Five magnificent castles to visit in the Basque Country

The Basque Country is famous for its gastronomy, mountains, surf spots and rugby champions, but did you know that the region boasts some of the finest châteaux in the South-West? Here’s our selection of must-visit castles for your camping vacation in the Basque Country!

Château Observatoire Abbadia

Standing on the cliffs of Hendaye‘s Corniche Basque, the Abbadia château-observatory was built in the neo-Gothic style between 1864 and 1879 by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc for Antoine d’Abbadie, a scientist with a passion for Orientalism and an extraordinary traveler. Here you’ll find beautiful, richly decorated rooms filled with souvenirs of distant trips to Ethiopia, an astonishing library and an astronomical observatory in the dungeon. Bonus: a magnificent view of the Rhune mountain, the Basque Coast and the ocean.

The Louis XIV house in Saint-Jean-de-Luz

It’s not a château in the strict sense of the word, but it’s a magnificent plunge into French history that awaits you in this large and beautiful residence built in 1643 by Joannis de Lohobiague, a wealthy shipowner based in Saint Jean de Luz. In 1660, Louis XIV stayed here for 40 days to celebrate his marriage to the Infanta of Spain. Real name “Lohobiague-Enea”, the Maison Louis XIV is a noble house built like a traditional Basque home, inhabited by the same family for almost 400 years. Your eyes will be drawn in turn to the wax figures in the King’s Bedroom, the woodwork in the dining room decorated with Bérain-style friezes and ornaments, the painted ceiling in the grand salon, the kitchen with its period fireplace and collection of old pewter.

Château d’Urtubie

Located a few kilometers from Saint-Jean-de-Luz, in the commune ofUrrugne, Château d’Urtubie is the last remaining fortified castle in the Basque Country, enlarged in the 16th and 18th centuries. From the Middle Ages to the Roaring Twenties, via the Renaissance, the Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars and the reign of Napoleon III, nearly six centuries of Basque history are revealed. It houses a fine collection of period furniture, as well as 16th-century Brussels tapestries. For Escape Game enthusiasts, a room has been created in a former kitchen. The tour continues through the 6-hectare English park, orangery and plant garden.

Iholdy Castle

Nestling in the heart of the Basque Country at the foot of Mount Hoxa Handi, Château d’Iholdy was once the property of Monseigneur Jean d’Olce, Bishop of Bayonne, who celebrated the marriage of King Louis XIV and the Infanta Maria Theresa of Austria on June 9, 1660. In this beautiful 14th- and 17th-century château, visitors will discover a rich décor of Grand Siècle sculptures with a decorative repertoire borrowed from the Renaissance.Fontainebleau schoolThese include the bishop’s bedroom, the monumental, richly-worked fireplaces, the grand staircase with its Italian-style arched cupola, the dining room, the kitchen with its period crockery, and the altarpiece in the chapel with its entirely stuccoed ceiling.

  • Address: Lieu-dit Olce, 64640 Iholdy, tel. : 05 59 37 51 07.

Château d’Arcangues

At the gateway to Biarritz, Château d’Arcangues is a magnificent Belle Époque legacy built in 1900 on the site of the previous château, burnt down in 1636 during the Wars of theSpanish Succession. From this period, he has preserved magnificent tapestries by Gobelins andAbusson, the furniture that furnished the Duke of Wellington‘s bedroom, the immense library, and various objets d’art, including family portraits and antique paintings. The château’s grounds offer fine views over the surrounding countryside and the southern slopes of the Pyrenees mountain range.

Château de Gramont

Classified as a historic monument, restored and embellished, Château de Bidache is an exceptional example of the architectural evolution of castles since the Middle Ages. The ancestral cradle of the House of Gramont, it has stood the test of time and left its mark on the great history of France. In 1650, Cardinal Mazarin, who had come to negotiate the Treaty of the Pyrenees for Louis XIV, was sumptuously received at the château. From the top of the keep, you can enjoy a 360° panoramic view of the Basque and Bearn Pyrenees.

  • Address: 1, place du Foirail, 64520 Bidache, tel. : 05 59 56 03 49.

photo©F.Perrot (Chateau d’Abbadie, Hendaye)