In June, my parents and I spent a few days in San Sebastián. Also called Donostia, the city on the Bay of Biscay is definitely the most elegant place I’ve ever been. Tucked in between rolling green hills and a sweeping seaside, It’s famous for being a foodie heaven and a glamorous film festival location, but there’s much more to the city too.
Here are the 5 best things to do in San Sebastián based on my short trip:
5) Take a hike up to the huge Jesus sculpture
For somebody who isn’t religious, this is the second time I’ve mentioned Jesus on my blog recently, so it must be for a good reason! San Sebastián has a beautiful park overlooking the sea right behind the old quarter. Right on top is a huge Jesus statue and an old fortress.
Walking up there is absolutely lovely at sunset, and as it gets darker it seemed to be quite a fabulous spot for a botellón as well. (I didn’t personally partake, as I was with my parents, but it looked great!).
4) Enjoy the old quarter
Even after having lived in Spain for over 2 years, the “ciudad vieja” will never get, well, old for me. Walking through old winding streets gives me a feeling that there’s always something unexpected and beautiful just waiting around the corner – and a lot of the time, that actually happens.
San Sebastian’s old quarter is tucked away between the bay and a fancy shopping district, so we easily spent a whole afternoon walking around this lovely little area.
3) Chill with Chillada
I’d seen one of Chillada’s other pieces in Gijón, Asturias and was pretty impressed, and the Comb of the Wind was equally as cool. It’s made up of three big sculptural pieces built into the rocks on the coastline at the edge of the bay.
The best way to enjoy this sculpture is to sit on the seawall, relax, and enjoy the sound of the wind whistling by and the waves crashing on the rocks. Ahh!
2) See the seaside
The most outstanding feature of San Sebastián is definitely its beautiful seaside. The pretty white railing running along the promenade adds an elegant touch. Barcelona’s city beaches this is definitely not (much as I love them!).
Even in the height of summer, the San Sebastián beach wasn’t stuffed to bursting with people, so and you could lie back and enjoy the curving bay view in peace. Whether you fancy a gentle stroll or a day of sunbathing on the beach, I haven’t seen a prettier city beach ever.
1) Try the “txikiteo” – a.k.a. eat!
I’m definitely not a foodie by any means, but even I was super impressed with the food in San Sebastián. The local speciality is pintxos (also spelled pinchos), tiny servings of delicious dishes served on top of small pieces of bread. Usually, these are held together with toothpicks. At the end of the meal, you leave the toothpicks on your plate and the bartender counts them up.
Most places I went made you actually show them what pintxos you’d taken to make sure you didn’t engage in the other pintxos “tradition” – hiding the toothpicks up your sleeve! (This may only be a tradition among certain of my friends when we go out for pintxos, but I would not be surprised to find out it’s more widespread).
The best part about pintxos is you get to pull the little plates of whatever strikes your fancy off the bar directly. You can also order hot ones. I loved being able to see all the options laid out in front of you, plus the chance to try lots of different types of food. I probably wouldn’t ordered the vinegary fresh tuna, green pepper, and onion pintxo off a paper menu, but it was one of my favorite bites of the night.
If you’ve been to San Sebastián, what other great things are there to do in the city?