San Sebastian is to me one of the best parts of the Basque Country. Situated along a bay in the north of Spain the city’s coastline is divided in two by a small archipelago which houses the cities older quarters. To the east is a beach with almost constant surf, making it popular among the locals and the surf crowd. To the west is a much calmer beach popular among the tourist and those in search of calmer waters. But most important for us foodies is that San Sebastian is the town to visit for for that tasty delight called pintxos.
Where to stay
In San Sebastian the closer you can get to Old Town the better. There are several reasons for that, but mainly it means that you are close to both beaches for all your daytime needs and Old Town is the place to to fulfill all your nighttime needs. Most of the near-lying parts of town is occupied by old beautiful buildings which means there are almost no large hotels near that area. Hence accommodation is sparse and most of the places to stay at a reasonable cost is remodeled flats often containing only a few rooms. If you venture out further there are plenty of places to stay at reasonable rates, but parking near old town is expensive and driving is prohibited on many streets. I would suggest booking something well ahead of time and checking out services like airbnb.
What to do
My choice would be to hit up the beach for some sun and surf during the day and Old Town for tasty pintxos and drinks at night. If the beach becomes boring head up to the old fairground Monte Igueldo on top of the hill lining the coast to the west. Follow the boardwalk west and you’ll come to a cable car station that will take you up the hillside. They have some old school rides and one of the most spectacular views of San Sebastian. There is also a small island called Santa Clara in the eastern bay that offers some nice pick nick spots and more opportunity for sun and sea. Although during our visit the island was severely overcrowded.
If you intend to stay for a week and would like to get away from the city-life look into renting a car and check out either Urkiola national park for a hike with amazing views or the La Rioja district for some beautiful vineyards.
But lets be honest the next topic is the real reason for visiting San Sebastian.
So finally the reason everyone needs to visit San Sebastian at least once, the food. For starters it’s everywhere in Old Town and it’s hard to go wrong. My method and as to my understanding the preferred one is to duck in anywhere that takes your fancy, have a few pintxos and a beer or a glass of wine and duck out again. After that it’s just a matter of repeating these steps. The best part with this procedure is that you get to sample a lot for a little. Price range from 1.5-4 euros for standard pintxos, the ones with pricier ingredients can go a few euros higher.
Prices vary depending on each place and what the ingredients are, but they are almost always reasonable and most often a bargain. When it comes to taste the Basque people and the locals of San Sebastian are a discerning crowd, which they should be considering that they have the highest number of Michelin stars per square meter barring Kyoto, therefore you mostly can’t go wrong. If something isn’t to your taste it surely isn’t by lack of ingredient or cooking knowledge.
-Don’t miss the fillet of beef here.
- A Fuego Negro
-Try the mini kobe burger with banana chips or the watermelon and tuna tartar.
- Borda Berri
The places mentioned above are a little pricier but well worth a visit. But honestly you can’t go wrong with pintxos in San Sebastian and when in doubt follow the locals. Some of the best food I’ve ever eaten has been in San Sebastian. If you enjoy the beach, friendly people and some of the best food you’ll ever have San Sebastian should definitely be on your bucket list.