If you're attending San Sebastian Film Festival, you might want to know some recommendations about where to eat, drink, hangout and shop. I put together a list of my favourites with lots of help from friends and colleagues who come to San Seb every year.
List below, but also available as a pdf to download here:
San Sebastian: Everything But the Films Some recommended restaurants, bars, attractions and shops in San Sebastian. Compiled September 2020 by Wendy Mitchell (SSIFF UK and Nordic delegado) with help from lots of festival regulars! Just some personal tips, nothing official from the festival.
Not sure what’s open in the pandemic year of 2020 so you might want to call ahead before going miles out of your way.
Feel free to share this document with friends and also PLEASE suggest new tips or updates to Wendy on firstname.lastname@example.org
Have fun exploring this amazing city!
PINTXOS & RESTAURANTS Note I don’t include most of the Michelin starred places because most of us can’t afford them! ASADOR ALDANONDO Euskal Herria Kalea, 6
Well known, and good for group dinners.
Antonio Calle Bergara 3 Good hot pintxos made to order. Crayfish Ravioli and house-cured anchovies particularly recommended.
Atari Calle Mayor, 18 Solid pintxos bar and convenient location.
Bardulia Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 7 Good steak and good pintxos selection. Convenient location.
Bodega Donastiarra Peña y Goñi Kalea, 13 Very popular (and usually totally packed during festival time) on a trendy pedestrian street. They have a larger menu but for pintxos are known especially for Indurain the Completo (with tuna/anchovy) and Russian Salad (or Spanish potato salad) with tuna & prawns. The Giant Brocheta de pulpo y langostinos, or the simple tortilla. Looks trendy but has been around since 1928.
Bokado Jacques Cousteau Plaza, 1 Good tasting menu about 50 Euros a head. Near Aquarium.
Borda Berri Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 12 Great pintxos bar in the old town. Recommended dishes include Idiazabal cheese risotto, pig’s ear with romesco sauce or grilled octopus with quince jelly.
Ganbara Calle San Jeronimo, 21 Especially good fish (especially the monkfish) and veggie options, lots of produce from local farms. One of the most popular places in the city. Beloved by locals and tourists. Pintxos on the bar and on order. One specialty is the crab tartlet.
Gandarias 31 de Agosto Kalea, no 23 Probably a good idea to book it, one of the most popular.
Gatxupa Usandizaga Kalea, 17 Trendy and cool spot for Basque-meets-Mexican cuisine. They also have a tasting menu downstairs. Tacos al pastor are one speciality.
Geralds Iparragirre 13 More Melbourne-infuenced than Basque. Jerk chicken with pineapple, wonderful tabuleh with cucumber and feta, ,Duck curry. Local product and generous portions All in a great and warm place with a great wine list.
Gorriti San Juan Kalea, 3, 20003 Donostia No-frills but lively pintxos bar, convenient near Bretxa Market. Small but a few tables to stand outside. Open since the 1920s and the locals still go here.
IBAI Getaria Kalea, 15 The most hidden gem of San Sebastian. Open at lunch during the week days only, it’s in the basement of a pinxtos bar in a modest room with no windows. One expert says, “The lobster with a head of the lobster sauce is a must.” Pricey.
Kenji Calle Mayor 4 If fed up with Pintxos and in need of vegetables or other fishes than Bacalao, between two screenings, this Japanese restaurant is the one you need. Small and usually crowded.
Km. 0 Taberna Jatetxea Duque de Mandas, 35 Vegan and vegetarian, lots of healthy options. Local produce.
La Cuchara de San Telmo Santa Korda Kalea, 4 Small restaurant, always packed because even the locals love it. Great for sharing dishes. One of the best!
La Fabrica Calle Puerto 17 Great value set menu. Relaxed surroundings, great food at affordable prices, usually about 25 Euros for 4 courses with decent wine. Yes, really.
La Mejillonera Calle del Puerto 15 Stand-up, slightly divey joint famous for moules, patatas bravas and calamari. No frills but fun and cheap and lively.
La Vina Calle 31 de Agosto, 3 Famous especially for the cheesecake, which some say is the best in the world But they also serve savoury food too!
The Loaf Zurriola Hiribidea, 18 Nice bakery and coffee shop (some of best coffee in town), well located near Kursaal.
Marinela Kaiko Pasealekua, 15 Seafood restaurant by harbour.
MATALAUVA Zabaleta Kalea, 17 The chef, Borja Garcia, was working at the three star Akelarre. Affordable little bar - restaurant with no pinxtos on the counter. A creative and limited menu with no more than eight choices. Sliced meat with a chili pepper sauce is extraordinary. Next to Kursaal, terrace.
Mugaritz Aldura Gunea Aldea, 20 15 minute drive up the hill. Michelin starred, said to be one of top 10 restaurants in the world. EXPENSIVE – 200 Euros a head. Go with your favourite person on an expense account (ha) and reservations a must.
Nagusia Lau Calle Mayor, 4 Great pintxos bar near Principal theatre.
NESTOR Arrandegi Kalea, 11 Best to pre-book a reserved slice of the famous tortilla, the best in town, served twice a day, at noon and at 8 pm. Just one table. Very unique and tiny place.
NIKKEI BAR Urdaneta Kalea, 14 Small but delicious fusion kitchen – Asian/Basque. Espeically good for lunch/dinner with small groups/individuals.
Ni Neu Zurríola Hiribidea, 1 Sleek, modern, gastronomic. Tasting menu available.
Paco Bueno Calle Mayor, 6 Another solid pintxos bar, famous for its battered prawns. Usually busy.
Pizzeria Paparazzi Calle Virgen del Carmen, 4 Casual but reliable pizzeria, also good for kids but probably not for huge groups.
Polka Sarriegi plaza 8 Small bar, perfectly hidden in a small street, but very close to Old Theater and Kursaal. Wonderful pintxos and tapas, kind of sophisticated versions of usual one.
Punta Sal Calle secundino esnaola 7 Excellent fusion between Japanese and Peruvian food, for reasonable prices (30€ for a full meal). Great for vegetarians. Close to Trueba Cinema.
RAMUNTXO BERRI Peña y Goñi Kalea, 10 Casual, good for group dinners, close to Kursaal. Service can be slow in peak times. Great daily lunch menu.
REKONDO Paseo de Igeldo 57 5 minute by taxi from the city center a traditional Basque restaurant with a beautiful terrace. Known to be one of the most impressive wine cellar in the world with 15,000 bottles priced from 15 to 10,000 euros per bottle. Especially recommended dish is Chuleta (sliced entrecôte).
Saltxipi Ategorrietako Galtzada Zaharra On the edge of town, fine dining famous for its spider crabs.
Txalupa Calle de Fermín Calbetón 3 Solid pintxos action and good veggie options. Order some small plates including the patatas bravas and grilled prawns. Popular and busy, but takes reservations.
Txepetxa Pescadería Kalea, 5 Small, traditional pintxos bar most famous for its anchovies.
Zelai Txiki Rodil kalea, 79, Short cab ride up the hills. Special place, also known for grilled fish and meats. Not cheap but lovely for a group dinner. Very good service and wine list too. Previously spotted festival jurors having dinner here. BARS What to drink? txakoli, the local white wine is very dry and slightly sparkling and popular to drink with pintxos. But you can get great wine at excellent prices no matter what variety you fancy. Patxaran – a sloe-flavoured local liquer that might come out late at night! Beer – the local Keler beer is great. You can order beer in several sizes, Caña (200ml) is about a half pint. Doble, Copa or Tubo is a bigger (as is jarra or pinta), Zurito is tiniest size. It’s slightly confusing, you can always point to the glass size you want! Basque Country is also famous for its CIDER of course.
Akerbeltz Mari Kalea, 19 Nice bar near port.
BAR TANGER Okendo Kalea, 12 just behind Victoria Eugenia
Bar Txiki San Lorenzo Kalea, 11 recommended, in old town.
Hotel Londres Zubieta Kalea, 2 With The Dickens Bar now sadly closed, here's the place for the best Gin & Tonics. The bar here is a great festival hangout, especially if you’re a gin lover.
Mala Gissona Zabaleta Kalea Comes recommended by someone in the know.
Museo del Whisky Alameda del Blvd., 5 Good for cocktails. Serves more than 200 whiskies. Sometimes also has live piano.
OQUENDO Okendo Kalea, 8 Bar also just behind Victoria Eugenia.
Pub Drop Reyes Catolicos Kalea, 18 Good for craft beer.
ACTIVITIES & SIGHTSEEING La Perla Spa Paseo de La Concha (in the middle of La Concha Beach) The treatments are good and pretty affordable compared to posh spas elsewhere in Europe. You can also just go in for the “marine circuit” which is excellent and a great way to spend two hours--- many pools of different temperatures, cold plunge pools, sauna, huge hot tub with views of the sea (and you can also leave your stuff inside the spa and go out to the sea via the side door near the hot tub). About 30 Euros to visit. They speak English well so don’t hesitate to call and book in advance or talk through what treatment you want. Also a restaurant on site but I’ve never eaten there. They make you use a swim cap so buy a La Perla one and bring it back every year or just buy one to use on the day. You can rent towels (or even bathing suits I think). They have a good FAQ on the website: https://www.la-perla.net/en/thalassotherapy/
Aquarium Plaza de Carlos Blasco de Imaz 1
See some Fish. As well as maritime history. In a picturesque spot on the harbour and boasts an Oceanarium tunnel to walk through.
Beach Well, yes, just go to the beach! But do heed any warnings about strong currents. There are lockers to put your stuff in. Surfers tend to go to Zurriola Beach. Plenty of surf schools around.
Comb of The Wind sculpture Great walk over to the far west tip of La Concha to see this impressive sculpture installation that was a collaboration between sculptor Eduardo Chillida with Basque Architect Luis Peña Ganchegui. Chillida’s work also has its own museum, museochillidaleku.com https://www.sansebastianturismo.com/en/to-do/culture-art-architecture/open-air- sculptures
Daytrips Bilbao is an easy bus ride away. About 75 minutes, run frequently. Hondarribia is another town nearby, a fishing village, that also boasts some great restaurants and bars. Also has a nice beach. Less than an hour by bus or train, or a cab might only cost you 30 Euros. Zarautz is 15 minutes away and popular surf beach town. Getaria is another nearby village famous for amazing seafood and txakoli.
Mount Igeldo (can take the funicular to the top).
Monte Urgull (a walk up takes an hour or two)
Santa Clara Island, in the middle of the bay, can be visited by boat.
San Telmo Museum The museum, which usually hosts some of the industry sessions, is wonderful for a visit to see the art as well. santelmomuseoa.eus
Tabakalera, a former cigarette factory, is now a cultural center that has some interesting art exhibitions on sometimes.
SHOPPING Solbes, Aldamar Kalea, 4 The best gourmet store for buying jamon, olive oil and cheese plus other provisions to take home is Solbes, about a 3-minute walk from the Maria Christina. Affordable and great selection. http://www.solbes.com/
If you fall in love with the thin rimmed drinking glasses everywhere (tall or short versions) there are several stores in town (including Paco Merbien that sell them for VERY CHEAP, in a cardboard box, easy to put in your suitcase home.)
Citees Narrika Kalea 5. Paradise for geeks looking for original designed T-shirts, mostly linked with cults movies and series. And not the kind that print dissolves at first washing.
Mercado la bretxa. Boulevard Zumardia, 3. if staying in a place with kitchen, there’s all you need in this basement to cook exceptional meat fishes or vegetables. The whole freshly delivered : most stalls are open only in morning.
San Martin Merkatua Urbieta Kalea, 9, 20006 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain Indoor market and you can even sit for some tapas here.
Thanks to friends and colleagues for all their suggestions so far: Christine Dollhofer, Matthieu Darras, Ashley Horner, Jessica Kiang, Guy Lodge, Frederic Boyer, Alex Masson and whoever else gave me tips!
Photo at top by By Reinhold Möller, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68375792