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Doug Frost MS/MW http://dougfrost.com

A Trip to San Sebastian, Spain: A Crowd Source Project

We’re embarrassed to admit that after 6 years of living in Spain, we have yet to visit one of the most important culinary treasures in the Spanish Crown, San Sebastian. Exalted around the world, and spoken fondly of by every traveler we know, we are proud to say that we will finally be there for a short visit at the end of September. However, we need to know what to do, what to see, where to visit, and what to taste? So we are asking all of you, our loyal readers and fellow “virtual travelers”, to share your suggestions with us. If we have one long day/night, or if we get lucky, 2 days to explore, we’re looking for the following:

  • Best Walking tours/routes
  • Places to Stay (affordable): Any secret hotels/b&b’s that are off the beaten track or worth seeking out?
  • Tapas: What have you enjoyed? What can we not miss?
  • Culture: Museums? Barrios? Food Markets?
  • Nature: Gardens? Secret Terraces? Hideaway Beaches?

We’re fully aware that we’re trying to cram a lot into a very short time slot, but such is life. Please, leave your ideas in the comments below, and we’ll collate the best ones to create our ideal mini trip. We’ll also make sure to give you credit in the articles that we write after our weekend in San Sebastian! And if you happen to be in San Sebastian the 29th and 30th of September, let us know, we can go crawling together!

Thanks for the help!!!

Ryan and Gabriella Opaz

Photo Credit: Joanjoc

  • Catherine Monahan

    Everything is marvelous! And walk the wall surrounding the city! There is a campsite you should go up to (right up on top of the mountain) just so you can see the full view of the ocean and city below – very pretty!! I went when I was 23 years old and we were backpacking so I can’t remember most of the places but it was just all brilliant and the food is to die for. I can’t wait to go back! Have fun!

  • http://wineconversation.com thirstforwine

    Not sure about accommodation, but I do have a recommendation on food. Try A Fuego Negro (http://www.afuegonegro.com/) for tapas and music – something I know is up your street. I sent people there (I was busy) and they RAVED about it.

  • http://www.mountainvalleywines.co.uk nemanja

    Hi Ryan & Gabriella. We have been to San Seb a few times and have used it as a hub on our wine sourcing trips. Check out Ibai Hostel – yes it’s a hostel but very clean and you can get a double room…no sharing with students! Very affordable and central. As for food I would strongly recommend Casa Gandarias, have the steak and chips. You must try the Txakoli wine while there, too!

    I look forward to your posts about the experience!

    Nemanja

  • http://epicureanways.com/ Epicurean Ways

    I wouldn’t worry about where to sleep as much as where to eat. But, if your budget allows for some luxury, stay at the Maria Cristina Hotel, a Belle Epoque beauty right in the center of town. Further afield is a botique hotel in a villa: Hotel Villa Soro.

    Best idea for food is a pintxos tour with Epicurean Ways. We boast the best food and wine guides in the Basque Country. In town restaurant: Rekondo, with a wine cellar holding close to 100,000 bottles: http://www.rekondo.com/. Your other dining choices include Arzak, Mugaritz, and Martin Berasategui.

  • http://spanishtablewines.com Andy Booth

    1st of all, can’t believe you haven’t been ya! I have un millon de sugerencias, so to narrow down. Also keep in mind these are a couple of years old now
    We always stay in Pension Urkia (but don’t tell everyone, it’s hard to get in as it is). Great location, small, clean, your own bathroom & great location. Food. On the restaurant side:Arzak (if you go tell Elena that Andy & Tanya send un abrazo), Zuberoa (a 2 star but one of my favorites), but outside of town. Also out of town is Mugaritz and Asador Extebarri is supposed to be stellar. Everything grilled and have had great feedback from folks who went. Also in Getaria is El Kano, superb seafood. Just order what he recommends and you’ll be happy.
    For pintxos:
    Casa Urola, c/Fermín Calbetón, 21
    This is a restaurant that Tanya & I visit for lunch every time we are in San Sebastian . Great traditional Basque cuisine with an emphasis on fish. Tasty pintxo downstairs.
    Bodegon Alejandro, c/Fermín Calbetón, 4
    This has a great weekday menu. A fixed price 3 course meal with wine & water for like $40 Again very traditional, but great. Used to be $8 but oh well.
    Beta Jai, c/Fermín Calbetón, 22
    We frequent the bar here, but I have eaten in the restaurant & been very impressed. The bar here is great though.
    As you can tell Fermín Calbetón is the street to be. More bars that are definitely worth checking out.
    Bar Goiz Argi, Fermín Calbetón, 4
    This bar is small & easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. But it shouldn’t be missed. Everything is great but the one thing they are renowned for is their Brocheta de Gambas. Also Mari Juli. Highly recommend this place. The owners are great.
    Ganbara, c/San Jeronimo, 21
    These guys are not inexpensive but they are known for their mushrooms. They always have the most amazing mushroom display and you can order any number of mushrooms either a la plancha or revuelto de . . They have little croissants with jamon that are extremely dangerous. They’re hard to stop eating.
    La Cuchara de San Telmo
    This is right off of c/31 de Agosto in a little square called Corredor de San Telmo & there is no number. Any bar should be able to direct you there. They are known for more modern style pintxos with some great creativity. Awesome stuff.
    Bar Martinez c/31 de Agosto, 13
    Another tasty pintxos bar. Try the Brocheta de Pulpo here.
    Gandaria c/31 de Agosoto, ?
    We stumbled upon this our last visit. Just a bit up the road from Bar Martinez. Excelente.
    All of those are in Parte Vieja, because that’s where most people end up going. Gros, across the river is considered the happening area for some cutting edge stuff by many of the locals.

    I don’t know the markets, because one of the old ones (that Pension Urkia is across the street from) was turned into a mall. The other old one is all polished up with glass cases and refrigeration (blech). Solbes in the old part has a good wine selection and there is another wine shop near the cathedral in Central that always had really old stuff. Wish I had of had money while we were living there. Oh well.
    Walking La Concha is a no brainer as there is a great view down across Concha and the other beach from a side road up towards Arzak. It’s the one you see in all of the postcards of both beaches, the river and the town.
    I’ll think on more.

  • Benc

    GEt the ferry boat to the island in the middle of La Concha beach, there is a cool bar at the top – check it’s still open when you are there. I always loved that hidden bar on the island!

  • Francisco

    San Seba has such a staggering number of insanely good pintxos places, especially in and near the Parte Vieja that it would take too long to enumerate. What I distinctly recall is that they all seem to have a fixation (no complaints here) with foie a la plancha, calvados/pedro ximenez reductions and apples. I can tell you guys the most surprisingly satisfying dining experience we had, and it wouldn’t be the typical suspects (Arzak,etc.). The centro Kursaal, near the water, has an attached restaurant that strangely has no website, though the food was spectacular. The best way to sum it up was that the place offered a synopsis of the town, encapsulated and contextualized in set-price tasting menus that offer local specialties with that northern Spanish, world-class touch that has gained so much renown. Even better, we opted for a ridiculously low-priced “version mini” of one of the tasting menus which filled us up in any event, and included a glass of wine from the wine bar (I went for a decent Gewurztraminer from Somontano). We got some deconstructed dishes, some Donostia Txangurro stewed in piment d’espelette and tomato and much more. Yes, the included wine selections are approved for geeks; none of the bad or ubiquitous stuff ‘included’ in other places’ set menus.

  • Iñaki

    You are very welcome but the first thing you should take in account is that you are coming to the Basque Country and you should name it like that, specially if you are talking to local people. Together with Donostia – San Sebastian, where I live, you can also enjoy plenty of beautiful small villages around. In Donostia, in every corner of the old part (Alde zaharra o Parte vieja) are plenty of traditional pintxo (tapa in spanish) places (Izkiña, Tamboril, Bernardo etxea…) or modern versions (A fuego negro…) Good restaurants around: Kursaal, Branka, Kokotxa, Astelehena, Urbano, Urepel, Bokado, Bodegon Alejandro, Juanito Kojua and of couse famous Arzak, Aduriz and Martin Berasategi…Have a pleasant stay!

  • http://www.prgrisley.com Michael Grisley

    I can’t believe you two of all people haven’t been there- You’re in for a treat, trust me!! Our favorite spot that we spend hours in every time we’re in San Sebastian is Alona Berri (http://www.alonaberri.com/). You have to try the “equilibrio” which is a 3 step process that Jose Ramon will walk you through- hands down the best tapa in San Sebastian, possibly in Spain. It’s off the beaten path, but close to Surf Zurriola (where you can grab drinks at a beach bar, or rent some surf boards and give that a try!). I noticed several people mentioned A Fuego Negro and La Cuchara de San Telmo which both have amazing tapas. I’ve done a few self guided tapas tours using the site Todo Pintxos (http://www.todopintxos.com/home/home.php) which shows you various routes based on where you want to go, how much you’re looking to spend, and how long you want to walk. For a high end sit down dinner, I highly recommend Akelare, where I had one of the top five best meals of my life two years ago-absolutely amazing! )

    For hotels, if you’re able to spend a bit more, check out Hotel Londres or Hotel Niza which are right on La Concha beach. I highly recommend renting some bikes or walking from surf Zurriola to La Concha Beach- there is a bike/walking path that runs along the coast and is absolutely beautiful, and leads you right to the San Sebastian Aquarium which is a cool little aquarium with all sorts of history about the Basque people and fishing. There is also a recently re-constructed terrace bar there where you can grab a drink and soak up the incredible view. Nearby there, you can trek up the mountain to the “Touchdown Jesus” (go Irish!) statue that is at the top of the little mountain, which is scattered with old british soldiers graves, cannons, and fortresses.
    There is just too much to see, do and eat there, so I’m sure you’re professionals by now at not trying to pack everything in to one or two days- take your time!

  • Benc

    Additonal, you HAVE to try this tapa in this great barrio bar:

    http://www.notesfromspain.com/2010/09/04/greatest-tapas-in-spain-san-sebastian/