WITH three stunning beaches and plenty of culture, San Sebastian is the perfect balance of seaside fun and city break.
And now that British Airways has launched the UK’s only direct route there, it’s put the city — on Spain’s mountainous north coast — within easy reach.
Harry Corton shares his top ten reasons to visit.
CLASSIC SIGHT: This region of Spain has been a holiday destination for kings and queens throughout the ages. And you can see why the Spanish royal family made their official summer residence here.
Miramar Palace — once the Basque Country’s answer to Balmoral — is quite literally unmissable, perched proudly on top of a grassy hill and overlooking the bay of La Concha.
Queen Victoria stopped by in 1889.
FUN NEIGHBOURHOOD: A stone’s throw from San Sebastian is the elegant fishing village of Hondar-ribia. Its quiet cobbled streets are a haven for arty types, with galleries and unusually decorated houses.
France is a five-minute hop across the border on a ferry (€2 each way).
THE WOW MOMENT: The vast sweeping bay of La Concha is the jewel in the city’s crown — an expanse of white sand, skirted by a grand promenade and surrounded by breathtaking mountains.
When the tide is low, you can walk along the shore to the neighbouring Ondarreta Beach, with its family-friendly calmer waters.
Thrillseekers should venture to the surfer’s paradise of Zurriola, on the other side of Mount Urgull.
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NEW FOR 2022: British Airways’ plush City Flyer fleet now shuttles passengers twice weekly from London City Airport, where snazzy new X-ray technology means no fumbling with liquids and laptop cases — you just bung it all in a tray and off it pops. You’ll whizz through the gate in 20 minutes.
FANTASTIC FEAST: With its proud Basque heritage, in San Sebastian you’ll see locals in bars enjoying pintxos rather than tapas.
Originally a slice of baguette piled high with food of any kind held in place with a cocktail stick, or pintxo, the dishes have evolved to include all sorts of local specialities in miniature, from gilda, with olive, peppers and anchovy, to leek and prawns in filo pastry.
Try Borda Berri or Bar Txepetxa in the centre of town.
CULTURAL FIX: If food comes first here, football is a close second. Real Sociedad jerseys are everywhere, and the team’s blue and white colours dominate apartment block exteriors.
A trip to the 40,000-seater Anoeta stadium, a short walk from the city centre, is a must.
Prices are lower than attending matches in England so grab a bargain while you can.
TOP TOUR: Take a bike to explore San Sebastian and you have the best of all worlds, with nearly 20 miles of cycle paths that snake through the city.
Prices are from just £36 for a two-and-a-half-hour tour. See sansebastianturismoa.eus/en.
WITH THE KIDS: The aquarium is so much more than the average local museum.
It’s split across three floors and even has a rooftop restaurant with sweeping views of the bay.
What makes it unique are its fishy sleepovers, where you camp out in a glass tunnel, admiring sharks and stingrays before you snooze.
General entry costs from around £12 per adult and £6 per child. See aquariumss.com/en.
ONE MORE TREAT: A visit to a sagardotegia (literally an “apple wine house”) is vital, and Sidras Saizar does guided tours detailing the whole process, from press to pour.
Listen out for the cry of “Txotx” (pronounced “Tchoch”) which is your cue to head to the giant chestnut barrels where the cider is kept.
Watch as the amber liquid is uncorked, streaming directly into your glass. See sidrassaizar.com.
THE GRAND HOTEL: Villa Magalean is a superb spa hotel in Hondar-ribia, with eight sumptuous suites.
The stained glass windows give the rooms a majestic feel, and secluded terraces offer total tranquillity.
For more budget-conscious travellers, Hotel NH Collection San Sebastián Aránzazu has doubles from £68 (see nh-collection.com).