Basque Country: best places to buy property and have a holiday
The Basque Country gets little attention from foreign citizens — undeservingly. In fact, buying property in the region is a good deal for a few reasons:
- excellent quality of life: the Basque Country has some of the highest living standards in Spain.
- unique culture: it has its own language, Basque, and its own culinary traditions. It also hosts one the most famous food festivals in the world, the “San Sebastian Gastronomika” as well as several annual film and theatre festivals.
- mild climate: the Basque country is close to the ocean and mountains, which keeps the climate pleasantly mild. It is neither too cold in the winter nor exhaustingly hot in the summer.
- one of Spain’s greenest regions: it’s very green compared to the South, which gets very little rain.
- falling prices: property values dropped 4.4% in 2015 according to Spanish portal Fotocasa.es.
Despite falling prices, the region is still one of the most expensive nationwide: homes cost 70% more than in the rest of Spain (€1,619/sq m). In December 2015, one square metre in the Basque Country was worth €2,755. Rental rates during the first three months of 2015 were the highest in Spain: 44.8% above the national average.
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The Basque Country is made up of three provinces: Álava, Vizcaya and Guipúzcoa, the latter two are the most attractive for overseas buyers because they are on the Bay of Biscay, also known as the Cantabrian Sea. The local coastline is called the Costa Basque (Costa Vasca).
Álava: wine tourism and medieval forts
Average price: €2,037/sq m
The Álava region only attracted 0.8% of deals with foreign property for sale in Spain in 2014, compared to Vizcaya (1.5%) and Guipúzcoa (2.0%), as reported by Colegio de Registradores.
The region is quite flat and has many vineyards, scenic villages and medieval forts. The town of
The Marqués de Riscal vineyards are located here and its visitors often stay at the Starwood Hotels & Resorts. It is a futuristic hotel designed by the famous architect Frank Gehry that has its own wine restaurant and wine therapy spa. Real estate in Álava is less expensive than other provinces of Basque Country at €2,000 per sq m on average.
House planning in Basque Country is different to that on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. It is common for property here to have more bedrooms. There are many apartments on the market of up to 550 sq m
with 5–8bedrooms. The average size of a two-threebedroom house or apartment ranges from 150 to 300 sq m. This is because Spain’s northern provinces were traditionally home to the country’s elite and a holiday destination for members of the royal family. Moreover, it was common to have 5–8 childrenper family. Large homes were also due to the climate: there is more rain so people stayed inside more.
Vizcaya: developed economy and natural landmarks
Average price: €2,765/sq m
Vizcaya is one the most prosperous provinces in Spain with many resorts, fishing villages and sandy beaches along
Bilbao is the biggest city of the Basque Country and the capital of Vizcaya with a population over 350,000 people. It is also a large commercial port and one of the fastest developing cities in Spain. However, many do not think that Bilbao is a nice city, especially its suburbs, but it has its advantages: there is plenty of entertainment and restaurants for all tastes. It is also home to the Guggenheim Museum, also designed by Frank Gehry.
Many locals go on holiday just 15 km from Bilbao where there are four
The average price per square metre in Bilbao exceeds €3,000, and yet, it’s not the most expensive place in Vizcaya.
Bilbao, in my view, is a contemporary and
fast-growingcity with interesting architecture. It has everything you could need from international schools (British, American, French, German), offices, boutique stores, medical centres to real estate for all budgets, including reasonably priced homes to upmarket apartments downtown. At the same time, the city is calm with a good climate, parks and nature reserves. Property owners in Bilbao generally go to the beach in Guecho that’s just 10–15 minutesby subway or car.
Guecho, just 15 km from Bilbao, has the highest property prices in Vizcaya. One square metre costs €3,316 on average, making it one of the priciest markets in Spain. In the 19th century, Guecho became popular among the wealthy merchant class and, nowadays, it is still in demand among affluent individuals, which explains the high prices. Guecho attracts upmarket buyers because it is close to Bilbao and has excellent amenities like a marina, golf course and various sports facilities.
Bermeno is a town to the
About 20 km east of Oma forest is the coastal town of Lequeitio, which is one of the most beautiful places on the Bay of Biscay. It even competes with San Sebastian as tourist capital of the Basque Country. The landmark of Lequeitio is the turquoise sea, snow white boats and sandy beaches overlooking San Nicolas Island (Isla de San Nicolás). There is a lot to see in the old town including castles, towers, churches and monasteries. Elanchove, 50 km from Bilbao, is a seaside town nestled in the cliffs, a great place for holidays in the Basque Country.
Guipúzcoa: fish restaurants and upmarket property
Average price: €3,058/sq m
Guipúzcoa is the most popular place to buy property in the Basque Country for foreign buyers. It is also the smallest province of Spain and borders on the French Atlantic Pyrenees region (
San Sebastian is the administrative centre of Guipúzcoa. Many say that the town is equal to luxury destinations like Nice and Mote Carlo and it is often called the “Paris of the Atlantic” or the “Spanish Biarritz”. This is because the city centre looks a lot like those in France. In 2013, Condé Nast Traveller named it “5th most popular destination in the world” and first in Spain. San Sebastian attracts tourists and property buyers with its blooming gardens, excellent restaurants, summer festivals and gorgeous views of the Bay of Biscay. Alina Batyrshina describes it as “one of the most beautiful and safe towns on the Atlantic coast. It is popular among surfers — which is basically nearly every local citizen.”
While the town is reputed to have one of the most expensive property markets in Spain, according to Fotocasa.es, there is a more upmarket town: Zarauz (also in Guipúzcoa). Homes there sell at an average of €4,331 versus €4,124 in San Sebastian. Nevertheless, you can still find villas selling at
San Sebastian survived the crisis better than the rest of Spain as prices only fell 10% between
20 km from San Sebastian is the exclusive resort town of Zarauz. It is known for
Guetaria, a fishing village, is one of the most beautiful on the coast, located just east of Zaraus. The famous navigator Juan Sebastián Elcano, who circumnavigated the globe in 16th century, was born here. There are many restaurants with terraces and beautiful old buildings as well as a spacious sandy beach. The landmarks include the San Salvador Gothic church (Iglesia de San Salvador), Almadar Palace (Palacio de Aldamar) and traditional buildings on the San Roque street.
About 20 km east of San Sebastian, close to French border, is the fishing village Fuenterrabía. It is famous for its food and the iconic architecture of its old town. During the summer, citizens of Madrid come here on holiday. Many Spaniards acknowledge that the local cuisine is on par with that of San Sebastian. One square metre in Fuenterrabía costs €3,600 on average.
The Basque Country is perfect for travellers. Out of all cities in the region, I would recommend San Sebastian or Bilbao for buyers. Both would make excellent places for a permanent residence and a holiday home. San Sebastian is loved by all: families with children, young people and retirees. Life in the city never stops. Bilbao is calmer compared to San Sebastian — and has everything you could need close to hand.
Tranio recommends for:
— families with children: Bilbao, San Sebastian
yacht owners: Guecho, Lequeitio, Elanchove
foodies: Bermeno, Bilbao, San Sebastian, Zarauz, Fuenterrabía
surfers: Deba, Mundaca, San Sebastian, Zarauz
young people: Bilbao, San Sebastian
golfers: Bilbao, Guecho
permanent residency: Bilbao, San Sebastian
Yulia Kozhevnikova, Tranio