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San Sebastian, Spain

Saturday, June 8, 2019 - 11:30am by Lolo
16 miles and 0.5 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


San Sebastian's lovely Playa de La ConchaSan Sebastian's lovely Playa de La ConchaContinuing our circumnavigation of Spain, we headed next towards the lovely Basque coastal town of San Sebastian, famous for beach and its food - best pintxos (tapas) in Spain.

As in our Bilbao stop, there was no commercial campground in San Sebastian, but fortunately there was an “aires” (place to park an RV overnight), in walking distance to the beach and the old town. It’s called Donastia San Sebastian, which I guess is a bit repetitive as Donastia, is the Basque name for San Sebastian.

All my listening to Spanish tapes before this trip was pretty useless in Basque country as they speak Euskera (Basque) rather than Castellano (Castillian Spanish). Fortunately, all signs in the region are written in both.

40-foot Jesus statue atop Mount Urgull40-foot Jesus statue atop Mount UrgullIt was a Saturday, and the aires had only 40 spots, so we were very, very lucky to get the last one. We were stacked up like cordwood, but we didn’t plan to spend much time here anyway, as there was too much to see and do. Couldn’t complain too much, as we were in an excellent location and out site cost a whopping 6€.

After a quick lunch in the van, we headed out to explore the city. We started by strolling the Concha promenade, which runs for 2 miles along the lovely, crescent-shaped Playa de La Concha beach, considered one of finest city beaches in all the world. The beach is about a mile long and capped on either end by the twin mountain peaks of Mount Igueldo and Mount Urgull, which we planned to climb later.

It was a Saturday afternoon, so as expected the promenade and beach were crowded with people out enjoying the beautiful day.

Coming from New Jersey, where a beach promenade is a boardwalk full of carnival rides and games, tacky souvenirs, and cotton candy and ice cream vendors, this was a very different experience.

View of La Playa de La Concha from atop Mount UrgullView of La Playa de La Concha from atop Mount UrgullIt was more of an elegant work of art. The white wrought-iron balustrade that runs the length of the promenade was designed by Juan Rafael and is so beautiful that it has become a symbol of the city. There are also elegant lampposts and los relojes” (clocks), which mark the main access to the beach.

On the other side of the street from the beach are upscale businesses and apartments.

The beach was just too tempting to pass up, so we sat for about an hour or two on the towels we had stuffed into our backpacks and people watched.

There was also lots of intricate sand art, many of which made political statements about Basque independence.

Now that's a lot of jamon - Baztan Pintxos and BarNow that's a lot of jamon - Baztan Pintxos and BarAfter the beach, we continued along the promenade to the Old Town Port Area and the start for the hike up Mount Urgull. There were many turnoffs and options along the way, but we just kept heading up towards the Castillo de La Mota, the 12th century castle on the summit.

We paid to go in, but nothing was in English so it was difficult to understand its history. However, there was a video playing showing the many festivals and events that are held in San Sebastian throughout the year that we were able to understand.

Also, at the summit is a 40-foot-tall statue of Jesus looking out protectively over the harbor. This statue is so large that it can be seen from anywhere on the beach.

The views from the castle of La Concha Bay and the Old Town were stunning.

Yummy dinner at the Baztan Pintxos and BarYummy dinner at the Baztan Pintxos and BarThere was lots of activity on the mountain as vendors scurried around with food and beer, preparing for a concert that was to take place later that night.

We headed back down the mountain towards the Parte Vieja, San Sebastian’s charming old town, and began the quest for the perfect pintxos bar. While some looked really good, Herb insisted we continue our search until we found the perfect one. I was getting hungry and cranky, but he was right in holding out, because we eventually found Baztan Pintxos are Bar. It was perfect - Jamon hanging from the ceiling, and dozens of delicious looking pintxos choices covering the entire bar.

It was unbelievable.

Feeling that we had really gotten a good taste (no pun intended) of the beautiful city of San Sebastian, we traced our way back along the Concha Promenade and up past the university to our little home on wheels.


San Sebastian is a coastal city located in the Basque region of Spain, just 12 miles from the French border. Its golden beaches and world-class pinxtos (tapas) bars have made it a very popular tourist destination. It has earned its reputation as the “Pearl” of northern Spain.

Some of its highlights include:

Looking the other direction on La Playa de La ConchaLooking the other direction on La Playa de La Concha

  • The Playa de La Concha is considered one of the finest city beaches in the world, with its magnificent crescent-shaped, golden sand capped by twin mountain peaks at either end. A lovely two-mile beachfront promenade runs the length of the bay.
  • The Parte Vieja is San Sebastian’s charming old town, famous for its world-class pintxos (tapas) bars. Its main square, the Plaza de la Constitucion, is one of the most attractive city squares in Basque Country. It was once used as a bullring and the balconies of the houses surrounding it were rented to spectators.
  • Mount Urgull rises above the eastern end of the Playa de La Concha. You can walk to its summit by taking a path from Mari Street in San Sebastian’s (aka Donostia’s) Old Town Port Area. At the top you are rewarded with the Castillo de La Mota, a 12th-century fortress; a 40-foot-tall statue of Christ looking out over the harbor; and stunning viewpoints of the Old Town and La Concha Bay.

While there are no official commercial campgrounds in Bilbao, there is an aire (place for campers to park overnight) in the city. It is called Donostia San Sebastian and it is located just 1 km from the Playa de La Concha . It costs 6€ per night.

San Sebastian location map in "high definition"

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