San Sebastián is a bit of a pain to get to as it is situated in the Northwest corner of the country. I was a little frustrated trying to get myself over there, not knowing where exactly I was going to and why it was so expensive compared to the rest of Spain, but when I finally got there to meet my friend Emily, I was VERY pleasantly surprised. I got in at night and so I didn’t know just how blown away I would be until the next morning when I got up and had a wander. Wow. It has to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, and I used to live in Hawaii!!! I think that’s saying something because Hawaii used to hold an unrivaled spot in my mind of beautiful places I have seen. Just check out the photos, but really the photos do not do it justice.
I had such a great time there, and here is my Top 5 things to do:
1. Playa de La Concha
So this beach is crowded in the high season, but that’s okay because you don’t have to be sitting on the beach to admire it’s beauty. It is a perfect crescent shape set against a backdrop of an old, elegant village and green mountains. There is actually another beach where surfing is actually quite big at, called Playa de Zurriola and it’s less crowded.
2. Parte Vieja : The Old City
Sure the streets are cramped and noisy, but that adds to the charm. In the center is a cathedral and a large plaza like most of the Spanish cities have, and then winding all around and in between are little alleyways filled with tapas and pinchos cafes, restaurants, shops, gelaterias and plenty of bars. San Sebastián is famous for their pinchos (spelled pinxtos here, as this region of the country, Basque, has it’s own strange looking language called Euskera and as anyone from there will tell you, it’s definitely NOT Spanish). Yes, they look odd but the strange combinations somehow just make sense.
3. Mount Igeldo
Surrounding the old part of the city and La Concha beach are two little mountains, one of which is Mount Igeldo. You can take a rickety old funicular cable car to the top for a small fare, and I assure you, it is so worth it. The breathtaking views (see photo) make you appreciate San Sebastián on a whole new level. It’s one thing to admire the view from the street, but from way up top, it’s just unreal. Plus there is an old amusement park from the early 1900s that still has some fun, cheap thrills. There is also a little cafeteria/bar and terrace (and a hotel!) so you can do what I did and order a cheap sangria, sit and just admire those views.
4. Mount Urgull
The other, shorter mountain on the other side of La Concha and the old city. You can make a nice hike out of this one, and perched at the top is a huge statue of Jesus somewhat reminiscent of the one in Rio de Janeiro. There is a also a free museum in the old fort where the statue is, which is actually pretty interesting. The views here are also really nice, but Igeldo is definitely the winner here between the two.
5. Bike paths and cheap bike rentals
For about 10 euro for a half day, you can rent a cruiser bike from numerous locations in the city, and they can equip it with a basket and a lock and you can do as the locals do, and follow bike paths around the beach and city and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. I had such an enjoyable time doing this and the bike paths are really excellent and a great way to get around! Just watch out for unknowing pedestrians meandering along the path (hence why I had fun abusing the little bell the bike came with).
Bilbao and Pamplona are also really close to San Seb so there is much to do in the Basque region of the country, and absolutely worth a visit!