Guide to the super cool city San Sebastian, Spain

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As mentioned in my blog post about Antwerp, San Sebastian was the primary stop on our European road trip. Ever since my husband started to study Spanish (to be able to speak with my family) and read about the Basque Country, he has wanted to visit this part of Spain. As we decided to take a road trip this summer, it was ideal to finally visit San Sebastian.
San Sebastian is a wealthy city in the northern part of Spain. The streets are spotless, the people very well educated, there is a great food culture and you have both the mountains and the sea. The only negative thing to be said about this place, is the weather, which is constantly changing between sun, wind, rain and clouds. However, as we’re from Denmark we can’t really complain and luckily we  had five days of sunshine and only one cloudy day.
Besides for being a wealthy, cultural and clean city, the place is famous for surfers from around the world, due to the big waves on the Zurriola beach. This mix of wealth, great gastronomy and the coolness of the surfers, makes the city quite unique and welcoming.

 


 

STAY

We stayed in an apartment (AirBnB) in the Donosti Centro area. The apartment wasn’t the big thing, but the area was really good and recommendable. It felt very local and on the bar just across the street, we met locals who frequented the place on a daily basis. If you like shopping the area is ideal, as all the shops are nearby (we lived in the same building as the Maje store). The beach was a 10 minutes walk away.
However, if you prefer a more young feel and lively atmosphere, I recommend the area around Zurriola, where I also have many restaurant recommendations.

 


 

EAT

Pintxos
Pintxos are the speciality of the Basque Country. It is small loafs of bread with different toppings. And trust me – they have all kinds of toppings, one more delicious than the other. The culture here is to display all the pintxos on the bar, hand out a plate, and then you literally just take everything you feel for. Once your plate is full, you show it to the waiter who settles the bill.
The old town is famous for having all these tapas bars and I can especially recommend the tapas bar and restaurant Atari, which is a cool place. Their terrace is in direct connection with a little square in front of the church. I can warmly recommend the grilled octopus, which is undoubtedly the best we have ever tried.
There is a great gin culture here, so be sure to taste some different gin & tonics along the way.

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Atari from the outside
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The famous grilled octopus at Atari
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The typical pintxos at a bar in the old town

Location for Atari: Calle Mayor 18
Visit the website here

Uh-Mami
On the street Zabaleta, which runs parallel to Zurriola beach, there are numerous bars, shops and restaurants. On of the tiniest of them all is Uh-Mami, where you can fuel up with acai bowls and fresh smoothies. The health wave is quite new to San Sebastian, which is a city with great proudness about their pintxos, so places like this is hard to find and as for now, there are actually only two places in the whole city where to get an acai bowl.

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Location: Calle Zabaleta 61

Alabama
Alabama opened this summer (2016) and is the second place in town to get an acai bowl. The selection here is much bigger than Uh-Mami and this is more like a real café with tables inside and outside. They go all the way in the healthy kitchen and offer both vegan cakes, berry bowls, acai bowls and bread. The owner who has grown up in Brazil is super kind and friendly and ready for a chat.

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Location: Calle San Francisco 45

The Loaf
For delicious bread (perfect if you are staying in an apartment and prepare the food yourself) The Loaf is the place to go. Located on the Zurriola beach it is also convenient for a pre-beach day breakfast. The chocolate donuts are delicious!

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Visit the website here
Location: Zurríola Hiribidea 18

Gran Hotel Maria Cristina
This five star hotel is the flagship hotel of the city. As both my husband and I work in the hotel industry, we are always curious to get in and explore different hotels. We dressed up one evening and went in for a cocktail and some appetizers before heading out for dinner in town. We were recommended their “Aperitivo de la Reina”, which is perfect to share as a pre-dinner snack with both Manchego chesee, foie gras, Iberic ham and olives. Instead of cocktails we went for their signature cava made exclusively for this hotel by Codorniu. The service was very attentive and the surroundings breathtaking. We left happy, another experience richer and having paid only 35 euro in total (total bargain!).

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Visit their website here
Location: República Argentina Kalea, 4

Belgrado
Like Uh-Mami (mentioned earlier) Belgrado is also located on the street Zabaleta. Here you can have breakfast, coffee, snacks, light lunch including vegetarian dishes. The space is quite large and has a little shop inside, selling everything from clothe to wine and soap. It’s a place to come a relax with a book or catch up with some work (WiFi is excellent), while enjoying some of their delicious pastries and a coffee.

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Visit their website here
Location: Avenida de Navarra 2 (on the corner of Zabaleta)

La Guinda Deli & Coffee
This is another good option on Zabaleta, where you can get a healthy and delicious lunch. We opted for a wok and a salad with salmon and soya. Very tasteful.

IMG_9620IMG_9610IMG_9621Visit their website here
Location: Zabaleta Kalea 55

 


 

Do

Surf
San Sebastian is a surfers paradise and if you’re not afraid of high waves you should give it a go with a surf lesson or two. My husband and I have done a lot of Stand Up Paddle surf, but we had never tried the “real deal”. It was fun, but much harder than expected and the immense waves are not for beginners. So don’t do it to be ambitious about standing up on the board, but do it for fun, because you will be smashed around in the waves!
We took a private class at Groseko Indarra Surf School and they were extremely friendly. We paid 80 euro for the both of us, for 1 ½ hour incl. all equipment.

IMG_9862IMG_9779IMG_9808IMG_9856Visit their website here

Take the cable car up to Monte Igueldo
Monte Igueldo is a mountain at the end of the bay of San Sebastian. To get up there you take the cable car (a five minutes ride for 3,15 euro for a return ticket). Once there you will have an amazing view of the bay and feel like if you are touching the sky.
We were surprised to find an amusement park on top of the mountain, where children can take a boat ride with maybe the world’s best view.

IMG_9762IMG_9734IMG_9732IMG_9755IMG_9749IMG_9753Visit the website here
Location for the cable car: Funikular Plaza 4

Go to one of the three beaches in the city
There are three main beaches in San Sebastian, with a very different clientele in each. Zurriola is the surfers’ paradise with huge waves and surf shops along the beach. La Concha is the broadest beach I have ever seen and the center of the city. It is majestic with a white railing along the beach and all the beautiful hotels and houses behind it. There are no kiosks or restaurants on the beach, so remember to bring water here.
The last and smallest beach is Ondarreta. Here you will find cafés on the beach with snacks or light lunches. Our preferred beach was La Concha, except for the day we went surfing, which was on Zurriola of course. The sand on La Concha was quite hard due to the tide (the water is high at night and retracts in the morning, leaving the sand wet), making it easy to brush off when leaving.

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La Concha beach
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Zurriola beach
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Ondaretta beach

Take a daytrip to Bilbao
Bilbao is the capital of the Basque Country and only an hour drive from San Sebastian. In my opinion, it’s better to take a holiday in San Sebastian and a day trip to Bilbao, than the other way round. A separate blog post about Bilbao will come very soon.

Do some shopping
San Sebastian is a superb place for shopping. There is a great combination of surf shops and all the elegant Spanish and French fashion brands. You will find Maje, Sandro, Purificación Garcia, Adolfo Dominguez and of course the high street brands Zara, Massimo Dutti and Mango.

Any ideas or thoughts you wish to share? Don't hold back, I love to chat :)

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