There are wonderful places to go before or after Bordeaux. Many of my clients visit San Sébastian which is only three hour’s drive from Bordeaux or even shorter by train. Here are some top tips from some of my clients this summer…
To get there, you can take the TGV to Hendaye where you need to change to the local light rail (Euskotren) – this is very easy, just go out of the SNCF station, turn right, and the Euskotren station will be right in front of you. It’s a terminal, so you don’t even have to worry about which direction it’s going. We got off at the station called Amara, which is in the center of San Sebastian.
The Amara station is about 10 blocks from the beach – we stayed at the Hotel de Londres, an easy walk. If you can get a water-view room there, there is no better view of the whole bay of La Concha.
Food-wise, I’ve never seen anything like it in the bars – this is heaven for pintxos / tapas / raciones – some of our favorite places / dishes were: Bar Goiz Argi (Fermin Calbetón Kalea, close to where you enter the street from the East) – Prawn skewer (brocheta de gambas) – the grill sauce / marinade on these is great… – Fried and salted guindilla and padrón peppers (in season – can be found many places)
– “Marijuli” – green pepper, smoked salmon & anchovy on a piece of bread Bar Borda Berri (Fermín Calbetón Kalea, further West in the same block as Goiz Argi) – Salmorejo soup – like gazpacho, but without tomato (and better…) – Idiazabal cheese risotto (rissotto de Idiazabal) Bar Gandarias (31 de Agosto Kalea, close to San Jeronimo Kalea) – Iberian ham, acorn fed (jamón Ibérico de bellota) *** Get this for sure – super good here! *** – Idiazabal cheese (queso Idiazabal) – goes great with the ham – get a glass of Rioja too! Bar La Cuchara de San Telmo (between 31 de Agosto Kalea and Santa Corda Kalea) – Foie gras with mustard and orange jam (foie gras con mostaza y mermelada de naranjo) – *** Another highlight *** – Veal cheeks (carrilleras) Bar La Viña (31 de Agosto Kalea, in the block East of Gandarias) – Cheesecake! For restaurants, we recommend Bodegón Alejandro (Fermín Calbetón Kalea, 4) for lunch or dinner, Kokotxa (Calle del Campanario, 11) for dinner, and La Fabrica (Calle del Puerto, 17) for lunch or dinner. We went to Arzak also, but it was pretty weird and I don’t think we’d go back.
We took some tours and classes through San Sebastian Food (sansebastianfood.com), which were generally very good – in particular, we enjoyed the “pintxo hunting” and “jamon carving”
The whole place is easy to walk around – be sure to climb Monte Urgull up to the old fortress – there is a small museum up there too – and on the other side of La Concha you can take the funicular up Monte Igueldo for a different view (and there is a small old-fashioned amusement park up there). Miramar palace may be worth a look, but you can’t go inside, so it’s really just a garden. We found the San Telmo museum very interesting.
There is lots of shopping between San Martin Kalea and Monte Urgull.
If you want a real Michelin 3-star experience, we’d highly recommend Azurmendi in Bilbao. BTW – Bilbao can be done as a day trip from San Sebastian – there is a PESA bus that leaves every 30 minutes, takes about 90 minutes to get there. Worth seeing the Guggenheim museum and the Museo de Belles Artes.
Also BTW – if you want to take some jamón home with you, get it from Zapore Jai (San Jerónimo Kalea, 21) – a French guy named Sylvain runs it with his wife, he’s super nice and very knowledgeable.
Notes from Jens Quistgarrd
Notes from Rob and Margaret Cooney (real foodies!):
Here are some more more notes from Lucy Schneidman:
Pintxos (served in the Basque region) is equivalent to tapas
Hotels / Rentals Hotel Maria Cristina / Sensae Apartment (www.sansebastianapartments.net)
Rekondo *** Incredible patio, one of the world’s great wine lists
Akelarre***Amazing sea side restaurant
Azerak*** True Michelin three star experience (Great value for quality)
Bar at the Maria Cristina (Order a gin + tonic)
Salads at Le Perla (Sit on deck)
Le Madame (order my personal salad) Monday family dinners with brunch on weekends
Sites Comino de Santiago: A self guided 3-hour hike (starts behind gas station). After hike, take the ferry and have lunch on the back porch at Ziaboga Jatetxea (seafood). Take the bus back to San Sébastian
Day Trips to France St. Jean de Luz (45 minute drive) know for fabrics / Biarritz (beach + cocktails) L’Arena Café
Notes Take a Pintxos Hunting Tour or cooking class with Jon Warren + Co (www.sansebastianfood.com)
Stroll on the Promenade after dinner