San Sebastian is a gorgeous little slice of paradise right across the French border on the northern coast of Spain. With two perfect crescent-shaped beaches, fuzzy green hills to explore and a charming old town whose stones welcome you warmly with each step you take, San Sebastian quickly becomes a favorite destination for all who visit.
A popular beach resort town, San Sebastian's picturesque coastline is fresh and inviting, the setting for a thousand dreams and multiple sets of twenty toes, as the town tops the charts on the romance factor. Located on the Bay of Biscay in Basque country at the mouth of a river, the regional culture is proud and thriving here and you will notice the Basque influences most of all in your meals, from several Michelin-starred restaurants to midnight tapas on a terrace.
Much of the town was modeled on 19th century Paris, and the elegant architecture gets a Spanish snap and shimmers in the sunshine of the mild climate. Much of the town shuts down in the afternoon for a daily snooze, coming back to life at night as the temperature cools and the light fades. Shops open, cafes put out their sidewalk tables, and lovers stroll the promenade and beaches, making promises they will do their best to keep. Hotels of every shape in size abound in San Sebastian, but there are just as many pensions that will rent you a room at half the price with twice the friendly service.
Things to do in
San Sebastian boasts several warm-water beaches; the two most popular are La Concha and the smaller Ondaretta, the former of which is preferred by families and/or anyone who does not enjoy the site of multiple bare breasts. Out in the middle of La Concha Bay is an island to romp around on, and surfers can hit the waves at Zurriola beach nearby. San Sebastian is cradled in a network of accessible hills that can be explored on foot at an easy pace. Mount Ulia rises up between the two main beaches, dotted with military ruins and topped with a café serving fresh pours of beer for the wearied wanderer.
For more social endeavors, the city is home to a famous Jazz Festival in late September as well as the San Sebastian International Film Festival each July. Soccer is a much-loved diversion and you will have little difficulty finding a game. In addition to the mountains of San Sebastian, the little town is dotted with parks and gardens in which to picnic and stroll. And like all of Spain, the nightlife here sizzles and goes late, from jazz clubs to small bars to larger music shows during holiday season. This beach resort town offers no shortages of diversions, whether you want to be active, social, or none of the above!
Parma Hotel: a quiet hotel right on outskirts of Old Town, basic rooms, friendly service
Hotel Niza: great location right on the beach, basic and modern, small bathrooms
Pension Edorta: charming, exposed stone and bricks, excellent and convenient location
Pension Bellas Artes: friendly, family-run budget pension, basic rooms but very clean
Silken Amara Plaza Hotel: nice hotel with bright rooms, comfortable, great service
Hotel Astoria 7: cool hotel with retro rooms, not on the beach, excellent breakfast
Hotel Maria Cristina: luxury in historic city center, surrounded by gardens, close to beach
Hotel Villa Soro: 4* renovated 19th c. villa and boutique hotel, 25 rooms, luxurious