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gladstonemom Apr 12th, 2012 05:32 AM

San Sebastian, with kids?
Yes, I know third post in so many days. I am in the very early stages of planning a trip to Europe for 2013. My brother works for starwood, so if I book early, I can take advantage of family discounts. This also sort of directs where we go- but in a fun way, that opens up destinations we might not have thought about.

The search has led me to San Sebastian. We have never been to Spain, so maybe it is an odd first choice (as opposed to Southern Spain)- but I am enchanted by the Basque region.

My question is : how child friendly is the area? My kids are older- will be 10 and 13, and love to travel and adventure. Will they be welcome to experience pinxtos?

We are considering spending the whole week in SS, with a few day trips by public transport around the region.

Thanks in advance!

jmct714 Apr 12th, 2012 06:07 AM

I am not an expert by any means, nor do I have kids, but I will say that one of my favorite parts of my visit to Bilbao and San Sebastian last year was seeing all of the families out and enjoying pintxos at the bars, sometimes late into the evening. This was especially true in Bilbao, where we saw kids of all ages playing in the pedestrian-only streets, while the adults chatted over wine and pintxos in front of the bars. It was nice to see, and really added to the liveliness of the scene.

I don't recall seeing as many kids in SanSe, but that could just be my faulty memory.

Cathinjoetown Apr 12th, 2012 06:40 AM

Some of the pintxos bars, particularly in the old town,, are small with stand-up bars only, not so great for kids. But, there are plenty with outdoor seating and some that put out large selections at lunch. Those would probably be better for kids.

A favorite of ours is just as you enter the Plaza de la Constitucion from the east. Bar is on the left, walk past it to seating on the left in the Plaza. Lots of kids about, no cars.

The other I remember is in the large open square just on the southern edge of the old town, near a small, good quality shop of Basque products.

San Sebastian has two beautiful beaches, on either side of the old town.

I saw kids everywhere although I can't say I noticed things geared specifically for them.

LowCountryIslander Apr 12th, 2012 07:12 AM

I completely agree with the above two posts. I was in San Sebastian in May 2010 and I too, do not have children, but could not ignore the large number of families out and about in town.

One day, I believe a Saturday, there was a huge football ( tournament set up on the wide crescent beach and there were soccer teams of children from the toddler age (no kidding!) all the way to late teens.

Another thing I noticed in San Sebastian was the plethora of children's clothing shops. All seemed to have incredibly well made clothing on display. Not to mention the significant number of, what appeared to me to be, grandmother's pushing baby strollers.

In my "non-expert" eyes, San Sebastian certainly seemed pretty welcoming to children.

gladstonemom Apr 12th, 2012 10:13 AM

Thanks all! I feel a trip starting to take shape!! Sure to be more questions in the future.

(Can't wait till I have traveled enough to help answer questions!!)

pookymimi Apr 12th, 2012 10:25 AM

My children then 21 and 9 spent a week in SS in 2010.
The kids loved it as much as I did, we didn't want to leave.

The walking at night on the boardwalk, the beaches, the hiking, the eating, the ice cream at night, people dancing, playing for audiences.

San Sebastian is a family oriented town with gorgeous scenery and sandy beaches.

This year we are going back to Europe we wished we had time to go back there. You won't be disappointed San Sebastian is must see city.

gladstonemom Apr 12th, 2012 10:31 AM

Thanks pookymimi! I am booking the Maria Cristina hotel right now!!

JEB_NOLON Feb 11th, 2013 06:07 PM

Hi! Did you ever take your trip to San Sebastian with your kids? I am planning a trip to Bilbao and San Sebastian for June and had everything figured out until a friend I respect a lot told me that he HATED San Sebastian. My husband and I have two kids, 3 and 5. Great travelers (we live between the US and UK so they are used to international travel, being out of their comfort zone, new foods etc..) but I am worried about, among other things, finding restaurants to feed us at 7pm and the smoke in the Pinxtos bars now. Can you give me any feedback on your trip? Thank you!

janisj Feb 11th, 2013 06:54 PM

JEB_NOLON: The OP has not been back on Fodors since April last year.

paradeofmonkeys Feb 11th, 2013 07:01 PM

Tapas bars are social centers in Spain and chidlren are usually welcome. What is esepcially good about the San Sebastian tapas bars, besides having the best food in Spain, is that there is a large assortment and kids have small tastes to see what they nay like and you will not waste food or money. And even though the counters may be high, many tables inside and out.

The Spanish are warm to children and should not be a cocnern at all.

San Sebastian/Donostia also has a wonderful beach and a small amusement park.


Your friends are the first people who I have heard of who hated Donostia. We have been traveling to Spain for 40 years, in fact, a restaurant we ate in Pamplona a few times was bombed a few weeks after we left and that was in 1972. The food was good we suspected that the owner and the ETA did not get on.

ab2010 Feb 12th, 2013 08:10 AM

Jeb - did your friend explain reason for hating SS. This is possibly the 1st negative feedback I’ve read about SS. There is no smoking in the pinxtos bars/restaurants.

Gladstonemom - when are you travelling.

I’ve been to Spain twice which always included SS as the longest part of my trip. I’m returning again this Sept and the reason why I love this place is that it offers you everything. Best food in Spain, beaches/surfing, beautiful scenery/mountains, outdoor activities, people are very friendly and there are so many families with young kids and older couples out enjoying themselves.

You can make SS your base for the week and include day trips around the Basque Country. Bilbao is an easy 1 hour bus ride away and not to be missed. I would also recommend Hondarribia and St Jean De Luz (french side).

If your interests are in art/architecture/museums this is probably not the place and Bilbao should cover this. SS is more of a relaxing type of vacation and you can spend your time at the beach or walking around.

Food – SS and this region is said to have the best food in the Spain. Seafood and jamon are huge here. There are a lot of pastry/bakery shops. Olive oil and salt is used in everything and in excess. I use to hold back and pace myself when it came to food but now I eat as much as I can because I don’t know the next time I will get to experience so much good food. The ‘diet’ starts before and after the vacation. The only disappointment was the coffee which tasted burnt but eventually I got use to it.

You can do searches on Youtube to actually see what these places have to offer. Once your plans are locked down, let us know in detail so we can help you transportation, places to eat, etc.

janisj Feb 12th, 2013 09:22 AM

ab2010: "<i>Gladstonemom - when are you travelling.</i>"

The OP probably won't see your advice - hasn't posted in nearly a year.

chapla Feb 12th, 2013 09:37 AM

I too can't imagine anyone hating San Sebastian!
I love that it is so pedestrian friendly-walk and walk along the beach -no cars.Your kids would love the little train that goesall the way and back to the merry go round.Then there's a unique amusement park at the top of Monte Igueldo -you reach it by taking the funicular-that's where the train stops and then turns around to go back to the center.
I took so many photos of families with their little children-loved that they seem to dress them in matching outfits!

chapla Feb 12th, 2013 09:40 AM

I forgot to add the Aquarium down by where you can watch the fishing boats come in every day!

mikelg Feb 15th, 2013 11:52 PM

Smoking is banned in all bars and restaurants all over Europe, I wonder when was the last time this friend of yours was over here. And Spanish towns are incredibly oriented to families and kids, so don´t worry on that side.

MadridMan Feb 16th, 2013 12:38 AM

With kids that age, it really depends on the TYPE of kids they are. Are they the energetic, can't-sit-still type or are they the lazy, don't-bother-me type? If the latter, I'm sorry for you. ;) If the former, there are plenty of things for kids of this age to do - mostly adventurous stuff.

If you're going during the summer, prepare yourself for fully-booked hotels, crowds in the city, full bars and restaurants, and blanket-edge-to-blanket beaches. The beaches are great (and topless-friendly, I might - happily - add). The earlier/later you go in the summer the better.

So one can spend a whole day at the beach, so true, but you can also climb/visit the Monte Igeldo (where the tower/hotel is across the bay) and the Monte Urgull castle above the Old Town ("Parte Vieja"). Across the inlet/river is the Zurriola beach, too, which may be slightly less popular than the Concha Bay beach.

The nearby coastal Basque town of Hondarribia is beautiful as well as the just-over-the-bay (from it) French-Basque town of Hendaye is VERY cute, too, and also Biarritz if you felt energetic.

In San Sebastián-Donostia, all kids of all ages (including in strollers) are welcome in Pintxos bars and bars in general. No smoking allowed anywhere in Spain except in the street.

Best of luck and enjoy your time in San Sebastián-Donostia!

Saludos, "MadridMan" <-American Expatriate living in Madrid since 2005

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