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Guide to San Sebastian: Food, Culture, and the Coast

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San Sebastian is a sophisticated city known for its unique culture, alluring beaches along the glistening Balearic Sea and its fabulous cuisine. The city embodies the essence of the Basque region with fascinating architecture as small pintxos bars and Michelin Star restaurants are intermixed, each one offering an authentic experience of the city. Gorgeous beach promenades, family-friendly cultural experiences, water activities, premier wines, and more are all accessible as San Sebastian's charm embraces all who visit. As you plan your trip, be sure to consider these eight highlights.

1. Bay of Concha

The serene beaches of Concha Bay

The white sands and shades of turquoise waters at the Bay of Concha have become the iconic image of San Sebastian. Beachgoers lounge on their towels while the historic skyline of the city stands out in the distance. The calm waters along La Perla beach offer the best opportunity to go for a swim and enjoy the paradise that surrounds you. As the sun begins to set, visit the shaded Alameda del Boulevard where local shops and restaurants await with surprises.

2. Old Town

The detailed architecture of Old Town

One step over from Alameda del Boulevard you will find yourself in Old Town San Sebastian. Here you will awe at Neoclassical buildings and the palpable history of the cobblestone stones. The prominent 16th century San Vicente Church stands over the city as you wander through the historic avenues and encounter local shops and traditional Basque restaurants.

3. Michelin Star Restaurants

Massive wok filled with traditional Spanish paella

San Sebastian is a culinary beacon as it contains the second-most Michelin Stars of any city in the world. In fact, the city has the equivalent of more than one Michelin-starred restaurant per four square miles, meaning your journey will be filled with some of Northern Spain's best eateries. Two of the top ten restaurants in the world, Mugaritz and Arzak, populate in this small city.

4. Pintxos

Variety of delicious Spanish pintxos waiting to be tasted

Basque pinxtos are similar to tapas, which are found elsewhere in Spain, but generally are even smaller bites, allowing you to taste a wonderful range of flavors of local ingredients. Among the most famous delicacies are ham, prawns, anchovies, cheeses, wild mushrooms, and chorizo. Many typical pintxos include salt cod, fish cheeks, and whole roasted hake or sole while the most common cheese at a pintxo plate includes the smoking Idiazabal cheese.

5. Cider Houses

The birth of fresh cider in a sagardotegi

One of the best-kept secrets of San Sebastian and the Basque region is the cider houses known as sagardotegi.  The cider is most often not carbonated but is poured from a distance to give it a delightful effervescence. The tradition of cider houses in the Basque region dates back to the 11th-century as they provided nutrients to fishermen and whalers while at sea.

6. The Bohemian Quarter

Old Town Harbor

Gros in San Sebastian is a neighborhood connected to the Old Town by two main bridges that span the Urumea River. The charming neighborhood is lined by boulevards and rivers with bikeable and walkable streets. The playful ambiance of the neighborhood is accentuated by several of San Sebastian’s most popular pintxo bars. The expressive district boasts some of the city’s most impressive art galleries including Tabakalera, and three of the most popular beaches.

7. Aquarium-Sea Palace

Become one with the underwater creatures in the transparent Aquarium-Sea Palace tunnel

The fantastic aquarium in San Sebastian connects the culture of the city to the natural world that surrounds it through the 31 unforgettable aquatic habitats. The Oceanographic Museum within the aquarium displays the history of seafaring in the region and the underwater tunnel offers a 360-view of the passing fish, paddling sea turtles, and breathtaking sharks speeding through the waters.

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