Madrid, Barcelona and Seville may be more famous, but the sophisticated and shimmering city of San Sebastian in the north of the country has quickly become the Spanish city of choice for those in the know, especially travellers guided by their taste-buds.
This Basque seaside town sits at the mouth of the River Urumea, looking out on to the Bay of Biscay, with the natural beauty of Mount Urgull, Mount Ulia, Mount Adarra and Mount Igeldo at its back. Its covetable position has given rise to a lively beachfront that includes Playa de la Concha, renowned as one of the best beaches in Europe, and Playa de la Zurriola, a champion surfing destination. But it’s the city’s fabled elegant architecture, spacious plazas and plentiful green parks that has led to its moniker as the ‘Pearl of Northern Spain’.
San Sebastian, or Donostia as it’s known in Euskara, is where you’ll experience the unique and rich Basque culture, deliciously expressed in its cuisine. While you’re here, begin you feast with a large helping of pintxos, heavenly morsels of various dishes ranging from Spanish omelette to scampi, ham, chillies and risotto squares, traditionally, but not always, served resting on a slice of baguette. Next, you have the enviable task of deciding whether to go for a dish of the freshest seafood, Basque style fore rib of beef or ‘Alubias de Tolosa’, a savoury, comforting bean broth.
What to do
- Surf on Playa de la Zurriola
- Eat your share of pintxos
- Lounge on Playa de la Concha - renowned as one of the best beaches in Europe
- Visit the San Telmo Museoa of Basque culture and society
- Get an aerial view of the city from the summit of Monte Igueldo
- See the 18th century cannons and fortifications on Mount Urgull
When to go
San Sebastian is a year round destination, but for your best chance of catching some sun, it's best to go in the summer months (May to August).
San Sebastian has the highest concentration of Michelin star restaurants per capita in the world. The food is delightful, in fact the whole Basque coast is incredible for this, as well as its hikes, coastal scenery and fisherman’s villages. Bilbao, just a short drive away, has the Guggenheim Museum and an underwater sea laboratory worth visiting. If you are there long enough, it’s great to take in some of the history and culture of the Basque country, or head out to the French Basque coast for a day- it is also insanely beautiful and their food, incredible!