The plan had never been to explore Puerto Sagunto (Port de Sagunt in Valenciano) as we hadn’t anticipated finding much to get excited about. How wrong we were. Before checking in at the NH hotel (cheap, comfortable, blissfully quiet and very well located) we had been for a walk along the coast to nearby Canat d’en Berenguer.
After our stroll we rested up before heading out for something to eat. Immediately we were impressed by the beautiful old buildings as we wandered through the town. We wondered if we might have to spend some time in the port area before making our way to our expected destination, Sagunto Castle. An evening of delightful Andalusian tapas followed in the El Cortijo Andaluz restaurant. It has recently been renovated and is stunning inside both in decor and food! Then we headed to the Gernika for a nightcap and a bit of Basque pintxos for good measure!
The next morning we went to the tourist office to find a map helping us to orientate ourselves for our day at the castle. In addition we were told about the industrial heritage of Puerto Sagunto and we thought it would be rude not to take a look.
Puerto Sagunto was once a town with a thriving steel and iron industry. Those days are long since gone but there is a Basque influence which cannot be ignored. Built in 1927, the Church of Our Lady of Begoña was designed by a Basque architect to the delight of the town’s many immigrant Basque steel workers. That explains the presence of pintxo bars then! The church is a magnificent building, and you can find more information about it on a local anthropology site (link to Google’s English translation).
The Basque company Altos Hornos de Vizcaya came to Puerto Sagunto in 1971 but the industry had been the main employer in the town since 1971. At one stage there were three giant smelters (or high ovens – altos hornos) in Puerto Sagunto. Only one remains today and it stands like a giant surveying the nearby land. A small museum has been built next door but it was not open when we visited, nor was there any information about when it might be open. The only clue on the door was an apologetic CLOSED notice. This industrial behemoth stands as a tribute to the lost steel and iron industry of the region. Operations ceased in 1984 following crises, cutbacks and ultimately general strikes.
Nearby are several buildings which were factories and warehouses. They have been restored and look fantastic. It does seem that there was a project to make more of this wonderful heritage story, but it has clearly run out of steam and/or money. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see these buildings put to good use.
On the edge of town there is what looks like a group of crumbling old houses, daubed in graffiti. They are closed off to the public but some have been restored and it is possible to wander around close to them. These were the managers houses at the height of the industrial boom. Close by are a few houses painted in a stunning shade of blue. Nowadays these are private residential homes but they were originally the domain of the senior managers. A little further up the road is a small clutch of lovely small white cottages. Some are shops and cafes but many are homes. They serve as a reminder of where the lowly workers lived. It’s not difficult to imagine what a thriving community there must have been there once upon a time.
No blog about Puerto Sagunto would be complete without mention of the cinema. Located close to some of the old workshops, it has been decorated with film-related graffiti. Everyone from Darth Vader to Ali G is there! Who needs a Hollywood Walk of Fame when you can go around trying to identify the different films which are featured.