last update : October 2018
A coastal city.
Part of the Basque country (stretching across part of Spain and part of France).
The Basque region is different and more unique than the rest of Spain (completely different from Catalonia, for example). The Basque people are very proud of their traditions. They have been fighting for political independence for many years and there are still about 400 political prisoners in Spain. You can look for protest signs and graffiti on the shops at night and hanging from the balconies. The Basque people do not like to speak Spanish, they speak the Basque language- a completely different language and you better learn a few words to get along in the region. Basque even has its own calligraphy. See shop signs, etc.
But, most of all, the Basque people love to eat.
Eat and drink.
And eat again.
And they eat the best food in the world.
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San Sebastian has several beaches,
The most famous of which is the beach,
La Concha Beach
Where you can sunbathe and enjoy a long walk on the beach.
Just beware of the tide.
a bit further there is the Zurriola beach which is t-h-e spot for surfers.
If you love surfing you'll be happy to know that San Sebastian is located not far from the border with France and the famous French surf beaches - Biarritz and Hossegor.
The Basque drink
You can ask for a glass of wine in the restaurant, but if you want a real experience like the locals make sure you always have a glass of Txakoli (Chakuli) in hand. Chakuli is a dry, white wine that comes mainly from the Basque region. Made from two local varieties - Homdarrabi Belza and Hondarribi Zurri. Chakuli is served through a funnel on the bottle and poured from high. It's a real show.
Other common drinks: Cider is also a local drink, also the Calimocho (a combination of wine and cola) and Cana (local draft beer).
How and where exactly to enjoy the delicious food in the world?
Go from bar to bar, don't be afraid, order and taste! This is the best way to explore the food scene of San Sebastian. Most restaurants and bars in the old city are good. Some of them are soooooo good that they are worth waiting in front of closed doors until they open after their afternoon break (even though you just ate there at noon).
So yes, the Basques take everything easy (apart from their national independence). They do not work many hours a day, so don't be surprised to see most shops and restaurants closed during the day). Otherwise you will find yourself at 16:00 dying of hunger, looking for a place to eat and except McDonald's you will not find any. (They even take one day of vacation a week).
The Basque region is known as the best in the world in goose liver.
Indeed, if you like, you should order as much as you can eat!
Our favorite bar in the world !
Calle Pescaderia 10.
Eat shrimp with kadaif, foie gras with mangoes, bocorons (sardines on a skewer), Steak with foie gras, squid in his ink - a typical Basque dish (Chipprance en Su Tinta). Everything tastes good. All the desserts are delicious, the sweet rice is especially tasty and the bob lemon dessert comes with a small, edible flower, which causes an inexplicable reaction of excessive salivation - get ready, it's strange.
Just a warning, their site does not do them justice.
Try to order hot dishes from the kitchen and not just from the bar - this advice is true for most bars in San Sebastian.
In front of the ZERUKO bar you'll find this nice bar.
I recommend you try the bread with sardines and the bread with crab.
There are two restaurants with the same name, both of them are good - we prefer the one on the corner of the Constitution Square. He seems less known but really excellent.
Located near the San Telmo museum. Everything tastes good, you'll eat the best red tuna there. They also have great foie gras, pork ears, octopus, anchovy or crab on bread and a terrific risotto.
Cheese cake !
A Michelin-stared bar yet still a bar and not a restaurant. I'll recommend starting your round there, ordering some pintxos (Gilda) and drinking chakuli. The mushrooms dish is served with an egg and is sooo tasty, and the Changoro is great too (a crab cake).
Octopus. Tuna. Risotto - so good !
Nice place, especially around 12-1PM (anyway at night). Eat the best French (basque) toast I've tasted!
Michelin restaurants in San Sebastian
San Sebastian is the world's MOST decorated city (relatively to the number of restaurants in it) with Michelin stars.
We ate at the restaurant "Arzak" not far from the old city. The restaurant is prestigious and has been named the world's best restaurant a few times. you should come dressed appropriately. Choose from the wonderful menu and get ready to be amazed. Some courses will be served to you in ways that you have never dreamed of ! At the start of the meal you will receive some amuse bouches and if you order one of the courses intended to be drank with a certain glass of wine - you will receive that glass alongside your dish. There is no doubt that eating at a Michelin restaurant is an experience, and not just a culinary one.
You can get there at noon (reserve a table in advance) and order half portions of the dishes at half price. This way you can taste more dishes if you are on a limited budget and a curious tummy.
another great restaurant, with 2 Michelin stars, is the weirdest experience possible. the dishes are made to look one way as you eat something completely different.
take a look at the photo gallery on the site:
Other great Michelin star restaurants:
The market !!! No, it is not as big and beautiful as the market of Barcelona or other famous markets in the world - it's a small market, indoors, in a shopping complex. BUT, this market is all about FRESH. The most delicious seafood, the best there is. Go there in the mornings, buy pastries and baguettes, cheeses, fresh shrimps, mayonnaise, fresh tuna, anchovies, olives and a have a picnic in front of the harbor. The best breakfasts in the world.
It's a nice way to get something to eat if you are hungry and every restaurant is closed.
A few words to make things easier:
Crab - Txangurro
Pickles with peppers, olives and anchovy on a skewer - Gilda
Octopus - Pulpo gallego
anchovy - Txepeta
Mussels - Mejillon
Lobster - Bogovante
Shrimps - Longostinos
Fried peppers - Pimientos gernika / Guindilla
Oysters - Viera
Pork - Cerdo
Calamari - Chipiron
Pimenton - A kind of Basque spice of smoked or hot smoked paprika that the Basques love to use on anything.
Thank you - eskerrik asko
Hello - Agur
The city is very nice and you can walk around it. You'll find most of the big fashion stores such as Zara and some smaller local boutiques. You can visit the "Romantic Quarter" located south of the Old City. The neighborhood is full of buildings from the 19th century. Check out Gipuzkoa Square, a charming square located next to the Neoclassical Deputation building (a regional government seat). And if you are interested you can also see the great cathedral located in the romantic center.
You can catch a taxi up Mount Igueldo and get back down by the cable car. The sunset from the mountain is unimaginable and you can see from there the coast of San Sebastian, the bay and the small island in the middle- the Santa Clara Island.
If you rent a car you can drive up to the top of the mountain and choose a nice coffee shop to sit in and enjoy the sunset.
A less familiar place, which I discovered almost by accident, and now I highly recommend it - at the top of the mountain there is a small amusement park. An old rusty roller coaster that takes you as high as possible on the cliffs of the mountain just above the ocean. Worth every moment. Check out the opening hours on the site -
FESTIVALS IN SAN SEBASTIAN
San Sebastian is home to various international festivals, the most famous of them is the International Film Festival.
Since 1953, it has been one of the oldest and most prestigious movie festivals in Europe. Each year the festival takes place on different dates, usually around September.
"Tambourada", also known as the National Day, is the city's most important festival. The holiday begins on January 20th at midnight, when the mayor raises the city flag in the Constitution Square and there begins the next 24 hours of drumming nonstop.
Another important festival celebrated during all of August in San Sebastian is Aste Nagusia (a big week). On the week Around August 15th, from Saturday to Saturday, locals take to the streets one of the city's major festivals. There are international fireworks competition, parades, live music, food competitions, Basque dance and sports exhibitions.
DAY TRIPS FROM SAN SEBASTIAN
Please get yourself to rent a car and travel a bit in the Basque region - do not hesitate! There are so many more amazing places to see! Here are some of them:
Bilbao is an amazing city.You'll find there the famous Guggenheim of Bilbao (the Guggenheim Museum). By car the drive will last about an hour. But you can get to Bilbao from San Sebastian and back by bus. The ride takes a bit more than an hour and by train it takes about two and a half hours. Euskotren has a train every hour and the ticket price is about five euros per person.
Bilbao has stunning streets in the old city close to the river (The Nervión) and on Sundays there is a charming market-
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
Another great place not many know about. An hour's drive from San Sebastian and you will reach the area. Use your WAZE to get directions, you'll have to park in the parking lot and start walking towards the sea. In the middle of the road you will see the island and the monastery. On days when the sea is not stormy you can walk along the wall and go up to the monastery. Today you might recognize the area from TV series "Game of Thrones" where Halisi and John Snow met in Season 7 (at Dragon Stone) !!
Oma forest - the painted forest
. A part of the forest is an Artwork by the artist Agustin Ibarrola, a basque sculptor and painter. This amazing forest is a 2-hour drive from San Sebastian, near a town called Kortezubi (Bizkaia, Basque Contry), in a natural reserve. Another well known name of the forest is the painted forest. The painted forest will reveal itself to you, after a short walk of about an 1.5 h into the forest. Paintings on tree trunks in the form of animals, humans, geometrical forms created by the connection of several trees together from a particular vantage point.
I have heard recommendations but I have not been there myself, I'd love to hear about your experience if you visit there! At the heart of a village, surrounded by apple orchards, just 5 km from San Sebastian, lies the Petritgi Cider Farm which offers a comfortable and attractive dinning room and a large Cider Hall which has more than 40 Kupelas (Barrels) and is open all year long.