San Sebastian (or Donostia to locals) has it all. Sat on La Concha bay, where the Pyrenees meet the sea the town has long sandy beaches, incredible sea views and a stunning mountain backdrop. As if this wasn't enough, mother nature threw in the Isla Santa Clara, an uninhabited island in the middle of the bay to complete the picture.
Unsurprisingly San Sebastian retains a close connection to the sea. There is an active fishing fleet which has no small influence on the town's most famous cuisine; pinchos, as tapas are called locally. Bars throughout the old town serve these delicious snacks along side the local wine, creanza.
Tourist Information runs a twice weekly taste of San Sebastian tour which mixes history with food. The 2 hour walk runs on Tuesday's and Thursday's, costs 16 euros and comes with 3 pinchos and 3 drinks included. If you are not in town on a day the tour is running then you can still pick up a leaflet that will allow you to follow the route yourself.
A great way to build up an appetite or walk off last night's excess is to explore Monte Urgull Mendia, the imposing hill that towers above the old town. At the top stands the castle which also contains a museum of the town's history. The museum is free and although there are no English signs a free English audioguide is available on request. Proudly atop the castle stands a huge statue of Christ, constructed in 1950. Enter the museum to reach the foot of the statue which is also the highest point on the hill you can get to. There are some stunning views from here (and many other points on the hill) over the town.
Aside from the castle and museum there are many other points of interest. The whole hill was effectively a fortress so there are a number of batteries dotted around that are worth a look. There is also the fascinating English Cemetery. This almost hidden area at the rear of the hill, facing out to sea, contains a mass grave of English officers killed during the second Carlist war in 1836 and 1837. The area is not well marked and there is little information on the sign, so trying to piece everything together requires a bit of a detective work. There is also an unrelated monument that was moved here commemorating the British soldiers who perished here during the Peninsula War (in 1813) retaking the town from the French. A history buff can spend a lot of time exploring this small area.
Although the Monte Urgull has an amazing view and was my personal highlight of San Sebastian, the best view of the city is from the top of the taller Mount Igeldo at the opposite side of the bay. A funicular runs every 15 minutes to the top, last service at 1900. The railway was built in 1912 and the old wooden cars are quite charming. In contrast, the tacky theme park at the top of the hill is revoltingly out of place. Don't for a second let this put you off coming up though, the view is stunning. Not only do you have a much better view of the old town and of the port, as the hill is higher you can see further into the Pyrinees which are outstanding.
Last Edit by monkeyboy on 5/04/2010 EDIT NOW >>