25 reasons why San Sebastian is my favourite European city

I may be a little biased, having spent time living and studying in this beautiful city, but I’m pretty sure that San Sebastian is hands down one of the best cities in Europe. From the incredible views, mouth-watering food and a unique and ancient culture, San Sebastian has everything you could ever want in a city.

  1. The beaches; the picture-perfect bay of La Concha, the surf beach of Zurriola and the underrated Ondarreta. 
  2. The winding, cobblestone streets in Parte Vieja, filled with bars, cafes, shops and apartments proudly displaying the Basque flag.
  3. Pinxto Pote – a Thursday night institution, where you can wander the streets of Gros, eating & drinking for as little as 2€ a serve.
  4. Bike friendly paths and roads throughout the city, so you can cycle along the beach edge, or up along the river Urumea and through to outer lying areas with rustic restaurants and villages houses.
  5. Plenty of outdoor art such as the Wind Combs; a collection of steel structures set into the rocks on the blustery coast.san-sebastian-la-conchasan-sebastian-parte-viejasan-sebastian-wind-combs
  6. Basque culture, like everywhere else here in the Basque Autonomous Community, is a source of great pride for its population. You’ll see it in the streets draped with dozens of the Basque flag, in the language of the street signs, in the history at museums like San Telmo, and in the celebrations such as Basque Week, culminating in the regatta on the Baia la Concha. You’re not in Spain anymore!
  7. Climbing Mont Urgell and reaching the base of the Christ the Redeemer, San Sebastian’s own towering masthead.
  8. Seeing divers emerge from the water with freshly caught seafood, then eating it later. Proximity to the sea has resulted in a diverse cuisine with a strong emphasis on seafood.
  9. Beautiful Belle Epoque architecture lining the streets, such as the Victoria Eugenia Theatre, the La Perla spa house, and the magnificent Hotel Maria Cristina.
  10. Amazing sunsetsIMG_4084-minIMG_4104-minIMG_3728-min
  11. The best damn icecream you’ll ever eat from Boulevard Gelataria.
  12. Riding the old funicular to the top of Mont Igeldo to reach the amusement park at the top. The absolutely best views of the city are found here.
  13. Visiting a sideria, a traditional cider house where you eat a huge meal and spend all night pouring yourself tart but tasty basque cider from the barrels.
  14. Star spotting at the International Film Festival, a major stop on the film festival tail. Plus, you can see a wide variety of films, from major English-language productions to small, indie Basque movies.
  15. Bar hopping through the old town, tasting pinxtos and drinking txakoli (pronounced chacolí); a sparkling, snappy white wine produced in the Basque country. san-sebastian-igeldosan-sebastian-sidreriasan-sebastian-film-festival
  16. The shopping, form fun souvenirs in the Old Town, to European fashion brands in El Centro; you’ll never be short of places to drop some cash.
  17. Tamborrada Festival happens on January 20 to celebrate San Sebastian’s patron saint. Expect to find costumed drumming bands around every corner, the flag of San Sebastian draped across every balcony, and a rare opportunity to visit the usually secretive gastronomic societies as they open their doors to visitors for one day. It’s a spectacle not to be missed!
  18. The Aquarium on the harbour is a great little attraction, not only for marie life on display, but also for a fascinating introduction to the tragic whaling history of the city.
  19. San Sebastian’s proximity to other towns and the nearby scenery make it a great base for exploring more of the Basque country. Nearby towns such as Orio and Zarautz offer a more relaxed pace, while you can also tackle some breathtaking walks like the trail between Zumaia and Deba.
  20. For the relative small size of the city, it has a surprising number of museums you can visit, from the San Telmo about all things Basque life, to the Balenciaga museum located just outside the city. IMG_4099-minIMG_4016-minIMG_3149-min
  21. Apartment living in the heart of historical San Sebastian. I absolutely loved my beautiful little apartment in the heart of Gros, located on the historical Pena y Goni street with a view of the Kuursal from my balcony. But really, you’ll be pinching yourself wherever you are staying whilst in San Sebastian!
  22. Spending summer days jumping off the floating decks and into the crystalline waters at La Concha. Or perhaps some stand up paddle boarding out to Santa Clara Island. Or learn to Surf the Basque Country at Pukas Surf School. Whatever you choose, there is always ways to have fun in the sun in San Sebastian.
  23. Eating late, partying late, waking late! Like everywhere in Spain, San Sebastian is a city of night owls. You can expect to eat much later, spend more time enjoying your food, a more relaxed drinking pace, and then wander out to some of the clubs (don’t even think of arriving before 1am though!) in town where you can dance until dawn and watch the sun rise over the beach.
  24. Being in one of the most diverse and celebrate food destinations in the worlds means you’ll be overwhelmed by the selection of food, the culture of dining and the sheer enthusiasm that comes from living in a city where food is life – the excitement is infectious!
  25. The fact that there is nowhere else in the world as beautiful, vibrant, diverse, complex and unique as Donostia – that’s San Sebastian in the local language!IMG_4646-minIMG_3285-minIMG_3032-min

Have you been to San Sebastian? Let me know what you liked about it in the comments!

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