So you've come to Spain and you've been busy exploring and learning it's history. You're worn out and you have a few days to burn on your trip and you want to get some rest and relaxation. You're looking for a great beach get away. With 5,000 kilometers of coastline and endless amounts of popular beaches to choose from in Spain, you don't even know where to start.
You won't regret San Sebastián, which is, fascinatingly, located in Spain's famous Basque Country.
San San Sebastián is located just a few kilometers away from the border with France in northern Spain. The largest city in the Basque Country is Bilbao and San Sebastián is located just east of the city.
Why San Sebastián?
If you're looking for beautiful beaches, you'll really enjoy San Sebastián. La Concha beach is one of the top rated beaches in all of Europe. In fact, in 2018 Trip Advisor ranked Playa de la Concha the top beach on the continent. Don't forget your sunscreen!
Across the river from La Concha beach is Zurriola Beach which is also very popular. La Concha beach is the more famous beach but if you're in town, I recommend trying both beaches at least once.
If you're looking for good food, you've found the right destination. San Sebastián is famous for a local delicacy called, "pinchos." Written in the Basque language it's, "Pintxos." Trust me when I say its hard to find a Pintxos you won't enjoy (barring food allergies).
As seen in the picture to the left, a Pintxos has a bread base and things like anchovies, olives, tuna, eggs, egg salad, amongst many others added on top. Pintxos are easy to eat and aren't particularly heavy on the stomach. Perfect for someone who doesn't want to spend a lot of time eating and doesn't want to be overly stuffed so they can get back to the beach!
No trip to San Sebastián is complete without trying the famous Burnt Basque Cheesecake. It's called, "tarta de queso" in Spanish and it can be found in San Sebastián's old town district at a restaurant called La Viña.
Practically everything is walking distance in San Sebastián. As is the norm in Spain, the public transportation is fantastic, but, I didn't even need to use it. The train station is located at ground level and the bus station is right below it underground. Walking from the train/bus station to downtown near La Concha beach takes 10 minutes. From Downtown near La Concha beach to Old Town for the best food and restaurants in San Sebastián is another 10 minute walk. From downtown to the coastline walkway is a 40 minute loop (1 hour if you take in the views and take pictures).
The Basque Language
This part of Spain has their own language which is completely different from Spanish. You might think if you speak Spanish, you'll be able to comprehend Basque. You're in for a wild ride. It's totally different. In fact, Basque has no known origin which makes it one of the hardest languages to learn in the world. It really is fascinating!
Don't fret though, everyone in the Basque country also speaks Spanish.
What To Do And Other Tips
Where to stay
There's only one answer to this and it's downtown. You're definitely going to want to stay downtown close to La Concha beach. It's a very short walk to La Concha beach and it's just a 10 minute walk to Old Town for the best food.
Where to eat
As mentioned a few time already, the best restaurants and food in San Sebastián are in Old Town. Old Town is located behind the city government building just east of La Concha beach. It's hard to miss. Go explore Old Town and stop in any restaurant in the area. The only problem is that it's often crowded because it's so popular. Finding open space in a restaurant might be hard so prepare for the idea of taking your food, "para llevar" (to go) and you can eat it outside on a park bench or take it back to where you are staying.
Its common to frequent multiple establishments per night in Old Town. The local culture is that you you have one beer and a Pintxos or two at one place and then move on to the next establishment and repeat.
The best place to take a walk is the coastline behind Old Town. There is a walking path with great views and it will only take you one hour, tops. I recommend doing this in the morning.
Another morning walk that is worth the views and time is to walk along La Concha beach. In the mornings the tide is low so a lot of the beach is exposed and the sand is solid making it less messy and easier to walk on.
There are panhandlers that stand on the corners of buildings. They just stand there and try and get your attention as you walk by. Don't acknowledge them. After awhile they get annoying.
There is some very out in the open anti-tourism sentiment in San Sebastián. In multiple places in the city you're likely to find, "Tourist Go Home!" graffiti'd onto buildings and other objects. That being said, I did not once experience any hatred or resentment towards me by anyone in San Sebastián.