Barcelona/San Sebastian

Sep 3rd, 2012, 08:37 AM
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Barcelona/San Sebastian

Hi all,

Looking for some great advice. First time to Europe but have travelled many places around the globe.

The details: solo traveller, late 20's male. Loves food, beaches, sightseeing, and hiking. Not a huge museum buff but want to see the 'musts'.

Mid November. 10 days for Barcelona and San Sebastián area combined. Would like to include Bilbao, Bayonne/ Biarritz, and maybe Girona.

Using "open jaw" flights, my first destination will depend on price of flights. Thinking of taking the train to the next "area" vs flying.

I know either (or both) Asador Etxebarri and Mugaritz are musts in SB. Wanted to add that the budget is on the low to medium end but a few splurges are a must...

Can I please get some recommendations for casual/awesome places to eat in a bar/pintxo or other setting that is good for solo travelers? Fun beach towns to visit? Must see?
travelm77 is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2012, 09:19 AM
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Hi t,

Have you looked up "San Sebastian Restaurants" in "search the forums"?

ira is online now  
Sep 3rd, 2012, 09:36 AM
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With 10 days you'll be able to explore and enjoy a little bit of Barcelona and San Sebastian-Donostia, but I highly recommend flying from Barcelona to San Sebastian or Bilbao. The train just takes too long on this route (Bilbao or San Sebastian) and there are only two trains/day. If you fly, you can be there in one hour.

If you are splitting your time equally, you could do a day trip to Girona from Barcelona, and spend a day visiting Bayonna and Biarritz from San Sebastian.

It's a little easier to reach Etxebarri from Bilbao (by taxi). Mugaritz is about a 20-minute taxi ride from the center of San Sebastian, and well worth the trip. I recommend having lunch instead of dinner, but reservations are a must at both. Besides, Etxebarri only serves dinner on Saturdays.

For more information on where else to dine in SS, you can read Maribel's Guide to the País Vasco ( and take a look at Todo Pintxos (
Robert2533 is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2012, 10:04 AM
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In San Sebastian, head out on your own to sample pintxos. Toss away the guidebooks.
aguamineral is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2012, 10:20 AM
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I'm with aquamineral on the tapas/pintxos..More to experience on the loose. Look for a crowded bar, enter and rest assured it will be outstanding. Pintxos is the competative sport in SS..Guide books seem to get in the way of adventure and by the time they are prinred are out of date. As a solo young man live a lttle, laugh alot and learn as you says the 80 yr old who still is doing all of the above!!!
amer_can is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2012, 10:30 AM
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If you want to go to one of the best restaurants in the world, then Mugaritz is the one. Also, expect to pay about 200 euros plus/minus per person. FYI, that's about $250 U.S.

Another top 10 in the world restaurant is Arzak, at comparable prices.
Rastaguytoday is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2012, 02:40 PM
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Good info. Thanks everyone so far!
travelm77 is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2012, 10:54 PM
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Another vote for Arzak in San Sebastián, three Michelin stars for some twenty years and among the top ten in the world for the past ten years. Elena Arzak - fourth generation Arzak running the place since it opened in 1897 - was recently voted best female chef in the world by the prestigious S. Pellegrino guide.

Could be a cold swim in November but perfectly doable. My favourite beach in town would be Zurriola, very popular with surfers. The most famous is La Concha. Both are among the finest city beaches on the continent.

When it comes to pintxos, be sure to ask for the warm house specialities prepared directly in the kitchen. The cold pintxos would be on display in the bar, but the best one are often those you order directly. Most places would have their specialities, and you'll get an idea at the todopintxos-site.

Go where the day or night takes you, but here are some musts in my opinion:
In the Parte vieja/Old town:
Cutting edge Zeruko:
Next door Txepetxa, anchovy heaven and an institution in town:
Gourmet pintxos at La Cuchara de San Telmo:
The best Jamón Ibérico in the world (from Jabugo) and wonderful Pimientos de Padrón at traditional La Cepa:

For a great value sit-down meal, I recommend friendly and family-owned La Cueva. Have eaten here tens of times, and always no fuzz traditional food:

Many of the best places are in the Gros district across the city river Urumea. Try the shark pintxo at Garbola:
Patxi Bergara was among those who togerther with Juan Mari Arzak started the Basque food revolution back in the 80's. His bar (here you can easily stay all night):

Traditional Casa Vallés just behind the cathedral is one of my absolute favourites when you get a bit tired of the gourmet hype:

Perhaps visit the newly renovated San Telmo museum in the outskirts of the Parte vieja/Old town, dedicated to Basque art, history and culture. From 1900, located in a 16th century convent:

Fabulous food markets in town: San Martín and La Bretxa. For nightlife, I recommend Be Bop Bar and Etxekalte on the outskirts of the Parte vieja. Also many great places in and around Calle Reyes Católicos behind the cathedral.

Have some great days in the best city on the planet!
kimhe is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 05:44 AM
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wow, thanks kimhe!
travelm77 is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 07:41 AM
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Sitges (on the beach) is about 30 minutes by rail from Barcelona. Google it and then decide whether or not it might be worth a visit.
Dukey1 is offline  
Sep 4th, 2012, 09:10 AM
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Be prepared for ? weather!
I've never experienced such downpours as I did last year in SS in Oct/Nov.
No-one has mentioned the little town of Hondarribia.It's where the airport-a short bus ride to/from SS.It's quieter than SS but the climb up to the historic area is great. Take a peek inside the parador. There is a short ferry ride from Hondarribia to Hendaye, France.
Biarritz is just plain awful -overcrowded,bumper to bumper traffic with nothing special,reminded me of La Jolla in California. I prefer St Jean de Luz where the marriage of Louis XIV took place-lovely place,all pedestrian streets, loaded w/restaurants, fun to wander.
By the way, the tough hike in SS is up Mt Urgull.There's a British cemetery half way up!
The San Sebastian tourist office is loaded with useful info-they speak English really well!
chapla is offline  
Sep 5th, 2012, 11:40 AM
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I will be going to Barcelona early Nov. I have never been and would like a centrally located hotel where I could walk to some of the attractions and be in an interesting neighborhood with rsts, nice architecture, etc. I would like to spend less than $200/night if possible for a room with 2 twin beds. I dont know if that is doable since i am just starting to reserach this. Can anyone make any suggestions? the hotel doesnt have to be fancy, just clean and safe and central if possible or near a subway if not. thanks.
libra5556 is offline  
Sep 5th, 2012, 12:20 PM
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Exteberri is a long way from San Sebastian!

And I would not count on beach weather in November, in either of those cities. We did swim in San Sebastian one year in early October, but even that was unusual, I believe.
ekscrunchy is offline  
Sep 5th, 2012, 12:21 PM
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Libra: I've stayed quite a few times at Hotel Gran Via in Barcelona. The location is superb and prices are moderate.
ekscrunchy is offline  
Sep 6th, 2012, 10:07 AM
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November is not a good time for San Sebastian which I prefer over Barcelona.
Egbert is offline  
Oct 19th, 2012, 06:03 AM
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Alright folks, I've had some time to get most of my trip planned. Heading to Bilbao for a bit, then San Sebastian, then the train to Barcelona.

A few lingering questions...

- I have about 2 days in the Bilbao area before going to San Sebastian. I will likely have a car.
- Was thinking a Haro winery/pinxto day trip. Maybe swinging by Vitoria. Is this worth it?
- Or maybe Santander? Worth day tripping?
- I will be hitting up Asador Etxebarri on the way to SS

- Also, was thinking a day trip to Getaria and Biarritz/Bayonne (maybe separate days) when based in San Sebastian and a day trip to Girona while in Barcelona.

Thanks as always!
travelm77 is offline  
Oct 19th, 2012, 08:44 AM
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So do you only have 2 days in Bilbao and 3 days in San Sebastian? If so you're not going to have much time for daytrips especially with the mandatory dining adventures. I'd stick to exploring you home bases as you really won't have time for much else.

From Bilbao you could visit Haro and some bodegas. Haro isn't the most picturesque village but it's easy to visit a couple of bodegas in a day (with advance reservations). But I'd prefer nearby Briones for the wine museum and Labastida (if you have a car). As for pintxos Bilbao would have better choices than Vitoria and Haro combined. All this would be a busy day and would take Bilbao down to one day which is whyni'd just stick with Bilbao.
CathyM is offline  
Oct 19th, 2012, 06:55 PM
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Thanks CathyM. I have 4-5 days in San Sebastian but hoping to sneak north to Southern France for 1 day and maybe Getaria.

Good info on Briones, I will check that out. New info to me!

travelm77 is offline  
Oct 19th, 2012, 08:00 PM
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You can't go wrong with the link Robert2533 provided to you for Maribel's guides. My annual trips to the Basque Country and La Rioja would have never been the same without these insights.
CathyM is offline  

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