A food Mecca on the Northern, Basque coast of Spain, San Sebastian is the perfect weekend getaway for anyone who loves food.
You won’t find much fruit and veg in the dishes or ‘pinchos’ here, but trust me you will not miss them and remember, you can always ‘crowd out’ when you return home.
The city is positioned on a rocky section of coast line in the Bay of Biscay, about 25 minutes from the French border. With wide, sandy coves and mountains as a backdrop this city's culinary experience is pretty wow - but the nature and activities here are also worth making the trip for.
We stayed at Lasala Plaza and felt like the location couldn’t have been better for us. It was close to the tapas bars, right on the beach for morning walks, and it had lovely views (ask to be ocean facing). The room was simple, clean and light (important for me). The hotel had a rooftop bar and pool, and restaurant where you can have breakfast. It also then turns into quite a hotspot tapas bar in the evening too, although we didn’t try it.
The Maria Cristina is a larger, 5 star hotel which is quite famous because of its impressive architecture, so we went to have a look - to us, the location was too far from the hustle and bustle and would have required much longer walks back after dinner but it was beautiful and luxurious all the same.
Mate Gorka is another boutique hotel in town which seems to be popular among young travellers, based in the shopping area of town on the edge of a pretty square - it is well situated and the rooms look spacious and modern.
The area surrounding San Sebastián is famous for its Michelin star restaurants… some of the most famous chefs in Europe have their headquarters here (Arzak and Kokotxa), you’ll see them on Chefs Table and other highly-regarded lists of the best restaurants around the world. These reservations come at a high price and have to be booked months in advance. We were a bit disorganised, and never got round to booking any, however we really felt that we ate as well as we could have even without these additions. The atmosphere, presentation and tastes we experienced in each and every one of the smaller, less famous spots were different from the previous and really, really great.
It is normal to go to 3-4 of these food bars each meal, and try 1-2 small dishes in each one. Don’t make the mistake of ordering huge amounts at your first stop because everything looks good… all the produce in this city is delicious and you want to make sure you can try as much of it as possible!
My must visit spots for food in San Sebastián would have to be:
We ordered: Tortilla, Bonito con cebolla roja, Makobe mini burger, Lumagorri fried chicken.
We ordered: Ensalada Rusa, Bocata de jamón
We ordered: Carrdilleras, Kebab de costilla de cerdo, Entrecot de viejo
We ordered: Patatas Bravas with spicy sauce, Mejillones Tigres with tomato sauce, Calamares fritos
We ordered: Croquetas de Jamón
Bar Néstor- ( you need to get to this one at 4pm to put your name down for a spot at 7. Be punctual both times because there is a queue for both things)
We ordered: Steak (it is big), tortilla, tomato salad. (All they have on the menu and it is known as the most famous tortilla in the city - maybe even the country!)
La Cuchara de San Telmo-
We ordered: Octopus, Tuna
We ordered: Tortilla, Albóndiga con patata tapa, Queso tapa, Mini hamburguesa con huevo, Bocata de Jamón
Locopolo- best ice cream sticks and all you could possibly stomach after so much food!
It is easy to walk everywhere in this city, so make the most of getting in some steps between each meal because you’ll want to build up as much an appetite as possible. You can also rent bicycles and some of the hotels offer them when you check in.
There is big a surf scene here too, with the city not being far from Biarritz (which is one of the main surf towns in Europe) we weren’t surprised to hear this on arrival. It is not abnormal to see people barefoot, in a wetsuit and clutching a surfboard under their arm while running down the street to get to the beach - this added to the very chilled, friendly and young vibe that the city oozed.
For transportation, we rented a car when we landed at Biarritz airport. This was the quickest way to get to San Sebastian and also gave us the freedom to move around. We took advantage of having it and drove up and along the coast line for some gorgeous views and to get our bearings a little. We also decided to drive to Biarritz on the way back to the airport as had time to kill and were interested to see the beaches there after hearing good things. The surf scene in this beach town was amazing. We had a drink on the beach as the sun set and watched the surf activity on the waves. There was more of a ‘homely’ feeling in Biarritz because there were more locals and less tourists - and the shopping looked amazing despite it all being closed because it was a Sunday evening.
I would definitely go back, (to both) and spend more time in Biarritz next time!