When we were looking for our trip to Bilbao, I wanted to come back from Santander, as the flight options were much cheaper. But all my colleagues told me that I have to visit San Sebastian. Here is why our way back from Basque Country was from San Sebastian.
On our super adventurous road trip in Basque Country, 1 day we dedicated to beautiful San Sebastian. San Sebastian (Donostia – Euskari name) is a beautiful city overlooking the Bay of Biscay. In this post about San Sebastian, I will not only be talking about the top things to do in San Sebastian but also provide a glimpse into what makes this city and this region so unique.
With its unique language Euskera (oldest existing proto Indo-European language in Europe), mild weather in the northern territories (San Sebastian and surroundings), distinctly different cuisine and libation and a culture that takes immense pride in its roots, Basque country feels like an out of world place within Spain and will entice you with its food, hospitality and spellbinding natural beauty.
How much time do you need in San Sebastian? We stayed for only 1 day, but it was not enough. I will advise you to take two full days, as it is the perfect amount of time to stay in San Sebastian. You’ll have enough time to explore the city at a relaxed pace, without feeling like you’re missing out on the highlights, and you’ll have enough time to see other parts of Spain.
We stayed in Hendaya, the village at the border, and only 1km from Donostia Airport. But it is almost 24km from San Sebastian. The best option to explore the city is to look for accommodation in San Sebastian. It can be pricey, but it what it has to explore the beauty of such a place.
What to see in San Sebastian?
We parked our car in an interior parking right by the seaside. It was easier, as the city seems to be pretty busy even in winter time. Maybe there were not lots of tourists, but many local people went out to enjoy the sunny day
1. Old part of the town and bars.
We walked along the seaside, and went right to the old part of the town (Parte Vieja). Here we enjoyed watching many families dressed in traditional clothes, parents and kids, who were running to the church or to the school. It was beautiful to watch them along, and feel the culture of such a new place for us.
If you plan to visit all the city walking, be prepared, this city has a lot to offer, from sightseeing to great food. Take your most comfortable shoes for this trip.
The best way to enjoy this part of the city is to get lost and simply soak it all in. And this is what we all did.
The old center of San Sebastiàn is littered with cozy pintxo restaurants and bars. The entire area is one architectural highlight with the Koruko Andre Mariaren Basilika as it’s crown jewel. This catholic church is an architectural beauty and is kind of the entryway into the city center where you also have the bustling Gipuzkoa Plaza. This area, also known as the Boulevard, is a prime artery of the city and is buzzing with lots of good places to eat as well as branded retail stores. You can also cross over into the hep and trendy neighborhood
The city center was full of kids attractions, I am not sure if it was because of the holidays, or are all the time set there. What we know for sure, all 3 kids, were more than happy to enjoy twice the carusel, and all the kids attractions prepared there.
2. Playa de la Concha.
Walking around, we got right to the beach. This is the iconic beach of the city, stretching from the City Hall to Pico del Loro (Parrot’s Beak). The promenade is bustling without being feeling too busy. Even if it is winter, there are a lot of people on this beach, soft sand, clear water, and we headed west towards Monte Igueldo.
If you like surfing, go to Playa Zurriola which has the best waves in the area. The suburb Gros, where Zurriola is, houses a lot of surf shops and schools.
3. Monte Igueldo
Ok, there are 3 ways to get there: walking, riding, or funicular. Walking and riding is 2.30EUR per person and with funicular is 3.75EUR round trip. As it were only 4 of us who wanted to go, we decided to go walking. You know, after lunch, it is better to make some movements. It was a great decision, as you can see many beautiful lookout points tucked in its leafy folds.
It’s roughly a 20 minute walk up to the top, where you’ll be rewarded with amazing panoramic views of San Sebastian’s red roofs, and the beach below.
The entire trip up and down takes less than 45 minutes. And we went to the walk my mom, my sister, Marc and me.
After coming back, we went to San Telmo, Zumaia, and enjoyed another spectacular place.
What to know about San Sebastian before you come?
The north of Spain is well known for its pintxos; the tapas of Basque Country. They can be best described as tapas on a slice of baguette. The region borders France, so that probably has something to do with it. Pintxos have become a trend all over Spain.
The pintxo restaurants can be found all over the city. During lunch time they are packed with locals grabbing a bite to eat and drink some wine. Join them and try a bunch of them. a) Best time to visit as per locals, Fall, i.e. September and October is the sweet spot with good weather and less crowds. May is also a good shoulder month to visit but you will get quite a bit of rain since it is still spring. Summer, with its gorgeous weather, is the peak tourist season and although the crowds are nothing as compared to that in Barcelona, it does get pretty busy in old town. We went in December, but the weather didn’t disappoint us, maybe we are lucky enough :).