San Sebastián is one of the most-loved cities in the world. It's not just the editors of Condé Nast Traveler who have fallen for this diminutive oceanfront city in the Basque Country, but our readers too—you voted it the best city in Europe in our 2023 Readers' Choice Awards.
And it checks out. San Sebastian has some of the finest restaurants in the world (there are more Michelin stars per square foot than any city on the planet), a rich history, plus some excellent places to stay. But what should you do once you arrive? Below, we've rounded up the best things to do in San Sebastián to inspire your next trip to this people-pleasing city.
Tapas is more synonymous with Spanish culture—but this is the Basque Country, really, and pintxos are the order of the day here. A pintxo is a small snack served in tavernas or bars and is most often (although not always) served on top of a slice of bread, speared with a cocktail stick to keep the toppings (anchovies, perhaps, or goat cheese and ham, or tortilla) in place. Pintxos are small enough to whet your appetite over a glass of wine or beer pre-supper—but in San Sebastián, we recommend foregoing a sit-down dinner altogether, instead embarking on a pintxos hopping tour. One popular route starts at Borda Berri (order the confusingly named ‘kebab’, which is actually a melty pork rib) before wandering down the street for pitstops at Bar Sport (order the txangurro, or crab) and Txepetxa, where all the pintxos come with an anchovy and your choice of additional toppings. Whichever route you take, make sure to finish the crawl at La Viña, the birthplace of the burnt Basque cheesecake.
San Sebastián has a prime position in the Basque Country, set right on the sea. The city skyline curves around the main, crescent-shaped beach La Concha, which itself melts into gin-clear water overlooking Santa Clara island, which rises from the ocean a few hundred metres from the shore. A promenade edges the beach, for those who aren't in the mood for sandy trainers – follow the railings to the right, as you look at the water, and you'll reach the 1920s-built Nautical Club and the City Hall. Or head onto the beach and into the sea – the water is usually shallow, but the waves can come thick and fast.
At one end of La Concha sits Monte Urgull, a gorgeous green space which winds up gradually to the summit, where the Sagrado Corazón statue and the ruins of Castillo de la Mota still sit. There are four paths that will lead you to the top; each has exceptional viewpoints to gaze at the city and sea below as you climb. The best route starts next to San Telmo Museum.
Take an approximately two-mile stroll around Parque de Cristina Enea, the one-time home of its namesake the Duchess of Mandas,
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