What to see in San Sebastian?
San Sebastián is a little jewel surrounded by green mountains facing the Cantabrian Sea. The city, capital of the province of Gipuzkoa, is the cradle of good food and drink. It was also the European Cultural City in 2016; therefore, delicious food and drink and a unique culture in the world, what else do you need?
Donostia (San Sebastián in Basque) is a very easy city to visit, since it is not very big, and all the essential places to see are very close one to each other. In one or two days, you can visit the entire city without missing a thing: the famous Playa de la Concha, the bars in the Old Town with the best pintxos, the San Telmo Museum, the Monte Igueldo with the ancient Amusement Park, the waves of the Zurriola Beach... All these wonderful places can be visited on foot and in no more than 24-48 hours.
That is why today I am here to propose 10 things to see and do near San Sebastián in case your stay is more than two days. Even if it is a short stay, you could combine the capital with some of these plans, since that way you would go home with a more complete experience.
1. VISIT A LOCAL CIDER HOUSE
More and more traditional Basque cider houses are offering guided tours through their facilities thanks to Sagardoa Route.
Live the "txotx" experience, taste the natural Basque cider and travel to our origins! Enjoy the secrets of this thousand-year-old drink closely linked to the Basque territory, its culture and gastronomy with a local guide. You will visit the apple orchards, the winery farmhouses, the production areas, the cellars and of course, you will taste the house's natural cider as we Basques do: in the bottle and directly from the barrel. Txoootx! It is the call to taste natural cider directly from the barrels while you enjoy the traditional cider house menu. It is an experience that you will want to relive a thousand times!
2. ZUMAIA AND THE FLYSCH
Just 34 kilometers away from San Sebastián we find Zumaia, a charming coastal town with a world-renowned geological heritage. In this small town we will have the opportunity to get to know the "flysch", some beautiful rock formations that tell us more than 50 million years of the history of Humanity. The "flysch" is like a big open book. The best time to visit it is when there is low tide, since in this way you will be able to appreciate both the vertical and horizontal rock formations that are found under the sea. The Flysch is part of the Basque Coast Geopark, 14 kilometers that cover the towns of Zumaia, Deba and Mutriku.
In addition to being able to walk through the beautiful Flysch, visit the hermitage of San Telmo and surf on Itzurun Beach, you will also enjoy the best octopus in the Basque Country, it is the traditional dish par excellence. Zumaia celebrates every year its well-known "Olarro Eguna", the day of the octopus. A day full of music and local traditions in which octopus is eaten in all its forms from early in the morning.
Boat trips, surfing, octopus, geological and cultural heritage, hiking trails... All this and much more in Zumaia, what are you waiting for to visit it?
3. IGARTUBEITI FARMHOUSE
Visit Igartubeiti, a 16th century winery farmhouse that recreates the real life of the old Basque farmhouses! Igartubeiti was built in the mid-16th century and is a magnificent representative of the Golden Age of Basque farmhouses. Its original wooden structure, excellently preserved, and the existence inside of a large wooden press for cider production make it one of the most interesting farmhouses in the Basque Country.
The farmhouse brings together a set of cultural, historical, anthropological, architectural and symbolic values that make it a key element of the Basque heritage, that we must preserve. Its interior has been converted into a new museum in which the real life of the old farmhouses is recreated. In it, directly and without interference, you can experience what life was like inside a Basque farmhouse four centuries ago, with its original lighting, furniture and tools, and even with the smells and aromas that pervaded it.
4. MEET A LOCAL SHEEPHERD
Get to know the Goierri region, the cheese region par excellence, from the hand of a local shepherd. This area of Gipuzkoa is 45 kilometers away from San Sebastián, and in it, you will find some of the best cheese farms in the Basque Country. Delve into the interior of Gipuzkoa and taste one of our greatest delicacies!
The shepherd of the cheese factory will open the doors of his farmhouse to show you how Idiazabal cheese is made, one of the gastronomic jewels of the Basque Country. You will learn about the qualities and secrets of the latxa sheep, you will visit the production area, the pastures and of course, you will taste the Idiazabal cheese accompanied by a glass of Euskal Sagardoa (Basque Designation of Origin cider). All this while enjoying the magnificent views of the Aizkorri mountain range and Mount Txindoki.
5. TXAKOLI IN GETARIA
Did you know that in the surroundings of San Sebastián we have more than 443 hectares of vineyards? And all these vineyards are used to produce our precious white gold, the “txakoli”, Getariako Txakoliña Designation of Origin. 90% of these vineyards are located in coastal areas, Getaria being the town with the largest amount of Ondarrabi Zuri grapes, the main variety with which txakoli is made.
Getaria is a small coastal town of 3,000 inhabitants just 25 km from San Sebastián. If you come to Getaria, you will have the opportunity to taste this traditional Basque drink in one of its wineries, which have impressive views of the Basque coast and whose vineyards have a very special characteristic that makes them unique in the world.
Apart from being the cradle of txakoli, it is well known for the fish grills that are found outside its restaurants, its old whaling port and for being the birthplace of three celebrities such as the sailor Juan Sebastián Elkano, the fashion designer Cristobal Balenciaga and the Zarzuela singer Pepita Embil, mother of Plácido Domingo. Come and delight yourself with this little treasure of the Basque Coast!
6. CANOEING ON THE URUMEA RIVER
Get to know San Sebastián and its surroundings through the cider river! San Sebastián has a river with a lot of history: Urumea, known for decades as the cider river. An authentic proposal that unites sport and Basque culture.
The name Urumea comes from the Basque words “ura” + “mehea” which means shallow waters. You will cross this river rowing towards the interior of our region, along the way you will be able to appreciate different species of local fauna and flora in their natural habitat. You will also see from the water some of the old ports of the villages around Donostia, where sand, vegetables and cider were loaded onto boats called “alas” in order to transport them to the big city and sell them in the market.
The cider not only came to the city to be sold in the markets, but also through the Urumea River, the cider makers brought the cider to the port of Donostia, so that the whale fishermen could take the cider with them on long journeys. They were going to Newfoundland, in Canada.
You will learn this and much more as you row up the river!
7. MAKE YOUR OWN CIDER
Make your own cider and be a cider maker for a day! We will show you how you can make your own cider. We will start in the family apple orchard picking apples with the "kizkia" and we will transport them in sacks to the pressing area, where we will make our own apple juice using a manual crush and press. Finally, you will taste the juice obtained as a result of your effort.
As a gift you will take a bottle of freshly pressed organic apple juice. At the end of the activity, you will also have the opportunity to enter the cider house cellar to taste different ciders directly from the barrels accompanied by a traditional cider house menu or a children's menu for the little ones.
It is an entertaining cultural activity suitable for all ages.
8. RURAL SPORTS GYMKHANA
This activity is the perfect combination to have a good time, disconnect and get to know the Basque culture. It is a great plan to make with your friends, family or with your coworkers. In all three cases, there will be different games and challenges to play as a team.
The Basque Country has always been linked to its traditions and customs. The tasks of the farmhouses of yesteryear have been turned into sports activities, to the famous challenges of “Herri Kirolak”, Basque rural sports.
You will get to know the local traditions very closely, while practicing all these challenges. Among them we have the sokatira, the lokotzak, dragging stones, throwing txapela...
After sweating a little and having fun, we propose you a meal in a traditional Basque cider house, where you will taste the cider directly from the wooden barrels while you enjoy a traditional cider house menu.
9. HIKING ROUTE
A walk through the Basque mountains is the perfect plan! In the surroundings of San Sebastián you have hundreds of hiking routes, from walks for all audiences to demanding rocky peaks.
The Basque Country is a territory of singular natural beauty in which the main protagonists are the mountains, valleys, gorges, cliffs, natural parks, waterfalls... They are waiting for you!
While you walk through our forests, meadows and peaks, you will learn about the history of the Basques, their beliefs and their mythology. We suggest you end the sports and cultural day with a good meal at a local cider house, where you will taste our liquid gold (cider), while you eat the traditional cider house menu.
10. IMMERSE YOURSELF IN THE INLAND BY BIKE
What better than after having visited each and every one of the pintxo bars in the Old Town, taking the bike and entering the lush valleys around San Sebastián.
We will cycle through what were formerly the tracks of the mining train, the Leizaran Valley, 15km from San Sebastián. This spectacular route following the Leizaran River will take us to the municipality of Leitza, in Navarra. The waterfalls of the river and the secret pools are the favorite places of many vacationers. We will make the round trip enjoying the lushness and quality of the air that this route offers us through the history and nature of the Basque Country.
All these activities and much more in the surroundings of San Sebastián, therefore, do not stay in the city and venture into our region with us! I am sure that you will not regret it, and you will want to repeat it a thousand times.