Playa De La Concha, August 2015. Everybody and their dogs had told me about how great San Sebastián is. But sometimes the more a thing gets built up, the more mother reality tends to serve up a big old spoon of anticlimax. Thankfully that wasn’t the case with this stunning city. A major highlight of my trip across northern Spain, San Sebastián’s main stretch of sand (La Concha) is possibly the most impressive city beach I’ve ever seen. Even in the height of summer, with its teeming crowds and associated annoyances, there was no denying its magical atmosphere.
Calle Mayor, August 2015. Away from the beach, San Sebastián’s narrow streets are a treasure trove of cafes, tapas joints and cutesy shops. This bustling street, located in the old town, is stuffed with spotless eighteenth century buildings and overhanging terraces. Just crane your neck up to see a seemingly infinite line of potted plants, iron railings and elegant lanterns. Every now and then you’ll spot a local looking down, newspaper in hand, a freshly made cup of coffee steaming away on a side table. Working my way all the way down the street took quite some time, what with the milling crowds and intriguing storefronts. As an added bonus, the breathtaking neo gothic form of San Sebastián Cathedral (of the good shepherd) came ever sharper into focus as I progressed.
Plaza de la Constitución , August 2015. The Spanish certainly know how to construct a big old dramatic square and this is definitely San Sebastián’s jewel in the crown. Constructed as a key component of the city’s rebirth following the great fire of 1813, the square was initially used as a bullfighting arena and indeed you can still see the painted bullring box numbers above many of the windows.
Bar Aralar, August 2015. In the north of Spain tapas is referred to as Pintxos and San Sebastián has a dizzying abundance of options. Having done a little research, I was keen to check out the city’s famous Bar Aralar, an incredibly popular pinchos spot with beer on tap, chefs in traditional costume and a diverse range of bite-sized wonders displayed across the main counter. Grabbing a plate and ducking between the drooling masses, I helped myself to some chorizo on baguette; a tuna-stuffed red pepper and a round of battered beef balls. For round two there was smoked salmon, fish paste on toast and caramelised onions. Then some green peppers and bacon. It’s a little pricy for the actual amount of food on offer, but keep in mind that you’re also paying for the experience and the entertaining staff who sing, play fight and crack jokes as they flit between half a dozen languages.
View from Mota Castle, August 2015. There are jaw-dropping views to be had from Mota Castle, perched atop Mount Urgull, with its fortified walls and towering statue of Christ. It’s a brisk but demanding twenty-minute climb from Plaza de Zuloaga, no easy feat on the day of my visit with temperatures of twenty-five degrees. At the summit you’ll find a small museum focusing on the city’s history, but really it’s all about this incredible panorama.
For more on the region, check out my other articles from Biscay.
Like these? Then why not have a read through my many other 5s from around Spain.