San Sebastián (or Donostia, to give it its Basque name) is the capital of the Guipuzcoa province and a favourite destination for those wanting to soak up a bit of sun and a bit of culture. So, one Saturday in November we decided we wanted to see this gorgeous coastal town for ourselves. The temperature that weekend was 30°C so we packed our swimming stuff just in case!
Living in Pamplona at the time, we had to make our way from there. There are two buses that run from Pamplona, one which uses the motorway and one which goes through some tiny villages (including Lantz, home of the world famous Carnival) and on some very narrow, winding roads. Needless to say, we opted for the more hair-raising option and although there were some very tight corners on the mountain roads, the scenery was absolutely breathtaking!
The old part of the town is relatively small but there’s a much larger commercial area which spreads away from the sea. A short walk from the bus station, past the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, led us to the seafront. We were immediately blown away by how pretty it was! The Concha Bay stretches between Mount Urgull to the East and Mount Igeldo to the West. Together with the Island of Santa Clara, they protect the bay and make the beach the perfect spot for an afternoon’s sunbathing and swimming.
The old town is a lovely place for a leisurely stroll and some window shopping in the small boutiques and deciding which pintxo to choose in the many bars is almost impossible. Must-sees include the former casino (gambling was banned in 1924 under de Rivera’s dictatorship), which now houses the provincial library, the Basilica of St. Mary of the Chorus and the Plaza de la Constitución, which used to be the city’s bull ring. You can still see the seat numbers on every balcony in the square! The Plaza is also a great place to have lunch and watch the world go by. We had some tapas from a lovely little bar but most also offer a menu of the day.
Mount Urgull towers over the bay and it’s definitely worth making the climb to the top, where you can take in the wonderful views of the town with the mountains in the background. The old fortress, which was used in the Napoleonic and Carlist Wars, now houses a museum about the history of the town and a 12 metre-high statue of Jesus, which was erected in 1950, stands watch next to it.
What better way to finish off the day with a boat trip around the bay? We really enjoyed seeing the town from this unique perspective, as well as getting close up views to San Sebastián’s famed open air sculptures! Our favourites were the Wind Comb and the Empty Construction. There’s also the famous Quixote and Sancho Panza in the Alderdi-Eder gardens to look at once you’re back on dry land.
We loved our time in San Sebastián and will definitely go back. It’s a great place to relax but also to use as a base to explore the stunning Basque coastline!
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