Summer in San Sebastian, Spain
Jeff had a conference in Spain so we headed down a few days early to enjoy a bit of sun and sand in San Sebastian. We flew into Bilbao on KLM, rented a car through Thrifty and drove the hour from Bilbao to San Sebastian to spend a few days on the coast.
Our AirBnB in San Sebastian was excellent. The location was perfect. We were two blocks from the beach, adjacent to the best eating in town and there was plenty of space. Our host even had a covered parking spot in town to offer us. The AirBnB was located above a gourmet grocery store and a block from several other stores making it super convenient to stock up on munchies.
On our first evening we arrived at the AirBnB a bit after 7pm. We unpacked and immediately headed to a street lined with Pintxos bars. We wandered into Munto, found a few tall stools and picked our favorite items from the bar. There is also a menu on the wall with hot Pintxos, although we didn’t try any. There was another family with children in Munto as well, so it was family friendly enough. A few pintxos each was enough to fill our bellies. Jeff and my mom each enjoyed a glass of wine, which cost only €2!
The next morning we had a full day to spend in San Sebastian. We had breakfast in the AirBnB and were out on the beach by 9am. With the exception of beach walkers and swimmers we had the beach to ourselves.
The part of the beach closest to our AirBnB is underwater during high tide, leaving lots of tidal pools and small areas for the kids to play in during the morning low tide.
We spent a little bit of time jumping in the waves too before heading back for showers.
My mom headed off on a 10am English walking tour of San Sebastian. She said the tour covered more of the Basque culture than the architecture of the city. Post tour she was able to point out San Sebastian’s Gastronomic Societies.
Meanwhile, Jeff and I took the kids on a the self guided Rick Steves’ San Sebastian walking tour from his Spain book. San Sebastian is really walkable with lots to explore.
We made a stop at Argitan, an adorable pastry shop with sidewalk seating. We each picked out a treat to enjoy, plus I got a coffee.
We ended our city walk at the San Sebastian Carousel and playground, which sit on the plaza just above the beach.
The carousel is an old fashioned double decker with plenty of unique animals and objects to ride. The kids took several turns on it so they could ride a few things. Tickets are purchased at the nearby hut.
My mom’s walking tour ended near the playground so she walked up to join us and we all found a seat outside at Bar Barandiaran. The lunch pintxos were a selection of sandwiches and some seafood. We all picked a few and enjoyed a leisurely lunch people watching.
The afternoon had us heading for the funicular railway. The bus for the funicular leaves just a few blocks from the beach. You can pay the driver on board and boarding with your stroller is easy, but done through the rear door. The bus drops off right at the entrance to the funicular railway.
The San Sebastian Funicular Railway is 100 years old and maintains its old feel. It was not very crowded when we were there. We easily bought tickets and immediately boarded the train.
The top of Monte Igeldo houses an amusement park of sorts. Each activity has a separate ticket price paid to the ride operator. We arrived just before siesta but were still able to ride a few things. My favorite is the log ride (€2) that runs on the edge of the mountain. This was also the only ride O (age 2) was able to ride.
Jeff took H on the mountain roller coaster, which he loved. H was also allowed to ride some small animal cars around a tiny track.
Once the rides shut down for siesta there wasn’t much to do, although we did get Jeff to try the High Striker “feat of strength” game, which was coin operated. (Watch Jeff give it a try here!)
The views from the top alone are worth the trip, even on a cloudy day.
After nap the plan was to walk down to the Maritime Museum and then enjoy dinner on the waterfront. When we arrived at the museum, we were informed that the boats had been moved to the art museum to make way for an art exhibit on women. Odd.
The kids wanted to see boats, so we passed on the art exhibit and made the decision to take a 45-minute harbor cruise with a boat that was getting ready to leave right away. The tour was not narrated, but provided amazing views of the coastline.
Sunday we were worried about things being open. We stocked up on food and planned to cook dinner at the house. We noticed that some things were open earlier in the day, but that the town really did close down a bit early.
We stuck with activities we knew would be open. A playground near the art museum was just a few blocks from our AirBnB and was a great way to start our morning and let the kids run around a bit.
We took a stroll around Mount Urgull. There is a lovely walking path that winds its way around the breakwater. The kids loved watching all the boats and fishermen.
We continued our walk up Mount Urgull (123 meters.) The walk is steep and would have been best done without the stroller. The mountain has a fortress you can explore (cannons and old walls).
The mountain is topped by the Mota Castle (now home to a free history museum) and sculpture of Jesus Christ.
The views of San Sebastian are stunning. We took the road back down as it was a bit more stroller friendly (no steps) but just as steep. There is a public bus (39) that makes its way up Mount Urgull seasonally.
If you take the road down you will pass the English Cemetery tucked into the mountain. It was an unexpected and peaceful find.
We popped into the Aquarium when it opened at 10am.
The top floor of the Aquarium is actually a bit of a ship museum. There were a ton of boat models and a small area for kids to play in.
The bottom two floors house a more traditional aquarium. The large tank is the hallmark and is home to turtles, sharks, eels and tons of other large fish. We were the first ones in the door and had the place to ourselves for our hour long visit. The Aquarium is on the small side but the exhibits are all nicely done and the kids enjoyed seeing all the fish up close.
The touch tank even had an octopus that only Jeff was brave enough to touch.
Just outside the Aquarium is a line of seafood restaurants. We stopped at Pantxika, took a seat under the sun shade and enjoyed some fresh seafood. All their seafood is grilled fresh. Delicious. On Sundays they have a plate of croquettes that comes out free for the kids.
We strolled back towards our apartment enjoying the sun and stopping at one of the numerous ice cream shops for a treat before some quiet time for the boys. We made dinner at the apartment since it can be difficult to find food on Sundays.
Monday morning before leaving town we picked up coffee and pastries from Pasteleria Oiartzun and took them to the playground near the beach for breakfast before loading into the car and driving to Bilbao.
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