The sickle-shaped Playa de La Concha sweeps elegantly from the old harbour of San Sebastian, overlooked by the majestic statue of the Holy Heart. It was from this beach that Jake Barnes, the protagonist of Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, swam to the diving platforms that still, to this day, bob in the surf, tempting modern-day swimmers from the shore. Beyond, the wooded Isla Santa Clara is pinched between the arms of the bay, sheltering the Basque Country’s best beach from the worst of the Atlantic swell.
Google map: bit.ly/W9BhcP
There is a small cave near the top of Monte Urgull which is just large enough for a bar. As well as having beautiful views (covering all of San Sebastian, town, harbour and beaches) it serves one of the best G&Ts in town (and it has some quality competition!). To top it all off it is under a giant statue of Jesus. What more could you want?
A perfect way to end the day, after sunning yourself at the beach, and to start the evening, partying in the old town (which is a short walk away below.)
Walk up Monte Urgull (the hill in east San Sebastian) to the giant statue of Jesus. You will find this hidden bar near to the old fort on the west side of the hill. If in doubt, ask a local.
Google map: bit.ly/11wzKOp
San Sebastian nestles in a shell-shaped bay where the 'Comb of the Wind', the jaw-dropping iron sculptures of Eduardo Chillida, cast huge, bold shapes from the water's edge. We enjoyed many strolls along the wide golden beaches, and avoided an afternoon shower in the Aquarium (Pza Carlos Blasco Imaz) with 5000 fish species and spectacular underwater tunnel. Harbourside restaurants abound, serving an enticing array of pintxos including tasty sardines washed down with the local sidra. For a truly memorable experience, travel 10 minutes to Zarautz, to the Karlos Arguinano, a fabulous on-the-beach restaurant with rooms. Delicious sea-bream for dinner, then breakfast on the sands at sunrise - magical!
San Sebastian, with the lush green hills of the Basque country all around, has the most glorious beach. It has fine golden sand, a shallow slope into the sea and best of all, the enclosed cove with an island in the middle means that the two beaches are completely sheltered from ocean currents and waves and thus totally safe for swimming. There is one ideal surfing beach too. It is kept impeccably clean, and there are also changing rooms, lockers, beach showers and cafes on the beach which is right by the buzzing and beautiful old city centre of San Sebastian.
Just go downhill til you get there! Possible by train from the UK in one day with Eurostar and TGV to the border and one connecting train.
Google map: bit.ly/hHbYEI
San Sebastian has fantastic beaches adjoining the city centre. It's a great city for food, not just at the Michelin starred restaurants. Cheaper restaurants offer fixed-price menus del dia, much cheaper at lunchtime than at night. Cafe Oquendo does an excellent three-course lunch, inc 1/2 bottle wine for €16pp. So fill up at a leisurely lunch, sleep it off on the beautiful Playa de Concho till 8 o'clock (Spanish style) then shower/change & hit the many excellent pintxos (tapas) bars in the adjoining old city (Parte Vieja).
Silver sand and turquoise sea right in the heart of the city centre.
This beach is a fantastic place to visit for breakfast, get a comfy spot in the sand and watch the city wake up. Spain's health conscious office workers arrive early to walk in the surf up and down the length of the beach. Join in, or just lie back and relax.
In between swimming and sun bathing, you will be perfectly located to head into the city for shopping and pinchos. This beach has retained a real Spanish feel and even in August, it is never too full of tourists
This has to be one of Europe's best urban beaches - by far!
Right in the centre of down town San Sebastian.
BasqueMTB are a mountain bike guiding company based just outside San Sebastian near the Pyrenees. I recently went on a holiday with them after seeing good reviews in the magazines. Fantastic trails and a spectacular area to visit. The guiding was top notch and we spent a fair bit of time brushing up my skills. Can't recommend them enough.
A small, very professionally run guest house/B&B. All rooms have their own shower room and the house is just minutes away from the centre of San Sebastian.
There are lovely views over the countryside, and the welcoming and helpful, English speaking owner serves breakfast in a spacious room on the lower
ground floor. We paid 45 euros 80 for the room and 5 euros 60 for breakfast for two.
If you have a hire car and are coming to San Sebastian for more than a day, park your car for free at one of the car parks off Avenida de tolosa next to the University (to the west of the city centre) and get the 5 or 25 Donostia Bus service into town (€1.20 /single). Otherwise 24hr underground garages in the centre cost about €13/day and there is no long term street parking anywhere near the city centre.
Universidad del Pais Vasco, Avenida de Tolosa, San Sebastian-Donostia
Eduardo Chillida is a much-loved Basque son and his sculpture can be enjoyed at many locations in the region, including the breathtaking Wind Comb work, which looks out to sea on the edge of La Concha. But it is also well worth a trip to the Chillida-Lexu sculpture park, which is a short drive outside the city.
Chillida and his wife bought the estate the park lies on in the eighties, restoring the 16th century farmhouse on the grounds and eventually turning the gardens into an outdoor museum.
Today, posthumously, it remains a site for fans to come and observe the artist's vision. The stark realist sculptures set on the green Basque landscape is quite a sight to behold.
We dined in the ground floor restaurant and had the great value tasting menu of five enormous courses. Located in an iconic, modern building on the banks of the river close to where it meets the sea.
The Alde Zaharra is the oldest part of town by the harbour, where there's almost as many tabernak as there are people! In them you can savour all sorts of PINTXOs (pronounced PEEN-CHAW), think of dimsum and replace Chinese food with the amazing Basque gastronomy. You can also visit old churches, the nice Constitution Square and little shops. Most of the tabernak or bars are open till late into the morning, so don't get there too early or you'll be alone.
Check the following url for more on pintxos:
Igeldo is the westernmost mountain of the city facing the sea with the castle-like building on top, it's nice to take the little tram that climbs the steep mountain. At the top children can enjoy pony rides, while the parents can enjoy the superb view of the city and surrounding mountains.
The tram station is at the bottom of the mountain, by Hondarreta beach.
A small fishing village just outside (or on the outskirts of) San Sebastian. It looks down-at-heel, and slightly intimidating, as you enter - with its crumbling docks and Basque graffiti - and locals will stare, but persevere.
At the end is a small pub that faces the passage of water, across the other side of which is San Juan, a beautiful, quiet village with a small square, a couple of restaurants, and a bar.
My suggestion is to hire a bike and cycle out there (about a 20 minute ride) or catch a local bus (tourist information should be able to tell you where from).
Stay on the San Pedro side and follow the path beyond the pub and up the rocks for spectacular views of the sea, then catch the tiny boat from outside the pub to San Juan when you're done and enjoy a beer and some snacks in the square.
Just near the French border;
www.etxekar.net/donibane.html (Spanish language site)
A pleasant three-star beachfronter with well decorated airy rooms, many with gorgeous sea views (ask for one) and an excellent breakfast buffet, though you pay extra for it. The cafe/bar area also serves great tapas later in the day. The staff could be friendlier and it's a nightmare to park, either pre-book a space in the miniscule hotel parking lot across the street, or head to local parking garages or up the hill to the meters. It's a 10 minute walk along the promenade to the old town so it's much calmer and quieter on the weekend. A double room costs 108-128 euros depending on season
This free museum near the old town is worth a visit for its shady cloisters alone, but also houses a large collection of historical Basque artefacts including a terrifying birthing chair. The cavernous, atmospheric church is now being carefully restored.
tel 943 48 1580
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