Experience History and Culture in Guernica, Spain
Most people know Guernica thanks to the art of Pablo Picasso, which depicted the brutal bombing that decimated the town during the Spanish Civil War. Over the past 80 years, Gernika-Lumo has rebuilt itself. And while it doesn’t have the ancient architecture that its fellow Basque Country towns have, Guernica makes up for that in culture and provincial charm — still making it a must-visit on your tour of northern Spain.
What to do
Two of Guernica’s most important icons survived the bombing and are still viewable today: the Guernica Tree and the Assembly House of Gernika, known as the Biscayan Assembly. The tree was the meeting place and symbol of the Lords of Bizkaia during the middle ages and the adjacent structure — built by famed Spanish architect Alfonso Echevarría in the early 1800s — was erected as a memorial to that legacy that also paid tribute to the church formerly on those grounds. The Lords of Bizkaia are depicted in beautiful stained-glass scenes across the Assembly Hall’s ceiling.
You can learn more about the area’s history and society, including the events surrounding the bombing, at the Euskal Herria Museum in the Alegría Palace and the Peace Museum. The former is dedicated to the Basque fueros (laws) and culture, while the latter contemplates the Spanish Civil War and the impact of warfare. A short walk away, you’ll find a full-size ceramic mural reproducing of Picasso’s painting “Guernica.”
After spending your morning learning about these impactful matters, spend the afternoon in quiet contemplation at the serene Urdaibai Nature Reserve nearby, where you can see indigenous flora and fauna in the wetlands, as well as the picturesque Laida and Laga beaches.
Where to eat
Basque Country has an abundance of authentic, intimate Spanish restaurants, and that’s particularly true of the Gernika-Lumo area. There’s practically a dining establishment on every corner, each of them serving up their own particular take on local cuisine (with many offering vegan and gluten-free dishes), so you won’t have a shortage of satisfying options come meal time.
The way to dine in northern Spain is by savoring a variety of pintxos, and the most prestigious place to do so is 1000kolorau. This refined restaurant on the town square serves a variety of tantalizing Michelin-quality dishes expertly cooked by the chefs.
If you travel off the beaten path where only locals go, you’ll find Baserri Maitea located on an old 17th century farmhouse. The elegant yet rustic restaurant serves quintessential Basque dishes elevated for fine dining sensibilities.
Where to stay
Guernica offers a handful of lodging options depending on your style and location preferences. The main place to stay within the town center is Hotel Gernika. A couple miles away closer to the nature reserve is Hotel Katxi. Both of these offer modernized accommodations with a twist of Basque charm. For a truly local experience, stay at the 13th century Arteaga Castle within the nature reserve, which fully retains is antique style in its rooms and on-site restaurant.
Few towns offer the introspective, rustic Spanish experience that Gernika-Lumo does, and it promises to be a highlight of your trip to Basque Country.
This article is presented by Lexus of Las Vegas.