Pack some sunnies and an appetite, and prepare to conquer the Basque beach town that’s become a Spanish mecca of gastronomy, arts, and culture.

By Sienna Vittoria Lee-Coughlin

If It’s Good Enough for Coco

Not only does San Sebastián’s Hotel Maria Cristina boast luxurious accommodations and stunning architecture, it also has a long history to back it up. The five-star belle époque hotel once hosted the queen of class herself, Coco Chanel.

Focus on film

Don’t miss the annual San Sebastián International Film Festival, which this year runs September 22–30.

For Cider Fans

Participate in the lively Basque tradition of “txotx,” and visit a local cider house between the months of January and May to catch a taste of each new batch of cider as it fountains from barrel to glass. Try Astarbe: since it opened in 1563, the cider house has been run by the same family—they definitely know a thing or two about cider.

Come for the Art, Stay for the View

This tobacco-factory-turned-cultural-centre has become an art hotspot. The Tabakalera International Centre for Contemporary Culture’s five floors are now home to multidisciplinary exhibitions, travelling performances, film screenings, and special events. A visit to the rooftop deck is a must for its panoramic bird’s-eye view of the city.

Tapas Like a Local

San Sebastian may pride itself in being home to an extraordinarily high concentration of Michelin-star restaurants, but for an unceremonious, bona fide Basque experience, try bar hopping like a local. Enjoy the traditional tapas-like nibblies known as pintxos (as well as a glass or two of San Sebastián’s famous Txakolí white wine) by visiting a series of pintxos bars in a row: try La Cepa for Iberico ham you’ll write about in your journal, Bar Txepetxa for famous regional anchovies, and Txubillo for unique Japanese-Basque fusion treats.  

Where Chef Shops

Meander the historic La Bretxa market in Old Town, where Spain’s top chefs and locals alike stock up on fresh produce. Don’t leave without sampling the Idiazabal, a tangy artisanal sheep’s milk cheese.