FORBES has revealed the ‘24 best places to travel in 2024’ and a Northern Spanish city has made the top ten.
The list, compiled by Forbes and luxury travel advisors OvationNetwork, predicts this year’s travel boom will continue into next year, with tourists seeking out ‘off the beaten path’ destinations.
And San Sebastian, found in Spain’s Basque Country, took tenth place.
Experts said the city offers ‘an unforgettable gastronomic experience, natural beauty and unique Basque culture’, so we delved into what really makes the Basque capital perfect for every type of traveller.
Luxury travel expert, Vibha Dania-Dhawan, highlighted local cuisine as the top reason to visit the Basque capital, saying: “Be sure to sample San Sebastián’s inventive tapas-style pintxos, dine at one of the many Michelin-starred restaurants and try txakoli, a semi-sparkling, fruity wine poured into a tall glass from a height.”
Coming from the word ‘pinchar’, meaning to stab, the Basque Country’s famous pintxos are small dishes shot through with a toothpick.
Though they were originally placed on top of a small slice of bread, they have now evolved to include a range of traditional and avant garde offerings.
Enter any bar in the region and you will be faced with dozens of pintxos to choose from.
The pintxo business is very competitive and bars will often fight tooth and nail to have the best dishes in town.
Locals often accompany the snack with a glass or two of txakoli, a typical red wine or a zurito, a small beer as part of a ‘pintxo crawl’.
San Sebastian is full of high-end gastronomic delights, with 12 Michelin star venues in a fifty kilometre radius.
Mugaritz, a two Michelin star restaurant situated in an old farmhouse, serves an extravagant 20 course menu of ‘challenging’, ‘avant garde’ food.
Akelarre, a three Michelin star restaurant built into the side of Igueldo mountain, offers stunning views and dishes, served by experienced chef, Pedro Subjana.
Although it lacks a Michelin star, food lovers flock to Txepetxa to try traditional pintxos such as the mouthwatering buttered anchovies drenched in a secret marinade.
But if upscale restaurants aren’t your thing, you only need to wander around San Sebastian’s magical old town to find some of the best food in Spain.
Surrounded by undulating mountains and an impressive coast, San Sebastian showcases both Basque culture and countryside.
The highest point in the city, Monte Igueldo offers beautiful views over the ocean from the top of its wooden funicular. The coastal inlet is also home to both a 16th century lighthouse, four star hotel and a theme park where many of the rides still have their original designs from over a century ago.
Perfect for the adventurous traveller, La Concha bay is full of opportunities to explore. Monte Urgull, San Sebastian’s ‘green lung’, offers peaceful coastal walks littered with historic sights like the Castillo de la Mota.
Meanwhile, Santa Clara island is just 500 metres from the city’s main beach, Playa de la Concha, so intrepid visitors can swim, kayak, paddleboard or grab a boat over to the tiny island. Once there, bird lovers should take the winding path to the lighthouse, where you can spot the rare gloomy seagull. The lighthouse is also home to a natural salt water swimming pool and chiringuito, or ‘beach bar’.
Nearby in neighbouring Cantabria, Jaizkibel mountain range allows hikers to appreciate panoramic views over the Basque shoreline. The trails are also popular with cyclists and overlook the historic towns of Hondarribia and Lezo, acting as a natural border with France.
Finally, Geoparkea, the Basque country’s coastal park, is home to dramatic rock formations known as ‘flysch’. Formed by mudslides, the park is home to some of the world’s best examples of this unique rock formation.
Home to the oldest language in Europe, it’s no surprise that the Basque country has a rich cultural history. San Sebastian has many interesting museums where you can learn about the city’s past, including the San Telmo Museum, also known as the Museum of Basque Society and Citizenship and the Museo de la Historia in Monte Urgull.
The city, known locally as ‘Donastia’ is also home to some more unique museums, such as the Basque Cider Museum and the Sea Factory, which focuses on building historic boats.
San Sebastian can be divided into four distinct areas, each with a unique vibe and clientele.
The Old Town is a social hub with its pedestrianised streets, busy squares, romantic buildings and bustling shops.
Meanwhile Gros attracts the youth of San Sebastian with a beach perfect for surfing, abundance of live music venues and various art galleries.
Ondarreta, on the other hand, is great for families as it hosts Mounte Igeldo with its vintage theme park, alongside beautiful beaches and gardens.
Finally, the tranquil Amara is a residential neighbourhood perfect for long bike rides or a visit to the city’s Anoeta football stadium.
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