San Sebastian is a destination of indulgences—with its world-class food, divine beaches perfect for lazing and stunning architecture, this seaside town will leave you feeling relaxed and taken care of after just three days.
Day 1: At the Beach
As the Basque region’s number-one seaside resort, San Sebastian is the proud owner of three pristine sandy beaches stretching around the Bay de la Concha. They fill up quickly with families clustered around the distinctive toldos de sol, blue-and-white striped beach tents that can be hired along the beach.
The sea is calm and clean, warm enough for swimming in the summer months and safe for swimming as it is sheltered by the two headlands Monte Igueldo and Monte Urgull that mark either end of the Bay de la Concha. There are lunchtime options aplenty among the beach bars and restaurants that back the beaches, and canoes to hire so you can paddle out to the tiny rocky islet of Santa Clara in the middle of the bay.
By night it’s a joy to wander around the Old Town (Parte Vieja), where locals and tourists alike can bar hop to graze on the local Basque specialty pintxos (bite-size tapas piled on bread and skewered with a cocktail stick) while sampling local ciders or txakoli wines produced in the Basque countryside.
Day 2: Get to Grips with San Sebastian
Take time out from the beach to explore the charismatic city of San Sebastian; start off by getting your bearings on a hop-on, hop-off tour of all the sights. Cherry-pick a couple of places to see in the late afternoon and escape the fierce midday heat among the bars and coffee shops of the historic Parte Vieja.
If you’re traveling en famille, head for the fishy delights of the Aquarium San Sebastian; if you’re feeling active, hike up Monte Urgull to the mirador looking out across the Bay of Biscay; or if you’re in need of culture, catch a show at the contemporary, cube-shaped waterfront Kursaal Palace on Avenida de Zurriola.
Day 3: Head for Hondarribia
At 12.5 miles (20 km) east of San Sebastian where the River Bidasoa meets the Bay of Biscay, Hondarribia is one of the Basque country’s most appealing small towns. Take a day trip to explore its pleasant jumble of fishermen’s cottages with brightly painted wooden balconies, ancient fortified walls, and the medieval townhouses in the labyrinthine Old Town (Parte Vieja).
Bring a picnic, wander around the enticing backstreets, take a swim on the little slab of beach or visit the austere castle built by King Charles V on Plaza de Armas. It’s now a parador (government-owned hotel) so it’s just the place to stop for coffee in late afternoon.
As the sun goes down, look forward to a treat of local tapas in one of the gourmet town’s many pintxos bars; choose from cod, prawn, pork, or garlicky pepper for the toppings for your bite-sized kebabs or settle in a restaurant to enjoy a feast of paella, a dish made of rice, chicken and seafood flavored with saffron.