Plentzia – Plencia

The most sheltered beach

The small port town of Plentzia distinguished itself as one of the main ports in Biscay during the Middle Ages. Over time, the sea filled its estuary with sand, hindering its development but leaving the town with a magnificent beach which transformed it into an attractive summertime destination. In the surrounding area there’s a great variety of outdoor activities.

Plan your visit to Plentzia

This beautiful, cozy town in the Bilbao metropolitan area is characterized by its quality of life and conditions which have made it a summertime destination since the early 20th century. In Plentzia and other nearby towns, there is an extraordinary variety of outdoor activities (surfing, horseback riding, canoeing, hot air ballooning, etc.), making it a highly attractive destination. Its excellent beach and the rest of the town can be toured in a day, and a relaxing weekend of swimming and strolls can be complimented with a visit to the nearby town of Getxo. Although it’s possible to spend several days here doing different activities, there are very few places to stay in Plentzia; we’ve prepared pages about eating and sleeping in Plentzia. It may also be helpful to take a look at our page about accommodations in nearby Getxo.

Want to explore this place?

In the year 1236, Lope Díaz II de Haro founded the town on the land of the elizate (an administrative division) of Gorliz with the name Placencia de Butrón—the original Plentzia—which was established as a town some years later in 1299 thanks to Diego López de Haro. The new town developed around a small port located on the right bank of the Butrón River at its mouth on the Cantabrian Sea and soon came to be known as an emerging commercial center. From the start, Placencia de Butrón’s fishermen specialized in whaling, and due to the quantity and quality of the wood obtained from the nearby forests, shipbuilding shortly became another of its most important industries.

The town served as a point of attraction for many navigators and traders who set up shop there, at times provoking serious conflicts of interest with farming families who had long lived in the town. Alongside its fishing and shipbuilding industries, Plentzia also began to distinguish itself in marine transportation by way of the Gulf of Biscay. The transport of iron ore by sailboat from inland deposits to other coastal ports was soon added to the economic activities that made Plentzia one of the principal ports on the Basque coast.

In the year 1437, a fire destroyed a good part of the town, but neither this fire nor another one that occurred in the late 17th century were able to halt the town’s prosperous rise to fame and wealth. In the 16th century, local fishermen and sailors joined forces in la Cofradía de Mareantes del Señor San Pedro (Guild of Seafarers of Saint Peter), and in the next century Plentzia undertook a series of urban reconstruction works which affected the port and its traffic routes.

Iglesia Parroquial de Santa María Magdalena

As in many other cases, the wars of the 19th century and the crisis in the fishing industry marked the decline of Plentzia’s port, an activity which ended up disappearing as a consequence of the accumulation of a large sandbank at the mouth of the river which only allowed very shallow boats to pass through. Fortunately, thanks in part to its proximity to Bilbao and Algorta, the town’s beaches attracted a new social class who began to settle there temporarily as a vacation home. As a result, Plentzia began to acquire a touristic character which survives into the present day thanks to the quality of its beach, which is one of the main beaches on the Basque coast. An anecdote about Plentzia is that some of the scenes in the novel Fortunata and Jacinata by Benito Pérez Galdos take place on its streets.

Plentzia’s historical quarter offers visitors a charming medieval feel and is a place where colorful, inviting traditional homes of fishermen stand side by side with 19th-century aristocratic mansions and other old buildings. The historical quarter is organized around three main streets which run parallel to the river: Barrenkale, Artekale, and Goienkale, which are in turn demarcated by Erribera, the closest road to the Plentzia Estuary, and the church plaza.

Arriving from Bilbao by metro or by the Algorta highway, the first thing you’ll see is the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge), a pedestrian bridge which connects the two riverbanks. Continuing along Calle Kristo Eskailara, you’ll pass through the historical quarter until you reach the Parish Church of Santa María Magdalena, the nucleus of the town. Restored during the 19th century, it was originally built in the Gothic style in the late 15th century. Its bell tower, whose base also serves as an arcade, was finished in 1522 and is clear evidence of the tower’s former defensive function as a lookout point. Inside the church is an impressive polyptych of the Passion (1440-1480), composed of five alabaster panels.

Nearby the church you can find the sole preserved remains of the old defensive wall that once surrounded the town: the Arch of Santiago. Although it is not very noteworthy from an artistic point of view, seeing as it is a simple archway between two buildings, it has an undeniable historical value. Also nearby the church, in Eleiz Plaza, rises Barri Tower. Now a private residence, this noble building made of stone features a coat of arms carved into the façade which has been dated back to 1603 and includes an even older inscription in Basque, which is also preserved.

At 25 Goienkale is Mujica Butrón Tower, a building made of ashlar stonework which is possibly the most spectacular structure in the historical quarter and one of the few that survived the fires. Built in 1562 in a transitional style between Gothic and Renaissance, its construction was ordered by Martín Pérez de Placencia. Until 1922 it housed the town hall (now located in Plaza del Astillero) and it is currently the seat of the Plentzia Butrón Museum. This institution is responsible for recovering and promoting information about the history, traditions, and landscape of Plentzia and the surrounding area.

Vista de la localidad en la actualidad

Nearby Plentzia, you can visit Butrón Castle, a fortress originally from medieval times which was rebuilt in the Neogothic style in the 19th century by the architect Francisco de Cubas y González-Montes, Marquis of Cubas. Its current appearance is striking because it strays from the architectural standards of most castles on the Iberian Peninsula, as its reconstruction more closely followed guidelines typical of Bavarian Romanticism, mixing Gothic, Nordic, and fantastical forms.

Must see

Château de Butron
Pont neuf

Practical Data

Coordinates

43° 24′ 21″ N, 2° 56′ 47″ W

Distances

Bilbao 24 km, Donostia-San Sebastián 115 km, Madrid 424 km

Parking

On Calle del Frontoi

Altitude

19 m

Population

4347 (2013)

San Antolín (first Saturday in September)

Cheese Contest (August), Mushroom Festival (November)

Nearby destinations

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