Destination: San Sebastián, Spain

Saturday, February 11, 2012

This is Part 1 to my Destination: San Sebastian series. Other posts in this series includes: Eat: Pintxos 101, Eat: A Fuego Negro,  Michelin Star: Arzak, See: Guggenheim Museum, and Eat: Bistro at the Guggenheim.

San Sebastián is, hands down, one of my favorite places in the world and I don't say this lightly. It has everything that makes a perfect vacation spot for me: the beaches are beautiful, and the food here is ridiculously delicious and cheap. There is nothing not to love about this cute city in Northern Spain.

When I first heard about San Sebastián, I heard about it for it's claim to fame - it is home to the highest concentration of Michelin star rated restaurants per capita. What I didn't expect was that every other surrounding restaurant bar, Michelin star rated or not, was equally enjoyable.

This place is truly a foodie's dream. The entire city was super laid back, typical of a beach town. Everyone who I've told to come here loves it and has commented that it really feels like a vacation - and if you're on a multi-destination Europe Trip, it is a vacation within a vacation

San Sebastian is a complete beach town, the water is beautiful and the sand is soft
With just enough spanish architecture to explore and outdoor seating to enjoy your pintxos

Eduardo Chillida's iron structures welded by the ocean

I came here in the early October when it was still warm enough to sunbathe, so most of my days were spent frolicking in the sand and water. 

San Sebastian's night life revolves around relaxing at Pintxos bars with a glass of wine or beer and good company. Pintxos are pretty similar to tapas, but pintxos here are no joke, it really is a part of the San Sebastian culture. 

I loved pintxo-hopping in Old Quarter. It was everything that's fun about going on a pub crawl, except every stop you made, instead of greasy bar food, you can find gourmet pintxos, little spanish tapas. It was so fun to see all the cold pintxos lined up on the counters and being able to just hop in, grab a €1 pintxo and €2 glass of wine, enjoy and move on. Peek in, look around, if you don't see anything you want to eat, just move on to the bar next door.

In my next few posts, I'll feature some of my favorite pintxo bars as well as share with you my first experience at a Three michelin star restaurant - Arzak.



Getting here

San Sebastián was my 4th stop in my 5 city tour, right after Paris. Getting here from Paris was really easy since there is a train that goes directly from Paris to Hendaye, a city that's about 15 miles away from San Sebastian. 

My train ride from Paris to Hendaye was €30 and took 5.5 hours. From Hendaye, we walked less than a block to take the Euskotren to San Sebastian for another €1-2 on the Lasarte/Oria-Hendaia line -  get off at Amara-Donostia for the stop closest to the beach and Old Quarter. For the exact routes and destination, check out my map below. 

From San Sebastian, I was able to take a six hour bus ride directly to Barcelona. We checked the bus schedule a day ahead of time (but don't bother buying the ticket online as the online booking system sucks) - and bought the bus ticket an hour ahead of time. 

What to eat

As I mentioned, San Sebastian is foodie heaven. To do this topic justice, I have actually separated my food adventures in San Sebastian in the following posts:
  • Pintxos 101 - learn about the popular Basque tapas and common places to enjoy
  • A Fuego Negro - my favorite modern pintxos bar in Old Town
  • Arzak - my first 3 michelin star restaurant experience 

Where to stay

We booked a room directly from Tryp Orly for about €100 per night. It was a great place to stay, both in terms of cleanliness and location. I highly recommend it to anyone who's planning on going. The staff's nice, everything's clean and comfortable, and it's a block from the beach and minutes away from all the good food. What more can you want? For more info, check out Trip Advisor

If you would like to rent a temporary place, Airbnb is a great place to look. I've known others who went this route and had a great experience in San Sebastian. 

Day Trips from San Sebastián

Out of the 3.5 days we were at San Sebastian, we took a day trip to Bilbao to visit the Guggenheim Museum and also ate at Bistró at the Museum, arguably one of the best and more memorable meals we had through our trip.

San Sebastián Map

View San Sebastian in a larger map

So what are you waiting for? Go visit San Sebastian as soon as you can!

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