Travel to San Sebastian Spain

Old Mar 17th, 2009, 06:47 PM
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Travel to San Sebastian Spain

I'm looking to include San Sabastian in an upcoming July Spain vacation.
We've a family of two adults one 17 year old. Could people share their experiences and reccomendations . What about hotels? Any include breakfast? Also are there interesting side trips. Not into partying more into food ,music, local culture, hiking, horse back riding, and natural sights. Any special activities in July?
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Old Mar 17th, 2009, 07:00 PM
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The best food in Spain. Take a trip to the nearby hills to visit a Sidreria, where they make a variety of apple ciders and cook steaks on open hearths.
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Old Mar 18th, 2009, 07:49 AM
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I've been in San Sebastián almost every year since the late 1980's and to me it's no wonder that the city has been a favourite for Spanish visitors for more than a hundred years. Excellent food, great beaches, beautiful landscape and a living culture that people take great pride in.

Food:
Although San Sebastián can boast 18 Michelin Stars (Restaurante Arzak started it all and have had three stars ever since 1989), I would recommend going for pintxos (Basque tapas) either in the Old town (Parte vieja) or in the Gros district across the river. You must often ask for the warm and most interesting pintxos that is beeing constantly prepared in the kitchen. In the Parte vieja you can't do much wrong, but these bars/restaurants covers a variety and are sure bets: Goiz-Argi, Txepetxa, Cuchara de San Telmo, La Cepa and Astelehena. In the Gros district I would highly reccomend Patio de Ramuntxo, Bar Bergara and Aloña Berri.

All about going for pintxos in San Sebastián, and more details on the places I mentioned above, can be found here: http://www.todopintxos.com/home/home.php?lang=en

If you want a traditional Basque restaurant that has kept pace with the gastronomic development, but at the same time is a bit more low-key than the Michelin-restaurants, I would suggest you go to Restaurante Urola in C/Fermín Calbetón: http://www.restauranteurola.com/english/index.html

One of the world's most renowned chefs, Ferran Adriá at El Bulli in Girona, suggested in 2005 that San Sebastián is no less than 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.": http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandsty...rink.shopping2

I would also recommend that you go for a lunch in the nearby fishing village of Getaria, I had the meal of my life in one of the small restaurants in the harbour in 1996:
http://www.thepauperedchef.com/2007/...-in-getar.html

Hotels (book early):
I would advise that you get a hotel in the center of town, relatively close to the La Concha beach and the Parte vieja. There are some profiled but very impersonal hotels at the "outskirts" (20-25 mins walk to the Parte vieja) and you should also stay out of the Parte vieja itself because of the noise. A notable exeption from this rule; Chomín is a beautiful, friendly and tranquile place, 20 min walk along La Concha beach from the town center. Lived there several times:
http://www.booking.com/hotels/hotel/...870b8ee3f15ea3

I use to book my stays in Spain through this site:
http://www.booking.com/searchresults...l?city=-401497

These more modest hostales are both perfectly located and good value:
http://www.hostalalemana.com/

http://www.hostalbahia.com/

I would suggest that you find your own favourite breakfast café/bar regardless of the offer on the hotel. Should put you in a good mood for the rest of the day!

Side trips:
Lots of options, but I like this: Go west towards Bilbao on the coastal roads through Zarautz, Getaria, Zumaya, Mutriku, Lekeitio etc. Charming small villages, excellent food as always in the Basque country and nice beaches (Queen Isabella II used to prefer the beaches in Lekeitio to La Concha in San Sebastián). A small trip inland and you come to the tradtional Basque political centre Gernika who was almost totally destroyed by German bombers during the Spanish Civil War (Picassos painting). Not far away is also the Cueva de Santamamiñe with cave paintings dating back to 10.000 BC. Groups of up to 15 people are let in for guided tours weekdays at 1000h, 1115h, 1230h, 1630h and 1715h.

In Bilbao you must go and see the Guggenheim museum, at least the building which is a work of art in itself. I witnessed it every year of the building process on my way to and from the airport and heard all the scepticism. Things have changed...

Activities in July:
One of Europes most important jazz festivals is held between 21st and 26th of July: http://www.whatsonwhen.com/sisp/inde...event_id=35122

Here is a calender of all cultural/sports activities in 2009: http://www.donostia.org/CAT/AgendaAnual.nsf/23F5B7B3A1885D5FC125754C002BE7D6/$File/Anual%20Agenda%20Ing-fra.pdf

Hope you'll decide for some days in San Sebastián and that you will have a nice stay!
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Old Mar 18th, 2009, 03:46 PM
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Kimhe, thank you for your very helpful post. We plan to be in San Sebastian for six nights in October and are looking forward to our first visit there.
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Old Mar 18th, 2009, 06:48 PM
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Thanks Kimhe
You are a wealth of information
How long would you say the drive to Bilboa is? We want to go to see the museum.
How about parking once we get there? Is this a day trip?
It looks like we may stay in the Parador in Hondaribbia. It looks very nice. We could then enjoy both Hondaribba and San Sebastian I think
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Old Mar 19th, 2009, 01:17 AM
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Are you planning to have a car in San Sebastian? If so, I would suggest for that long a stay you check out the possibility of renting a vacation apartment. I don't think the Getty museum in Bilbao is interesting, and I'm a museum hound. Seeing the actual thing is not much different from seeing the pictures, and the collection -- save for the Serra installations -- is puny and the traveling exhibits completely hostage to the Guggenheim agenda. There is lots of parking in Bilbao, but I think it's probably just as simple to take the bus.

Since you mention horse back riding and hiking and natural sights, you might consider areas right in the foothills of San Sebastian.

You need to be aware that most eating and music performances don't begin until quite late in the evening. I agree that pintxos is the way to go for eating.
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Old Mar 19th, 2009, 01:25 AM
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I agree with Zeppole, once you see the skin of the museum in Bilbao, you can keep on driving. The collection is mediocre.
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Old Mar 19th, 2009, 02:42 AM
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Great information, Kimhe. Thanks! Makes me want to go back and see this region in more depth!

I don't think you can see cider-making in July. But you will have plenty on your plate, and in your glass, even without that..
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Old Mar 19th, 2009, 04:09 AM
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SephIII,

If you take the coastal road, you would use 3-4 hours to Bilbao including a stop for lunch. By bus/car on the highway it is about one hour. Very good public transportation in general in the area. You might want to see the museum in the sunset and experience how it reflects the landscape and the shifting light.

The parador in Hondarribia may be nice, but I would strongly reccomend that you stay in San Sebastián. The city's pintxos scene is something completely of its own (could only be compared with that of Casco viejo (Old town) in Bilbao), and as zeppole said it starts quite late and would normally go on to at about 11pm, and you wouldn't go back to Hondarribia then.

Hondarribia is a nice little town - and well worth a visit - but something completely different than San Sebastián. I would suggest that you go there for lunch one day. I have been recommended the Hermandad de Pescadores in C/Zuloaga 12, it's said to serve the best fish and seafood.

Not a bad idea to rent an apartment in San Sebastián if you are staying for six days:
http://www.friendlyrentals.com/en/ap...ments-98-5.htm

Cadogan's "Bilbao & The Basque lands" is a very good guide to the area: http://www.cadoganguides.com/guide.a...=14&Dest=Spain
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Old Mar 19th, 2009, 07:35 PM
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Zeppole
How would we locate horses for hire?
We sort of got use to the late night eating last trip around. We wound up taking a nap mid day. Can't usually nap at home but we all did while in Spain.

Kimkee
Why wouldn't we want to go back to Hondaribba after 11?
How far is the parador from San Sebastian by car? Is parking a problem? If we stay at the parador we will be able to roll out of bed and get breakfast without me doing anything (my husband and son=BIG breakfasts needed!)
Then we could do our day plans (S.Sebst. incl.),then a nap and then head into San Sebatian at night.
The road trip through coast towns looks great. Also thanks for the tip on Hermandand de Pescadores. I want to eat lots of seafood on this trip. Getaria for a lunch stop also looks good!

I can't wait to try the pintxos. I'm not much of a drinker. Any suggestions about getting plenty pintxos without liquer...how strong is cider? Last trip I wound up ordering alot of agua con gas to get the tapas.

I have been working all day on an itenerary. I think I have a working one.

Fly into Barcelona
3 nights in Hotel Royal Ramblas
Next day - Fly Iberia to Hondarriba- Pick up car
3 nights Hondarriba Parador
Drive to next Parador Parador Olite 3nights,
Fly back to Barcelona, Stay one night Not sure where yet-
pick up car
Drive to Parador Hotel la Seu D'Urgell - 3 nights
Drive to Cabo Roig - Looking at staying at La Zenia -3nights
Drive back to Barcelona- one night
Fly home

Some new questions for all
What is the best place after arriving in Hondirriba to get a car?
Is it better to take a cab into San Sebastian and get mabe better rates/better varieties of auto...or at the airport...our expeience is airports are usully more expensive and quite limited but this airport might be the exception.

How about the Hotel La Zenia..this is a real unknown. Has anyone stayed there? It looks good on the internet but I can't find anyone who knows anything about it.
I'ved tried a bunch of other places but getting a place that puts three of us in a room has been very challenging. I don't want to pay for two rooms!
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Old Mar 20th, 2009, 01:49 AM
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About hiking:
For sure there are hiking routes close to San Sebastian, but the most famous park of the Spanish northern coast is Picos de Europa (in Asturias and Cantabria). Potes (Cantabria) for example is 300 kilometres (3.5 hours) from San Sebastian.
National park of Picos de Europa is often called the "mini Alps" or "mini Switzerland" because the shape of the mountains is pretty similar to the Alps. If you are keen on hiking, you might like to spend a weekend in Potes and do some of the routes starting from Fuente Dé.
You will find the route descriptions, driving instructions, maps, GPS etc. from here:
http://www.topwalks.net/en/liebana.htm
I recommend the Fuente Dé routes, if you are willing to visit Picos de Europa.
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Old Mar 20th, 2009, 03:04 AM
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SephIII
I just thought it would be better not to have to go by car/taxi 20 km to the parador after a night out in San Sebastián. Rather wind down on one of the many outdoor cafees on Plaza de la Constitución in Parte vieja before strolling home?

Of course you can have your base in Hondarribia and enjoy San Sebastián as well. It's also a beautiful walk from San Sebastián to Hondarribia along the coastline. Just note that parking in San Sebastián is difficult, or at least quite expensive. I have always trusted my feet and public transportation when down there.

You don't have to worry about pintxos and drinking because there are no free pintxos with a drink as there are somtimes free tapas to choose elsewhere in Spain. Most pintxos are about 2€ so it is still quite affordable. Make sure you try the brocheta de gambas en Goiz-Argi, anchovies at Txepetxa, the Gourmet pintxos at La Cuchara de San Telmo... You must also go to the Gros district, I would perhaps argue that the best pintxos-places are here (Patio de Ramuntxo, Bar Bergara, Aloña Berri...). The cider is mild, about 5-6%. You should also try the local white wine, Txakolí.

When in Barcelona: If you want a special dining experience I suggest you go to Cal Pep in the Born district. Many think of this as one of the best seafood tapas-bars in the world. Pep himself is evoking associations of both Jack Nicholson, Don Corleone and Charlie Chaplin and his place is so popular that on any time of the year you must cue up in line at least 15 min before opening time to get a seat at the bar. The food is prepared right in front of your eyes. The monkfish (rape) is divine: http://www.calpep.com/en/principalen.htm

About Hotel La Zenia. It has got a high rating based upon 89 customer reviews:
http://www.booking.com/hotels/hotel/...azenia.en.html
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Old Mar 27th, 2009, 02:19 AM
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Let me add another Pintxos Bar (and restaurant!) in Gros district, is called Narru www.narru.es. Delicious pintxos and wines written on the chalkboard.
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Old Mar 27th, 2009, 09:43 AM
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Another vote for staying in SS.

Another option: Don't pick up the car until you really ready to venture out. Parking is a problem. I took busses to Bilbao, Pamplona, Hondarribias, and along the coast. Terrific service and they run on time.

Spent the a wonderful Saturday and Saturday night in Leiketio [on the coast road between Bilbao and SS] - I think I was the only non-Spaniard in town. Went to a wedding, ate seafood that I saw being unloaded from the boat, and sat in the corner of the plaza just watching life in what I think was a village not overly changed over the years.

Don't overlook the pintxos across Boulevard from Old Town - I particularly like the Rojo y Negro.

BTW: There used to be a poster Mikelg. He lives in Bilbao and can be a great source of info if you can locate him.

I like SS so much that I put my impressions on paper [there's a phrase from the past]. Marshlands.blogstream.com.
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Old Mar 27th, 2009, 09:47 AM
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One additional source of good local knowledge: Totallyspain.com. This is a travel agency located in Bilbao with great info. Belen was particularly helpful.
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Old Mar 27th, 2009, 05:05 PM
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To Marshlands.blogstream.com and a different kind of Spain I just say AMEN!
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Old Mar 27th, 2009, 05:46 PM
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Hello Weber, good to see you here.
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Old Mar 28th, 2009, 06:28 AM
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Aduchamp - I think it goes back about 10-12 years.
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Old Mar 28th, 2009, 06:29 AM
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Well I am only here about two years.
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Old Mar 28th, 2009, 07:44 AM
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This a good article on SS, it seems to give some answers to your questions
http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/11/18...l/18hours.html
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