Surfing, Sunsets and Sangria: A Beach and Food Lover’s Guide to San Sebastián

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Jenny DeLuca

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  • Adventure Travel

  • Arts & Culture

  • Beaches

  • City Travel

  • Couples Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • Luxury Travel

  • San Sebastián

  • Spain

  • Local Culture

  • Local Food

  • Coastal

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Curator’s statement

Dreaming of a getaway where you trade work stress for ocean spray and sunset sangria? Consider a trip to San Sebastián, a picturesque Basque town with plenty to offer. This coastal gem is known for its pintxos (tiny, delicious bites) and is a haven for surfers and beach enthusiasts alike. Its crystal-clear waters and immaculate beaches are perfect for those looking to unwind and soak up the sun. San Sebastián is also home to some of the best surf spots in Europe, attracting surfers from all over the world. When you're not lounging on the beach, explore the charming streets of the old town, filled with historic buildings and beautiful plazas. The city is also rich in culture, with numerous museums showcasing its fascinating history. With so much to offer, it's easy to see why San Sebastián is a beloved destination for travelers from far and wide.

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Where to stay in San Sebastián

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Arima Hotel & Spa

Where contemporary design and natural beauty unite for a rejuvenating escape in the Basque Country.

Fora Perks
  • $100 resort / hotel credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

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

Hotel Akelarre

This Relais & Châteaux hotel is the ideal retreat for food enthusiasts with its world-renowned Michelin-Starred restaurant.

Fora Perks
  • VIP welcome.

  • Breakfast daily.

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.

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Things to do in San Sebastián

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Sunsets & Surfboards

  • La Zurriola: This city beach is a highly sought after location for its long sandy beach, crystal clear waters and impressive waves, which attract surfers from all corners of the globe. Don't worry if you're not a seasoned surfer, the surf schools cater to all skill levels. Along with surfing, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy, such as taking a leisurely stroll along the promenade, dining at the charming beachside cafes or renting a bike to explore the surrounding area.

  • Ondarreta Beach: This is an ideal destination for beach lovers. Offering soft sand, sunbathing, water activities like paddleboarding, swimming and scenic walks on the Paseo de Ondarreta with stunning views of the ocean. It's a perfect place to relax, enjoy the sun and take in the breathtaking scenery.

  • Zarautz: Feeling adventurous? Venture beyond the city to Zarautz, a charming town in the Basque Country. It offers a range of activities for visitors. Surfing is a popular option due to the consistent waves, and hiking to the Santa Clara Island and the Talaimendi Cliffs provides stunning views. The Old Town's narrow streets and colorful buildings are worth exploring. There are plenty of excellent restaurants offering fresh seafood and local cuisine, with outdoor seating overlooking the beach.

Beach Bum Bliss

  • Fuel Up for Fun: To kick off your day, try some of the city's famous pintxos, which are small bites that can be found in bars throughout the bustling Parte Vieja neighborhood. They are known for their unique and delicious combinations of flavors. If you're looking for something more upscale, San Sebastián is also home to several Michelin-starred restaurants that serve up some of the best cuisine in the world. For lunch, try out some fresh seafood by the harbor or pick up some picnic goodies at one of the traditional markets.

  • Beyond the Sand: When the waves calm down, take a stroll through the city's charming, cobbled streets. The Parte Vieja is full of hidden tapas gems, while Mount Igueldo offers stunning panoramic views of the city and the sea. For those interested in history, the San Telmo Museum is a must-visit destination, providing a fascinating look into the region's Basque heritage.

  • Sunset Sangria Ritual: When the day comes to a close, there's no better way to wind down than with the sunset sangria ritual. Head over to one of the many beachfront bars to indulge in a pitcher of this refreshing drink and raise a glass to another perfect day in paradise. Take in the stunning sunset hues, listen to the waves, and let the rhythm of San Sebastián work its magic. It's the perfect way to cap off an ideal day.

Places to eat & drink in San Sebastián

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For the Michelin Magic in San Sebastian

  • Arzak: Arzak is a three Michelin-starred restaurant run by a father-and-daughter duo. The restaurant is known for its multi-sensory dining experience, incorporating aromas, textures and sounds. Signature dishes include "Edible Stones" made from foie gras and hazelnuts. The visually stunning "Vegetable Garden" dish, which is made of a variety of vegetables and herbs that are arranged to look like plants growing in soil. Arzak's menu changes regularly to reflect the seasons and the availability of local ingredients. This means that each visit to the restaurant is likely to be a unique experience.

  • Alameda: Savor the flavors of traditional Basque cuisine at Alameda, a charming restaurant that boasts a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Alameda offers delicious Basque dishes such as Txangurro, a dish of baked spider crab mixed with onion and tomato. Idiazabal, a grilled sheep's milk cheese served with quince paste. Kokotxas, hake fish cheeks cooked in a pil-pil sauce. The Txuleton is magical, a grilled Basque steak served with fries and salad.

For Local Flavors with Flair

  • Narru: Narru is a restaurant located in Basque country, celebrated for its innovative and authentic dishes made from fresh, seasonal ingredients. The chef, while adhering to traditional recipes, adds his own creative touch to each dish. The meal's presentation is stunningly beautiful, making it a feast for both the eyes and the palate. Don't miss out on their Basque-style hake with green sauce, beef cheek with red wine reduction, or Idiazabal cheese ice cream. The restaurant offers the best of Basque cuisine in an elegant setting.

  • Casa Urola: Savor the taste of the sea at Casa Urola. From freshly caught fish to succulent seafood stews, this intimate restaurant exudes coastal charm and the essence of Basque gastronomy. Casa Urola is perfect for a romantic dinner or a night out with close friends. The chefs use traditional cooking techniques to ensure authentic and delicious flavors. The menu offers a variety of seafood options, along with traditional Basque dishes like pintxos and txakoli. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly, always available to recommend dishes and provide insight into Basque cuisine and culture.

  • Bar Txepetxa: Bar Txepetxa is truly a hidden gem in the Parte Vieja neighborhood. If you're looking for some of the best pintxos in San Sebastian, this is the place to be. What sets Txepetxa apart from other pintxos bars is their innovative approach to traditional pintxos. They take classic pintxos ingredients and elevate them to new heights, resulting in a unique and unforgettable culinary experience. Their standout pintxos include a twist on the classic Gilda pintxo with a spicy piparra pepper. An inventive squid ink risotto topped with grilled squid, a pintxo featuring Idiazabal cheese and quince jelly, and a work of art with foie gras and apple.

  • Bodega Donostiarra: Located in the Gros neighborhood, this family-run institution has been serving Basque cuisine and drinks for over 80 years. The traditional cider, or "sidra" in Basque, is a must-try, paired with mouth-watering pintxos. The lively atmosphere at Bodega Donostiarra is infectious, with locals and visitors alike coming together to enjoy good food, drinks and company. Whether you're looking for a quick snack or a full meal, Bodega Donostiarra is the perfect place to experience the warmth of Basque hospitality and immerse yourself in the culture of San Sebastián.

For the Splurge with a View

  • Mirador de Ulía: Perched on Ulía Hill, Mirador de Ulía offers a relaxing evening with a gorgeous ocean view. It has an elegant and sophisticated atmosphere with a modern design. The restaurant offers a tasting menu showcasing delicious seafood with perfectly balanced flavors. The staff is highly trained and knowledgeable, providing impeccable service and wine pairing recommendations. Mirador de Ulía is a must-visit restaurant for those who want to indulge in beautiful views and an even better meal.

  • Espazio Oteiza: Chef Pedro Subijana brings his Michelin-starred prowess to Espazio Oteiza, offering a more casual yet exceptional dining experience. Espazio Oteiza has a chic terrace that offers a breathtaking view of La Concha Bay. The menu combines traditional and modern design elements. The dishes celebrate fresh, seasonal ingredients with modern flair and innovative techniques that enhance natural flavors. Must-try dishes include the Iberian ham croquettes, grilled octopus, charcoal-grilled turbot, roasted lamb shoulder, Basque-style cheesecake, and chocolate mousse.

Whether you're looking for a cozy local tavern or a bustling gastropub, San Sebastián has an abundance of dining options to satisfy your appetite. So, grab your fork and immerse yourself in the city's contagious culinary spirit.

Need to Know

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, A Luxury Escape in Anguilla: A Curated Guide

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to San Sebastián.