San Sebastian, Pais Vasco, Spain, Monte Igueldo
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View from Monte Igueldo iStock.com / Aljndr
San Sebastian, Pais Vasco, Spain, Playa de la Concha
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Playa de la Concha iStock.com / Rrrainbow
San Sebastian, Pais Vasco, Spain, Pintxos
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Pintxos iStock.com / fazeful
San Sebastian, Pais Vasco, Spain, surfer
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Surf Beaches iStock.com / mikrus
San Sebastian, Pais Vasco, Spain, Plaza de la Constitución
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Plaza de la Constitución iStock.com / deymos

San Sebastian

San Sebastian, Pais Vasco, Spain, Miramar Palace Miramar Palace iStock.com / Aljndr

This northern Spanish seaside town is classic Mediterranean with a meandering river, maze of tapas bars, golden beaches, and architecture that spans from ancient Rome to current day. Small ships dock on a local pier that’s within walking distance of the city center.

What We Love

Old Town: Once surrounded by protective walls, the Parte Vieja is home to two distinct churches — a cathedral and basilica —and a museum housed in a circa 16th-century convent. The shopping district isn’t far from the winding medieval stone streets. 

Monte Igueldo: Get panoramic views of San Sebastian as well as the bay from this point west of town. A funicular takes you to the top, where you will also find a small amusement park.

Best Known For

Pintxos: There are plenty of Michelin stars in San Sebastian, but the traditional tapas (called pintxos here) are stellar, too. Never mind decoding the menu. Ask the staff for fresh picks and personal favorites, or simply point to what looks good.

Beaches: These golden shores were made for surfing, sunning (usually topless), and enjoying a refreshing glass of sangria. Popular La Concha is one of the best city beaches in the world, while Isla Santa Clara is a sliver of sand that comes and goes with the passing tide.

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Who It's Best For

Strollers and Stoppers: The picturesque city is classically European, which means it’s lined with cafés, tapas bars, and leafy plazas. Taking your time to explore on your own will grant you the most authentic experience.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

Language Lessons: The Basque country, a territory that encompasses this seaside city and stretches to southern portions of France, is vehemently proud — and political. Euskara, the regional language, is preferred to the national one, Castilian Spanish. Don’t expect to pick up much in a short visit. It’s said that Euskara is related to no living language.

Jenna Mahoney

Jenna Mahoney is a Brooklyn-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Allure.

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