“When the facts speak, the Gods are silent.”
My second trip to the Spanish part of the Basque Country, of course, meant also a return to the most beautiful city in the region – Donostia/ San Sebastian. Here is an indisputable fact: I managed to re-visit it three times in the course of four weeks. This fact does not speak – it shouts that the stunning coastal city really enchanted me. Astounding panoramic views, gorgeous beaches, crystal blue sea, French architecture, exquisite food, lively streets and a multitude of flowers turn San Sebastian into a heavenly place. There is just one catch – to come here in beautiful weather is like playing roulette with 30 rainy and 6 sunny days.
The gardens of Miramar Palace (“Looking at the sea”) offer one of the most dazzling views. The former royal summer residence now houses a musical school. The place is popular among painters, gazing at the sea with the sound of piano or violoncello in the background.
Make sure to stop by La concha beach (“the seashell”). It is said to be the most charming beach in Europe with its spectacular view to the Igueldo and Urgull mounts and the small island of Santa Clara berthed in between them.
Follow the seashore promenade to get to Alderdi Eder Park and the city hall. From this spot you get another lovely chance to marvel at the bay. Before you cross the threshold to the old town, pop in Oiartzun for a dessert of a coffee. This place is extremely popular and it is even claimed to offer the best sweet temptations in town.
Now that you are full of energy you can head up to conquer mount Urgull – my favourite place at sunset. There is a castle on top that was once built to defend the town below. Today there is a small museum that tells the story of San Sebastian – a fishermen’s village that grew into a bourgeois, cosmopolitan and attractive city.
After 2 pm it’s lunchtime as Spanish tradition goes. Head straight to the old part that boasts the highest concentration of bars in the world! Dozens of beautifully arranged pintxos, the local variation of tapas, are awaiting you here. Their name comes from the Spanish word for “pinch” as pintxos were traditionally bites attached to a piece of bread with a stick. I adore the local bar culture that allows you to try out many different culinary combinations before you are full – tortilla de patatas, salty tartelette with aubergine and quail egg, goat cheese with peach marmalade and pinenuts, mozzarella with mint and dried tomatoes, and many more.
Do not limit yourself to just one bar. Try out 1-2 pintxos from a few different places instead. Locals recommended me Zeruko and A fuego negro and I personally loved the food and service at Gandarias. Actually, it is not of great importance where you will try pintxos. The selection of good food here is so vast that you have a pretty good chance of stumbling across a nice place. San Sebastian has earned itself a lot of fame among foodies and culinary critics thanks to its collection of Michelin-starred restaurants and excellent pintxos bars. In 2012 Donostia was ranked first in a worldwide competition for “The best cities for dining”.
Finish your tour of the old quarter by visiting the Square of Constitution (Plaza Constitución) and Hernani Street (Hernani Kalea) that bridges San Sebastian Cathedral (Catedarl del Buen Pastor) with St. Maria church (Iglesia de Santa María).
Continue your stroll down the seashore promenade heading to the new part. I cannot go without mentioning how delighted to see a rainbow when the fierce waves would crash into the shore. Maybe the city has another little surprise for you!
On the other side of the azure Urumea river you will find Zuriola beach, which is extremely popular with surfers. Es Pan’s sweet shop (C/ Miracruz 10A) is also nearby and their chocolate donuts and apple cake with caramel are definitely worth a try.
San Sebastian needs to be seen, experiences and tasted. The route you take around town is totally up to you. Anyhow one thing is sure – there is no way you can leave disappointed or hungry. Also, don’t forget to get a very good spot to watch the sunset painting beautiful shades in the sea!