Ola Amigos! We’ve arrived in Spain, although you wouldn’t know it yet, it looks the same as France did! But the language is a sure sign that you’ve crossed the border and are in new territory woohoo! There wasn’t even a border crossing, we literally drove over a bridge and boom the country changed and the language changed, so easy right?!? This van life stuff is goooooooooooooood.
San Sebastián or Donostia is a wicked coastal city on Spain’s west coast and if you’re heading off on the big O.E and Spain’s on the cards, I highly recommended this, as do many of my friends. With only a couple of days, we shacked the van up at a Camping Igueldo and fell right back into tourist mode. Here’s some of the things we did and what you can do too!
1. Surf La Zurriola Beach
Have a read of Bryns Chasing the waves on the west coast of Spain blog to read a more detailed surf lingo write up about this. But basically San Sebastián has thee beaches, two of which are beautiful calm bays and the third, on the far right of San Sebastián is where you can get your Shaka on. The beach is full of young people hiring boards and getting out there, so give it a go, even if you’re like me and are useless! Bryn’s far more skilled and into it, so he spent morning and night shredding the waves and absolutely loved it. If surf isn’t your thing, don’t worry, there were plenty of boogie boarders out there too and for those who just wanna relax and perv on the sexy surfer boys, plonk yourself on the sand and watch them go!
2. Explore old town
In between La Concha Beach (the long calm bay) and La Zurriola Beach (surf break) you have San Sebastián Old Town. Get lost exploring the narrow cobbled paths that Bryn and I are so familiar with now, filled with shops, restaurants, cafes and more. Old Town has a real charm to it, you can’t help but admire everything as you walk in which ever way your feet choose to go, there’s really no right direction. Bryn and I ended up in Constitution Square, a beautiful open square which is one of Old Towns liveliest social scenes, (though pretty dead when we were there September 18 because of end of season). I would recommend going to San Sebastian in July/August because of this.
Little hint: while you’re standing in Constitution Square looking around at the blue and yellow windows surrounding you, ask someone for the reason why every window has a number above it. It’s really quite interesting!
3. Eat some pintox
San Sebastián is famous for its food industry, so if your budget is higher than ours, it’s here where you can really branch out and enjoy some beautiful cuisine. Luckily for us, pintox bars aren’t too pricey, so while you’re exploring Old Town, you have to indulge at the many many many pintox bars. What the f is a pintox you ask? Don’t worry, I asked the same thing. It’s basicallySpains version of what we call tapas (funny cause I thought tapas was a Spanish word) Anyway, you’ll know the bars when you see them, or you’ll smell them. They have stacks of pintox (tapas) lined up along the counter and wow does it look appetising! You make your way along, picking out the ones you want and the bar tender puts it all on a plate for you. Best of all its cheap too, each pintox ranging between 1 and 5 euros each. We started with seafood and shared a prawn skewer, marinated mussels and scallops then got a few “original Spanish pintox,” which is basically a slice of french stick, with some sort of meat + cheese on top and a toothpick through the middle, holding it together. Really good way to taste and experience the Spanish culture.
4. Watch the sunset on the far right of La Zurriola Beach
While you’re in San Sebastián, head down to the far right of La Zurriola Beach (the surf beach) and sit along the wall to watch the sunset. You’ll be one among many skaters, surfers, musicians, families and even cats. Yup pussy cats. The vibe is awesome as you watch the sun go down and the keen surfers who are still going hard (yes Bryn being one of them). We watched the sunset from here two out of the three nights we were in San Sebastian and it was chill and romantic rolled into one. Perfect.
5. Peini Del Viento or Wind Comb
These beautiful and random sculptures sit at the bottom of Mount Urgull on the far left side of Ondarreta Beach. The three sculptures are literally cemented into the rocks and the salt of the sea has slowly rusted them over time. Perfect for a picnic, a photo or to just take in the view. Apparently, when the winds are high, you can hear some sort of wind chime noise bouncing between the metal parts of the sculptures which is pretty cool too.
6. Cable cart up Mount Igueldo and explore the old amusement park
Either before or after checking out the wind comb sculptures, take the cable cart up Mount Igueldo. The views of San Sebastián are pretty damn amazing but the coolest part is the amusement park right up the very top. Unfortunately and to my utter disappointment, its closed down now and the weeds growing everywhere is a clear indication but whats left of it is sure worth exploring. You come across a log flume, a rollercoaster, slides, trampolines, bumper cars and more. It’s actually pretty magical considering the park opened its gates back in 1912. You literally can imagine what it would have been like back then. Make sure while you’re there you walk right up the castle tower, which is an old wood fired lighthouse. You’ll get a pretty spectacular view from up the top.
7. Walk along La Concha Beach
Once you get down from Mount Igueldo, or after seeing the wind comb sculptures, walk right the way along La Concha beach. Sometimes and especially while travelling, you need to slow down and enjoy life simple pleasures. So corny but so true. Traveling is go go go, 90% of the time, so just walking along the beach can be the best thing to do. La Concha beach is beautiful, a huge circle bay with calm waters and white sand. White sand isn’t actually something you get in Europe much, so enjoy it between ya toes while you can! This goes without saying, get in the water for a dip too! Walk back along the promenade, stopping to look at the white Concha footpath railing and the lampposts (well-known icons of San Sebastian), as well as the many bars, restaurants and surprisingly, day spas.
8. Walk around or climb up mount Urgull
After walking along La Concha beach, carry on walking around the base of Mount Urgull. You’ll walk towards the Aquarium, past some cute marina side cafes (stop in for some lunch if your budgets bigger then ours) and right along the seaside promenade until you’re on the other side of Old Town. Apparently when the seas are rough, waves break right up against the promenade wall and soak people head to toe! If you’re feeling up to it, keep walking and cross over the Maria Cristina Bridge (which is also beautiful) towards the Kursaal Congress Centre and Auditorium and right out to the point. You’ll see some huge rock slabs and we plonked ourselves down, drink in hand and just chilled.
Alternatively, and if you’re not as lazy as we’ve become, you can walk to the summit of Mount Urgull and see another spectacular view of San Sebastian and the Basque country coastline. At the top and guarding the city you’ll find the Sacred Heart Statue which, fun fact of the day, can be seen from 4 miles out to sea.
9. Do a yoga class
This isn’t for everyone but is definitely me and if yogas not your thing, kindly jump ship 9 to number 10. When you’re travelling, the training, exercise and hard work you did back home goes straight out the door. I’m finding fat in places I’ve never noticed before, but mostly, I’m sooooooo stiff! Yoga is something I love, so on arrival in San Sebastián, googling a yoga studio was the first on my to do list. I came across 802 Yoga Studio, emailed them asking for the timetable, locked in a class and off I went. Bryn was surfing, obviously. YAY A BIT OF ME TIME! I couldn’t tell you the last time I was alone just doing me. The class was easily a 10 out of 10, even though I can’t understand Spanish, I could follow along easily enough…unless the teacher spoke directly to me. I left feeling limber, happy and inspired to do my own yoga everyday (which Bryn and I have both actually been doing). This was the goods so check them out if you’re in the area.
10. Do a cooking class
Being poor kids, we didn’t take part in this, but we wished we could. San Sebastián has many cooking classes to choose from. Check out San Sebastián Food, a leading food company in the departments of cooking classes, gourmet retail and culinary tourism. Here you can get a taste for authentic local Spanish food, with fresh produce from local markets. I will be back to do this for sure.
This city was absolutely awesome and I urge everyone to book this in when planning their European holiday, I know I’ll be back! Please o please go out exploring yourselves, you’ll find other epic things to do that are just as rad, so let me know what you find! When I return I plan to enjoy the rowdy nightlife, do the cooking class, actually hike Mount Urgull and eat more pintox!
Leah | free & addicted
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