3 Days in San Sebastian and Biarritz

Advisor - Samantha Vanderhorst
Curated By

Samantha Vanderhorst

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  • San Sebastián

  • Spain

  • Arts & Culture

  • Food & Wine

  • Outdoors

  • Sightseeing

  • Local Food

Hotel Du Palais
Curator’s statement

Are you interested in unwinding on beautiful beaches and eating mouth-watering food? Do you want to explore two countries in just three days?

You can conveniently arrive in San Sebastian with a quick 45-minute drive to Biarritz or vice versa. Both San Sebastian and Biarritz are nestled in the heart of Basque country, which is known for its delectable cuisine, with high-quality and fresh ingredients ranging from meats (Chorizo to txuleta) to fish stew (kokotxas, not to mention sidrerias (cider houses).

San Sebastian is known as the “foodie capital of Europe,” famous for its pintxos, similar to tapas; incredible finger foods served at restaurants throughout Basque Country. Biarritz is known for its beautiful coastline and beaches for surfing. With delectable food (almost 40 Michelin-starred restaurants in Basque Country) and astonishing beaches, you will be able to savor some of the best food in the world while soaking up the sun.

Many associate Basque County with just Spain, however, three of the seven Basque provinces are in Southwest France. This itinerary allows you to travel to two different countries and consume incredible food and drinks, while giving you time to lounge on the beach. While peak season for Basque County is August and September, the weather in early October was fantastic and less crowded. Here’s what I did during my three days in San Sebastian/ Biarritz.

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Where to stay

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Hotel Villa María Cristina

Grand hotel in a former mansion surrounded by trees with traditional rooms and suites.

Hotel Maria Cristina, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Sebastian

A hallmark of the city of San Sebastian, this regal Spanish hotel offers top tier hospitality and was once a favorite destination for royalty and aristocrats of yesteryear.

Fora Perks
  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Hôtel Du Palais Biarritz

Hotel du Palais is a symbolic jewel of Biarritz overlooking the Atlantic Ocean with a palatial on-site restaurant, golf access and spa.

Fora Perks
  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

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Advisor - Samantha Vanderhorst

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Day 1: Arrival

Blue Beach

Arrive in San Sebastian and start your vacation off right with a glorious beach day and tasty food. On the first day, you might be battling a bit of jet lag, and there is nothing that the beach (Playa La Concha) can’t cure. The sand here is extremely soft, and the water is crystal clear blue and turquoise. As you relax (pictured below), you can see Mount Igueldo and Santiago Bateria on the mountain tops, creating a picturesque backdrop.

After you get a little bit of sun, make your way to the charming old town for some food and shopping. All throughout the city, you will see restaurants full of different pinxtos. Some of my favorite pintxos include coquetas de jamon, calamari, txuleton steak, mushrooms and the famous Basque County cheesecake. Garbana is a cozy restaurant with mouth-watering dishes and my favorite pinxtos restaurant. Make sure to try some of the Basque cider, and if you're craving dessert, be sure to indulge in the cheesecake at Cafe La Vina.

After lunch, take a leisurely stroll through the city’s streets and explore some stores. I personally loved this unique art shop (Lance & Malone) and picked up a digital collage. Additionally, I stopped in a bunch of stores on the Askatasunadren and Getaria Kalea streets. Make your way to Good Shepperd Cathedral to admire the stunning architecture of this magnificent church. Don't miss the chance to visit Old Town Coffee, situated just down the street from the church on Errege-Egi Katolinkoen Kalea; this area quickly became one of my favorites, with its charming streets and plazas.

After the beach and exploring old town, take a well-deserved siesta for a couple of hours. Then grab dinner at Antonio Bar, a cozy pinxtos bar conveniently located just a stone's throw from old town. This restaurant is listed as one of the must-visit pinxtos bars on the Infatuation. I would highly recommend the octopus and scallops.

Day 2: Activity and Food Tour Day

Yummy food

On day two, I’d recommend going to see Mount Igueldo. A must-see attraction in San Sebastian, you can take a trolly (Funicular Monte Igueldo) or you can hike up to the top (1-3 miles). From the mountain top, you’ll see panoramic views of the city. Make a pit stop at Karrusel Gastro-Bar, where you can see the panoramic videos of the city while enjoying an apperol spritz and a snack.

After, you can head to the beach or rent a canoe, kayak or paddle board from Paddle Board Surf rental Alo Kayak. Once you've had your fill of outdoor activities, return to the old town for a delightful food tour. One of my personal favorites is Bar Ambrosio, conveniently located in Konstituzio Plaza. Additionally, you won't want to miss out on other pintxos gems like Borda Berri, La Cepa, Bar Sport, Bar Nesto, and La Vina. Make sure to pick up some ice cream from Loco Polo after.

For dinner, I highly recommend indulging in one of the unique dining experiences that the Basque Country has to offer. Mugaritz and Asador Extebarri stand out, but do keep in mind that reservations are essential for both establishments. These restaurants are not only renowned for their exceptional cuisine but also for the extraordinary dining experiences they provide in vine-covered farmhouses. Mugaritz has consistently featured in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants since 2006, and Asador Etxebarri holds an impressive #4 ranking on the world's best restaurants list.

At Mugaritz, you can enjoy a 20-course innovative menu with dishes of all different flavors and textures. The chef hopes to inspire your taste buds and push the boundaries of traditional dining. All ingredients are sourced from the Basque region and meticulously prepared days before reaching your table. With dishes labeled as "wrapped up," "tenderness and gut feeling," "face to face," and "from nose to tail," the Mugaritz menu promises to take you on an extraordinary gastronomic adventure of various flavors, temperatures, and textures. Knowledgeable servers guide you through this dining experience, ensuring each item is presented at the perfect moment. The entire dining experience is unlike anything you've ever encountered and may take a few hours to complete. Afterward, head to the garden for a drink for a night cap.

Day 3: Biarritz

Beautiful beach with Blue sky

Head to Biarritz, a mere 45-minute drive from San Sebastian, where you won't even need to carry your passport. If you’d like to make a quick pit stop along the way, consider stopping in the charming coastal town of Saint Jean de Luz, nestled right by the water.

Once you arrive in Biarritz, walk through the Halles de Biarritz. I grabbed a veggie quiche and a coffee at the market and marveled at the fish, meat, fresh produce and baked goods. Afterward, make your way to the Palace Villa Belza and venture towards the Rocher de La Vierge to admire the mesmerizing views of the water and the coastline

Spend the rest day on the beach (Playa De Biarritz). The beach has incredible waves, and you can bask in the sun while watching the surfers. If you feel inspired to join the surfers in the water, you can rent a board from Biarritz Homie Boards&Suits. Along the beach, you'll also find a walkway covered in art created by local artists. Should you want to do some shopping in the afternoon, head over to Avenue de Verdun, Rue Mazagran, and Rue Gambetta.

Once you build up an appetite, make a stop at Jack The Cockerel for lunch. This trendy restaurant boasts an outdoor seating area with a view of the ocean. I'd recommend trying their steak frites, burrata, tuna, and don't forget to explore their impressive cocktail menu for a mid-day treat. There are also numerous dining options like DODIN and Bleu Cafe, both situated right by the waterfront.

After spending your day at the beach and/or walking around, enjoy watching the sun set over the surfers at Hotel Du Palais. Hotel Du Palais used to be the home of Napoleon III and Empress Eugeni and is located right on the beach. The hotel has done an incredible job of keeping historical charm, making you feel like royalty. Head to La Rotonde Restaurant, located right by the water, where you can savor a delectable meal while watching the sun dip below the horizon. Cap off your day with a drink at Bar Napoléon III.

Reflecting on my time in both places, I found San Sebastian's culinary delights truly exceptional, while the beaches of Biarritz left a lasting impression. The countless pinxtos bars I tried in San Sebastian were incredible, and the coastline in Biarritz was bigger and the beaches had larger waves. Depart from this trip with a sun-kissed glow from your beach days and full of all of the unforgettable food you consumed in Basque country.

Advisor - Samantha Vanderhorst

Travel Advisor

Samantha Vanderhorst

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