; inside, there are models of boats, paintings that illustrate the maritime history of the village, among other adornments. Once at the top, the tradition is to ring the bell of the hermitage three times to scare off evil spirits. According to legend, St. John reached the top with three giant strides. The marks can be seen on the climb up; the first footprint is below San Juan Arch, in Bermeo, the second at the beginning of the stairs and the last one is next to the hermitage itself. They say that stepping on all three footprints heals pains in the feet and legs.
Cape Matxitxako. This is the most northern point of the north peninsular coast. It is an excellent viewpoint over San Juan de Gaztelugatxe and the Basque coast. It is home to two lighthouses: the old one and the more modern one. The former was built in 1852 and was in operation until 1909, when the one that is in service today was opened. The latter is located a short distance away from the only remains of the first lighthouse; the tower. An observation point for cetaceans and seabirds has been installed around the remains of this lighthouse.
Izaro. This island is one of the best known in the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve. The numerous stories and legends told about it make it particularly attractive. For centuries it housed a Franciscan monastery, now disappeared, which received visits from kings but also suffered pirate attacks. Every July 22nd, La Magdalena Day, in a festive atmosphere, the town of Bermeo confirms ownership of the island.
How to get there
From Getxo, you can get to Bermeo by road on the following route: