Follow us Online:

Subscribe to our
newsletter:

Savouring San Sebastián: Your Guide to an Unforgettable Weekend Getaway

Perched on Spain’s rugged northern coast, San Sebastián or Donostia, as it’s lovingly called in Basque, harmoniously blends old-world charm with culinary brilliance. Glistening beaches like Playa de la Concha stretch into the Cantabrian Sea, while the labyrinthine streets of the Old Town tell tales of bygone eras and hide gastronomic treasures.

From the lure of its Michelin-starred restaurants to the hum of its lively pintxos bars, San Sebastián is a symphony of experiences. Whether you’re a culture seeker, a food aficionado, or just a wandering soul, this coastal gem welcomes you with an embrace that feels both sophisticated and warm. Join us in today’s blog post, as we explore our recommendations to stay, eat and explore this beautiful city.

Stay

Hailed as a “hotel singular,” La Villa Favorita is a beacon of unmatched sophistication. Nestled on San Sebastián’s La Concha Beach, this 19th-century villa stands as the last remaining jewel of its era, transformed with care into a premier boutique haven.

Arriving from Biarritz airport, a warm Basque welcome awaits. The staff at Villa Favorita leave no stone unturned, with attention to detail evident throughout. From the reception to the beautifully decorated lounge bar, guests are the centre of attention in a quintessentially stylish setting.

While some rooms frame the city’s dynamic pulse, others unfold breathtaking marine views, accentuated by floor-to-ceiling windows and, at times, intimate terraces. Within, modern finesse meets historical allure, with touches of deep Atlantic blue contrasted against a refined neutral canvas. The walls come alive with striking murals from 1866, meticulously hand-painted by artist Paul Christopher McKenna, even gracing the elevator’s interior. Antique furnishings are harmoniously paired with lush velvets and gleaming golden accents, wrapping guests in a cocoon of luxury.

Amid the bustling heart of San Sebastián, La Villa Favorita emerges as a serene oasis, rivalling the more popular Spanish city escapes of Madrid and Barcelona. Does a more prime hotel location in San Sebastián even exist? Probably not. Villa Favorita stands majestically, overlooking the tranquil bay of La Concha, with the city’s vibrant marketplaces and gastronomic delights merely footsteps away along the scenic promenade.

villa favorita 2

Dine

When one thinks of San Sebastián, images of pristine beaches and elegant Belle Époque architecture come to mind. However, it’s the city’s culinary landscape that truly sets it apart as a luxury destination. Often lauded as the gastronomic capital of Europe, San Sebastián is a treasure trove of epicurean delights, seamlessly blending age-old traditions with unconventional innovations.

Nestled in the heart of San Sebastián, the cobbled lanes of Parte Vieja (Old Town) are dotted with pintxos bars, each more enticing than the last. Pintxos, though similar in concept to tapas, are unique to the Basque region. These bite-sized delicacies, ranging from traditional to experimental, promise an explosion of flavours with every bite. Our favourite, Ganbara.

Located a stone’s throw from Plaza de la Constitución, Ganbara seamlessly combines the vibrant energy of its bustling bar with the calm ambiance of its downstairs dining area. Now under the stewardship of its third-generation family custodians, this esteemed eatery offers culinary wonders like their signature wild mushrooms topped with rich egg yolk, a dish perfect for communal dining. Complement this with the foie gras, succulent grilled prawns and the renowned Jabugo ham. Their wine menu is an aficionado’s dream, highlighting the finest Riojas and an array of Spanish vintages. Endorsed by the iconic Basque chef Juan Mari Arzak, Ganbara stands as a cherished gastronomic landmark in the enchanting maze of San Sebastián’s old town.

open-ham-sandwiches-arugula-and-hard-cheese-serv-2022-11-28-16-22-15-utc

You’d be forgiven to believe that the city of San Sebastián has everything there is to offer. Instead, head for the town of Tolosa and you will find Casa Julian. Casa Julian de Tolosa isn’t just a restaurant; it’s a culinary institution that epitomises Spain’s rich gastronomic legacy. From the moment you step in, you are instantly greeted by the comforting aroma of oak-charred meats, setting the stage for the sumptuous feast ahead.

A mecca for steak fanatics, Casa Julian offers one of the most sublime cuts of beef, which is expertly grilled to perfection using age-old techniques. The result? A steak that’s impeccably seared on the outside, tender and juicy within, capturing the very essence of Basque grilling tradition. But it’s not just about the steak. Their produce, sourced from local markets, is also sublime. The peppers are a delightful blend of sweetness and earthiness, and the simple yet delectable salads are fresh and crisp, providing a perfect counterbalance to the rich meats.
The wine list, predominantly showcasing Spanish labels, pairs harmoniously with the food.

casa julian

And as for Michelin-starred dining, the options in San Sebastian are plentiful; With much talk of the highly acclaimed Mugaritz and Arzak. However, our favourite takes us a little closer to home. Within the basement of Hotel Villa Favorita sits two Michelin-starred, Amelia by Paulo Airaudo. The Italian Omakase menu, features locally sourced produce from the land and sea carefully prepared and aligned with the philosophy of Chef Paulo Airaudo, combining the most modern techniques with classic recipes.

In the world of culinary artistry, it’s rare to encounter an establishment that not only meets expectations but transcends them. Restaurant Amelia, is precisely such an establishment, gracefully marrying innovation with tradition in the heart of San Sebastián.
From the moment you enter Amelia, there’s an unmistakable aura of sophistication, yet it remains delightfully approachable. The minimalist decor and understated elegance of the interiors allow the real star of the show, the food, to take centre stage.

Each dish is a testament to Chef Airaudo’s meticulous attention to detail and his profound respect for ingredients. The Omakase tasting menu, which evolves with the seasons, is a sensory journey through the vast culinary landscapes of Basque Country and beyond. It’s not just about taste; it’s visual art, aromatic allure, and textural wonder.

amelia restaurant

Explore

While the city is brimming with attractions, three spots in particular encapsulate its spirit. La Concha Beach, Parte Vieja, and San Telmo Museoa.

Renowned as one of Europe’s most beautiful urban beaches, La Concha is the beating heart of San Sebastián. The beach gets its name (“The Shell” in Spanish) from its stunning crescent shape, cradled by the city and the sea.

Stretching approximately 1.5km in length, the beach is framed by the iconic Monte Urgull and Monte Igueldo on either side, offering a mesmerising backdrop of lush hills against the expansive sea. The serene waters of the bay make it an ideal spot for swimming and paddleboarding, while its soft, golden sands invite sunbathers and casual strollers alike.

What further adds to La Concha’s charm is its elegant seafront promenade, adorned with white railings, ornate lampposts, and classic Belle Époque architecture. This esplanade, bustling with locals and tourists, provides the perfect vantage point to soak in the panoramic views of the bay, especially during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset.

As the sun starts its descent, head to the atmospheric Parte Vieja, San Sebastián’s historic heart. The narrow cobblestone streets, brimming with tales of the old days, come alive with a mix of locals and visitors. Highlighted earlier in the blog, Parte Vieja boasts an array of pintxos bars. These bite-sized delicacies, displayed on counters, range from traditional classics to experimental creations. Remember, it’s customary to hop from one bar to another, sampling a pintxo or two at each.

Amidst the culinary exploration, don’t forget to raise your gaze. Marvel at the architectural gems like the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus and the San Vicente Church.

And finally, no trip to San Sebastián is complete without delving into its rich cultural history, and San Telmo Museoa is the perfect starting point. Housed within a 16th-century Dominican convent, the museum is a beacon of Basque history and art. Here, you’ll be able to explore exhibits that trace the region’s journey from prehistoric times to the modern day. The artifacts, ranging from ancient tools to contemporary artworks, offer a comprehensive view of Basque heritage. While the museum’s ancient structure is a marvel, don’t miss the modern extension, a testament to San Sebastián’s forward-looking ethos. The juxtaposition of old and new is a visual treat. After the indoor exploration, relax in the museum’s garden. It’s a peaceful enclave, perfect for contemplation and soaking in the city’s vibrant energy.

To learn more about San Sebastián and breaks to this beautiful city, email us via connect@thelifestylefixer.com.

Share on social

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

Get our content in your inbox

Subscribe Today

Subscribe to our newsletter to hear the latest news, events & competitions

Add your Name and Email Address to stay up-to-date with the latest news, offers, deals and information ...

Search for an article or service