Old Town of Pasai Donibane (San Juan)

The Old Town of Pasai Donibane

Art & Culture

Cultural Heritage

The old town of Pasai Donibane (San Juan) extends around a single street: it begins in the Bizkaia district and continues to Alabortza cove. The narrow, cobbled streets create a truly cosy environment.


Beginning in the Bizkaia district, we can admire the Casa Platain, a building apparently from the 16th century, built with masonry and a brick structure. It conserves interesting, carved stone eaves and a gallery that opens on to the adjoining garden. The next house is from the 18th century: it has a simple masonry façade and interesting eaves and balconies; this is a typical example of building between dividing walls on a deep, narrow site. Next, we will enter Donibane street.


Strolling around this area, we will find curious passages under the houses that limit the urban sectors. There are also many buildings of great interest that will catch our attention. At the beginning of our stroll, we will see the parish church of San Juan: it has a Latin-cross floor plan and is built with ashlar sandstone. Opposite the parish church, we will also find the Arizabalo palace, currently the town hall and one of the most important buildings in town.


The palace can be dated back to the 17th century and is Baroque. It is a beautiful building with a slightly square floor plan with a hipped roof. The main façade is symmetrical with a beautiful coat of arms with two towers in the centre.


Many homes also adorn the streets of the old town. They are classified by numbers and each has characteristics that will attract your attention. From the 16th century is the Casa Miranda, in Renaissance style. This is a building with a rectangular-floor plan and three-pitched roof. It has a ground floor and three storeys. Noteworthy are the two columns semi-built in to the access; above them, there is a coat of arms. One corresponds to the lineage of San Millán de Zizurkil and the other, although very deteriorated, may be that of the Villaviciosa family.


Next to this house, is the popular Casa Gaviria, better known as Casa Victor Hugo. This typical house of Pasaia, with direct access to the bay, was built in the 17th century and it is where Victor Hugo stayed during his time in Pasaia in 1843.


Leaving this house and crossing under another arch, we will reach the jetty, which is opposite the Humilladero de la Piedad, formed by two stone columns with cylindrical shafts and beautiful Mannerist capitals. Inside is the altar and, on this, an image made up of a cross and Nuestra Señora de la Piedad. This shrine may be considered to be of popular Renaissance style. Since long ago, towards the 16th century, the people of Pasaia used to celebrate a memory here, livened with the typical instruments of our land - the txistu pipe and the tamboril drum.


Next to this shrine, stands the majestic Villaviciosa Palace, a magnificent 16th-century Renaissance house with well-carved ashlar stone walls. The main façade of this beautiful building has a plaque to commemorate when the Marquess of Lafayette, in 1777, left for the American War of Independence.


At the foot of the shrine are some steps that rise towards the chapel of Santa Ana, a building that watches over the port and bay from the hilltop. Although there is not much information on its origin, we know that it was reconstructed in 1758. Inside, it houses the image of Santa Ana that was acquired in Flanders in 1573 and brought to Pasaia by sea.


Descending the steps again, we will cross under another arch that will lead us to Santiago Square, where we can admire a long line of narrow, tall homes, with popular, seaside architecture. These homes, which can have three, four and five floors, have long balconies that occupy the whole façade. They usually have wooden rails that are painted in different colours, like the rest of the carpentry.


The old Town Hall reappears among these houses; it dates from 1735 and is Baroque. With a rectangular floor plan and gabled roof, this type of construction does not fully correspond to that of Basque town hall buildings, which usually have large arches.


Leaving this square, we will come across the Basilica of Santo Cristo de Bonanza, the first parish of Pasai Donibane (San Juan) in the 17th century, and which was under the patronage of San Juan de la Ribera. On the Western façade of the Temple is a portal named Lintxua. It was used as a refuge during bad weather, when waiting for fishermen or merchants. It has a series of incisions or carvings that represent different types of boats. Its silhouettes are mostly from the 18th century and some are from the 19th.


The altarpiece is designed in a discrete Baroque style. At the centre of the high altar is the Santo Cristo de Bonanza, whose English origin is given away by his ruddy hair. It is probably the work of Jerónimo Larrea (17th century).


Continuing our stroll, before we reach the end of the route, we will find the castle of Santa Isabel, a fortress built in 1621 to protect the port of Pasaia. These ruins, now called the castle of Santa Isabel, were built by Carlos I to protect the port from possible attacks from foreign warships or pirates that travelled around this village.


We must highlight that this whole area looks towards the bay of Pasaia, and it is usual to see boats arriving and departing. On the other side, mounts Ulia and Jaizkibel protect the area.

Information of interest

Type of resources
Interesting buildings and structures
Monument type

Old Town

- 20110 Pasaia
Middle Ages


  • Public toilet
  • Children facilities
  • Parking
  • Park
  • Restaurant
  • Exhibition hall
  • Conference Hall