San Sebastian / Donostia

Feb 5th, 2015, 12:15 AM
  #1  
kja
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San Sebastian / Donostia

I have some ridiculously detailed questions about San Sebastian / Donostia. ;-) Please bear with me….

1. Can I assume that pinctxos bars in San Sebastian are open late into the evening? Can I begin a pinctxos crawl at, say, 22:00 or later, even on a Monday?

2. If I’m reading correctly, the Michelin Green Guide recommends driving the Jaizkibel Road from Hondarribia / Fuenterrabia WEST to San Sebastian at sunset. I generally don’t like driving west at sunset, as the sun can interfere with my vision. Are there enough turns and things that offer shade that I don’t need to worry about the sun? What times do you recommend for this drive? (Before answering, you might want to look at my next few questions.)

3. I hope to walk from San Sebastian to Pasaia. i could walk back, but it looks like there are frequent buses from Pasaia back to San Sebastian. But perhaps I should instead take a bus on to Hondarribia / Fuenterrabia and visit it before taking a bus back to San Sebastian (assuming those buses run frequently)? Or hire a taxi to do that? Or visit to Hondarribia first, get myself to Pasaia (how?), and then walk back to San Sebastian from there? I seem to have lots of options -- please help!

4. I would love to have a special meal while in San Sebastian, BUT I don’t think I have either the budget or a sufficiently sophisticated palate for any of this city’s Michelin 2- or 3-stars, so I’m looking instead at Michelin 1-stars and Bib Gourmands as options for lunch on the day of my (late evening) pinctxos crawl. From my research to date, I’m looking at Agorregi, Kokotxa, Mirador de Ulia, Miramon Arbelaitz, and Txulotxo -- and maybe Alameda if it works with my plan to visit Hondarribia. Any and all comments are welcome!

5. Kimhe recommended Casa Vallés, and I am looking forward to a dinner there if at all possible. Am I correct in undertanding that it is open every day?

6. Kimhe also recommended the Orfeon Donostiarra. From what I can tell, there are no performances scheduled (yet) for when I will be in the area (mid-May) – if any of you know / hear otherwise, please let me know!

Of course, any other comments you wish to share are welcome! I’m currently thinking of staying in the Gros area and anticipate that I will spend most of my time in the city visiting museums, churches, and parks.

Thanks so much!
kja is offline  
Feb 5th, 2015, 03:48 AM
  #2  
 
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He-he, lots of details here, yes.

1. Most pinxos bars will stay open until about 11 pm, but the kitchen may have closed a little earlier, so the options can be limited to the cold pintxos left on display.

2. Jaizkibel is very open, you will have the sun in from the front-right all the time at sunset. Never done the drive myself (only walked over here on our way to Hondarribia), must be beautiful.

3. Don't mix Hondarribia with a visit to Pasajes San Juan/Donibane, will be too much. Fabulous walk from San Sebastian over Monte Ulia to Donibane, 1,5-2 hours, and half the fun is having lunch in one of the great seafront restaurants here. I would always want a bus/taxi back to Donostia after a great Donibane lunch, the buses back leaves at least every hour (or maybe half hour).

4. For a special meal that don't break the bank in San Sebastian, I recommend Casa Urola (I always eat here my first night in town since 1987, and a place that locals will take new visitors to show what the food culture here is all about) or La Muralla (bargain tasting menus at 35-40€, had a fabulous night here a couple of years ago).
Urola: http://www.casaurolajatetxea.es/es/portada/
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...e_Country.html
La Muralla: http://www.restaurantelamuralla.com/es/
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...e_Country.html

5. Rustic and traditional Casa Vallés is open every day, the bar from 9am until 11pm (later in the weekends) and the restaurant 13:00-15:30 and 20:30-23:00. No fuss, just great Food, and I like to come back here regularly. On Sunday lunch they serve up a paella pintxo... http://www.ondojan.com/restaurantes/...sa-valles.html
Also note that there are several excellent, laid-back, late-night music bars in the area around Casa Vallés (in and around Calle Reyes Catolicos, just behind the cathedral).

6. Members of the he Orfeón Donostiarra sings every now and then during service in the Santa María del Coro church in the Parte vieja/Old town. Have had some magical Orfoén moments here. Here they are in the Royal Chapel in Madrid with the then king and queen.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTFijBdBd3M

Fabulous parks and walks in San Sebastian,Cristina Enea Park, the Miramar Palace park, Aiete, up at Monte Urgull or up at Monte Ulia, and perhaps, above all, Monte Urgull, towering over the Parte Vieja.

If it's really bad weather, a stroll along the Paseo Nuevo can be spectacular with the waves, the wind and everything (often lots of people out here then): http://www.google.no/search?q=Paseo+...=1600&bih=1019

Not much beats a walk along the beautiful La Concha beach promenade in rain: http://0.tqn.com/d/gospain/1/0/p/A/-/-/xseafront.jpg

--

The San Telmo museum is great, a "Museum of Basque Society and Citizenship" through the ages. On the outskirts of the old town: http://www.santelmomuseoa.com/index.php?lang=enbut

I would also very much receommend to take the 70 mins bus from San Sebastian to Bilbao to see the spectacular Guggenheim and the close by and excellent Fine Arts museum.
Guggenheim: http://www.guggenheim.org/bilbao
Fine Arts: http://www.museobilbao.com/in/
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractio...que_Count.html
kimhe is offline  
Feb 5th, 2015, 04:00 AM
  #3  
 
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Backing absolutely Kimhe´s hints...the Norwegian with the best knowledge of the Basque Country in the world...even better than locals!!

1. It´s more feasible in spring and summer...on cold rainy days Monday is a no-no for pintxos in many bars (main closing day)

2. Plenty of trees on the way, wouldn´t mind much about the sun on this part of the world...

3. Follow Kimhe´s advice.

4. Any of those mentioned, I´d add Bodegón Alejandro in the Old Town.

5. (Kimhe)

6. (Kimhe)

Don´t miss the Peine de los Vientos on the Antiguo quarter, try the pintxos at Gros area (less touristy than the Parte Vieja), walk all the way to Mompás point (right side of Gros beach), take the funicular to Igeldo, don´t accept a plate on a pintxos bar (have just one per bar, and one drink, and then go to next one...they´ll try to make you eat 4 or 5 at the same bar, which is NOT at all the way we locals do it), and don´t forget that any town in the Basque Country offers pintxos in its many bars. Places to socialize with family and friends, kids welcome, open doors...ironically, not places to drink...
mikelg is offline  
Feb 5th, 2015, 04:17 AM
  #4  
kja
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OMG, how can I ever than you, kimhe and mikelg -- what an incredible wealth of info! I look forward to going through your answers and will post questions as needed.

You guys ROCK!!!

Thank you SO much!
kja is offline  
Feb 5th, 2015, 09:18 AM
  #5  
 
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Pintxos crawl are done earlier. We usually head out around 7:30. You'll find Donostia farily quite after 11:00, even over the weekend.

Doing pintxos on Sunday nights and Mondays are always difficult. Very place are open, especially in the evening.

By the way Mikel, how do you like the snow along the coast, Biarritz to Bilbao? Was watching some footage on Eitb. Even Pamplona is covered in a cold white blanket.
Robert2533 is offline  
Feb 5th, 2015, 10:39 AM
  #6  
 
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Wow kimhe or kimshe and mikelg gives a treasure trove of great info on Donostia! Amazing!
PalenQ is offline  
Feb 5th, 2015, 12:42 PM
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Hi Robert...when my guests ask me about snow in the Basque Country, I always tell them that it´s a very rare thing in the cities, but right now it´s snowing at sea level (close to Bilbao where I live) and we expect to be in the low 30s tomorrow (nothing compared to Seattle weather, though). Just not used to it, but beautiful snowy mountains all over...
mikelg is offline  
Feb 5th, 2015, 04:20 PM
  #8  
 
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We're currently in the mid-50's, with rain. Too warm for snow, which hasn't been too good for the ski resorts.
Robert2533 is offline  
Feb 5th, 2015, 05:22 PM
  #9  
kja
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@ kimhe,
@ mikelg, and
@ Robert2533 –
Again, I can’t thank you all enough for taking the time to provide such detailed answers. I would have made some big mistakes in the area without your help – like showing up fo pintxos too late and on the wrong days!

In addition to meals and pintxos (and perhaps some txakoli), and including some breakfast pintxos from Bar Ostarte (which I learned about from another of kimhe’s posts), I’m looking forward to the Museo San Telmo (a VERY high priority for me!), roaming the Parte Vieja and its churches, exploring San Sebastian / Donostia’s parks and gardens, roaming around Monte Urgull (including, I hope, the Cemeterio de los Ingleses), riding the funicular to Igueldo and seeing some of its terraces, seeing the Peine de los Vientos, and -- now that I know about it , -- I will make a point of going to Mompás point. I’m glad to hear that the Gros area is good for my pintxos crawl, especially since that’s the part of town in which I plan to stay.

I’ll be spending several days in Bilbao before I reach San Sebastian, and am looking forward to that, too. My highest priority there is the Museo de Bellas Artes – I’ve blocked out ½ day for it and will certainly spend longer if that’s what it takes. In addition to my guidebooks, I’ve been scouring mikelg’s blogs, where I have found any number of gems.

Snow in Bilbao?!? Wow! Stay warm!

@ PalenQ – these people are amazing, aren’t they? All of us who visit this part of the world are in their debt.
kja is offline  
Feb 5th, 2015, 10:58 PM
  #10  
kja
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I can't imagine that I will have time to roam all of the parks and gardens in San Sebastian / Donostia. Given that I will be visiting in mid-May, any recommendations or things to consider when deciding (beyond the above noted recommendation to stroll the Paseo Nuevo if waves are high)?
kja is offline  
Feb 5th, 2015, 11:34 PM
  #11  
 
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Cristina Enea park is not far from Gros and it´s a beautiful stroll. Also, you can climb Urgull mountain, it´s a very easy hike and views are spectacular. And then, public transport to Getaria, Hondarribia, anywhere. Or up Igeldo for a long walk along the cliffs.

If you need any hints on Bilbao, just ask...I was born here!
mikelg is offline  
Feb 6th, 2015, 01:56 AM
  #12  
 
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And the Paseo Nuevo walk in San Sebastian is always beautiful at sunset, also when calm. Not many times I've seen waves this big out here, but I've also seen it worse...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvHl7jAaUVo
kimhe is offline  
Feb 6th, 2015, 06:19 PM
  #13  
kja
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One more question (for now!) about San Sebastian -- I think the Mercado de la Bretxa is open daily, but if many restaurants are closed on Sundays and Mondays, is the market also unusually quiet on those days? I just want to savor what I'm hoping would be a vibrant, colorful market for a half-hour or so....

And one more question about Pasajes San Juan/Donibane -- Am I correct in understanding that there's a little boat that carries passengers from near the end of the walking path from San Sebastian across the waterway to the restaurant, Txulotxo, and that it operates in May? No problem if not -- I can walk or take a taxi -- but it sounds like a lovely way to end a walk and start a delicious meal.


@ kimhe -- Wow! Those are some AWESOME waves!


@ mikelg -- you may live to regret that offer of assistance! But since you asked...

7. Suggestions for restaurants or a pintxos route in Bilbao will be very welcome. (And Santander, too. And any of the other places I'm planning to visit. ;-))

8. I don't expect to have much time to spare when driving from Santander to Bilbao, and don't think I'll have time for either Laredo or Castro Urdailes. BUT it seems that the views from the Castillo Fuente de San Carlos in Santoña would be worth seeing and I think I might be able to get there with reasonable ease. Worth doing if the timing works?

9. Once in Bilbao, I'm thinking of trying to ride the Funicular de Artxanda around sunset. That would be a Friday or Saturday, though, so I wondered whether everyone in Bilbao would have the same idea....

10. I think it would make sense for me to try to see the Puente Bizkaia on my way out of Bilbao. I would drive from Bilbao, park my car, and then walk the bridge in one direction and return via the gondola (or vice versa). Because of a reservation to visit Santimamiñe, I would need to leave Getxo no later than 14:00 pr 14:15. Do you think I can do that if leave Bilbao at noon -- this would be a Sunday -- or would I need to leave earlier? I definitely want to see this bridge.

11. After my tour of Santimamiñe and a brief stop in the Forest de Ona, I'm thinking of stopping in Lekeitio just long enough to see Santa Maria (I know Lekeitio deserves more!) and then stopping at the Ermita de San Telmo to admire the views of Zumaia's spectacular coast and the flysch formations. Good plan? I should still be able to reach San Sebastian before sunset....

Again, thank you SO much!
kja is offline  
Feb 6th, 2015, 10:36 PM
  #14  
kja
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Oh, and please, is there a breakfast pintxos restaurant in Gros that any of you recommend? Maybe Zeruko?
kja is offline  
Feb 7th, 2015, 01:16 AM
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7. For a nice pintxos stroll, begin at La Plaza Nueva (Zuga, Zorginzulo, Zaharra,...) the one I don´t like for pintxos as it´s a tourist trap is the Victor Montes, but it´s nice to visit. Go on to Jardines and Santa María street, any will do. Santander: I love Bodega La Cigalesa, Bodega La Conveniente and those bars around Cañadío square.

8. Castro Urdiales is a must. And Santoña is worth just for the spectacular views of its bay.

9. There´s a train every 15min, so don´t worry about it. Turn left for about 200m on arrival to the viewing point for the best views of Bilbao (not indicated).

10. Of course, it´s a real must during your visit (I live 5min from it!). And the Puerto Viejo in Getxo, right after Ereaga beach, just lovely. YOu can reach it on the metro (Areeta stop and a five min walk left). Yes, you have plenty of time, it´s just 15min from Bilbao and one hour to Santimamiñe. The cave may disappoint you as most of it is closed to general public now...but I see you´ll walk to the Oma forest, an AMAZING experience (I think I have some pics on my FB page, if not just google for images).

11. Lekeitio is probably, together with Hondarribia, the most beautiful town on the Basque coast. Have lunch at the Hostal de la Emperatriz, daily menu including wine is right under 11eur and views are incredible. If you have time, go to the Santa Catalina lighthouse, a hidden gem, just a 5min drive. For San Telmo you may have problems to park, but it´s really worth it (enjoy the views of the flysch, the hermitage itself is not that awesome).

Hope it helps!
mikelg is offline  
Feb 7th, 2015, 02:15 AM
  #16  
kja
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@ mikelg -- Thank you, thank you, thank you – this information does, indeed, help a GREAT deal!

7. Wonderful!

8. "Castro Urdiales is a must." No! Really and truly? Oh dear -- I'll have to give something up. I think I'll have to SKIP one of the following 3 things; which should I skip and why?
( a) Castro Urdailes;
( b) A walk through Santander's Peninsula de la Magdelana; or
( c) The walk from Santander to Cabo Mayor and back.

10. The Puerto Viejo in Getxo is now marked on my itinerary!

11. Google maps shows a "Santa Katalina Ermita" -- is that the lighthouse?

I knew, before even opening a guide book, that I would love my time in the north of Spain. And i've known, since studying my guidebooks, that I would see some astounding things. But you and SO many others have helped me personalize my plans in a way I never thought possible -- thank you SO much!

I hope that you and others will keep an eye on my posts as I continue to plan -- every step of my journey has already benefited!
kja is offline  
Feb 7th, 2015, 03:53 AM
  #17  
 
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Yes, that's the only way to cross from Pasajes San Pedro to Pasajes San Juan/Donibane. No walking or taxis across the water ;-)

And when it comes to breakfast places in Gros, there are for sure numerous excellent places. Zeruko is in the Parte vieja, but Bodega Donostiarra is very popular with locals and opens at about 9 I think. http://www.bodegadonostiarra.com/
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...e_Country.html

Usually hustle and bustle in Mercado de la Bretxa all days Monday to Saturday 8am to 9pm. Excellent market with fantastic produce. But I think it was a great deal more charming before the modenisation a few years ago. Now it resembles any modern market anywhere, but of course, many of the best chefs in the world go here daily, so it's still something special http://www.traveler.es/guias/europa/...-la-bretxa/656

And you also have the San Martin Market close to the cathedral. I always buy jamon iberico and all kinds of meat at Charcuteria Maribel in San Martin. Recommended by a typically food crazy local some twenty years ago, and I've found no reason to go elsewhere since: http://www.msanmartin.es/msanmartin/...d=2714&sesion=
kimhe is offline  
Feb 7th, 2015, 06:07 AM
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Here's the nice little boat that unites San Pedro and San Juan/Donibane, in this little video it leaves Donibane and lands in San Pedro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nm-1OdB7QWc
kimhe is offline  
Feb 7th, 2015, 09:25 AM
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8. Don´t skip the Magdalena walk, you´ll love it. You may want to skip the walk to Cabo Mayor, you´ll be tired of nature and hikes...

11. I don´t think so, I´ve spent many summers in Lekeitio and there´s no hermitage by the lighthouse. Look for "faro de Santa Katalina"
mikelg is offline  
Feb 7th, 2015, 09:31 AM
  #20  
 
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No fish in markets on Mondays, it´s always fresh and fishermen don´t fish on Sundays...
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