Owner and tour guide @ San Sebastian Urban Adventures. Tour leader @ Intrepid Travel. Love the Basque Country, gastronomy, pintxos, and San Sebastian.
The northern Spanish town of San Sebastián is known as a prime destination for foodie travellers, but there’s lots more to see and do than eat the food (although we definitely think you should eat lots and lots of food while you’re there). Here are our top tips for other things to see and do in San Sebastián — admittedly, with a few eating recommendations thrown in, of course.
Walk along La Concha Bay
Spending time at La Concha is a must — and if you want to mingle with city life, grab a pair of comfy walking shoes and walk the Bay from City Hall to the Comb of the Wind sculpture. This is an activity that keeps locals moving, walking two kilometres along the bay, from one end to the other. Apart from offering up fresh sea air and great scenery, this stroll is also the only way for you to see the Comb of the Wind sculpture complex, designed and built by the architect Luis Peña Ganchegui and world-renowned artist Eduardo Chillida. If you have time, take the funicular up Mount Igueldo and enjoy the best view over the city and surrounding area. The funicular alone is also worth seeing — it’s more than 100 years old.
Have a pintxo evening
Yes, the Old Town is full of pintxos, but if you want to have a real local experience, you better explore a little further in the neighbourhoods beyond (our favourite ones are Antiguo and Gros). Wander the streets and pick any bars to try — trust us, it won’t be difficult to find the best ones, as there will be plenty of people packed inside and out. And remember, some of the most wonderful pintxos are not at the bar. Some are served hot, so you’ll have to order them. Ask the server about their specialties and locals’ favourites.
Escape to Ulia Park
The Basque people adore their mountains — maybe much more than you think. If you go for a walk on Mount Ulia, you’ll see how many people from Donsotia leave the city for morning walks (or jogs) in this beautiful countryside. Also, if you have time, take the St. James Way path and follow it to Pasaia — you will not regret it. You’ll see pilgrims on their route and escape from the city noise.
Lie in the grass at Miramar Palace
San Sebastián is the culinary capital of the Basque Country (and sure, we’ll say it: Spain too!). But after all those tasty meals, you’ll probably feel like a siesta. The best place to catch some zzz’s isn’t your hotel bed, but outdoors, at Miramar Palace gardens. There is a great view to the sea and it’s a lovely place to relax, especially if there is a Musika Parkean concert happening.
Get lost in the Antiguo neighbourhood
San Sebastián has a beautiful city centre that’s very visitor-friendly, but if you want to discover everyday local life, head to the Antiguo district. There’s lots to see just wandering the streets, but we recommend visiting the grocery stores, bars, bakeries, and ice-cream shops. And for a true #localsknow tip, look for the pelota frontón courts. Pelota is a popular sport similar to racquetball or tennis; watching — or joining! — a game is a great way to meet locals.
Taste a cider house experience
There is plenty of wine in Basque Country, both Rioja and Txakoli. But do you fancy tasting something different? Then cider is for you — more specifically, a cider unique to the north of Spain that’s still, unlike the sparkling varieties found throughout most of Europe. Besides getting to sample delicious cider, you can also dine on amazing food (think steak-bone meat, codfish tortillas, codfish with pepper, and cheese for dessert). The season for cider houses is from January until the end of April, but some of them are open year-long. You can even drink cider straight from the barrel (as per our action shot above).
Take a bus to Hondarribia
If you are staying a few days in San Sebastián, then you must reserve one day for visiting the town of Hondarribia. The town is picturesque with a lot to offer visitors. Grab a coffee at the Parador Hotel, which used to be the residence of King Charles V (how many chances will you have in your life to enjoy coffee in a royal residence?). In the evening, go to the marina and enjoy the pintxos, which are as good as any you’ll find in San Sebastián. Also, don’t miss the Gran Sol bar while you’re there.
Is San Sebastián on your travel wish list? Let us show you around!