trip highlights: san sebastian.

13 Jul

My mom and I traveled together in Spain during my winter break last January, and while she provided several guest posts, I realized I never gave a full play-by-play of our time together. Last week I re-capped Bilbao, and this week’s stop is the Basque region’s true gem, San Sebastian (or Donostia in the Basque language of Euskera, in case you’re brushing up on your linguisitic trivia!)


logistics. We took the bus (just one hour!) from nearby Bilbao – but to return to Madrid, we spiced things up and took the train. It wasn’t the high-speed AVE, but our RENFE experience was still enjoyable for the 6 or so hours it took to get back to Madrid. There were movies, plush seats, and food for purchase – major upgrade over the bus experience. Also, there are helpful signs scattered throughout the city listing main tourist attractions, their distance away, and how long it would take the average (read: slow) walker to get there!

san sebastian's train station.

i'm not lost. well, at least not physically.

lodging. We spent two nights in San Sebastian and stayed at Pensión Aida in the district known as “Gros.” We both said we’d stay at Aida again – the location was decent (even if it was across the street from the train tracks) and the staff was very friendly, helpful, and patient.

food. By the end of this trip, my mom was undeniably pintxo’d out – while my stomach was use to the fried foods from months in Spain, my mom wasn’t used to how heavy everything was so we made an attempt to mix in other ethnic options during the rest of her trip. While in San Sebastian, though, we did the tapas thing big-time: pintxos in the old town (Parte Vieja), sampled txacholi (white wine poured from above for aeration), and had a delicious breakfast at a charming place across the Ria Urumea called Harina & Café where everything – coffee, pastries, orange juice – was 1 euro! My recommendations for San Sebastian would mirror those of Bilbao – do as many pintxos crawls as possible, collect the toothpicks on your plate, and pay the server at the end of your meal!

wall art at Harina & Café.

do. While San Sebastian has a shorter “tourist attractions” chapter in any guide book than say, Madrid or Barcelona, there is still a lot to do here – and a lot of pretty scenery to take in. My mom is an avid hiker (she climbed Mt. Whitney a couple of years ago!) and so we made it a priority to get in a climb while in San Sebastian. We hiked/walked to the top of Monte Urgull and waved to a huge statue of Jesus, snapped some photos, and took in the stunning scenery. The trail was well-marked and easy to find. (Hint: if you’re standing at the shore, Monte Urgull will be to your right).

view from our hike.

oh hay

too cool for workout gear.

outdoor art. We quickly became enchanted by two outdoor statues – the Construcción Vacia (Empty Construction) and the Peine del Viento (Comb of the Wind) on either side of the shore (or la Bahía de la Concha). Definitely start at one end, walk along the shore line, and check out the structure on the opposite side – and then report back to me about which one you like better! (I think I prefer the larger Constucción Vacia – its size is just more striking).

construcción vacia.

walking along the coast.

peine del viento.

There’s a lot more to do in San Sebastian – but on a short trip make sure you explore the old town (Parte Vieja), spend as much time as possible near the water, and dabble in the pintxos and txacholi culture.

Question time! What’s your favorite outdoor or street art, ever? Where is it?

6 Responses to “trip highlights: san sebastian.”

  1. Kaley [Y Mucho Más] July 13, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    I absolutely loved San Sebastián. We hiked up the mountain too!

    • gillian July 13, 2011 at 10:45 am #

      I know, it’s so pretty! I wish I had gone when it was warmer – but it was still nice in January!

  2. Kristen - Anywhere There's An Airport July 13, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    Yet another Spanish city I have not been to yet… Do I even live here!? 🙂

    • gillian July 13, 2011 at 11:02 am #

      You can definitely combine this with your trip to Bilbao 🙂

  3. Katie @glutes and ladders May 16, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

    San Sebastian is one of my favorite towns ever! I think the only place I’ve loved more in the past few years was Queenstown, New Zealand.


  1. two thousand eleven: the playlist. « That's G - December 31, 2011

    […] it was when I was in Bilbao with my mom at a coffee shop the beginning of the month. We also went to San Sebastian and Granada and had a great time together in all three (we both loved Granada the most, though). My […]

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