The town of Bermeo, perched on the side of Sollube Hill, is located on the land of Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, a true natural paradise. Its seaside location, the proximity of its beaches, and the bustling atmosphere of its streets make it a dynamic meeting place, especially in the summertime and on weekends. Its main tourist attractions include its charming old port and historical quarter, whose layout is originally from the Middle Ages and is full of multicolor homes that used to belong to fishermen. While you walk around the streets, you’ll also be able to see the many sculptures that live there, such as the popular group of sculptures La Lechera (The Milkmaid) by Bermeo native Enrike Zubia, the monolith to those who died at sea, the monument in homage to Benito Barrueta, and Olatua, the last two created by the excellent Bermean sculptor Néstor Basterretxea.
The first thing to see upon arriving in Bermeo is the Casino, located above the esplanade and Lamera Park. This emblematic building with an eclectic design was conceived by Severino Achúcarro in 1894 and its design is reminiscent of a classic French castle. After the flooding in Biscay in 1893, it had to be restored. Despite having almost completely recuperated its original appearance, the building regrettably lost some interesting original paintings, including works by the Basque painter Ignacio Zuloaga. Today it is the headquarters of the Bermeo Society.
At the end of Lamera Park is Santa Eufemia Church (from the 13th century, rebuilt in the late 15th century). In the late Gothic style, it is the oldest church in Bermeo. It was also the place where the monarchs would confirm fueros when they visited the province, as Ferdinand did in 1476 when he confirmed the town as Head of Biscay. With one nave and a Byzantine-style cross, the church is the site of the tomb of the Mendoza de Arteaga family, in white marble.
Lamera Park also opens onto the New Port (Puerto Nuevo), where you can visit a replica of a 17th-century whaling ship and see a reenactment of what fishing in Bermeo used to be like. After passing by the Guild of Fishermen of San Pedro, you’ll arrive at the peaceful Old Port (Puerto Viejo or Puerto Menor). A staircase leads to Ercilla Tower, the only one of the 30 defensive bastions from the old town wall that remains today. This home, built in stone in the late 15th century, belonged to the family of Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga, the famous author of the poem “La Araucana.” Today it is the site of the Fisherman Museum, which is dedicated exclusively to showing visitors the world, life, customs, and work of the arrantzaleak, or fishermen.
Returning to downtown Bermeo from the cliff that rises above the old port, we will pass under the Arch of San Juan, the only one of the seven gates of the wall built in the 15th century which has lasted to the present day.
In Sabino Arana Plaza is the Town Hall, declared a Historical-Artistic Monument. Built in 1732, its elegant façade features two sundials. Across from it is Santa María de la Asunción Church, the city’s most modern church, built after the destruction of Santa María de la Tala Church. Designed in the 19th century by architects Silvestre Pérez and Alejo Miranda, its structure is predominantly Neoclassical with two towers at either end (one of them being a bell tower) and a Classical vestibule between them.
In the lower part of the historical quarter you can find San Francisco Convent, founded in 1357 by the Lord of Biscay Don Tello and his wife Doña Juana Lara and composed of a church, residence, and Gothic cloister. The church is in the Gothic style and has only one nave, covered by cupolas with ribbed vaults and chapels on the sides. The cloister, also Gothic, is the most notable part of the complex, and for years it served as the site of a town market.
Another must-see building in Bermeo is the Kikunbera House, also known as the “Ship-House,” a reflection of the architecture and spirit of the 1920s. Designed by Fernando Arzadun, it was built on steep terrain with spectacular views of the bay. The building has a complex shape (rectangular with some curved sides) and its facades are dominated by terraces, balconies, and semicircular lookout points. All of this makes its appearance reminiscent of a ship; its design also draws on the Streamline Moderne style of art, which would be popularized by the writings of the architect Le Corbusier. This interesting piece of architecture was catalogued as a Historical-Artistic Monument in 1995.