San Sebastian or Bilbao?

Jan 26th, 2016, 11:59 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 24
San Sebastian or Bilbao?

Will have six nights at the end of June in the Basque region. San Sebastian or Bilbao - or another city? Would prefer one spot for all six nights. Which is the best base?

Not planning on renting a car. We're foodies, want to visit some beaches, also visit French Basque town(s). Would love to rent scooters to travel around, if possible (we have motorcycle licenses and drive 300cc Vespas all over California and also have done so in the Algarve).

Have found some great Basque blogs. It all seems wonderful.

Recommendations welcome!
vmsilva is offline  
Jan 26th, 2016, 12:17 PM
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 52
I've never made it to Bilbao, but San Sebastian is one of my favorite places I've been in Europe. The food is excellent. You can spend the day at the beach, hiking, and then go to one of the many Michelin star restaurants at night or just do a pintxo crawl (which we did most nights). My husband and I also did a San Sebastian food tour which was amazing, and a great way to meet some people to hang out with. The guide was fabulous and well worth the cost.

We arrived to San Sebastian by train from Paris, but you could easily do the opposite and take the train up towards some smaller French Basque towns (you will need to swap trains at the Spain/France border, the tracks are different sizes!).
alliesun10 is offline  
Jan 26th, 2016, 12:21 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 24
Thanks so much, Alliesun10! Really appreciate the thumbs up on the tour - I've been looking into taking a class with the same group. Sounds like we'll have to do a tour as well. Would you recommend the hotel you stayed in, or other lodging? Interesting about the train track size difference! We'll be flying in from Lyon.
vmsilva is offline  
Jan 26th, 2016, 01:57 PM
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 3,093
San Sebastian is Cultural Capital of Europe this year so you can expect a lot of special activities going on.
quokka is offline  
Jan 26th, 2016, 02:02 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 8,827
Overall, it's a difficult choice, but having spent the last dozen years or so in the area, we prefer Bilbao. But Donostia is only an hour away by bus, so it's an easy day trip.

This is from our last adventure in San Sebastián-Donostia -
Robert2533 is offline  
Jan 27th, 2016, 02:48 AM
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 5,934
Two fantastic and very different sister cities, but they at least have the amazing food in common.

Belle Epoque San Sebastian (visited almost every year since 1987):
Vibrant Bilbao:

Intro to the food culture up here:
kimhe is offline  
Jan 27th, 2016, 12:02 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 1,408
I always recommend to split the stay between both cities. I live in Bilbao, but love SS too. Both are so different, yet so charming and full of lively atmosphere. SS is famed for its pintxos, but they all over the Basque Country and those in Bilbao are faboulous too. I´d spend two nights in Bilbao (and Rioja wine region is just one hour away from Bilbao) and the rest in SS, visiting also the coastal towns in between.
mikelg is offline  
Jan 27th, 2016, 12:30 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 3,036
I vastly preferred SS, but I think you should base your decision based on what other places you will visit--and since you mentioned beaches and the French basque region, I think SS will be much preferable without a car. You can always do a day trip to Bilbao via bus. Or do as mikelg recommended, especially if you want to make your way along the coast. It's hard to go wrong.
yorkshire is offline  
Jan 27th, 2016, 08:37 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,002
While I thoroughly enjoyed a few days in San Sebastian / Donostia, I was not enamored of it and was glad I spent time in Bilbao as well. But then, I'm not a beach person. To each his / her own.
kja is offline  
Jan 27th, 2016, 11:40 PM
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 1,118
Budget might play a part here. We found rooms in San Sebastián very expensive, while Bilbao was more reasonable. San Sebastián in September is one of my fave places in Spain.
sundriedtopepo is offline  
Feb 10th, 2016, 01:41 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 24
Thank you all very much! Indeed this will be a tough decision!
vmsilva is offline  
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
Oct 4th, 2017 07:52 PM
Jul 20th, 2015 05:23 PM
Jan 18th, 2013 06:20 AM
May 26th, 2010 08:57 AM
Jul 16th, 2002 10:33 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:45 PM.