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History of Guéthary

"Quartier de la Place" in the 19th century
"Quartier de la Place" in the 19th century

GUETHARY, a little village (142 hectares), located between Biarritz, Bidart and Saint-Jean-de-Luz, is officially a municipality since 1633. However, the church dates from 16th century and the parochial archive begin in 1577.

Guéthary, in basque « Getaria » comes from the latin « cetaria » wich means « place of salting” and we know now that from the antiquity, the romans effectively built a processing plant of fishes above the port.

Originally, a market town and 3 hamlets

At feet of the church,  ‘THE PLACE”. It was the name given to the market town and to its distances onto the land registry of 1831. Its activity was mainly agricultural.

Between the port and the beach of Cenitz, the hamlet of « HAIZBURU » (translate summit of rocks). With its small houses, close some of the others, it was essentially lived by fishermen families.

Near the current front wall, the hamlet of « COSTA ALDIA » (translate towards the coast). It wasn’t very populated. Four farms, five living houses, barracks of Customs and an inn

And then, a distinctive feature. The hamlet of “BEHERETA” (translate the bottom, with regard to the church). Its high part, houses against houses training a kind of fortified town, was built in the second half of the 17th century, by bargemen. Shipowners, naval officers, captains of ship, surgeon of marine, a master-tailor of clothes and a shoemaker for the needs of this population, but also barkeepers whom we called then innkeepers.

The population census of 1836 counted 522 inhabitants.

  • 27 houses and 161 inhabitants in THE PLACE. 20 houses and 139 inhabitants in HAIZBURU.
  • 11 houses and 66 inhabitants in COSTA ALDIA. 30 houses and 156 inhabitants in BEHERETA.

The beginnings of the tourism

Baths establishment at the beginning of the 20th century.
Baths establishment at the beginning of the 20th century.

The exploitation of the baths establishment near the port is a little going to modify the face of the hamlet Costa Aldia from 1850. As for example the construction of hostels with restaurant, the transformation ancient houses or farms in boarding houses, but also the discovery of the accommodation in private homes.

Other changes also intervened. Development of existing businesses (bakery, grocery’s shop) or creation of new (butcher’s shop in particular), without neglecting the seasonal jobs so generated.

With the arrival of the train in 1864, the movement is going to increase to find its full speed after the opening of the station in 1884.


The first secondary residences

Villa Itsas Mendi
Villa Itsas Mendi

They appear from 1880. From the beautiful villa to the luxurious house (with its stables…), we counted 11 at the end of 1900. « Bon air » on the road on Cliffs, by the Anglican minister William Lewiss, living in Pau. « Miramar » by Bonifacio Erviti, person of private means in Madrid. « Marguerite » (« Itsas gaina » road of Cliffs) by Larribière brothers merchants in Bayonne. « Marthenia » by the doctor Constantin Paul, member of the academy of medecine of Paris (then demolished to build Saraleguinea). « Josefa » (« Erdia and Atchiki », Mugabure avenue) by Marie Lacaille, person of private means. « L’Hermitage » in Cénitz, by Goutier sisters. « Bichta eder » on the road Errepira, by Louis Fourcade de Bouscat. « Angelica » at the top of the avenue de Gaulle, by Arthuro Leon from Madrid. « Cantachoenia » near the church, by François Dubois merchant in Bayonne. « Itsas mendia » on the road Haispoure, by Ernest Archier estate agent, native of Nice and future mayor ( from 1906 to 1924). « Harotzaldea » on the road Ahontz berroa, by Camille Bellaigue man of letters in Paris.

… and the new « Guéthariens »

To there, every inhabitant, fisherman or ploughman, was naturally called « getariar » (without an « e » in the feminine, nor « s » in the plurial). Their roots were basque, all spoke euskara, the school not being compulsory, few knew French. The term couldn’t be appropriate for this new population, qualified then « foreign colony ». And so was born the very first generation of « guéthariens and guéthariennes ».


Guéthary became urbanized, « Costa Aldia » became the city center of the village, and the tourism its main resource. The fishermen port  took practically the looks of a marina. A truck farming here and a field of corn there, still remind the agricultural activity.

In the last census, we counted 1374  inhabitants  on January 1st 2010, half « getariar » -« half guéthariens ».