Does the perfect city exist? Perhaps not, but there is one European town on the Atlantic Ocean whose Old World feel, idyllic charms, gorgeous beaches and vibrant food-and-wine scene might steal your heart away.
San Sebastián is situated on the Bay of Biscay, along Spain's northern coast, a short drive from the French border. Yet by history and tradition the city belongs to neither nation. It is Basque, and owes its identity and culture to this unique heritage.
The appeal of San Sebastián, known as Donostia in the Basque language, derives from its spectacular location, natural beauty and historic atmosphere, with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture visible at almost every turn. Belle Époque apartment buildings with wrought-iron balconies and romantic street lamps line the curving, white-sand Playa de la Concha, one of the world's most beautiful urban beaches.
Here are our suggestions for where to stay when you visit San Sebastián.
Calle de la Sagrada Familia 1, San Sebastián
Telephone: (34) 943-445-000
Each room is dedicated to a different movie personality—103 actors, actresses and directors in all—and decorated with photographs taken during their attendance at the San Sebastián International Film Festival, which began in 1953. Located in the old Astoria Cinema, a 15-minute walk from the beachfront, Astoria7 is a well-run, modern hotel with a cosmopolitan feel.
HOTEL DE LONDRES Y DE INGLATERRA
Calle de Zubieta 2, San Sebastián
Telephone: (34) 943-440-770
No hotel in town beats the Londres' fantastic location, smack in front of the Concha Bay. The seven-floor hotel provides a grand yet comfortable Old World feel. Eleven of the 70-odd ocean-facing rooms are suites, while the remaining rooms face a busy street in the back. It's easy to feel regal while admiring the iconic, white-sand Concha beach—whether from the cozy bar, elegant brasserie Mari Galant or casual terrace on the waterfront.
HOTEL PUNTA MONPÁS
Paseo de José Miguel de Barandiarán 32, San Sebastián
Telephone: (34) 943-285-585
Rates: $84-$182 The hip Punta Monpás, a romantic boutique hotel in a former auto body shop, is like deluxe camping in the midst of San Sebastián's surfing community. Ask for one of the four second-floor rooms with a view. From the double bed or the elevated shower stall in Room 25, you can watch the surfers ride the waves off the Gros neighborhood's windswept Playa de la Zurriola, which starts 50 yards away. The small rooms feel spacious enough thanks to ocean-facing windows. Bodega El Lagar restaurant is a two-minute walk away. Day or night, the roar of crashing waves is guaranteed.