Day 32-34: San Sebastián

San Sebastián is awesome. I know I’ve said we’re going back to most places, but we’re *definitely* going back to San Sebastián. It has everything you could want from a city visit – 4(!) urban beaches, 2 big hills with interesting stuff at the top, a lovely harbour, a sea front paseo, an island you can swim/ canoe/ get a ferry out to, amazing food, fab bars (we’re guessing) and a beautiful old town. We only stayed two days and were gutted we weren’t there longer.

We were camped a few kilometres out of town, and of course had our share of interesting neighbours. This site was only small and didn’t have quite so many permanent residents with their paving and their sofas, but the caravan behind us did have its own washer and dryer in its nose hatch! From the number of hoses trailing from the taps to pitches, we don’t think they were the only ones. We guessed they were permanent residents, but then their friends came to stay. They got their massive twin axle caravan stuck on the grass entering our field, so just decided to pitch right there, with their awning spanning the road down the middle. The site owners didn’t seem to mind, although it meant it was interesting for newcomers to pitching up. These guys also had a trailer – they were dragging their washer and dryer separately apparently.

Our first day in San Sebastián was mainly spent around Monte Urgull. We parked by Zurriola beach and followed the coast on to a sea front promenade around the base of the hill. There were lovely views in to the bay and over to Isla Santa Clara, as well as the dominating sculpture Construcción Vacía . The promenade led in to the pretty harbour, and from there we wandered in to the old town for lunch.

San Sebastián is famed for its pintxos, and it didn’t disappoint. Plate after plate of beautifully crafted nibbles were crammed on to the bars lining the old town streets. While most stand at the bar, picking at a pintxo or two while they sipped cerveza, we obviously got heavily stuck in. We had a hill to climb after all!

We spent the afternoon scaling Monte Urgull. Had we have done a bit of research we’d have brought the sling, but we didn’t, so we were resigned to taking the long winding path around and around the hill, and lugging E and her buggy up steep, narrow steps scaling the ramparts.

Still, the views at the top were worth it. There’s the ruins of an old castle at the top, as well as a church and Sagrado Corazón, a large Christ statue you can see from most of San Sebastián. From his base you can see across the bay and for miles back inland. There’s also a cafe in one of the battlements overlooking the bay, handy for a hard-earned Orangina before the descent.

The trip up Monte Urgull took much longer than expected so there was no way we were going to see all of San Sebastián in one day. Resolving to come back the next day, we stuck to exploring around this side of town, watching the fairground rides at Alderdi Eder park and following the prom along La Concha beach. It was evening by now and the beach was heaving with families, and with people walking at pace in their swimmers, chatting with friends along the shoreline. What a way to get your exercise and catch up with friends eh?

The next day we were back to tackle the rest of San Sebastián. We followed La Concha beach further this time, until the next bay renamed it Ondaretta beach which eventually ran out at the base of Monte Igueldo. Another series of interesting sculptures sat on the rocks here, Peine del Viento, morphing in shape as you observed from different angles.

Another day, another hill, and the highlight of this one was a retro theme park at the top. While there’s a path to get you up to the summit (and we later discovered you could drive straight there), there’s also a funicular which is a far more interesting way of getting to the top.

Alton Towers it ain’t, but Monte Igueldo does have a certain kitsch charm, and more amazing views of San Sebastián. Dodgems, a ghost train, a roller coaster and a boat ride that took you perilously close to the cliff edge made up the bulk of the fun, along with a merri-go-round for Evelyn to have her first fair ground ride on.

We only had a couple of days in San Sebastián, but could have easily spent far longer. As a city break I’d say it hands down beats its neighbour Bilbao and it’s another on the list for us to visit when we can make the most of the bar culture too!

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