Spain
San Sebastián

Here you’ll find travel reports about San Sebastián. Discover travel destinations in Spain of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

117 travelers at this place:

  • Day7

    We hired a car to drive across the north of Spain for the next five days. Three of those will be in San Sebastian and surrounding areas, and the other two will be in Santiago de Compostela.

    The drive from Barcelona to San Sebastian takes about five hours. It is across a range of different territory, from dry flat plains, lush agricultural land, to green forests closer to the northern coast.

    We took a diversion early in the trip to visit the famous monastery in Montserrat. It is located high on the mountains about an hour from Barcelona. The original monastery was founded about 1000AD, but it has been added to and restored ever since. The basilica here houses the famous Black Madonna, which is an icon to which many pilgrimages are made for religious purposes.

    The real attraction of the place is the extraordinary location, perched as it is on the side of a rocky mountain with amazing views all the way to the outskirts of Barcelona. It is a peaceful and awe-inspiring place, no doubt the reason for the monastery being built there in the first place. There are still 70 monks living there, as there has been for centuries, although they were outnumbered by the tourists by 50 to 1 easily when we were there. We could have spent more time there, but the drive was still largely ahead of us so we left after about an hour or so.

    The rest of the drive was only interrupted by a stop for a late lunch. The route took us through Pamplona, where the running of the bulls festival (San Fermino) starts tomorrow.

    We arrived in San Sebastian, located in Basque territory, about 7pm to be greeted by our kind Airbnb host, Gloria, who is a young Spanish girl who owns a very nice apartment in the centre of town, right near the magnificent beach. The beach here in San Sebastian is known to be one of Europe's best and very well patronised by French and British tourists in the summertime.

    Gloria has given us a list of Pixtos (a Basque word for Tapas) to try and which restaurants to find the best ones. They look delicious and we look forward to trying them all.

    The drive through northern Spain took us through some high country, just alongside the Pyrennees mountain range. It was challenging to get used to the left hand drive. On one occasion I instinctively took off into the left lane rather than the right lane and gave some innocent Spanish driver a near-death experience. But generally it was fine. Sam kept his head down most of the time. The speed limit was 120 on most of the freeways and the traffic was travelling at about 130. The roads were fantastic, although they were many toll roads and I had to pay a toll on at least five occasions, which added up to about 30 euros.
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  • Day8

    Donostia

    July 5 in Spain

    We are in Basque territory. I had heard of this area before but did not realise what it really meant. The Basque people were displaced when the border between France and Spain was drawn up after the war. The Basque people were just forgotten about. They had lived in their own country in this region for centuries. They have their own language, culture and history. They insist they are not Spanish or Catalonian (another group in Spain wanting their autonomy, centred in Barcelona). The Basque people are proud of their heritage and they live in a semi-autonomous area which bridges France and Spain. San Sebastian is the name General Franco, the Spanish dictator, gave this city, but the Basque people call it Donostia.

    The Basque people have their own version of Tapas. They call it Pintxos (pronounced Pinchos). They are proud of this amazing way of presenting food and the chefs in the Pintxos bars are very competitive. The idea is that customers move from bar to bar, having one or two pintxos from each location. It means that people move up to 12 times to have dinner. The streets of the old city are packed with this crowd every afternoon and night, all seeking the best pintxos. It is amazing to see this take place. It's like the whole city is having a progressive dinner.

    The pintxos are only a couple of euros each, and the variety is extensive. It is difficult to capture the atmosphere in photos but here are a few in an attempt to do so. This finger-food is a fantastic way to provide food for a large number of people. They take the idea to the extreme and the taste combinations are very adventurous - too adventurous for Sam. He couldn't bring himself to try any. He thought the octopus legs and fish eyes were lurking in every pintxos. Sam lacks courage when it comes to trying new foods.
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  • Day8

    San Sebastian

    July 5 in Spain

    Sam and I set off to explore the beautiful coastal city of San Sebastian. It sits on the Bay of Biscay in the Atlantic Ocean. It faces north and the aspect of the city is magnificent. The beaches in this city are said to be among the best in Europe and, from what I have seen here and elsewhere, I don't doubt it. The beaches have beautiful sand and they are horseshoe-shaped with boats and ships dotting the waterways. There is a shipping harbour and a river that goes out into the sea.

    There is a fort on each headland of the horseshoe shape, and two hills which can be climbed for a splendid view of the city. The views are quite breathtaking. Sam and I spent a few hours exploring and climbing the headland. The fort has areas called batteries, and one of them is called the Battery of Napolean because he took the city of placed his army in the fort. About a decade later the Spanish reclaimed the city in another battle and the French surrendered in that very fort. There is a sign that marks the spot. It is incredible to be walking in the very place where such major historical events took place.

    There is a museum in the fort, and the chapel is in the centre of the fort right on top of the hill.

    This city has about 400,000 inhabitants and it reminds me of Newcastle in terms of size and scale.
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  • Day8

    Atmosphere and Culture

    July 5 in Spain

    The atmosphere and history of European cities reached out and grabs you and drags you into its spell. It is captivating to learn about the culture and history of each new people, the Basques being a new people and culture to me. They are respectful and do not behave drunkenly or disorderly. They obviously respect their culture and what it means to their families. All the families seem to work together in their communal projects, including the restaurants and shops.

    The culture here does not revolve around massive shopping centres like it does in Australia. The individual shops are all side by side and provide a specialty and they don't try to do everything.

    The historical buildings are all architecturally attractive and they are preserved carefully. There are a couple of modern buildings that have been architecturally bold, like the concert hall and the museum, but they blend with the old rather than create any dissonance.

    The city is a place where one could spend weeks just getting to know and relaxing into its beauty and charm. Its are pity we only have a couple of days.

    I sat for an hour this afternoon and listened to the best busking violinist I have ever heard. I spoke to her when she concluded her time and she told me in a strong accent that she was Russian and here on two weeks holiday. She was clearly a professional and she confirmed that when I spoke to her. She plays in Russia and teaches older students. Her English was poor but when she played it was like we were in a recital in the Opera House. It was a blessed hour in the town square. Many people were stopping, captivated by the surprising quality from someone merely busking. Hundreds of people walking past felt compelled to dig into their wallets to put money into her violin case. How could you not?
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  • Day666

    It had been a long day, but the sight of the parking place at Listorreta lifted our spirits. Set in a Natural Park the rest area with a 2 place van aire was a green haven, surrounded by oak, ash, elder and hazel all bursting forth with bright new Spring leaves. A central meadow area sat behind a wooden post fence, speckled with buttercups and an array of other wildflowers. Picnic benches and brick bbq areas were provided and used by a trickle of people during our stay. What a lovely peaceful place to spend our last few nights in Spain!

    There were plenty of walks in the surrounding woodland (a beautiful black horse came along one of them each evening to canter in the meadow). We'd planned to do a hike but late on our first morning, a British van pulled up and we met Sandie. Sandie had retired and together with her old Springer Spaniel Rosie, they'd been travelling in the van for a year. We made coffee and tea and sat out on one of the picnic benches putting the world to rights. Rosie was deaf and fairly blind and we were really pleased that Poppy got on well with her, even having the confidence lay down in the long grass and enjoy the sunshine.

    Sandie was very easy to talk to and we got on so well that we occupied the picnic table again in the afternoon- this time with red wine, sangria and strawberries. When comparing motorhoming experiences we found she had written a book: 'A Blonde, a Dog and a Motorhome'.

    Although it wasn't what we had planned, it was a fitting and enjoyble end to our time in Spain/ beginning of our journey home, to be sitting in a meadow surrounded by familiar woodland trees and chatting to a friendly Brit. It seemed even more fitting that overnight it began to rain and a steady drizzle persisted as we filled, emptied and said goodbye to Sandie, who was also making her way towards the UK, although over the course of a month instead of a week like us.
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  • Day55

    Donostia-San Sebastian

    October 27, 2016 in Spain

    Although it was a 5 hour train journey from Barcelona, we decided to go to Donostia-San Sebastián in northern Spain to get a taste of the Basque culture which is very unique. The Basque people actually at one point wanted to be independent from Spain (like many regions in Spain) and continue to retain their identity with their own language, traditions and more importantly food! This is also why this city has two given names: Donostia in Basque and San Sebastián in Spanish.

    This region is well known for it's culinary expertise. We enjoyed going to typical Pintxos (pronounced Pinchos) bars where a wide array of tapas would be displayed to choose from. The selections are heavily focused on seafood as San Sebastián is located on the coast but you can also find some good meat as well. We enjoyed trying both hot and cold Pintxos like veal cheeks, octopus, and sea urchin to name a few. Everything we ate was so unique and different and definitely very fresh!

    San Sebastián reminded us a lot of California with its beaches, surfers and chill atmosphere. It was a nice stop to explore this unique region in Spain and we highly recommend it for any foodies.
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  • Day2

    Nach einer unruhigen Nacht im Keller einer Herberge ging es endlich los. Durch Irun Richtung Gebirge. Heftig sag ich euch. Steigungen die ich mir so nicht erträumt hätte aber nach der Mega Anstrengung hat der Ausblick alles wett gemacht. Nach 27 km das gewünschte Etappenziel die kleine Herberge vor San Sebastian erreicht wo wir insgesamt mit vier Pilgern übernachten. Mega Schön und so liebe Deutsche Versorger. Gut das ich das hier mache ❤️❤️❤️Read more

  • Day356

    Unser Campingplatz lag außerhalb von San Sebastián leicht erhöht, so dass wir einen tollen Blick auf den Sonnenaufgang hatten!
    Die Altstadt besteht gefühlt nur aus kleinen Bars und Kneipen, die alle ab mittags die so genannten Pintxos (ähnlich wie Tapas) verkaufen. Oft isst man im stehen, entweder in der Bar oder draußen auf der Straße. Also hat man praktisch gar keine Chance dran vorbei zu kommen :-)
    Eine herrliche Kultur!
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  • Day2

    Appreciating the simple things

    September 13, 2017 in Spain

    The waves were huge this evening on La Concha beach. As I enjoyed the childish pleasure of swimming into each one and being thrown around as if in a washing machine, I realised how lucky I am to get such enjoyment from the simple things in life. Swimming in the sea, walking all day, laughing with new acquaintances .... and a hot cup of tea when it's most needed. Thank you @Laurie Reynolds for introducing me to this wonderful little gadget that boils a cup of water in no time at all. Truly life-enhancing!Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

Donostia / San Sebastián, Donostia-San Sebastian, San Sebastián, Donostia, Saint-Sébastien

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