Azpeitia: A Journey to the Heart of the Basque Country

Azpeitia: A Journey to the Heart of the Basque Country

Not far from San Sebastian, some 40 kilometres away, is the town of Azpeitia. This town in the heart of the province of Gipuzkoa is known for three reasons:

  • The first: they also celebrate the day of San Sebastian with a tamborrada.
  • The second, they have a very interesting railway museum that will delight young and old alike.
  • The third: it is the birthplace of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.

Tamborrada of Azpeitia

Although San Sebastián is not the patron saint of Azpeitia, as San Ignacio is, of course, the patron saint, the people of Azpeitia celebrate San Sebastián’s day in the same way as in Donosti, with a tamborrada (drum parade). They celebrate this day because their historic parish church is that of San Sebastián de Soreasu, already built when the town was founded in 1310. This parish church still exists today and mixes original medieval elements with more modern ones, such as the neoclassical façade by Ventura Rodríguez.

The tamborrada, however, is new, as it has “only” been held since 1956, clearly inspired by that of the provincial capital. We from San Sebastian usually watch it on television after the start of ours and it always catches our attention, especially because of the costumes they wear, which are so different from ours.


Companies of the tamborrada in Azpeitia. Photo from the Diario Vasco.

Basque Railway Museum

This museum, opened in the 1990s, uses the old station, depot and workshops of the Urola Railway, which had closed a few years earlier. And in it we not only find objects and documentation about the many railway lines of the Basque Country that have existed over the last two centuries and have been disappearing over time, we can also see up close and even ride in old wagons, locomotives, buses and trucks brought from different parts of the Basque Autonomous Community.

It is therefore a perfect museum for children or all those lovers of old vehicles who want to experience first-hand what these ancient means of transport were like.

If you want to know other plans to do as a family in San Sebastian, you can check them out on our Free Walking Tour friend website.

To put the cherry on top of the visit, at weekends and on public holidays, a steam train leaves from the museum and runs along 5 kilometres of the old railway in the direction of Lasao, immediately transporting us to bygone times. Without a doubt, it is a perfect plan for a sunny morning.

If you want to know more, don’t hesitate to visit their website and plan a visit, as it is totally worth it.

Basilica of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Loyola is a neighbourhood of Azpeitia, the birthplace of the saint Saint Ignatius of Loyola, known over the world as the founder of the Society of Jesus. The house, which can still be visited, is surrounded by an immense baroque basilica designed by Carlo Fontana in the 17th century. The sanctuary was built between the 18th and 19th centuries and today it is one of the three most important sanctuaries in the province, along with the hermitage of Santa María de la Antigua in Zumarraga and the sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu in Oñati.

And even if you are not religious, it is a building to visit, as it is a magnificent example of Baroque architecture, and also because it is striking that such a huge building is located near a town like Azpeitia, a relatively small town in the mountains, and not in the centre of Rome, as you might expect.