San Sebastián & Bilbao

I have just come back from three glorious days in the Northern Spanish cities of San
Sebastián and Bilbao which are in close proximity to the Spainish/French border. Why these two cities? Well both cities are rich in culture and food and travel wise they are really easy to get to. We flew into Bilbao which is a two hour flight from Stansted and San Sebastián is just a scentic 70 min bus ride from Bilbao.

Bilbao – The Nervión River runs right through Bilbao, which unlike The Thames is clear enough to see lots of fish (probably due to it’s smaller scale). There are so many beautiful buildings and bridges along the River that just that in itself will keep you amused. However one of the biggest draws to Bilbao is the Guggenheim Museum which is filled with modern and contemporary art. The building itself is quite incredible as well as the sculptures surrounding it. My top tip would be to get a combined ticket for the Guggenheim and the Museo de Bellas Artes which is a 5 min walk from the Guggenheim. The combined ticket is €19 which means you can skip the queues for the Guggenheim. We only had a day and night in Bilbao and spent quite a lot of time in this cute cafe right next to the Guggenheim called Sua San that had pastries, brunch, peach smoothies and rainbow cake. The rest of the time we walked around the city which is very easy to do taking in all of the architecture.

San Sebastián – The majority of our time was spent in this gorgeous city and we loved it. Although the city is fairly small there is loads to do. The River Urumea runs right through the city and opens out into the sea, which means there’s a few beaches within the town. La Concha bay is more family orientated where there are pontoons to swim out to and paddleboards to rent. The beach next to that is Ondarreta which is a surf beach and there are loads of places to rent boards and suits.

La Concha Bay

PINTXO – This is what the region is most famous for, pintxo are like small tapas snacks. There are streets of pintxo bars that have loads of cold pintxo on the counters or chalks boards with lists of hot and cold pintxo to order. It is amazing watching the staff in these small bars serve and take note of what you look like to send the food to the right people as they get pretty packed. Each plate costs around €2-3 and you go from bar to bar choosing 1 or 2 plates in each. Dinner in San Sebastián starts pretty late so about 10pm is when it really gets going. Below is a list of my top picks as well as the Pintxo Guide:

  • Cheese Risotto and Tuna – Borda Berri
  • Prawns and Padron Peppers – Goiz Argi
  • Cheesecake – La Viña
  • Ice Creams and Sorbets dipped in chocolate – Loco Polo
  •  Garlic Prawns – Beti Jai Berria
  • TOPA Sukaldería – Michelin star chef with amazing ceviche, pisco sours and guacamole
  • Txakoli – local wine that is gently sparkled
  • Rioja – Red wine as it’s near that wine region

Getting Active – Well it wouldn’t be one of my blog posts if I didn’t include this. So I mentioned that you can rent out surfboards and paddleboards. There are stairs which go straight into the sea so perfect for getting into the open water for swimming. The region is very mountainous and green so there are a lot of hikes that take in the views of the coastline. My friend took her running shoes and did a lovely run along the coast early on Saturday morning. I always think running is a great way of getting to know a city and explore. We also did some yoga on our roof top terrace but I would say that the beach is a prime location for yoga or perhaps a bit of HIIT too, at least you can cool down in the sea for afters. Bike rentals are also popular and I was quite impressed with all the cycle lanes so it seemed like a bike friendly place.

The only other place I would recommend was La Perla spa overlooking La Concha beach. The spa is the first seawater spa I have ever been too and there is a lot on offer. There are different hydrotherapy pools and jacuzzis. The main hydropool had jets positioned to locate different areas within the body and explained which muscles they would effect and how long to stay there. In the downstairs of the spa there was a pool with lots of underwater equipment like treadmills, bikes, cross-trainers etc. Then there were large steam rooms and saunas, a cold plunge pool and a shower walkway. If you wanted to book treatments you could do but we opted for a two hour session for €30. From the spa you could walk onto the beach and sit in sun loungers or go for a dip in the sea. The only thing I’d mention is that you have to wear a swim hat which they provide for free or you can wear your own. Also as it is seawater if you eyes are sensitive like mine then goggles may be a good idea.
So if you love food and are willing to try things and not be scared like I was sometimes then I really cannot recommend enough. Peace and Love España. xx

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