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Monte Igueldo: history, fun and fantastic views

Strolling along the promenade at La Concha Bay, it’s hard to miss the huge hill rising west above San Sebastián. Monte Igueldo (Igeldo, in Basque) is 181 metres tall and the highest natural point in the city.

The hill is home to a district of the same name (belonging to San Sebastián) as well as several attractions which have become symbolic of the city, including a 16th-century tower that served for a long time as a wood-fired lighthouse. Today, it’s a 360º viewpoint over the city and the Cantabrian Sea. The hill has a fully working amusement park that was inaugurated in the early 20th century by Queen Regent María Christina, mother of Alfonso XIII. This picturesque corner of San Sebastián also has a viewpoint, a hotel and a gastropub.

The icing on the cake is of course the old wooden funicular railway that has been working since 1912. It’ll take you right to the top of the hill and save you breaking a sweat. If you like what we’ve told you so far, read on for more details of how to spend a day on Igueldo.

A journey through time on Monte Igueldo’s funicular

The funicular up Monte Igueldo isn’t the only one of its type in the Basque Country. Monte Archanda (Bilbao) and Larreineta (Trapagaran) also have one. That said, Igueldo’s wooden-car funicular can claim to be the oldest of its kind in the Basque Country and the third-oldest in Spain. The funicular was opened in 1912 by María Christina of Habsburg-Lorraine – once Queen Regent of Spain and regular summer visitor to San Sebastián – and was testament to the growing cosmopolitan scene in the city during that period. The amusement park, with its assembly hall, casino and restaurant all perched atop the hill, was opened at the same time.

Amazingly, nothing has changed much since the funicular was opened. The journey starts at the beautiful lower station situated in the Plaza del Funicular, just a few metres from the famous Peine del Viento (Comb of the Wind) sculpture by the Basque artist Eduardo Chillida.

The rustic cars set off every 15 minutes and a return ticket costs €3.75 for adults and €2.50 for children. Other options are to drive to the top along the Paseo del Faro or to walk the pretty waymarked route that starts from the plaza.

 

 

Monte Igueldo amusement park

After a journey to the top of the hill with panoramic views over La Concha Bay, prepare for another trip back in time. Some of the twenty attractions that await still have their original design from 100 years ago. The happy and fun atmosphere in the park contrasts with the forbidding Medieval-style tower that stands in the middle of the action. Originally a 16th-century wood-fired lighthouse, over time the tower’s purpose has evolved from that of guiding boats to safety to guiding tourists hungry for fun. Its top floor has several large windows which turn the tower into a spectacular viewpoint over the Gipuzkoan coast and the Cantabrian Sea.

The most popular attractions in the theme park are the trampolines, the labyrinth and the vintage rollercoaster that delightfully chunters around the side of the hill. Adults can reminisce as they try their hand at the game stalls or even ride the Italian-inspired carousel, where instead of horses you’ll find a submarine, a fire engine and other weird and wonderful things.

The old casino and original restaurant were replaced in 1967 with a 4-star hotel that still crowns the summit of Monte Igueldo today.

If all the fun makes you work up an appetite, try the Karrusel gastropub for a selection of modern Basque cuisine. There’s also the more traditional El Torreón restaurant serving dishes prepared with local produce – the restaurant terraces are right next to the Monte Igueldo viewpoint, affording the most emblematic views in all of San Sebastián.

Monte Igueldo lighthouse

Vistas desde el monte Igueldo

Views from Mount Igueldo

Monte Igueldo is one of those magical places that still has secrets to be discovered no matter how many times you visit. Igueldo is filled with stories and legends, and one such story was born with the tower. Destroyed during bombings in the Carlist Wars, the tower served for four centuries as a lighthouse before abandoning this role forever in 1855 when the current Igueldo Lighthouse came into action.

The new lighthouse is hidden on the northern slopes of the hill, overlooking a winding road that descends directly from the hotel. This beautiful whitewashed building sits 135 metres above sea level (the tower lighthouse was at 184 metres), enabling it to avoid the blinding fogs of the Cantabrian. The lighthouse has a range of 26 miles. What’s more, a new floor installed in 1918 complete with windows and terraces provides views over the city of San Sebastián and its beautiful backdrop.

Information of interest

How to get there

  • By public transport: Bus line 16 stops on Igueldo.
  • By car: Take the Paseo del Faro and continue to the end of the road.

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