SAN SEBASTIAN – World-class food and beaches
What makes San Sebastian so special?
Is it because it has the most beautiful beaches in the world?
Is it because it is the city with most Michelin stars per square meter in the world?
Is it because of its happy and welcoming people or is it because of the never-ending offer of superb pintxos at traditional, lively bars?
I’d say it’s neither the one nor the other—It’s because of the fantastic combination of it all!
Thus, when it’s time to pack your suitcase, you should bring a bathing suit for a morning swim at La Concha, a tie for dining with three-star glance and comfortable sneakers for a long and hearty pintxos tour.
Welcome to the Basque Country! Welcome to San Sebastian! ONGI ETORRI!!
HOTEL MARIA CRISTINA
To stay in top-notch shape through 100 years isn’t easy. It might happen that you may need a slight face-lift, a push in the right direction…
The ancient Hotel Maria Cristina in San Sebastian can witness that this statement is true, as it recently has gone through a thorough renovation and refurbishment without losing an ounce of its classic Belle Epoque atmosphere. This hotel, that has played an important role throughout history, among other things as icon for San Sebastian’s renowned film festival, receives its guests with elegance, refinement and welcoming warmth.
All the glory to 200 thread count cotton sheets, but here you just cannot miss having a cocktail prepared by Javier de las Muelas, the well-known “mixologist” that delivers superb cocktails at Dry San Sebastian. Perhaps a Jim-Let-Foxtrot, a Last Cocktail or a Bette Davis – a classic cocktail inspired by the legendary actress when she stayed at Hotel Maria Cristina and was awarded the San Sebastian International Film Festival’s Donostia Award.
Eco-friendly, energy smart and climate smart. SOULSTAINABLE!
In the Miramon woods, 15 minutes away from San Sebastian city centre, you find Hotel Arima. An eco-friendly hotel with 69 rooms, built in contemporary Scandi-style, set among trees and where 100% sustainability is the key concept.
The hotel is Passivhaus certified, which means that they use clean energies and water flow reduction, among other things. The materials have been carefully selected in order to create a 100% sustainable experience – everything from the hotel structure to the election of sheets and amenities.
As soon as you walk through its doors harmony is present. Here, life occurs at a slower pace… yoga, strolls, meetings and gastronomical experiences with nature as a backdrop.
In the ecological restaurant, Misura, all produce is carefully chosen. Fresh, organically produced ingredients are turned into rich dishes and visual delights. As they say “Haute cuisine to nourish your body”.
At Arima you eat, breathe and live their green philosophy.
PINTXOS AND TXIKITEO
Every time I come to San Sebastian, the first thing I want to do is to hit the city, to dive into its crowded streets to take in the bursting happiness, to have some txakoli (superb white wine) and of course to meet The King: El Pintxo.
Most of you know that pintxos are the Basque equivalent to Spanish tapas. But what about TXIKITEO?
Well, txikiteo is when you go from bar to bar tasting, smelling, eating and enjoying yourself as you can only do during a genuine “txikiteo tour” in San Sebastian. And you drink! You will drink a number of small glasses of wine, called chatos in Spanish and txikitos en Basque – hence txikiteo.
The word AÚPA!!! will be happily shouted out when you enter a bar. Aúpa is a way of cheering or a way of greeting –it has no exact translation actually.
Does the bar seem too crowded? Never mind, go in anyway. There is always room for one more.
This is, in my meaning, as good as it gets. So come on, I’ll introduce you to some of my favourites!
A MORNING WALK – EL PEINE DEL VIENTO
My favourite walk, at any time of day, is without doubt to stroll alongside La Concha, the bay of San Sebastian.
At the far west end of Playa de Ondarreta, the second of La Concha’s two beaches, you find El Peine del Viento (The Comb of the Wind) or Haizearen orrazia in Basque.
It’s not one, but actually a collection of three steel sculptures embedded in natural rocks rising from the Cantabrian Sea.
The sculptures were made by Eduardo Chillida and arranged as an architectural work by the architect Luis Peña Ganchegui, both natural from the Basque Country.
The work was completed in 1976. In addition to the sculptures, a viewing area was created on the nearby cliffs, including artificial “blow-holes” that offer great entertainment when they fill with water, “roar” and expel cascades of air.
It’s always impressive to observe El Piene del Viento. It doesn’t matter if it’s warm or cold, rainy or sunny.
FUNICULAR TO MONTE IGUELDO
Another proud sight of San Sebastian is its funicular. Yes, the funicular is a “quiet old man” with more than 100 years on his back.
The funicular takes you up on Monte Igueldo, 181 meters above La Concha Bay. It was inaugurated in 1912 at the same time as the amusement park on the top of the mountain.
The funicular was built by the Swiss manufacturer Von Roll, meaning that it’s a younger “cousin” to the funiculars of Åre and Skansen in Sweden.
Even if you don’t visit the amusement park, it’s well worth the ride in order to enjoy the spectacular views of La Concha Bay. And while you’re there, why not have a drink of something to eat at Hotel Monte Igueldo?