Offering an exciting mix of ancient architecture, waves from a surfers dream and some of the most spectacular food in Europe, the Spanish city of San Sebastian really packs a punch. Also known as Donostia, this coastal city in northern Spain brims with colour and creativity, from the ancient stained-glass-window-covered cathedrals to the art museums demonstrating local talent. With more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere else in the world, San Sebastian is a must for any gastronomic groupie. With all this and more, it would surprise us if 24 hours in San Sebastian didn’t leave you wanting for more…
Kick off your 24 hours in San Sebastian with a gentle amble along Concha beach. With the ocean lapping softly at the shore, capturing reflections of the terracotta roofed houses painted in jaunty shades, this is the perfect slow start to the day. Find a coastal cafetería for a café con leche (Spanish milky coffee) and watch as shutters begin to open and tourists pour onto the seafront.
Once you’ve had your caffeine fix, head around the headland to the somewhat undiscovered Zurriola beach for a private surf lesson in the spray-topped waves and a game of volleyball with the locals on the sun-baked sand. This is the ultimate laid-back beach to spend the morning topping up your tan with the younger population of San Sebastian. For a more cultural 24 hours in San Sebastian head to the Miramar Royal Palace where the Spanish Royal Family frequently holidayed or immerse yourself in the Spanish arts with a trip to the Tabakalera cultural centre. Housed in a converted tobacco factory, the centre displays the finest photography, music and performances from local artists.
When you start to feel your stomach grumble, head into the old town where the fresh scent of ocean air combined with sweet pastries hangs in the air. One of the best ways to get your bearings is on a walking tour with a local guide. Explore the limestone-lined streets and stop off at one of the many mouthwatering pintxos tapas bars for a nibble along the way. Once your legs get tired, dine in one of San Sebastian’s many Michelin star restaurants or have a go yourself during a cooking masterclass with a local chef.
Work off your lunch with a ferry ride (or even swim!) across the azure-blue bay to Santa Clara Island. Enjoy a traditional Spanish cocktail at the rustically charming beach bar and then go in search of the pocket-sized island’s bronze-filled lighthouse for views over the ocean beyond. If an adventure-filled afternoon is what you’re looking for, grab your trainers and camera and venture off the beaten track for a hike up Monte Ulia. Enjoy a birds-eye view of the chocolate-box city below, and roam past old military structures and ancient whale watching posts where you may be lucky enough to spot the shadows of marine mammals in the waves below. End the afternoon by hopping on the funicular that trundles slowly up to Monte Igueldo where you can gaze over the brilliantly bourgeois city as it begins to flicker with twinkling lights. Watch the setting sun transform San Sebastian, as the once white clouds flood with fiery reds and oranges, drenching the city in amber evening light. This is by far the best way to kick off the final part of your 24 hours in San Sebastian.
Come evening, delve into the culinary delights of the modern and less touristy neighbourhood of Amara. Just a short walk from San Sebastian’s ancient cobbled streets, this is the perfect place to get a taste for the local way of life. Accompanied by a guide, wander through the awning-adorned streets and discover the most mouth-watering spots to indulge in traditional pintxos if your nose hasn’t taken you there already. Sip on txakoli, local fizzy wine, while you enjoy the hum and bustle of the city at night, for the most spectacular culinary finale to your 24 hours in San Sebastian.