San Sebastian for £100 a night: Spain’s culinary capital offers dazzling beaches – and plenty of pinchos bars
- Expect to find bars dishing out wine from €2 and pinchos from €1.50
- Work up an appetite on a hike up Mount Urgull, which rises from the Old Town
- READ MORE: Wish you were beer! England’s top 25 pub gardens revealed
Cities don’t come much prettier than Spain’s San Sebastian
Set around a stretch of golden sandy bays and framed by three lush mountains, cities don’t come much prettier than Spain’s San Sebastian.
But it’s the food that sets this coastal city apart; it is the birthplace of the pintxo (also known as pincho) after all, a bar snack that is a meal in miniature.
And with bars dishing out wine from €2 and pinchos from €1.50, a holiday here doesn’t have to break the bank.
The Spanish city is set around a stretch of golden sandy bays and framed by three lush mountains
San Sebastian’s food offering sets the city apart – it is the birthplace of the pintxo, a bar snack that is a meal in miniature. Above is the city’s old town
Where to eat and drink
Grab a table outside this standing room-only pinchos bar and eavesdrop on locals speaking in the ancient Basque language. The bar does the best solomillo — steak served on bread, topped with green pepper (restaurantegandarias.com).
Fill out a paper order form while browsing the colourful pinchos displayed at the bar and pass it to a waiter. Pair food with the local txakoli, a fizzy, crisp white wine. Find some of the city’s best vegetarian and vegan pinchos here (barbaztan.com).
Bar Ganbara is a family-run pinchos bar in the Old Town known for its spider crab tartlets
This family-run pinchos bar in the Old Town uses the freshest ingredients (the simple but delicious plate of tomato and olive oil is testament to this). Sit at the bar and watch the staff dish out plates with impressive frequency. Ganbara’s speciality is spider crab tartlets (€3). Wine and beer from €2 (ganbarajatetxea.com).
Where to stay
Overlooking the cathedral, with valet parking and an excellent restaurant, Arbaso is a perfect city-centre hotel. Rooms have wooden floors, Marshall bluetooth speakers and Dyson hairdryers. Rooms from £99 (hotelarbaso.com).
Hotel de Londres
An imposing 19th-century building near the seafront. The bar is popular with locals. Doubles from £93 (hlondres.com).
Check into the Hotel Zinema7, a former cinema that’s been transformed into a hotel with rooms priced from £67 per night
In the un-touristy Amara neighbourhood, this cinema-turned-hotel has rooms themed on stars who have visited the San Sebastian film festival. Doubles from £67 (zinema7hotel.com).
Things to see & do
Take a dip at La Concha
Join the elderly Basque locals for a swim at La Concha, which stretches a mile from the Old Town to the suburb of Ondarreta and is one of Europe’s best urban beaches. Even in winter, the golden bay is busy with locals walking their fluffy dogs and children splashing about in the water. During summer, a floating platform moored offshore allows swimmers to escape the crowds.
Hike up Mount Urgull
It takes around 30 minutes to hike to the top of Mount Urgull (pictured), the peak that rises from the Old Town
Make room for yet more pinchos by working up an appetite on a hike up this mini mountain, which rises from the Old Town and the bobbing boats of the harbour.
The 30-minute walk is scattered with landmarks and viewing points, and topped with a 12th-century castle and 12-metre-high statue of Jesus Christ. At the top, watch the sunset while sampling a bottle or two of cider from one of the 42 cider houses on the outskirts of the city (buy six bottles from Essencia Wine in the Old Town for €18).
Join a pinchos tour
Pinchos-hopping is obligatory when in San Sebastian. The best way to pack the bars in is to join a txikiteo (the official word for a pinchos crawl), which will see you bounce from bar to bar in the Old Town and pair colourful, small bites with local wines and cider.
A word on etiquette: don’t overload your plate from the bar-top displays but, instead, sample one per drink, two if you must, then move on. Tours from £25 (viator.com).
Stroll around the cathedral
Made of sandstone and slate quarried from local mountains, charming Buen Pastor (the good shepherd) Cathedral was completed in 1897 at a time when the city was becoming a flourishing, aristocratic seaside resort.
The spire of the cathedral, set in a pretty square surrounded by tulips, can be seen from across the city. On a summer’s day, the sun shines brightly through the stained-glass windows, casting an array of dancing colours on its walls. Free entry.
How to get there
London Gatwick to Bilbao returns from £65 (vueling.com). Buses to San Sebastian take one hour (£15, pesa.net).
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