If you’re looking for some place that seemingly has it all, San Sebastián is as close to perfect a find if there ever was one.
Located on the west coast of the country and only about half an hour’s drive away from the French border, with its great beaches, delicious pinxhos (like tapas, but better in my opinion!) and a characteristic old town makes this small city in Spain worth a visit.
The area is similar to Catalonia in that there is a separate identity for the locals who reside here. It’s interesting and a good idea to learn a little about the Basque Country before you go to gain a bit of an understanding about this unique area.
To get the best views of San Sebastián you can climb either of the two hills, the Monte Urgull (seen on the right in the picture above) with its monument a top it, or what I chose to do was get a look from Monte Igueldo (the left hill in the picture).
You have the option to pay a few euro for a return trip on the funicular to the top of Monte Igueldo (recommended since it was impressively steep.)
At the summit you’ll find a small amusement park that has seen better days but it’s kind of cool since it’s pretty unexpected and worn in a once loved way. The views from here though are fantastic!
San Sebastián as seen from Monte Igueldo
Zurriola Beach is where the surfing is at and you can sign up for lessons if you like too. La Concha is the main beach where in summer you’ll find most people swimming and sunbathing.
Parte vieja is the name of the older part of the city and my Hostel San Fermin was conveniently in the centre of it. There are narrow streets with charming boutiques which lead to tiled town squares.
In typical Spanish fashion you will find a beautiful church in the middle of town, San Sebastián’s main one is called the Iglesia de Santa Maria del Coro (featured below). This area is also where you’ll find many all important pinxhos eateries.
Views of Parte Vieja from my hostel roof
I might be one of the few people who doesn’t really go crazy for tapas, I enjoy certain kinds but overall I’ve never really loved it. Pinxhos however, were a different story. What I enjoyed about pinxhos is that you get to see what you’re getting before you buy it as it’s basically a buffet of tapas style food.
My friends and I wandered around trying a few things from various places and the prices and quality can vary so do look around. I would also suggest trying some kalimotxo, red wine mixed with coca cola to accompany it, tastes so much better than it sounds!
Pinxhos restaurants in action
Besides pinxhos there are still some great dining options available. Right near the Plaza de la Constitution, the main square in town we found a small chocolateria with freshly made churros, made for a great afternoon snack. I also happened to have one of the best paella’s here too although I couldn’t tell you the name of the restaurant unfortunately!
This town has substantial shopping available too with a considerably large Zara store but the sounds of the city are also what made my time there the most enjoyable.
Across the river from where I was staying, on Zurriola Beach there was a jazz festival called Jazzlandia, which occurs every July and the musicians were of a high standard and had the crowds dancing on the sand till the early hours.
I also encountered like in many Spanish cities, flamenco on the streets but something about being right next to the ocean made it extra special!
Jazzlandia performance on Zurriola Beach
Flamenco dancer next to La Concha beach
View from one of the bridges