The perfect way to get to know a city is a bicycle tour with guide. We booked a tour in San Sebastian with BajaBikes. They offer bicycle tours with Dutch speaking guides in dozens of cities from Australia to Switzerland.
The person waiting for us in San Sebastian was Sheranie – no-nonsense Dutch woman who followed the love of her life and has lived in the gastronomical capital of Spain ever since.
Sheranie took us around San Sebastian for 2.5 hours and told us everything there was to know about the highlights of San Sebastian. The area here is a bit hilly, but because of the e-bikes it was no sweat.
No idea where to stay? Read my blogpost on luxury hotels in San Sebastian.
Highlights of San Sebastian
The route starts at the offices of Baja Bikes in the centre of Gros. .
Iglesia de San Ignacio de Loyola
A few minutes later you pass the most beautiful church of San Sebastian. Do have a look inside.
Did you know a 100 m² flat near the coast costs you about 1.000.000 euro?
Did you know locals eat the entire day? The don't take 3 meals but eat some pintxos whenever they feel hungry.
The bridges of San Sebastian
We continue on our journey and follow the river Urumea. The river lies between the centre and the Gros neighbourhood and is connected by three beautiful bridges.
- Zurriola: lies closest to the mouth of the river and connects Zurriola beach with the Old Town. The bridge was built in 1921 and has beautiful lanterns in Art Deco style
- Santa Karalina: connects the middle of Gros with the new centre. Initially there was a wooden bridge here. However, it was destroyed regularly and was replaced by a stone bridge. Here, too, are beautiful lanterns dating back to 1926.
- Maria Cristina lies furthest inland and connects the centre to the station since 1893. This was also a wooden bridge to start with. The current stone bridge was built in 1905. Both sides of the bridge have an impressive 18-meter-high obelisk.
Buen Pastor cathedral
We cross the Maria Cristina bridge and come to the Buen Pastor Cathedral. This cathedral from 1897 is still the highest building in San Sebastian. The church was built from stone from Igeldo mountain.
The Buen Pastor Cathedral lies directly opposite the Santa Maria church in the Old Town. If you stand in front of the entrance of the Santa Maria church, you see the tower of Buen Pastor.
Our next stop brings us to Casa Valles, the oldest pintxos bar of the town. Ofcourse we have to test this out
Read all about the best restaurants in San Sebastian.
After this we have a short stop at Concha beach. This lies close to the Old Town and is the most popular beach for tourists. You have a great view of Mont Urgull with the large statue of Christ from here.
Halfway up the beach lies La Perla, a beautiful spa. According to those who know, it is one of the most beautiful thalasso (seawater) therapy centres of the world. La Perla was originally built for queen Maria Cristina who liked to swim in the sea here. The wooden building was replaced with the current spa in 1912.
The most westerly beach is popular with the locals.
El peine del Viento
If you cycle past the beach you come to the rocks with 3 sculptures. These works of art are by Eduardo Chillida. They consist of three pieces of metal anchored to the rocks. The artist wanted to make something temporary, and the expectation is that they will have completely disappeared in about 100 years’ time.
This spot is most spectacular in stormy weather. The waves crash against the rocks and the blowholes cause water to shoot meters up into the air.
Then we cycle on to the centre. At the end of Concha beach lies the beautiful city hall. It was built in 1887 as a casino for the royals. Gambling was made illegal in Spain in 1927. The building has functioned as city hall since 1945. In front of the building lies a small park with palm trees, the Alderdi-Elder gardens.
We cycled on along the boulevard and passed the Old Town to our left. You’re not allowed to cycle here, but it is the perfect place for a stroll in the evening. The best restaurants are here.
We cross over the Zurriola bridge and pass the Kursaal. In my opinion the ugliest building of San Sebastian. A beautiful building once stood here, but it was broken down in 1973 and replaced by the current monstrosity in 1999. But apparently the connoisseurs of architecture think of it differently as the design was crowned with a European award for modern architecture in 2001. There’s no accounting for taste.
And that was the end of our tour. We hand the bicycles back and have an ice cream at Papperino because Sheranie tells us they have San Sebastian’s best ice cream here.
Do you want to know more about the best things to do in San Sebastian?
You don't feel like riding a bike (not even an e-bike)? Take the hop on hop off bus or jump on this cosy little train. They both pass all the highlights. (get on the train close to Zurriola bridge).
Are you the sporty type? Consider the 865 km walk Camino del Norte.
Is Sebastian on your bucketlist?
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