Here is a list with (some) of my Basque Country essentials.
San Sebastián, is famous for being a culinary hot spot and a beautiful place.
I’d recommend you to go to la Parte Vieja. There you’ll find lots of bars with ‘pintxos’, the Basque twist for tapas. Some of the most famous include La Mejillonera, la Cuchara de San Telmo, la Cepa,… It’s actually difficult to pick one because most bars have amazing pintxos. While eating pintxos you should also try ‘txakoli’, a typical Basque white wine, or ‘sidra’. By the way, going for pintxos in San Sebastián can be quite expensive, so be ready!
If you’re willing to spend even more, you should try some of the greatest restaurants run by the most renowned cooks in the country: Akelarre (which belongs to Pedro Subijana), Arzak, Martín Berasategui, Aduriz, etc.
Nice (and expensive) hotels include Hotel María Cristina or Hotel Londres.
As for the landmarks in San Sebastián I would suggest walking along the beaches, from Gros passing by la Concha and all the way to Ondarreta. You can also take a very unique tram and go up the Igeldo Mountain and contemplate the beautiful view and maybe try some of the attractions at the top.
In la Parte Vieja, Iglesia de Santa María is very nice. La Catedral del Buen Pastor is in the city center, close to Mercado de San Martín, with a nice market and surrounding walkable streets full of shops (check out the huge Zara shop!).
One of the most famous clubs is called Bataplán (beautifully located in La Concha beach). Other party areas include Parte Vieja (mostly for bars) and Reyes Católicos. Have fun!
Around San Sebastián (30 min drive)
This is a beautiful tiny traditional Basque village by the sea. Don’t miss its old town. Famous for its ‘txakolí’ (white wine) and Balenciaga fashion designer (visit his Museum). It is mentioned in some of the blog posts below.
Famous for its beach! Lots of surfers here!
Gorgeous and traditional Basque fishermen village. Walk around the village: Plaza de Armas, Iglesia (church), Plaza Guipúzcoa, Calle San Pedro (lots of bars here, check out El Gran Sol for pintxos) and Paseo Butrón (France -Hendaya is just across the river).
You can actually take a 10 min ride by boat from Paseo Butrón which will take you to the port in Hendaya. From there it is only a 5 min walk to the beach.
The beach is just amazing! You will also find the Château d’Abbadie nearby. Excellent views from up there!
If you feel like exploring the French side a bit more, I would suggest you to drive from Hendaya along the ‘Corniche’, a road along the coast with amazing views. You should stop in Sokoa (check out the Fort) , St Jean de Luz (rue Gambetta is a must) and Biarritz (make sure to check out the beach, the casino, the Hotel Grand Palais and the Port Vieux). All of them are mentioned in my blog posts! I used to study there and I love going there everytime I can!
Alternatively, you could head towards the French Basque countryside – Ascain, Sare, Ainhoa, Espelette are only a few of the very cute villages!
Also copying a few of my blog posts where San Sebastián- Zarauz- Getaria -Hendaya (right across the border) – Irún (my hometown) -Fuenterrabía (also known as Hondarribia-Onyarbi) are mentioned. You´ll find ideas for restaurants too!
- Navidades en la comarca, volviendo a casa como el turrón
- Unos días por Irún y la comarca
- Retransmitiendo desde la comarca (y alrededores) – parte II
- Retransmitiendo desde la comarca (y alrededores)
- Irún express
Rest of the Basque Country
- Bilbao: the biggest city of the Spanish Basque Country. Check out the Guggenheim Museum, walk along the Río Nervión and explore the Casco Viejo.
- San Juan de Gaztelugatxe: it is an islet on the coast of Biscay belonging to the municipality of Bermeo. It is connected to the mainland by a man-made bridge. On top of the island stands a hermitage. The spot is amazing. You should also try the restaurant Eneperi which is nearby!
- Lekeitio and Mundaka are two cute fishermen villages.
- Vitoria: it’s the Basque capital. Explore its nice city center!
- Wines in the Rioja alavesa: Samaniego, Laguardia, Elciego and Labastida are some of the towns that figure on the route. These towns have traditional links with wine culture, and they still conserve all the charm of old medieval villages set between vineyards. They are home to more than fifty establishments where you can sample one of the most internationally prestigious Spanish wines. You can even sleep amongst vineyards by staying in old wineries, hotels and historic buildings.