How to make the most of your long weekend in San Sebastian
If you’re heading to San Sebastian because you’ve heard it’s the food capital of Europe, with the most Michelin-starred restaurants per capita… You’re making no mistake. Here’s the perfect 3-day itinerary, guaranteed to make any foodie’s heart and belly full.
But this area isn’t only known for its advanced culinary experiences. There is plenty to see and experience in and around San Sebastián. In this post, I’ll talk about how to eat your way through this area of the Basque Country while getting some other activities in. If you’re going to spend some more time in Pais Vasco (Basque country), take a look at the other posts I’ve written to make the most of your visit.
Day One – Eat Pintxos in Old Town
First, what even are pintxos? Is there a difference between tapas and pintxos?
YES! Don’t offend the Basques by calling these little delicacies, tapas. There is a difference. Tapas, throughout the rest of Spain, may look similar to Basque pintxos, but they are known to be less… well, fancy. A Basque pintxo is much more elaborate, with several ingredients stacked one on top of the other, in comparison to its simplified brother, the tapa.
Fun fact: tapa, in Spanish, literally means cover. The name originates from when people would put a piece of bread to cover their glass of wine while away from their table. The “bread cover” indicates to the bar staff that they haven’t finished that last sip quite yet.
Where to eat pintxos in Old Town
This is by far one of our absolute MUST-visit places. The dishes are small, so order a few.
Start with the carillera (car-ee-ye-ra) – this is probably my favorite dish, and these guys do it best. These mouthwatering slow-cooked beef cheeks are probably the best thing that’s happened in 2021.
The kebab, which has absolutely nothing to do with a traditional kebab, is a piece of pork that literally falls off the bone. Its golden brown sugar crust is glazed in a kind of apple-balsamic sauce. To die for.
The risotto. A smooth & silky risotto with a bite. The sharpness comes from the cheese, called Idiazabal – the typical cheese of the Basque region.
There are so many other places to discover in Old Town. Just get lost in the narrow streets, and you never know what you will stumble upon.
Must try: the cheesecake at La Viña. Other recommended spots are: Goiz Argi, La Cuchara de San Telmo, Bar Martinez and A Fuego Negro (says it’s permanently closed but double check in case it isn’t.) Also, Bar Sport (terrible name but mouthwatering sliders!)
Day Two – Visit a Sidreria
The Basque region is known for its cider houses. Any Sidreria you choose will be authentic. You may have to rent a car or find another way to get to the Sidreria as they are located in the countryside (taxi may be the best option since you’ll probably be getting your fill of Basque cider). Make sure it is open as there is seasonality. This is almost a full-day activity. Take a look at the Forbes article on cideries, aka, San Sebastian’s best kept secret.
Day Three – Walk La Concha
Walk along La Concha beach. There’s a gorgeous pathway along the sea which winds all the way from old town to the end of San Sebastian. Start at the modern contemporary museum building and walk along until you reach the funicular.
Take the funicular up to the top of the mountain and enjoy the breathtaking views from above. On your walk back, stop through the newer part of town to Mercado San Martin. There is a meat place specializing in grilled steaks which is a MUST try if you’re a meat-lover. I can’t remember what it’s called, but just follow the smell when you get to the main cafeteria area. It’s in a corner. This will also be a great time to get some sun in. Sprawl out on La Concha Beach or rent a stand-up paddle board if it’s nice out.
Other notable places
Cross over to the less touristy side of San Sebastian (the Zurriola beach side.) Head to the street where La Gintonería Donostiarra is located for good nighttime vibes. It’s a street/area lined with bars and restaurants if you want something different from what the old town has to offer.
If you find yourself with some extra time on your hands, I would recommend climbing up Urgull (you’ll see the small hill on the right side of the old town when facing the beach.) There’s a giant Jesus statue, similar to the one in Rio de Janeiro (but much smaller) that offers nice views of San Sebastian (although the views are better from the funicular I mentioned previously.)
I hope you have an amazing time in San Sebastian!