Travel

A Weekend Guide to San Sebastian

September 23, 2016

30 minutes west of the French border lies the charming Spanish town called San Sebastian. Not only does it boast some of the most pristine sandy beaches in Europe but it’s also well known as one of the world’s leading culinary destinations. a.k.a. my perfect weekend getaway!

Here are my Top 7 recommendations if you want to spend a weekend in this quaint town.

 

Weekend Guide to San Sebastian

 

1. Swim in the crystal clear water

As soon as you arrive, you need to suit up in your swimmers and head straight down to La Concha beach. The photo below just sums up how gorgeous this beautiful piece of water is!Weekend Guide to San SebastianAlthough they don’t have much of a swell, they are perfect for a gentle paddle in this shimmering aqua sea. Unlike a lot of European beaches, these beaches also have pristine white sand. It’s so nice to feel squeaky sand between your toes!

Weekend Guide to San Sebastian
Weekend Guide to San Sebastian
Weekend Guide to San SebastianTipStick to the Eastern side of the beach just in front of the Palacio Miramar. It’s less crowded and the rocks offer some shade when it gets too hot.

 

2. Pop into a pintxos bar

After you’ve had a refreshing dip, you’ll probably be ready to tuck into some of the delicious food from the Basque-country! Pintxos is the Basque word for tapas, which means ‘to pierce’ in Spanish. As the word suggests, pintxos are small tapas dishes which are often on small cocktail skewers.San Sebastian Pintxos There are many pintxos bars in the city and they all serve different types of small tapas delights. Being so close to the sea, my favourites were the seafood pintxos. Oh, and the wedge goats cheese with caramelised apple on bread also went down a treat!

San Sebastian Pintxos
San Sebastian Pintxos
You might be dazzled by all the pintxos sitting on the bar but make sure you try a few things off the menu. Items on the menu are meant to be the  ‘best’ pintxos in the bar. One of my favourites made to order pintxos was the smoked cod in Bar Zeruko.

San Sebatian - Pintxos I don’t really like cod but happily made an exception for eating it this way!  They bring out a thin slice of cod on a small grill and you get to watch it sizzle in a cloud of smoke. Pop it on a piece of marinated bread and enjoy the wonderfully smokey flavour!

Tip: Ask for a plate and take as many pintxos as you want from the bar. Pay at the end of the meal once you’ve finished eating and drinking. It’s like an honesty system meets sushi train where they usually come around and count up all your plates.

 

3. Wander through the Old Town

After you’ve stuffed yourself full of pintxos then you’ll probably need to walk off your full belly. Whenever I visit a city or town, I always find the Old Towns the most charming because they are the true heart of the city. San Sebastian Old Town is no different.

San Sebastian Old Town
San Sebastian Old Town
 As you walk through the cobbled streets, make sure you admire the unique mix of medieval and 18th C Baroque architecture.

Also be sure to stop in for a coffee or a glass of wine at the Constitution Square. This square was used as a bullfighting ring until the 1940s which is why all the apartments face inwards.San Sebastian Old TownWeekend Guide to San SebastianWhilst there are a lot of tourist shops, the old town also has an abundance of pintxos bars serving tapas and spanish wine, pastry shops and gelato bars for you to explore. You definitely won’t go hungry in San Sebastian!

 

4. Go on a food tour

Yes more food, but it’s worth mentioning that San Sebastian is one of the culinary mecca’s of the world. It has more Michelin stars per sqm than any other city which definitely qualifies it as a ‘foodie heaven’.San Sebastian Food TourWhile we couldn’t find a table at any of the Michelin star restaurants, we opted for a food tour to try the best food the Basque country has to offer!

San Sebastian Food Tour
San Sebastian Food Tour
Our local tour guide, Inigo, took us to some of his favourite Pintxos bars. With a snap of his fingers, there was a flurry of people bringing us some seriously mouth watering pintxos, with matching Spanish wines of course!

San Sebastian Food TourMy two favourite dishes were the steamed green beans with pine nuts, scallops and potato foam and the grilled octopus. Make sure you try to hunt them down because they were so good!

San Sebastian Food TourI also love going on these types of tours because you get to meet the most interesting people who all obviously love their food.  7 of the motley crew were Aussies but everyone had come via different parts of the world and had a different story to tell. We left Inigo (or Inigo left us) at the Cheesecake shop at the end of the night and we all partied on at a gin bar down the road.

Pintxos Tasting Tour | Price: ~€100pp | Make your reservation in advance

 

4. Take a walk on the promenade and stop at The Loaf for a morning coffee. 

The next morning we headed back to the beach for a ‘please wash away my hangover’ swim and then went in search of a coffee to pep us up!

San Sebastian The Loaf We walked across the promenade past the old town and found ourselves at the ‘surfers’ beach. Just behind the promenade, we stumbled across a great bakery called The Loaf. Of course this local bakery offers a huge selection of bread and pastries but it also has fabulous coffee too!

San Sebastian The LoafThey also do freshly squeezed orange juices, yoghurt ice-blocks (or ice-lollies as they call the in the UK) and they’re opening up a pizza bar next door very soon!

The Loaf | Price: € – Cheap and cheerful!

 

5. Visit the town of Pasai Donibane for a seafood lunch

After we’d revived ourselves, we popped into a taxi and headed over to Restaurante Txulotxo for lunch. For a few euros you can take a small ferry from Pasai San Pedroko Untziralekua to the well known seafood town of Pasai Donibane.

San Sebastian TxulotxoWe were lucky enough to get a table right by the window of the restaurant. Even thought it was spitting rain that day, we had a lovely view sea view and could see fish wiggling around in the water.

For entrees we shared some lovely big char-grilled prawns (shells and all) and some local clams in a broth. Then we followed up with some grilled sole and cod stew! I really miss sweet, flakey fish like Barramundi and Snapper so sole has become my next favourite choice.

San Sebastian Txulotxo
San Sebastian Txulotxo
San Sebastian Txulotxo It also comes in handy when you go to restaurants with a wine connoisseur in training! My buddy Bamber, picked two very delicious Spanish wines – a Torre Fornelos Albarino (white) and a Vina Mayor Ribera Del Dero (red). Definitely give these a go if you find yourself at Txulotxo or Spain!
San Sebastian Txulotxo

Tip: Take a short stroll around the town after lunch. Look out for all the nests along the cliffs when you walk up towards the headland.

Restaurante Txulotxo | Price: €€ | Reservations recommended

 

6. Stop in for an evening tipple on the promenade

The sound of crashing waves at night is one of the most soothing sounds in the world!

San Sebastian La PerlaIf you’re keen for a drink before or after dinner then pop into one of the bars along the promenade and enjoy the smell of salty air and enjoy the chilled Ibiza vibe.

San Sebastian La Perla
San Sebastian La Perla
At the La Perla Bar (which is also conveniently a health club and spa), they have a lovely outdoor bar where you can enjoy the sunset over a glass of champagne!

La Perla Bar | Price: €-€€

 

7. Visit Biarritz, France

If your flight home is via Biarritz Airport then I would recommend spending a few hours in the beautiful town of Biarritz.BiarritzIn the short time that we were in Biarritz, we got to wander along more sandy beaches and sit on the promenade while eating some crepes oozing with cheese. We also picked up  some mouth-watering caramels and glossy pastries from Miremont (because we clearly hadn’t eaten enough that weekend!).

Biarritz
Biarritz
BiarritzFurther up in the town there are an abundance of restaurants and shops full of cashmere knitwear, leather goods and fine jewellery. #swoon! I’m definitely coming back to spend a whole weekend in this gorgeous town next summer!

 

So that sums up my Weekend Guide to San Sebastian. While it isn’t as well known as Madrid and Barcelona, you shouldn’t over look San Sebastian if you’re visiting Spain or France. Just remember to bring your swimmers and an empty stomach!

San Sebastian

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