Help for San Sebastian

Old Aug 21st, 2014, 03:38 AM
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Help for San Sebastian

Dear Fodorites,

My husband and I will be going to Europe for 2 months (visiting a number of countries) and we will finish our trip in San Sabastian. I have searched online for accommodation options, transport, places to eat and visit. However, I am still confused here - we are leaving for Europe in 2 weeks and maybe I missed out some information in my state of panic.

I have a couple of questions if someone can assist please:
- Which area and where to stay? We most probably will fly to SS from Barcelona, and take the bus to Santander after. Is the area near the bus station centrally located to the attractions? How do we get from the airport to the city?
- Where to eat for our 2.5 short days.What are the "must eats"?
- What are the "must visits"?
- We will arrive SS on a Tuesday morning, and we have to catch our flight in Santander on Friday evening. Should we stay all 3 nights in SS and take the bus to Santander on Friday, or should we head to Santander on Thursday night so that we will have half a day to tour Santander on Friday before catching our flight?
- We will be arriving in late Oct. What is the weather like?

We are looking to wind down from our Europe trip in SS before heading back to Australia. Therefore, we will just like to relax, enjoy the local cuisine and do a leisurely tour of SS.

I know a lot of the information can be found online - I planned the rest of the trip researching the Fodor forums. However, as I have limited time before I leave for Europe I would appreciate if someone can point me in the right direction!

Ashxin is offline  
Old Aug 21st, 2014, 04:54 AM
Join Date: Feb 2014
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accommodations & neighborhoods

Most people head to San Sebastian for the food, and if you don't know why, then it is probably worth your while to invest in a food tour or buying a food guide specifically for San Sebastian. This website takes a long time to load but it will give you something of a sense of the standard tourist approach
sandralist is offline  
Old Aug 21st, 2014, 06:43 AM
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Well the area by the bus station is OK but probably about a 20 minute walk from the main pinxtos area(s)so it wouldn't be my first choice. Of course you could taxi, that should be fairly reasonable.

If the weather is nice you can bike ride. The city has a bike program and most of the city is fairly flat, at least along the sea. Otherwise there is not alot to see (IMO) at least not "major" sights. You may want to go into Bilbao for the modern art museum.

The main draw, and it is spectacular IMO, is the food. We really liked the old city choices. Our favorite was probably La Cuchara de San Telemo (something like that) but it was very small, very limited seating and even finding a standing place could be difficult. But don't worry - there are so many choices! I don't think you really need to buy a guide, you can easily just wander and see all the choices! some are fancy, some are simple, if you make a bad choice surely the next one will be better. It is absolutely foodie heaven!
suec1 is online now  
Old Aug 21st, 2014, 06:45 AM
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San Sebastian is very small and very walkable. The bus station is ten minutes walking to the town centre, so suggest to take a taxi when you arrive with lots of luggage.

Plenty of both excellent and fine hotels in the city centre. Old world Hotel Londres is right on the beautiful La Concha Beach promenade.

Regarding restaurants, I suggest you make a reservation in one of the many Michelin star restaurants in and around town. I've had some of the best meals in my life on three star restaurants Arzak and Akelarre.

Casa Urola is my favourite "normal" restaurant in town since the late 80's. New chef a couple of years ago, but still the same sky high sandard. This is a place locals take new visitors to San Sebastian to show what the city's food culture is all about:

But plenty of fabulous restaurants all over. According to the world's most famous chef this century Ferran Adrià, San Sebastián is the best place to eat in the world "in terms of the average quality of the food, in terms of what you can get at any place you happen to walk into":

All about going for the famous pintxos in San Sebastián:
kimhe is offline  
Old Aug 21st, 2014, 07:35 AM
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... and note that many of the best and most local atmosphere pintxos bars are in the Gros district, just across the city river Urumea or in the city center itself (most tourists go only to the tons of pintxos bars in the small Parte vieja/Old town).

Inventive Garbola is one of my favourites in Gros:
Traditional San Marcial/Alustiza is perhaps my #1 favourite in the centre:
kimhe is offline  
Old Aug 21st, 2014, 07:42 AM
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I would not stay near the bus station but in one of the hotels in the centre.
The weather in both SS and Santander is probably rainy and cooler at that time.
One can enjoy food in SS without visiting one of the famous restaurants ( unless it is what you like)
We stayed in SS for four nights in May and enjoyed eating in the old town, often at the bar with the locals. Some of the best food we had was at the
La Cuchara de San Telmo
Calle del Treinta y Uno de Agosto, 28, San Sebastián
danon is offline  
Old Aug 21st, 2014, 12:20 PM
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The airport is in Hondarribia, a lovely destination itself.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Old Aug 21st, 2014, 02:11 PM
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I would head to Santander on Thursday. It is a very nice town .
The airport ,as stated , is not in SS.....there is a bus to town , taxi would cost about 35
euros .
You can also take a flight from Barcelona to Bilbao and a bus from Bilbao airport
to bus station in S S. The bus ride is about 70 min.
danon is offline  
Old Aug 22nd, 2014, 08:58 AM
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Thanks so much everyone!!!

Yes we are definitely foodies. That is why we chose SS to visit besides Barcelona for our first trip to Spain. I have noted all your suggestions regarding places to eat. This is fantastic.

If there is not much to see in SS we will most probably relax and take leisurely walks. If we get bored we can take a day trip to one of the nearly places (Donibane/San Juan and Hondarribia/Fuenterrabi, Saint Jean de Luz, Bilbao,Pamplona)

Thanks Sandralist - I will take a look at the links you have provided.

Thanks suec1 and Danon. I have decided to stay near the centre.

Thanks Kimhe for the accommodation suggestion. The Hotel Londres is out of our budget but I am looking at staying in either Hostal Alemana near the old town or Pension Altair in the Gros area. You recommended Hostal Alemana in the other posts. Do you recommend that over Pension Altair?

The suggestions were extremely helpful.
I happen to stumble across an old post and it provided so much information about SS.
I think I now have enough information to fill in our 2.5 days in SS. I will head to Santander on Thursday as suggested.
Ashxin is offline  
Old Aug 22nd, 2014, 09:03 AM
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Oh sorry, I forgot to ask if it is worth to visit a Sidrería in Astigarraga on one of my 2 nights in SS?
Ashxin is offline  
Old Aug 22nd, 2014, 09:50 AM
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2 days in San Sebastian is not nearly enough time to get bored.
Egbert is offline  
Old Aug 22nd, 2014, 10:15 AM
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We loved our 6 nights in SS. We stayed at Hotel Zaragoza and it was the perfect location for us.

The pinxtos bars in old town are amazing, we also did a fancy meal at one of the 3 starred places.

We also did a Sidreria but we were there in April which is the season. I think some places may open year round, you could check with your hotel. It was a really fun evening!

Our pics are here
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Old Aug 22nd, 2014, 01:57 PM
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I agree wit Egbert .....two days in SS is not too long- even if the weather is bad.
The museum of Basque history is wort visiting.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2014, 02:08 AM
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Pension Alemana is close to Londres and just 50 meters from the La Concha beach promenade. Pension Altair would also be excellent, but first time in San Sebastián, it gives an extra edge to it staying so close to the sea and the wonderful promenade.

Pension Alemana is also next door to one of my favourite breakfast places in town, Bar Ostarte. As in all over Spain, usually ten times more interesting and more affordable breakfast in a local bar than at the hotels. Nothing beats the smell, taste and atmosphere in a popular local breakfast place. Bar Ostarte specializes in breakfast pintxos:

La Muralla is another of the top notch restaurants with great value menus. Five courses tasting menu with wine pairings for some 40€.

And whatever you do, don't miss the Brocheta de gambas (prawn skewer) at Goiz-Argi. Divine!

Have a great value three course lunch Menú del día with wine included (11€) with the locals at La Zurri in the heart of the local atmosphere Gros district:

I recommend the newly renovated San Telmo museum, dedicated to Basque history and culture:

The upper street in the Parte vieja - C/ 31 de Agosto - is a living and open air Napoleonic/Peninsular War museum:

Here you can visit the beautiful and peaceful 18th century Basílica de Santa María del Coro. Quite often the plain fantastic city choir Orfeón Donostiarra - one of the best choirs in Europe - sings to mass here.

Many fine theaters in town. Maybe see a concert in the Kursaal Congress Centre right on the Zurriola beach, just across the city river Urumea. World class artists and orchestras perform here all the time.

Fabulous walks all over town: along the La Concha beach promenade, along Paseo Nuevo (spectacular if the sea is a little rough, as it often is) or up on Monte Urgull right above the Parte vieja/Old town with fabulous views of the city, the sea and the coastline.

And I recommend a late night out in one of the many laid-back music bars and cafés in the Reyes Católicos area just behind the cathedral. Five minutes walk back home to Pension Alemana...

And several great jazz clubs in town (San Sebastián is home to one of the oldest and best jazz festivals in Europe) such as Altxerri, Etxekalte etc.
kimhe is offline  
Old Aug 23rd, 2014, 03:33 AM
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<Oh sorry, I forgot to ask if it is worth to visit a Sidrería in Astigarraga on one of my 2 nights in SS?>

Could be an experience if you are visiting in the cider season, but with so little time in San Sebastian, you should be extremely fond of cod bacalao, huuuuge steaks and copious amounts of cider to leave the fabulous city itself. Or in other words, with only two nights in San Sebastian, it would be plain madness to leave town for one of them ;-)
kimhe is offline  
Old Aug 23rd, 2014, 06:13 AM
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..."cod bacalao" should of course be tortilla de bacalao/cod tortilla...

And it's of course much more to San Sebastian, European Capital of Culture 2016, than fabulous food and some of the finest city beaches on the continent.

Art & Culture:



And San Sebastian is a sports city; football, cycling, horesraces, surfing, running, and a lot of traditional and quite spectacular Basque sports.

kimhe is offline  
Old Aug 23rd, 2014, 12:48 PM
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I think 2.5 days for San Sebastian itself is fine . I'd be happy to live there but if there were other places I wanted to go while touring I don't think I woud feel I somehow shortchanged seeing San Sebastian in 2.5 days. (I've never been to Santander) . Most people who stay longer do day trips out of town rather than stay in San Sebastian day after day. They come back at night to eat but there are other exciting dinner destinations beyond San Sebastian.
sandralist is offline  
Old Aug 23rd, 2014, 08:26 PM
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Wow.. thanks so much for your suggestions! They are all very helpful.

Jamikins, your pictures look fantastic and I am looking forward more than ever to visiting SS!

Kimhe - Wow! Thank you! I was just about to sit down and spend an hour going through forums for night time activities in SS but the information you provided saved me so much time! I am very interested in the music bars and jazz clubs so will definitely check them out. I have booked Hostel Alemana and have included your restaurant recommendations in our list of places to try out. We will also be visiting San Telmo museum and plan our other day activities according to how we feel on the day.

Unfortunately we only have 2.5 nights this time around but I get the feeling we will most likely be back again.

THANK YOU all for your kind contributions and quick responses! I have taken all your recommendations into consideration and am very comfortable with my program. We can't wait to visit Barcelona and SS!
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Old Aug 24th, 2014, 01:53 AM
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Regarding jazz clubs, regularly live concerts with top artists at Altxerri:

Etxekalte, at the edge of the Parte vieja towards the small harbour, is one of the best vibe bars/jazz clubs I know of anywhere. One of the few places in the area that stays open after 5am:

Be Bop Bar, on the edge of the Parte vieja towards the Urumea river, is always packed with people for a good reason. Dancing, jazz, blues, often live concerts and stays open until 4am.

And for the more general, laid back and 30+ long into the night music bars, you should go to the Calle Reyes Catolicos area just behind the Cathedral and close to Alemana (also info about Altxerri, Etxekalte and Be Bop here).
kimhe is offline  
Old Aug 24th, 2014, 03:47 AM
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Just a few teasers:



Be Bop Bar:

Pokhara in the Reyes Catolicos area behind the cathedral:

Going for the famous pintxos in the Parte vieja/Old town:

Last, a vivid expression of the San Sebastián spirit is the annual Tamborrada (drum festival) celebration in mid winter. Here is the city choir Orfeón Donostiarra leading the crowds on the main square in San Sebastián's Parte vieja singing on the occation of the 75th anniversary of one of the city's most famous gastronomic societies (Gaztelubide) during the Tamborrada in 2008:
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