After ten and a half hours by train from Santiago de Compostela, we were tired, but happy to arrived in the Basque city. We quickly found out that the next five days, which we planned to spend in San Sebastian, will be very diverse and exciting. And we were right – San Sebastian is one of the most beautiful and liveliest cities in Europe!
The city on one side is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the other by the green Basque hills, which are located above the city. On the eastern, more recent part of the city called Gros, there is a beautiful bay with the beach of Zurriola, on which the locals and tourists on the waves have tested their skills. Part of the beach is also arranged for swimmers and it is ensured that people do not swim in the area where they are surfing or vice versa, in order to avoid injuries. In this part of the city there are many good pintxos bars and restaurants. At the end of the beach stands the modern congress center Kursaal, where every year the biggest film festival takes place in Spain.
Crossing the bridge over the Urumea River, you reach the old part of the city with narrow alleys, where you can find the best pintxos bars in the city that are famous all over the world. On the hill Urgull, just above the old city center, stands the twelve-meter statue of Jesus Christ with a fortress, which in the 12th century served the defense of the city. This is located above the city and the main city beach of La Concha. La Concha beach is one of the most famous city beaches in Europe and is in the main season, especially during weekends, full of tourists and locals. At the end of this beach is the Miramar Palace, a summer residence of the Spanish royal family from the 19th century. From there you continue the path along the walking avenue along the Ondarreta beach, reaching the end of the bay, decorated with three steel sculptures Peine del Viento, which are the work of local Eduard Chillida.
Each of this sculptures weighs ten tons and is embedded in natural rocks that defeat the forces of the Cantabrian Sea. If you like, you can drive from there with more than a hundred years old funicular to Mount Igeldo and admire the city in its beauty.
Where to stay?
Since we like to rely on TripAdvisor and be informed about the accommodation before booking, we used this time also as a help. Pension Aia was the best rated in San Sebastian by Bed & Breakfast.
Even more than that, we were excited about the location, because the house is from the beach of Zurriola only a 3-minute walk away, and around it is everything that tourists need. Despite the fact that we came to the pension on the first day after nine o’clock in the evening, Paul welcomed us with a great hello and took the time to explain where to eat. We kept his recommendations, and everywhere was exceptional! The hotel’s hygiene was excellent, the bathroom and the toilet facilities were common but always clean. This was also in the kitchen, where the staff of the pension was always on the run, if one of the guests sometimes forgot to wash the dishes.
Where to eat?
In San Sebastian, you’ll find it hard to get hungry. There are plenty of quality choices: from award-winning Michelin restaurants, pastry shops, bars where coffee and sweet treats are served, to pintxos bars where you can enjoy a glass of beer or cava, Spanish sparkling wine.
The first pintxos bar we visited was the Bergara bar, located near our pension. The pintxos were precisely set up by the bar and there were so many types and it was very difficult to decide which one to choose, because they all looked very tempting.
Our second choice was the Bodega Donostiarra restaurant, located in the new part of Gros near the Kursaal Convention Center, which we visited twice. You can choose between dishes of pintxos sizes and dishes on a plate. However, in our opinion, it is better to try small portions of different dishes. It’s really extremely good!
In the older part of the town of Parte Vieja, which, due to the streets and pintxos bars is a very touristic area, we visited quite a few pintxos bars. Since Bar Sport and Borda Berri are neighbours, we decided to visit them together. There was a lot of people in both of them, and we had to get through the crowd to get to the bar and eat delicious pintxos. After the first two pintxos in the first bar, we walked up to the neighboring one – Borda Berri, where we got a place at the table, ordered a glass of white wine and some pintxos in peace. We went back to this old part of the city of narrow streets almost every day and visited several bars.
We visited A Fuego Negro Bar, recommendation of Elena Arzak, the daughter of the famous Juan Mari Arzak, who took Basque cuisine to the world. Their pintxos were tasty, but, unfortunately, the space was more like a nightclub in the early hours of the morning, when it was filled with the smell of alcohol.
The restaurant La Vina impressed us, where it was worth trying their cheesecake. In addition to pintxos and wine, it was a real relaxation after a long walking around.
We should not forget to mention the main market, Mercado de la Bretxa, located just next to the entrance to the old town. There is a huge selection of meat and cheese, there is not a short supply of marine fish. All the main chefs of Michelin restaurants in the city and its surroundings buy ingredients for their cooking masterpieces right here.
Not far from the market there is Plaza Gipuzkoa from the bar Kafe Bat and Barrenetxe, where the locals sip their morning coffee. We recommend that you order a cafe solo or a cup of strong espresso, as the locals do and enjoy the view of the beautifully landscaped garden in the middle of the square.
A little outside of the city center, near the Buen Pastor Cathedral, is Pasteleria Geltoki. They serve the finest croissants and small cakes in the whole world. We did not miss this place for one day of our visit, and we always started with coffee and sweet treats in the morning.
We had a desire to visit San Sebastian for some time. With certainty, it can be said that it offers purely everything that a person wants and is suitable for each pocket: from museums, visits cathedrals, shopping, sunbathing on the beaches, surfing to visit pintxos bars, restaurants and pastry shops. We believe that San Sebastian more than deserves the reputation of the capital of world cuisine.