San Sebastian: Sophisticated Coastal Gem
San Sebastián is famous for its beautiful bay-side promenade, crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches, majestic Belle Époque architecture, and heavenly food.
In the late 19th century, this charming seaside town became a favorite destination for the Spanish royal family who turned it into their summer residence.
Today, a beautiful mix of Basque charm, sophistication and savoir-vivre
Here are some ideas of what to do in see in this beautiful city and world-class culinary destination.
La Concha, one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, is adorned with luxurious mansions that rise on the hill. An ornate wrought iron white railing lines the Concha promenade and is one of the city’s most distinguishing features.
The promenade is lined with Belle Époque masterpieces, including the city hall, Victoria Eugenia Theater, and Luxury Collection's Hotel Maria Cristina.
PARTE VIEJA - OLD TOWN
LA PLAZA DE LA CONSTITUCIÓN
The Constitution Square is the very heart of the Old Town and has served several purposes over time. The plaza was once a bullring and the numbers above each one of the windows mark the boxes from which one could watch the bullfight.
Today, the plaza is home to some shops as well as terraced restaurants and bars...a great place to enjoy a glass of wine, away from the masses that usually congregate inside some of the most trendy bars in other areas of the Old Town.
THE ART OF PINTXOS
Besides the beautiful beach and the elegant architecture, San Sebastián is also known for its sophisticated culinary scene. The lively old town, Parte Vieja, is famous for its busy pintxo bars and the city has numerous Michelin starred restaurants.
The Basque take on the traditional Spanish tapas, pintxos, is classy and creative. These bite-sized snacks are usually served on slices of white baguette or small wooden skewers. Each bar has its own different specialty, and there are many tasting options along the narrow, cobblestone streets of the old quarter. Locals and visitors alike enjoy Txikiteo, hopping from bar to bar and stopping at each for a carefully selected pintxo and a drink.
Jamon Iberico with grilled octopus and morcilla, bright green peppers with prawns, crab, anchovies, mushrooms, decadent foie gras. It is all to be washed down with a glass of txakoli, the lightly sparkling white wine, poured from a height, so that the wine aerates as it falls.
No visit to San Sebastián is complete without a dinner at one of its 3 three-Michelin starred restaurants. One of them, Arzak, is run by the charismatic Juan Mari Arzak, and his daughter Elena, who was once named the best female chef in the world.
Juan Mari Arzak is the legendary founder of nouvelle Basque cuisine and has held three stars since 1989. Arzak restaurant has been in the family for generations, dating back to 1897, but it was Juan Mari who gave it a new life and a world-class menu.
The delectable and creative dishes include fresh sardines paired with strawberries for a salty, sweet and juicy bite, and cromlech with caramelized onion and foie gras. You are instructed to turn these cromlech cones upside down and eat them "like an ice cream."
It is a delightful dining experience and at the end of the meal, the chef is happy to take pictures with their patrons and chat about their dining experiences.