A Week in San Sebastian

The bar at Gandarias

The bar at Gandarias

Oh San Sebastian, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

1. THE FOOD

Where do I start?? I think I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Here’s my top 5…

1 - The best steak we have ever eaten.

1 – The best steak we have ever eaten.

Gratuitous close up.

 

2 – The best pinchos of the trip. Sea urchin chopped up with an amazing sauce then grilled. *sigh*

3 – ‘Tigres’. Chopped tiger mussels in a bechamel sauce, sprinkled with breadcrumbs then grilled.

4 – Gernika peppers. Fried and covered in salt. PERFECT beer snack!

5 – Jamon Iberico drenched in acorn oil. OH. MY. GOD.

 

2. THE WINE

My friend Anna posted a link to this article on my Facebook timeline and Jim and I were both intrigued by the fact that you could get  ‘…the finest wine in Spain, by the glass?’ at Gandarias. Well – we had to try it didn’t we?!

And oh, dear reader, am I glad we did. For Belondrade y Lurton was a glass of wine so delicious that I will be forever changed. It’s up there with the best Torrontes we drank in Argentina. With the delicious Tokaji we imbibed in Budapest. With my favourite Chablis, Sancerre and Australian Chardonnay. It was GLORIOUS.

We were drinking the 2006 in Gandarias (impossible to find in the shops) but you can buy the 2009 HERE. Jim and I brought some back with us and we’re going to keep it to drink on our two year anniversary next year 🙂

OK on to our second favourite wine of the trip – Senorio de P. Pecina Crianza a delicious Tempranillo from La Rioja. To be honest – we didn’t try one BAD red whilst we were there – all the wines from La Rioja were exceptionally delicious, very easy drinking and the polar opposite to the earthy Malbec we both love. But this badboy topped the lot for me – and we managed to drink at least one glass of it every night we were in San Sebastian  – wahey!

Third favourite wine of the trip has to be a lovely Pago del Vicario Petit Verdot Rosado (rose) which was one of the darkest, most delicious pink wines I’ve ever tasted. It wasn’t really pink to be fair – really dark in colour and an intense, almost sparkling raspberry flavour. DELISH.

Of the above wine’s the Belondrade was the most expensive at 5 Euros per glass but the other two were cheap as chips at around 2 Euros per glass – bargain!

3. THE BEACHES

Nobody tells you about the beaches in San Sebastian. Well – nobody told us. Bloody hell they’re beautiful! And there’s THREE of them! The one closest to our pension – Zurriola Beach – is a mecca for surfers as the waves tend to be on the large side…

View of Zurriola Beach from Monte Urgull

 

Then you’ve got Ondaretta Beach which literally means ‘little beach’ in Euskera (the local language). Jim and I had an impromptu picnic here on the second day – it was lovely…

Ondaretta Beach – just to the right of Jim’s shoulder! This was taken at the very top of Monte Igueldo which gave the best views of the city…

 

The third beach in San Sebastian is the beautiful La Concha. It curves around the bay from the old town to Ondaretta (they are separated by a small walkway that becomes inaccessible during high tide). At 40 meters wide and 1,340 meters long this is considered ‘the’ beach in San Sebastian…

View of the beach from ‘Cafe de la Concha’. Check out the seniors in their chairs!

 

4. THE CITY

San Sebastian is a such a beautiful city. The Parte Vieja (Old Town) is said to have more bars than any other neighbourhood in the world (can’t think why Jim and I loved it so much *cough*) the modern, pedestrianised shopping area (known as the Centro Romántic) is dotted with beautiful Art Nouveau buildings and trees and just across the Puente de la Zurriola the ‘Gros’ district – where we stayed – has a fantastically vibrant feel to it with the Kursaal Centre looming on the sea front, beautiful churches and yet more pincho bars…

View from the Old Town of the sun setting behind Monte Igueldo

Busy Saturday night in the Old Town

The Kursaal building in the Gros district

San Vincente Church

 

Beautiful light in the Old Town

Art Nouveau building in the Centro Romantico

 

5. THE CULTURE

The Basques are an amazingly social bunch. Every night they’d be out in large (mostly single sexed) groups either chatting in the local square or visiting the multitude of pincho bars. They love nothing more than a chat, a snack and a drink. They are all unwaveringly friendly (apart from the bloke in a record shop who kicked Jim out for eating an apple), ferociously proud of their culture and heritage and some of the biggest ‘foodies’ I have ever met. To say Jim and I felt at home would be a huge understatement!

There aren’t a lot of cities that I would happily visit more than once – New York, San Francisco, Buenos Aires off the top of my head – but I would happily visit San Sebastian once a year for the rest of my life. It’s that good.

A few of my favourite things to do in San Sebastian:

  • Gandarias for the best steak you will ever eat and a quite astonishing wine selection
  • Zeruko for the best ‘nuevo’ pinchos in town
  • Bar Azkena for being a sssshhhhhh hidden gem (downstairs in the food market) with fab pinchos and lovely beer
  • Bar Munto for fried gernika peppers and cider
  • Txuleto for calamari and the free portions of paella on a Sunday
  • Iberico ham – no matter where you eat it, it will be DIVINE
  • Monte Igueldo for the best views of the city (and if it’s open – a lovely outdoor pool)
  • Cafe de la Concha for breakfast (make sure you get the cheese, ham and egg toastie)
  • Walking around Monte Urgull along the Paseo Nuevo at about 6pm and seeing people get soaked by the waves (tip – don’t wear your nice new vintage dress from Paris)
  • Sunbathing/swimming on any of the three beautiful beaches

We stayed at the lovely Pension Altair in the Gros district – a bargainous 65 euros per night for a lovely room that had a beautiful arched window and was cleaned daily. Nice!

I think that’s about it! I probably haven’t done it justice but believe me when I say San Sebastian is NOT TO BE MISSED!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Mrs L xxx

PS – if you want to see the rest of our pictures you can do so HERE

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Comments ( 16 )

                • Becky says:

                  These are my very favourite blog posts – gratuitous food porn, lush wines to try… *sigh* – now if I can only get there in person, I’ll be a happy bunny x

                • mrs lister says:

                  You and Jim should get English Gran to look after the boys and go there for a long weekend – you’d love it! xx

                • Mark says:

                  After reading the above, it’s defo gone to the top of my list of places to visit next year. Food looks amazing. Thanks for sharing.

                • mrs lister says:

                  Thanks Mark! It’s not to be missed 🙂

                • Jo Spoons says:

                  Mouth a’watering so wanna go..right now! x

                • mrs lister says:

                  You would LOVE it Spoons! xx

                • Ten Inch Wheels says:

                  Lovely place isn’t it? Like a mini Rio, without the crime.

                • mrs lister says:

                  Hahah that’s one way of looking at it! Thanks for commenting btw – just heading over to your blog as I see we share a lot of interests 😉

                • D.J. Kirkby says:

                  WOW, what a gorgeous place with even more gorgeous food. *want*

                • Dr Hunger says:

                  Am going to go in June hopefully.. mainly because of this great blog.. thanks! … How did you travel there?.. Ryanair (or other flight) to Biarritz?

                  Thanks 🙂

                • mrs lister says:

                  Hello there!

                  We flew with Easyjet to Bilbao and then took the bus to Donostia/San Sebastian. If you walk out of the airport and then take a right you should see the bus stop.

                  Hope you enjoy it! 🙂

                • Dr Hunger says:

                  Thanks a lot! 🙂

                • Boomboy says:

                  Wow, just back, and we had a trememdous time in San Sebastian.. it really is a great wee city, with so much to offer and to enjoy for a short break. The city has three wonderful beaches, each driven to different needs: families, sun lovers, and surfers, a small but frequented marina that is just brilliant to hang around and spend the last few hours of each each day enjoying the sunshine at, as well as a great, leafy, pedestrian shopping district full of trendy boutiques in Centro.

                  Comments…
                  Pension Altair – every city should have one. Great location, spotless, friendly, and great value. Lots of cafes and small supermarkets nearby.

                  The steak cutlet in Gandarias was sublime. The pinchos was very good too – to be enjoyed alonside their excellent selection of wine. Our favourite was the 2007 Tempranillo Reserva – (and at 2 euros a glass – a real steal!)

                  Bar Azkena – our favourite place for breakfast. Nice bloke, but more importantly, a great selection of goodies! These included different types of tortilla. Regretted not having one of the meat stuffed peppers that just appeared in front of us one morning. The tiny Iberico baguettes are a must – all the bars do them but this place was superb. He does take away too so a perfect treat when coming home.

                  Keler beer on draught.. delicious!.. went back for more (and more) here (where it was served with care.. so smooth!) …
                  Bar Atari Gastroteka
                  http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g187457-d2490059-r130397478-Atari_Gastroteka-San_Sebastian_Donostia_Guipuzcoa_Province_Basque_Country.html
                  It’s a great bar to sit outside, with the church opposite. Variable music inside there though, and the air con was too cold! Did use this place as a bit of a base.

                  La Mejíllonera
                  Calamari and mussels bar.. these guys are doing something special. Incredibly popular with the locals. Superb fresh calamari, with an optional of a wonderful garlic/mayo/pepper ‘bravas’ sauce or served with fried pimentos. The bravas sauce was best had on the potatoes, and the calamari was best with the fried peppers. Yum! Like all popular fish bars, timing has to be perfect as they are turning over large batches in the fryers so experiences can vary depending on whether you’re lucky and the calamari has just been cooked and is piping hot, or if it has been haging around for a few minutes and is luke-ish warm. Great atmosphere as it truly is a ‘locals’ place. Went back for more, and more…

                  Txoko
                  A locals restaurant, it serves the best seafood paella. Make sure you order a jug of lovely sangria too – an amazing gastronomic experience. We actually decided that this was the best meal we had during our stay.
                  http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g187457-d2313749-r1298
                  11881-Txoko-San_Sebastian_Donostia_Guipuzcoa_Province_Basque_Country.html

                  Do try and sample any/all of the small fruit/veg shops.. in June it was all about the nectarines.. never had them so good. All local/regional produce, it made buying plastic wrapped fruit in Sainsbury last night a very sad affair. Also all the bars serve wonderful freshly squeezed orange juice.

                  Boulevard
                  Top notch ice cream.. favourite was dulche leche with chocolate negro- and the missus loved After Eight- the single scoop cones were more than generous – nice!

                  Didn’t really enjoy the hot pinhos we had because the bread becomes soggy. So much better cold as the bread is always fresh and crispy/crunchy!

                  We should have had more manchego and quince pinchos, and fried pimentos but there is so much on offer, it’s impossible to try everything. Have said some things for the next visit. The cheesy pinchos were some of the best we had. And not all the pinchos come on bread – prawns, sardines, and anchovies were served mainly without, marinated in wonderful flavours of garlic, pimentos or olives.. especially in Bar Munto.

                  White asparagus.. nice! Buy some in a jar to bring home for your salads.

                  One top tip – when getting the coach from SS back to Bilbao, you need to buy the ticket in the ticket office over the road, and not on the bus (as you do when you get the bus from the airport to SS). A few of us had a last minute drama yesterday thanks to the lack of comms from the bus company, and the bus driver wasn’t showing any liklihood of waiting for us if we didn’t manage to get the tickets before the departure time.

                  A big thank you for this blog post, as it was the main reason for us choosing SS, and we had a really excellent time!

                • mrs lister says:

                  Wow – only just seen this comment (was stuck in my pending folder) – what a brilliant addition to my original post!!

                  We’re going back next year for my husbands 40th so I’ll be sure to write an update post including your tips.

                  Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and I am very happy my original review was instrumental in you choosing SS.

                  Cheers!

                  Mrs L x

                • bob townsend says:

                  thanks for all the info. this is the best travel guide i have found. my wife and i are going in october and this is a good jumping off point for us.

                  cheers.

                • mrs lister says:

                  You are most welcome Bob – please do come back and let me know how you got on. Some great additional tips in the comment above too!

                  Mrs L x

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