Spain – San Sebastian (Basque Country) – Culinary Mecca in a Beach Town

I am not sure how gorging on some of the best food in the world and throwing on a bikini to ride some of the largest waves in the Atlantic co-exist, but San Sebastian certainly makes you want to do it all!

Certainly, the crescent shaped main beach, La Concha, is the signature San Sebastian shot and soaking up rays here is a must or for the more wild-side, head to the “Surfers” beach at La Zurriola. (Incidentally, this is where the locals go so eating pintxos in Gros vs. Old town will cut your costs immensely!)

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The world famous “La Concha” Beach at its summer peak!
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Burial Ceremony in San Sebastian!

But those really in the know travel to San Sebastian to eat like kings.

Tapas in the Basque country are called Pintxos and you just belly up to the bar and take what you like – each one more gorgeous than the next.  One can live on the nightly Pintxos crawl here, but you might feel guilty if you don’t splurge and book a table at one of the famous Michelin Star restaurants that this town is so known for (Did you know there are more Michelin Stars in San Sebastian than in any other city in the world!? – PLAN IN ADVANCE, to insure a table!)

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Pintxos – the Basque version of the Spanish Tapas – truly an art form – both making them and eating them!

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We enjoyed an incredible evening of dining at Three-Michelin Star – Arzak, currently rated number 8 in the world.

Pay homage to the father of modern Basque cooking. For 30 years, Juan Mari Arzak, a mentor of Ferran Adrià, has been showing off his technical wizardry and culinary humor at his namesake restaurant, Arzak (Avenida Alcalde Jose Elosegui – www.arzak.es), a three-Michelin-star institution in an old country house. Mr. Arzak is now joined in the kitchen by his daughter Elena, who has kept the creative juices flowing. A recent 12-course tasting menu (190 euros) included a wonderful poached apple with foie gras yogurt and red berries dipped in liquid nitrogen, followed by a succulent lobster claw dusted with powderized olive oil and drenched in an onion-vermouth broth. Desserts were equally fanciful: grapelike dumplings filled with melted chocolate, ice cream made from cheese, and a vaporizing piña colada.

Here is what we had, each plate prettier than the next –

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Lamb at ARZAK, rated number 8 in the world!
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The Fish Course at Arzak, notice the paper thin crisped potatoes!
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The lobster in the Basque country is the most succulent I have ever had!
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This dessert is completely edible!
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The Petite Fours served after dessert at Arzak are all made of chocolate and is meant to be the tools in a mechanic’s shop!

Plenty of little seafood joints abound – the Basque country has some of the best fish and seafood in the world – I think we tried it all! One of our favorites on the Pier, Sebastians….

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The best place for seafood are the simple restaurants at the Pier near Concha Beach – pure and only – seafood and fish!
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Paire with a bottle of Muga, another great lunch consumed!

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Ok, so yes, we did work out at least 12 times during our three week Spanish journey, a real must when you are eating like the Spanish – three meals a day with tapas in between!  And being active in San Sebastian is easy. Long jogs on the river, cycling along the beach, some fantastic hikes, swimming, wave hopping and surfing- what do you fancy?

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One of the hill top castles surrounding the bay at San Sebastian

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Art Work in Iron adorns the coast.
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Everyone cycles in San Sebastian, grab a bike, but stick to the paths!

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Suit up the whole family with some locally-made Espadrilles at Estrada – Here are the Madrids showing offf our purchases.

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Buying hand made Espadrilles for the entire family!
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The shoes have been traditions for 100’s of years – stylish yet so comfortable!

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Evening Walks along the River are a daily past time

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The Ubea River meets the Atlantic right out side our apartment in San Sebastian.

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Or a pintxos-infused stroll through the fantastic Parte Vieja – Old town – This is the place to settle in for a week.  But high season fills up quickly.   Let me know if interested and I can recommend the best properties from beach front and fun, grand and glamorous, or a fine boutique home. On this trip, we opted for a VERY WELL located apartment on the river for easy walks to it all.

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Old Town – a great place to people watch, shop, and Pintxo-bar hop

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TIPS –

Tapas or Pintxos – be adventuresome – try them all, you will find your favorites.  Never stay more than 15 minutes or so.  If a place has lots of napkins on the floor, it is a hot spot, you and ought to stop in!

Our favorites –

Tapas –

Hidalgo 56 – Located in Gros at Paseo de Colon, 16 – www.hidalgo56.com – OUR FAVORITE!! and more locals frequent Gros vs. Old Town

Taberna Aralar – Calle Puerto, 10 – Old Town – our favorite in Old Town!

Bodega Donostiarra – Calle Pena y Goni, 13 – fabulous tapas and superb price!!

Seafood –

Sebastian – Muelle 14 (right on the wharf so the freshest! but many good places right here to try)

Traditional Basque Cooking – Juanito Kojua, Calle Puerto, 14

Michelin Star dining – there are many but put your request in the same time you book your flights – or you wont get a table.  We loved Arzak – http://www.arzak.info/index.html

Hotels – I have visited the good ones and they are all quite different, I can help you find the perfect location and fit. High Season is June-August – book early and be prepared to pay peak, otherwise come in May or September.

The Basque consider themselves Basque, rather than Spanish, but everyone will be glad to speak to you in Spanish and sometimes English.

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