Bilbao & San Sebastián

By Aleksandra Budd, Madrid, Spain

The north of Spain tends to be overlooked. Most people think of the South as the holiday destination, but the North has an abundance of gems. If you’re in Madrid it’ll take around 4-6 hours by bus to get to the North of Spain, specifically the Basque region, but its well worth the journey. The region is full of history and boasts a unique culture and language that is distinct from the rest of Spain. Bilbao and San Sebastian are my favourite northern cities in Spain’s Basque region.


Bilbao is the largest city in the Basque region and is more of a city break out of the 2 destinations. Walking along the canal, you’ll be reminded of the canals of Amsterdam, while the colourful buildings mimic Copenhagen’s vibrant architecture. The combination of these two elements creates a unique ambiance that is distinctly Bilbao.

If you wander around the Old Town, Casco Viejo, you’ll find narrow winding streets decorated with buildings centuries old and plenty of bars. It’s a must. There you’ll find some of the city’s older attractions, including the Santiago Cathedral.

Casco Viejo

A twenty minute walk and you’re outside the Guggenheim museum – but don’t make the same mistake we did, CHECK the opening times. We found out the hard way that it’s closed on Monday’s.

Guggenheim Museum (CLOSED ON MONDAYS !!!)

San Sebastián

One of the most popular beaches in San Sebastián is Playa de la Zurriola. Located in the Gros neighborhood, Playa de la Zurriola is a surfers hotspot, attracting surfers from all over the world. The beach is a great place to relax and soak up the sun, with plenty of cafes, bars, and restaurants to choose from.

Another iconic beach in San Sebastián is Playa de la Concha, which has been repeatedly nominated as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The beach’s soft sand and calm waters make it a perfect place to swim, sunbathe, and take in the stunning views of the city and surrounding hills.

Surrounding the beaches, San Sebastians mountains provide the perfect lookout. On each side of Playa de la Concha you have a mountain. To the east you’ll find Mount Urgull, a 30 minute hike which leads to one of the best lookout points in San Sebastián.

To the west, Mount Igueldo. You can take a railway cart up the side of the mountain for 4,25 € (adult return fare).

Funicular railway up Mount Igueldo

Not only does Mount Igueldo have the best views of San Sebastián, it also has an amusement park! They have a log flume and a mini steam train that goes around the top of the mountain, as well as many more rides and activities – just remember to take cash as they don’t accept card payments for the rides.

San Sebastian also boats the best food in Spain. With nearly a dozen Michelin-star restaurants, a thriving pintxos (Basque tapas) bar scene, and beautiful local markets filled with fresh seafood, local meats, and seasonal vegetables. AND they make unrealll pizza!

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