Haro makes a great base from which to explore the region, being located just 1hr 10 minutes from Bilbao international airport and ferry port by road (100 – 110 km) and also accessible by public transport. It is also just a 30-minute drive from Laguardia (40 minutes from Logrono or Vitoria). It is a small (12,000 inhabitants), but bustling town, with a good mixture of locals and foreign visitors in the summer.
In winter it is still a good place to visit as businesses and shops remain open for the local population, unlike many seaside resorts.
It is a town that prides itself on its culture and art – and this is immediately observable from the bronze statues and wall art that decorate the town. A self-declared open-air museum, Haro, the capital of Rioja, is indeed an interesting town with its own distinct flavour. And of course, no shortage of fantastic wine!
The town is effectively divided into two parts – the historic centre, and the wine region centred near the train station, about 10-15 minutes’ walk away from the heart of the town, in a district known as the Barrio de la Estacion.
Despite its relatively modest size, the town offers a surprising range of activities, from the more sedate to the most energetic, so you will definitely find something to keep every member of the family happy. And if you are looking for something a little quirky, where else will you have the opportunity to visit a winery for a tasting on a Quad bike, or in a horse-drawn carriage?
Haro is easily accessible from Bilbao, which is an international transport hub with a ferry terminal and international airport. From Bilbao there are plenty of options for car hire. Whether you plan on taking public transport, hiring a car or bringing your own on the ferry from Portsmouth (2 hours’ drive from London) or from Rosslare (2 hours’ drive from Dublin) you will find Haro a very convenient destination, just 1hr 10 minutes (just over 100km) from Bibao.
Alternatively, Haro can be reached within 2 hours by car from Santander airport/ferry terminal (190km).
However, if you don’t want to travel by car, Haro is accessible from Bilbao by public transport and benefits from a regular, cheap service. You can take a public bus departing every 20 minutes through most of the day from Bilbao airport to Bilbao bus station for EUR 3 (check the bus schedule if your flight arrives very late). From the bus station there are frequent buses on the line to Logrono. There are around 10 departures per day, with a journey time of just over 1 hour. Tickets cost EUR 5,40 one way. Prices as at September 2022. For exact details of times etc see the Cuadra Bus website
A few minutes’ walk from the main Peace Square (Plaza de la Paz) you will easily find a small square (the aptly named Plaza de la Iglesia – Church Square) containing the Parish church of Saint Thomas. The building of this monument started in the 16th century, built on a plot of an earlier church of the same name.
Other buildings of note include the Banco de Espana, an ornate building which seems rather grand for such a small town, but a testament to her remarkable past. There is also an interesting mix of palaces in the town centre, constructed in the 16th to 18th centuries, through which we can see an evolution of architectural design. A number of these palaces have remarkable facades. Of particular note are the Counts of Haro Palace, built late 16th/early 17th century, located on the same square as the parish church of Saint Thomas and the fantastically ornate Palace in the Plaza de la Cruz, which was completed in the late 18th century.
In terms of Museums, whilst Haro does have the usual indoor museums, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art located at the main Plaza de la Paz, it has also taken a more unusual approach to displaying its heritage, as perhaps befits a location with such a great climate – you can’t help but notice it’s Open-Air Museum. In fact, the town proudly proclaims itself to be an open-air museum, although one might view it as more of an open-air art gallery. You do not need to walk for long in the town before noticing the vast murals on the sides of buildings, or the curious bronze statues.
Dotted around the town you will find large bronze statues that catch the eye. Amongst other themes are a number of statues that depict the town’s trades – vintners, coopers, wineskin makers, gardeners, they are all proudly standing there to remind you of what this town is about.
WHERE TO STAY IN HARO
Haro offers the visitor a wide range of accommodation opportunities, with a 4* Hotel and four 3* Hotels, depending on your budget and desire for luxury. Alternatively, there is a camp site, hostel, and pension for those of you who are looking to get the most value for your money.
WINE AND WINERIES
If you look at a map you will see that the old historic town centre of Haro is bordered broadly to the East by the River Ebro, and to the North by the River Tiron. Just on the other side of the River Tiron can be found the wine region, a vast area of wineries located just on the outskirts of the town, along with Haro’s RENFE train station.
Haro has been a centre for wine production for centuries, and according to the Haro tourist office, by 1669 there were already 116 wineries associated with the town.
The heart of the wine region is the “Barrio de la Estacion” or “station neighbourhood”. The train station was built in the 1860s and owes its existence to a historic event that some might say gave rise to a publicity boost for the Rioja wines, already known in the local area for their quality. In the late 1850s the Great French Wine Blight, properly known as Phylloxera, arrived from the US and decimated many European vineyards, notably the famous wines south western France, and of Bordeaux. While the French vineyard owners searched for a remedy, many of them went south, to Spain, in search of new territory. They took with them the French methods of wine production, which was a significant influence in the production of wine in the Rioja region. At around this time, the train station in Haro was opened and wineries were built in the surrounding area, enabling wine to be transported in bulk to Bordeaux.
From the historic centre of Haro the Barrio de la Estacion is just over 1km away, and can be easily reached on foot in under 15 minutes. If you are looking for long-established wineries and the opportunity for excellent tastings, this is the place to be. The area is home to 7 different wineries, of which no less than 5 have been in continuous operation for over a century. This area is often referred to as “The Golden Mile of Rioja”. It is a vibrant place, where various activities and events are organised throughout the year. This includes the District Station Tasting day, which usually takes place in June, during which in one day all of the wineries can be visited, with tastings of two wines and one tapas available at each one. The day is usually rounded off with entertainment such as a concert. There are also “wine passports” available at certain times of the year, which is a bit like a Haro version of a pub crawl. And in early December there is the turning on of the lights and a Christmas concert.
For anyone who wants to really immerse themselves in the wine culture during their visit to Haro, you can organise a trip through the local vineyards in a horse-drawn carriage, including a wine tasting and lunch in the vineyards. www.bodegasencarruaje.com
FOOD AND DRINK
If you are looking to get a taste of proper, traditional Spanish food, you will not be disappointed in Haro. Typical local dishes not to be missed include vegetable stew (minestra), garlic soup, lamb cutlets grilled in vine shoots (sarmiento), stuffed peppers and snails. All to be washed down, of course, with your choice of local rioja.
At lunchtime the restaurants can get very busy as lots of Spaniards take advantage of the fixed price menus which offer excellent value for money, and usually include a choice of starter, mains and dessert, together with bread, wine and water included in the fixed price. It is a good idea to get there when service starts, often at 13.00, or you might miss out.
If you are looking for a copious, tasty good value meal at lunchtime you should head to Plaza de la Paz – Peace Square – where, in the surrounding streets you will find an abundance of restaurants and cafes.
As well as the many bars and restaurants you will also find bakeries selling some unusual, local delights. Don’t miss the fantastic Rioja wine truffles!