48 hours in San Sebastián

02 Feb 2016

It's little wonder San Sebastián has been selected as one of this year's European Capitals of Culture. Sloping upward into the Basque mountains from a glittering crescent moon bay, the city is blessed with natural good looks, an aristocratic pedigree and all the passion, sparkle and witchery of Spain's ancient Basque Country.

Over 400 live events are scheduled to tie in with this city's 2016 Capital of Culture celebrations, making now the perfect time for a flying visit. Here's how we'd spend 48 hours in Spain's "Little Paris".

Day One

A bracing stroll along San Sebastián's seafront promenade is essential if you'd like to get to know the city and its inhabitants; the character of this place is firmly anchored in its maritime past. If you're interested in finding out more, take a short ferry ride out to the waterfront Restaurant Ziaboga for lunch (open Tuesday-Sunday). At this waterfront spot you can try food that would typically have been eaten on Basque whaling ships of the past; the 20€ price includes local wine and cider.

If you're around in August, be sure to join the city's madcap Semana Grande celebrations. One of the biggest events of the year, it features papier-mâché giants parading the streets (below), live Basque music and an insane firework display. There's also a 4000-strong pirate invasion staged by local kids in the harbour.

With its elegant, art deco-style boulevards and year-round mild temperatures, San Sebastián demands an evening of bar-hopping. Join the locals by trying some pintxos — bite-size pieces of culinary art designed to be sampled at a number of different bars throughout an evening. Foodies will love lobster with rosewater shots, chargrilled calamari with black squid ink, pigs’ ears on pink cherry wafers and coconut anchovies.


A photo posted by Alissa (@alissaofficial_) on

Day two

For those visiting in February, we recommend heading to the San Telmo Museum for a cultured brunch. Inspired by local artist Jorge Oteiza's statement that only 80 grandmothers stand between ourselves and a life in the caves, the museum is planning a unique culinary event called Time Machine Soup to run all through February. There will be samples of 12 different soups on offer, from a stone age-style broth to contemporary instant soup, all designed to lead your palate through the history of European cuisine. A mid-morning visit will help clock up your culture points – and, even better, will line the stomach before you sample the wine list over lunch.


A photo posted by Fran Álvarez (@chicoproducer) on

No visit to the Basque Country is complete without a ramble through its famously beautiful countryside — so, after a bite to eat in the city centre, we recommend getting out into the mountains that surround the city. Bidea 2016 is a 32-stage hiking trail that's been plotted through the forests and cities of the region. At various times of the year you'll be able to catch live performances in clearings along the route.

San Sebastián has one of the highest concentrations of Michelin-starred restaurants per square mile in the entire world. This distinguished club includes Mugaritz (below), which was placed sixth on the 2015 list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants.


A photo posted by Table No. 7 (@zoe.bowker) on

If your budget doesn't quite stretch to 170€ per head, we recommend heading to Borda Berri in the Old Quarter instead. This renowned pintxo bar serves up earthy made-to-order Basque fare from Wednesday to Sunday, and makes the perfect place to see out your final evening in San Sebastián.

Ready to book? Here's a selection of our favourite hotels in San Sebastian.

Hotel Zenit San Sebastián

Features hip, Scandinavian-style décor, sleek rooftop terrace with an open-air hot tub and a trendy on-site restaurant specialising in Basque cuisine.

Click here for rates and availablity.



Movie-themed hotel in what was San Sebastián's first multi-screen cinema. Rooms open using your smartphone; range of DVDs to borrow from the library.

Click here for rates and availablity.


Barcelo Costa Vasca

Located in the historic old quarter, close to the city’s gastronomic hub and a short stroll from the beach and seaside promenade. Lounge on poolside beds or sample cocktails from the swim-up bar in the summer months.

Click here for rates and availablity.

Did you know you can now access rates at thousands of hotels we love (just like the ones above) directly through Travelzoo? Click here to start searching now.

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