Summer in San Sebastian, Spain

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.

View from the BNB San Sebastian

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.

Streets of San Sebastain

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!

San Sebastian Beach

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.

Tidepooling San Sebastian

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.

San Sebastian Beach Play

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.

San Sebastian Church

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.

Coffee & Meraingue San Sebastian

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.

San Sebastian Beach Playground

We ended our city walk at the San Sebastian Carousel and playground, which sit on the plaza just above the beach.

Double Decker Carousel

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.

San Sebastian Carousel Airplane

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.

Furnicular Railway San Sebastain

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.

San Sebastain Amusement Park

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.

Boat Ride San Sebastian

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.

San Sebastian Kids Ride

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!)

View from San Sebastian Amusement Park

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.

San Sebastian Boat Ride

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. 

San Sebastian Water View

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.

San Sebastian Look Out

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.

Art Museum Playground

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.

San Sebastian Fortress

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).

San Sebastain Jesus

The mountain is  topped by the Mota Castle (now home to a free history museum) and sculpture of Jesus Christ.

San Sebastian with Kids

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.

English Cemetery San Sebastian

If you take the road down you will pass the English Cemetery tucked into the mountain. It was an unexpected and peaceful find.

Aquarium San Sebastain from Boat

We popped into the Aquarium when it opened at 10am.

Aquarium Top Floor

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.

San Sebastian Large Aquarium Tank

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.

Aquarium Touch Tank

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.

San Sebastian Sunny Beach

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.

San Sebastian Breakfast

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.

San Sebastian Church Road


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Packing my Suitcase

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