During a fantastic road trip from Bilbao to Barcelona, we stopped in the beautiful gastronomic town of San Sebastian. If you are anything of a foodie you will know about this place! Not only does it have more michelin stars per square metre than anywhere else in the world, it seems that every local eaterie is on a mission to outdo its neighbour somehow. So… in short, if you don’t care about food, this trip may be wasted on you!
Although we had a car we didn’t really leave the town once we arrived, as we were doing our driving tours throughout the rest of the trip. However this meant we needed accommodation with parking, which we booked through Air BnB. We opted for a stylish but small apartment just outside the main old town, by the quieter seaside area (there are two halves of the seafront), which was nice and had hosts working conveniently in the restaurant next door!
In general, I think when we arrived in San Sebastian, I was a little underwhelmed as it was small, very touristy and not quite as beautiful as I had imagined the holy grail of food to be. The old town was all food (not a bad thing in the end), and the beach wasnt as pretty as the photos I had seen. By the end I definitely found I had enjoyed it and would go back, although more for the food than anything else. If you are doing a roadtrip like us, maybe spending more time in Bilbao than here (also because Bilbao was far cheaper and had less tourists – or at least more space to intersperse them in). To sum up perspective, I think Dubrovnik is more beautiful and has some great views and finds, this is not quite as great but with amazing food!
Our visit was at the end of August, and we were blessed by beautiful weather to walk around the town and really chill. Our time was spent walking around, eating wonderful food in perfect bite sizes, drinking vino and enjoying eachother’s company and the scenery. Pretty tranquil! (Of course there were late nights in dive bars!) Some of our best bits:
- Go on a tapas/ pintxo eating tour every day! Just walk through old town and pick wherever takes your fancy. Plenty of good places, but my favourites:
- Atari – not the console (if you remember!) is right in the heart of old town with a fantastic location by the church. Perfect to sit outside with a drink and a couple of bits to nibble on. The place is nice and modern, and the food is AMAZING. They were looking at opening a cooking school when we were there. The Xuleta and patatas bravas are to die for… nom nom
- La Cuchara San Telmo is tucked away behind a museum of the same name and serves really delicious food. Again you can get a table outside but it is not in the sun. It gets very busy quickly, so head in and order a special off the board.
- Beti Jai – more ultra modern and fun, with a very brightly lit interior, the food here is delicious. Pick off the counter and get crammed into your seat.
- Kokotxa – a michelin experience in old town if you cant be bothered to get a taxi elsewhere for it! The name of the restaurant means fish cheek, which is a local speciality.
- Calle de Fermín Calbetón in old town was one of the more fun streets for eating and drinking, although we were disappointed not to find any live music around.
- Arzak – this was our 3 michelin star choice of the holiday to spoil ourselves with! The restaurant deserves its own review, but suffice to say that it was epic, and we got to meet the chef and his daughter (who was then opening the London Ametsa by Arzak) and it will be a favourite memory. Dont be put off by fully booked restaurants, keep trying for last minute cancellations, that is how we got our table.
- Grab a drink – again there are loads of places, but we enjoyed particularly:
- In the ‘Gros’ area of town on the other side from old town there are loads of nice places. Bar Garbola was fun with lots of different drinks on offer and fun locals.
- For cheap n local head to Bar Rekalde on the outskirts of old town. This is proper authenticity Spanish style. Grungy kids and rocky older patrons, cheap booze, friendly surfers and you can sit in the window frames and drink until you fall out! What more can you want for a bit of dive bar fun to relive your youth?
- We were told that Rotonda and Bataplan are cool clubs to go out at, but we never made it on this trip.
- Go shopping – in the ‘Centro’ area, there are some nice boutiques and cafes around. We found a nice plaza with outdoor cafes and street music.
- Climb the hill – There are two hills you can go up in San Sebastian to get a view of the town. We chose Monte Urgull which I felt was less touristy. Its a steep walk but worth it when you get to the top for the views and a nice way to earn your dinner later!
- Check out the wind combs – Created by local sculptor Eduardo Chillida and architect Luis Peña Ganchegui, the Peine del Viento (Wind Comb) are iconic San Sebastian sculptures set into the scenery. These are cool to visit and a nice long walk (longer than it looked!).
- Go to the beach – the main promenade has the beach (La Concha) you want to sunbathe at, but beware when the tide comes in the beach is tiny! The other beach (Zurriola) has a stronger wave and is full of surfers.
- Go for a run – I didnt get very far at all… I blame the dehydration! But there are nice places for a walk or run, either along the beach or up the hills for lovely views. And the mornings are pretty quiet and peaceful.
- Have a spa day – if the weather is bad, head to La Perla on the beach for some health and beauty.
- Visit Biarritz – we didnt do this, but its just a 1 hour drive from here if you have the inclination to go further afield!
There is plenty to keep your appetites satiated here, just be ready to eat, drink and be very merry!