Donostia-San Sebastián. I knew I’d be back for more of you. Those pintxos lure me, and your txakoli and gildas keep me craving for more. I may upset some friends who think I travel for food alone, forgetting or dismissing the real character of the land, its culture, traditions and people. Well, too bad. I won’t be bothered by how they think I should travel. Neither would I explain that my interests are not exclusively on matters of “taste”. Take San Sebastián. Proud of its Basque cuisine, architecture, rich in history and equally proud of its landscape and seascape. Pais Vasco to the core.
Playa de la Concha. There were sunny breaks though by and large, it’s a chilly, windy and cloudy day. We heard mass at Buen Pastor Cathedral then walked straight towards Yglesia de Santa Maria in Parte Vieja (Old Town). These 2 landmarks stand across each other at each end of Kalea Mayor. At Santa Maria Church, you either commit yourself to a serious txikiteo or Pintxo bar crawl or turn left, away from the bars and towards the water or Playa de la Concha. Here you’ll find the lovely Ayuntamiento and in spring, enjoy the blooms in the garden park. Trace this paseo from here to the other Playa Ondaretta — passing Don Quixote’s brass sculpture, the century-old Hotel Londres, the Miramar Palace and another sculpture to honor Dr. Fleming — where it ends with the iconic Peine Del Viento sculptures. If you’re lucky, you can go nearer when the surf’s not so fierce.
At the end of this Paseo, you may take the Funicular to go up Mount Igueldo. Don’t miss this. The view from the top is magnificent! The funicular ride is only €3 ida y vuelta (round trip) so conserve your energy and skip the hike!
Now, some of you may wish to “punish” yourselves by climbing Mt. Urgull for another magnificent view of beautiful San Sebastián’s skyline and seascape. Go! And for those not exactly keen doing the 5-6 km walk from the Yglesia de Santa Maria/Ayuntamiento end to the Peine Del Viento on the other end, I have good news for you. You can simply walk over to the grand Maria Cristina Hotel area near the riverbank and look for a Choo Choo train that’ll whisk you from there through all these sites for about 35 minutes for only €5. Best to do this after partaking some pintxos at Parte Vieja or checking out Mercado La Bretxa. Now, why didn’t I tell you that much earlier?
All done? Time to resume your txikiteo then. Y’know, that world-famous bar crawl in Pais Vasco! Love those skewers and pintxos! From the Yglesia, check out Atari Gastroteka right across at the corner of Kalea Nagusta and 31 Agosto. Very near it is Casa Alcalde with those huge Jamones hanging near its bar. Then walk right along 31 Agosto away from the Yglesia/Playa towards Dela Trinidad Plaza. Here you’ll find Txuleton for that best cider house steak. Further down, you’ll reach a corner where San Telmo Museum appears on the left side. You take that left where you also find a beautiful water fountain by the corner wall and a maiden statue. La Cuchara de San Telmo is where the crowd is, elbowing their way to the bar of pintxos. Really good choices of pintxos and gildas here, and some great raciones too. Now, get back to 31 Agosto to check out La Cepa for its Jamon Jabugo and Pimientos de Guernika. Then further down, La Viña’s cheesecake. That should make a good first night!
For your second night, get deeper into Parte Vieja starting with Bar Zeruko along Pescaderia. Not too far away are Borda Berri, Casa Bartolo, Bar Nestor. If you prefer to burn some cash, check out Casa Urola, Bodegon Alejandro and Restaurante Ubarrechena (for seafood paella). Of course, if there’s tons of cash to burn …. go pick up that phone and make reservations at any of those restos with Michelin stars! Buen Provecho. Enjoy Donostia-San Sebastián.