San Sebastián is the crowning jewel of the Basque region of Northern Spain. This idyllic coastal resort is blessed with exceptional beaches, vibrant streets and picturesque bayfront promenades.
Best things to do in San Sebastián
Known as Donostia to the Basque people, San Sebastián area has its own unique vibrancy and flavour. Not only that, but it’s located in an area of seriously outstanding natural beauty. Find photogenic bays nestled between mountainous landscape, which provide dramatic, sweeping backdrops for beachgoers. The perfect destination for both culture vultures and foodies, Basque cuisine is among the best in the world.
Here’s how to spend a weekend in this spectacular, one-of-a-kind place.
Where to beach
First and foremost, San Sebastián is a resort for beach lovers. There are three major in-city beaches to explore, widely regarded as some of the best in Spain.
La Concha Bay
If you’ve seen pictures of San Sebastián before, it’s likely they were aerial views of this dramatic, curved stretch of coastline. Bahia de la Concha, or Concha Bay, is the view that adorns many postcards of the area. For this reason, as well as its proximity to the city centre, it attracts a lot of visitors in the summer months.
The promenade is lined with intricately patterned white railing, known as the Barandilla de la Concha, an iconic design feature of the San Sebastián. A stroll along the promenade is a must, whether this is your first, or fifteenth, visit to the area.
Playa de Ondarreta
Ondarreta is just a bit further down along the coast and often considered Concha Bay’s quieter, sister beach. If you’re travelling with babies or young kids, Ondaretta should be your first stop. Regular low tides and calm waters make it an ideal spot. Onshore, find the old-town neighbourhood of Antiguo, filled with traditional bars, restaurants and boutique shops.
What to do
Pintxos Food Tour
There’s a reason why the Basque country (alongside Catalonia) has the highest density of Michelin stars throughout Spain. In fact, it’s the city with the second most Michelin stars per capita in the world, behind Kyoto. Basque gastronomic culture centres around pintxos, small bar plates to be enjoyed while socialising over a glass of rioja (just don’t call it tapas!). A popular way to socialise is “ir de pintxos,” i.e. the Basque version of a pub crawl.
The culture of pintxos goes deep to the core of Basque culture. The word ‘pintxo’ itself means ‘spike’ in the Basque language. Socialising, drinking and sharing plates with friends and family are what it’s all about.
This city is known for some very special dishes. A guided tour is the best way to delight your taste buds as well as your craving for culture? The small but humble Pintxos Gilda is the star of the show. Pepper, olive and anchovy skewers. The ‘Gilda’ is a quintessentially Basque pintxo dish, first created over 60 years ago in an old wine bar in the Reyes Católicos district of San Sebastián.
Idiazábal cheese is perhaps the most important delicacy you cannot leave San Sebastián without trying! It’s a traditional, hard cheese made from local Latxa or Carranza sheep milk and has a smokey flavour. As a product Denominación de Origen, it’s uniquely handmade in the Basque region (as are many of the wines).
Salt cod and freshly caught hake sole and turbot are nearly always on the menu (and rightly so) but Kokotxa is a traditional Basque fish stew that’s also not to be missed. Fine, marbled Txuleta steak is guaranteed to keep the meat lovers content.
There are plenty of food tour companies to choose from, at varying prices. The Camel Collection prides itself on arranging personalised trips for clients, with the added benefit of local know-how. If you want us to recommend a few places to eat or drink in San Sebastián, just give us a call.
Best place to see the views
On a sunny day in San Sebastián, there’s nothing quite like hiking up to Mount Ulia and across the cliffs to Pasaia to see sweeping views of the bay. Just don’t forget your camera!
Where to stay
Four-star Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra is a striking beachfront hotel, which started life as an 1866 inn. Choose from the rooms overlooking the Xabier Zubiri square in the old town of San Sebastián, or a vista of La Concha Bay on the other.
Hotel Arima If you’re looking for a contemporary, sustainable hotel firmly grounded within nature, this is for you. Further out from San Sebastián is the sleek, Scandi-style Hotel Arima, surrounded by the Miramon forest.
Where to eat
Akelarre restaurant opened in Igeldo, Gipuzkoa in 1974 and has achieved three Michelin stars since. The restaurant is known for its local seafood and immaculate attention to detail.
If you would like more recommendations in San Sebastián or for hotel prices, get in touch with a Camel Collection rep today.
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