The stories and images of San Sebastián paint a picture of beautiful landscapes and vast oceans. However, the pictures are not able to capture the true beauty that is within the everyday life of the city. The city has its own magical essence that no picture, video or Snapchat would be able to convey. ￼
It’s people are full of life and joy, strolling the streets without any rush to get anywhere. Bikers, family’s, dogs all seem to seamlessly fit together to paint a picture that is even more beautiful than the views. The walking tour was the first time that we were able to take in the city for what its worth. We were able to genuinely see the people, both native and tourists, all coinciding in one magnificent city filled with energy and youth. A unique part of San Sebastián is the amount of pintxo bars that offer a variety of food and drinks for little money. They are scattered on every street of the city, offering a little sample of Spain in each snack. They vary from seafood to sandwiches to other small treats that are lined up on the counter to take. You simply pick which pintxo you want, pay, and continue with your day. San Sebastián is completely a walking city and these bars fit right into that. All throughout the day you could see people enjoying them outside or while walking to their next destination. The city is so relaxed and calm compared to our daily life. Rather than rushing to get to the next appointment or errand, people appear to genuinely take their time doing daily tasks. There is no constant hurry which is a common theme in our lives.
The walking tour took us throughout all the main parts of San Sebastián. There were shops, banks, markets all around and the majority of these places were unique to the city, rather than mainstream chains. They were authentic and sold wholesome products. In the whole city there was only one McDonald’s, as compared to Boston or other cities that have fast food chains lining the corners. San Sebastián version of fast food seems to be they pint or that are high quality food for a low price. They had a few stores familiar to us like Sephora and Zara, but for the most part the stores were all new to us.
The city is on the go, but not in the same hustle-bustle that we are used to. Instead the city is on the go to live life and enjoy themselves. People are out walking till early hours of the morning on weekdays and the sun does not even set until 10 pm.
The beaches at San Sebastián are breathtaking. They are surrounded by lush mountains and filled with boats and people. La Concha beach, the most popular, was extremely crowded but still somehow remained beautiful. It wasn’t like Hampton Beach that is overcrowded and dirty. Instead the views and beauty of La Concha overshadowed the crowd. It felt like you were in your own little paradise, free from the troubles of the world. The water was bluer and the sand was softer than the beaches that we have near us. There were people scattered along the whole edge of the ocean, jumping off walls and boating around. No wonder that it is labeled as one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe.
The architecture and buildings were also stunning and very different from usual cities. They are old and classic with a tremendous amount of history behind each of them. We saw the Maria Cristina hotel which still had bullet holes in it from a battle decades ago.
We were able to visit several parts of the city like Gros and the Old part, which were on opposite sides of the river. An easy way to navigate the city was to use the beaches and river as landmarks to separate the city into recognizable spots. The Old Part was lined with restaurants and bars while Gros was centered on La Zurriola beach. There were several plazas that kept the history of the city and Basque culture alive and we were also able to see where the Running of the Bulls used to take place as well.
The first real look into San Sebastián made me even more excited for the upcoming weeks. There is so much to explore and do around the city that I’m not sure that I could even fit a quarter of it into these 3 weeks.