Ancient Coffee Shop in Bilbao: Cafe Iruña
The Cafe Iruña is located in front of the Albia Gardens, next to Ledesma street and with double access from Berastegui and Colón de Larreátegui streets. It was inaugurated on July 7, 1903 by the Navarrese promoter Severo Unzue Donamaría.
It draws attention for the original distribution of its 300 square meters of floor, subdivided into different spaces in which the quality of its tiles and the Mudejar-inspired decoration stand out, with polychrome ceilings and an abundant collection of mural paintings, recently restored.1
When did Iruña Coffee Shop open?
Coffee Shop Iruña opened its doors on a rainy July 7, 1903. Its owner Severo Unzue Donamaría, originally from San Martín de Unx, in Navarra, had settled a few years earlier in the city of Bilbao with the intention of dedicating himself to the wine business. Upon his arrival, he opened a small winery on Ledesma Street, which with the passage of time would acquire increasing importance.
Then Mr. Unzue, then planned to open a great cafe, elegant and select, in the Ensanche area. Severo Unzue, entrusted the work to an architect with a solid track record and the decoration of the premises to the prestigious Architect Joaquín Rucoba, was the one who also decorated the Arab Hall of the Bilbao City Council, who arranged the auction in the one that opened the coffee shop, so that each space was useful.
Iruña Coffee Shop gatherings
From that original Cafe Iruña, opened on San Fermín’s day in 1903, the bar, in the shape of a horseshoe, attracted attention due to its originality; and with it the numerous arabesques that decorated walls and ceilings. Over the years, Unzue covered the walls with frescoes and tiles with advertisements of the time.
The Iruña was also known for its gatherings, in which characters such as Indalecio Prieto, José Madina -the priest of San Vicente-, Eduardo Clause-, Zuazagoitia, participated. There were numerous gatherings, each with its corresponding tactically reserved table continuously.
Following the traditional custom of cafes, and like other similar and older establishments, the Iruña opted from its beginnings for musical performances. Gatherings, card games or dominoes were enlivened by the performances to the piano and violin.
San Fermin and Chupinazo in Bilbao
Since its opening, the Café Iruña has congregated in the neighboring gardens of Albia large groups of people, organizing popular parties practically all year round. Especially for the day of San Fermin, and by express request of its owner.
Each festival of San Fermin was celebrated with a procession launched after the chupinazo launched from the balconies of Iruña itself. Mr. Unzue was a very entrepreneurial man, inclined to expand activities outside of his business, which he organized, apart from Sanfermines, a host of other activities: pedestrian races, bicycles and sacks.
Throughout its almost one hundred years of life, Coffee Shop Iruña has witnessed various political, social and cultural events. Among them is the constitution of the board of the Hogar Navarro or the tasting organized on the occasion of the contest called by Unzue himself to find out the preferences of its customers on certain brands of beverages in 1918.
After the Spanish Civil War
After the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Severo Unzue died in 1940 and his descendants chose to slow down the frenetic pace of the Iruña. Currently, Café Iruña has its own cultural association that announces art, film and literature awards. It is also the organizer of activities as unique as the traditional horse ride through Bilbao and the no less well-established bird contest singers.
Since 1988 the new management of Café Iruña commemorates the eve of Sanfermines with the firing of a powerful firearm, at the door of the establishment. Mr. Jaime Unzue Goyeneche, dean of the members of the Hogar Navarro de Bilbao, has been doing it until now.
In 2020, the Cafe Iruña underwent a restoration process, maintaining the essence of 1903 and reopening on September 8 after a profound reform.
Monday to thursday:
Opening: 09: 00h. – Closing: 23: 00h.
Opening: 09: 00h. – Closing: 24: 00h.
Opening: 11: 00h. – Closing: 24: 00h.
Opening: 12: 00h. – Closing: 4:00 p.m.
How to Get Bilbao
By plane to any airport in the United States, spend Madrid Spain. From there again by plane or car to Bilbao.
Remember to comply with all the TSA regulations on liquids and the TSA regulations on medication. To facilitate the trip, you can hire the TSA Precheck service for a faster checkin in the airports of the United States.