San Sebastian

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A Short Break in San Sebastian

San Sebastian

San Sebastian was stop number three on our tour of the Basque Country and the place I was looking forward to the most. There are more Michelin starred restaurants per square metre than ANY other city in the world, it is the city where Spanish royals spent their summers and it is home to one of Spain’s best beaches. Needless to say my expectations were very high….

We arrived in San Sebastian late the in afternoon, and went straight for the old town to try some of the tasty food we had heard so much about. Although home to 16 Michelin stars, it was the 200 pintxos bars that I was looking forward to the most! Pintxos (pronounced ‘Pintoes’) are a tradition in San Sebastian. They are small bite size food portions, traditionally served with local wine or cider. – or to put it another way, the Basque country’s version of tapas!

In the old town there were dozens of Pintxos Bars to choose from, each one packed. San Sebastian was buzzing, it was chic and stylish, with an old town full of character. It was everything I had hoped it would be.

We had our kids with us so bar-hopping wasn’t ideal, but we did our best! There is no need to worry about children not liking the food as EVERY Pinxtos bar has steak on the menu. Speaking of menus most locals order from a menu and don’t take the food on the bar.

Of course its fresher, but I was also told you may get better quality from the menu too. Children’s menus are not prevalent so although prices seem reasonable, when you end up paying for four adults, maybe not so much… We enjoyed a tasty meal and some nice Rioja, but decided on a early night as we had an action packed day planned.

We decided to opt for the local tourist train the following day. It was handy with the kids and gave us a good idea of the layout of the city, and where the highlights were. San Sebastian is a beautiful city. Its buildings, side streets, alleyways, and everywhere I looked was so picturesque, I was constantly taking photos.

San Sebastian is opulent and it was easy to understand why it is the holiday resort of Spain’s elite. Having the benefits of city living with an amazing beach right on your doorstep, it’s the cliché – it offers the best of both worlds! Although you could easily compare it to Paris or Prague in terms of beauty, it is so small that you can easily see everything in a couple of days.


We started with a walk along La Concha beach. It didn’t take long to realise why it is one of the world’s best urban beaches. There is not a shell or stone in sight, and the water is crystal clear. It was November when we visited and I was still tempted to get in for a swim A leisurely forty minute walk will bring you to the famous sculpture, El Peine del Viento (Comb of the Wind). With the waves crashing against the rocks, it’s the perfect picture spot.

There is an a funicular railway to Monte Igueldo which offers great views of San Sebastián, as well as an old amusement park. In fact there are several places to enjoy the view in San Sebastian. Monte Urgull where the statue of Christ watches over the old town, is another favourite. This is the only place where you will see the city’s three beaches and is home to La Mota Castle and San Telmo Museum.

In the summer time a boat trip to Santa Clara Island is also worth a trip. Home to the only south facing beach in the Basque Country, as well as a forest with picnic tables and a great view of the city.


After all the sightseeing it was time for the highlight of our trip, a Pintxos tour of San Sebastian. We started at the Bretxa market. This is where all the top chefs source their produce, this set the tone perfectly. I have no doubt we had THE best tour guide, Eskerne Falcon, from Discover San Sebastián. Her bubbly personality won us over, even before we tasted the food! She immediately made the kids at ease, asked them what food they liked, and assured them that they would enjoy some tasty Pintxos.

Our first port of call was Bernardo Etxea where we tried octopus, fried green peppers and a delicious shrimp brochette, accompanied by local cider and white wine from the area. Eskerne, ever the professional, had also ordered plenty of Jamon Iberico, in case we wanted to play it safe. We were told this particular Jamon Iberico was from small black pigs that eat only acorns.  The benefits of a good diet were evident, it was the best Jamon Iberico I have ever tasted.

We moved on to Bar La Cepa. Open since 1948, it is a landmark in San Sebastian. We had mouthwatering anchovies as well as Gavilla (ham and cheese toasties) for the kids. Our last stop was Gandarias. Ranked as one of San Sebastian’s top restaurants on TripAdvisor, it was packed with locals and tourists alike.

We tried the local desert, Torrija. I liked it, but unfortunately the cinnamon wasn’t a big hit with the kids. That was no trouble to Eskerne, she took us to San Sebastian’s best ice cream parlour instead – Oiartzun. If pintxos are not your thing, the lobster and sirloin at Lanziego is supposed to be excellent, but I guess I’ll just have to come back to make sure…

I’m not sure if it was the copious amounts of wine or food, or both, but it was time for a rest. We paid a visit to the Aquarium, just a few minutes walk from the harbour, to let the kids have some much needed play time. It’s not the best aquarium I have ever visited, but it was exactly what was needed after a morning full of adult entertainment.

I had just enough time for a quick visit to Spain’s largest Zara store. I simply had to avail of the 20% savings – sure it would be rude not to…

San Sebastian is everything you want in a city and more. It is ideal for a short break, yet offers so much that you will want to stay longer. It is stylish, full of character and has some of the best dining options in the world. Go discover San Sebastian.

 

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Sarah

The Travel Expert 
 
DestinationsEuropeFeatured

Europe’s Top 10 Food Destinations

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Check out my top 10 food destinations in Europe and get planning your next holiday.

From Pintxos bars in San Sebastian to Michelin star dining in Copenhagen, my selection of the Europe’s top 10 food destinations is bound to give you an appetite to travel.

1. San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, one of Europe's top food destinations by The Travel Expert

The small city of San Sebastian is a food lovers paradise and is probably the food capital of Europe. There are 13 Michelin-starred restaurants here, the most in the world per head of population. It is not just about the Michelin star restaurants though, make sure you try the local pubs offerings ‘pinxtos.’ These are tasty bite size tapas. These showcase all of the regions top quality food, without the hefty price tag.

Read: My short break in San Sebastian

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2. Barcelona, Spain

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The best place to take a walking food tour has to be Barcelona. Wander through the historic centre and sample some tasty tapas. Make sure you visit one of Europe’s best food markets, the famous La Boqueria, and don’t miss the Paella at Ciudad Condal.

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3. Bologna, Italy

Parma ham in Parma, one of Europe's top food destinations, by The Travel Expert

Locals will tell you Bologna is Italy’s food capital but not many outsiders have figured it out yet! Home of spaghetti bolognese, it is the best place to taste it. The neighbouring town of Parma is home of Parmigiano Reggiano and of course parma ham. Sit on the town’s piazza and enjoy some local prosciutto or better still visit the Museo del Prosciutto in Langhirano and watch it being made.

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4. Florence, Italy

Florence is one of Europes top food destinations

The spectacular city of Florence is not only a food lovers paradise but it is the top choice for romance too. Marvel at the Duomo, pick up a souvenir on the Ponte Vecchio, before enjoying some nice Italian cuisine on the Piazza del Signoria – bellisimo!

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5. Dubrovnik, Croatia

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Not only is the walled city a stunning place to explore but it is teaming with pavement cafe’s and tasty eateries. If you like dining al fresco with the buzz of  happy holidaymakers then Dubrovnik is for you. Lets not forget that Croatia is renowned for it’s truffles and Dubrovnik is truffle heaven!

Read: My top tips for discovering Dubrovnik

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6. Copenhagen, Denmark

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Copenhagen is renowned as one of Europe’s best food destinations, there are 15 Michelin Star restaurants here and one of the top things to do in the city is a ‘foodie tour’.Voted the best restaurant in the world, three years in a row, Noma, is here. But it’s not all about the fancy restaurants, the newly opened Street Food Market offers everything from Cuban street food to pizza. Situated right on the harbour, it is the perfect spot for a tasty lunch.

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7. Bordeaux, France

Saint-Emilion close to Bordeaux in France

Bordeaux is full of bistros and brasseries offering fantastic lunch and dinner menus. And of course there is no where better to pair fine wines with the local french cuisine. Explore the small village of Saint Emillion and take a tour of some of the surrounding Chateaux. Bordeaux is the perfect destination to sample local French produce.

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8. Paris, France

Paris, one of Europe's top 10 food destinations by The Travel Expert

Paris offers French cuisine at its finest, and is without doubt one of the world’s best food destinations. Specialities from all of the french regions are served in Paris. There are bustling brasseries and trendy bistros mixed with Michelin starred restaurants with celebrity chefs. For a major European capital, Paris will still surprise you with how many local shops are still prevalent on every street corner. The bakeries, pastry shops and cheese shops are still there because they are so good – make sure you try them! 

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9. Porto, Portugal

 

 
 
 
 
 
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One of the oldest cities in Europe, Porto is emerging as one of Europe’s top food destinations. Originally known for it’s Port, Porto offers much more. Unlike many of the other destinations Porto’s restaurants are not fashionable per sé, there are no celebrity chefs or swanky restaurants. The beauty is lies in the traditional restaurants, serving traditional Portuguese cuisine.

Read: Why you need to choose Porto for your next city break

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10. London, England

 

 
 
 
 
 
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London is home to some of the world’s best restaurants. Celebrity chefs are falling over each other to win the best restaurant and best chef awards. From Michel Roux Jnr to Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay, they are all in London. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is one of the best dining experiences in the World. London is another city that is full of great markets, Covent Garden being the most popular.

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Sarah

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