Visiting Haro: Rioja’s Wine Capital

We clearly love wine so of course our northern Spain trip would have to include a stop in Rioja to do some wine tasting. We based ourselves in Haro since it is surrounded by many of the wineries.
We have done many wine and winery tours so this time we were looking for something different. We only booked one tour ahead of time; Bodegas Conde de los Andes. We chose this winery because the tour went through their wine caves. The rest of our time we planned to just find one or two more wineries where we could just taste or have a glass of wine and relax.
The tour at Bodegas Conde de los Andes was very different than most wine tours we have been on. Typically you go through the vineyard and the winery and are educated on the wine making process, then you end with your tasting. At Bodegas Conde de los Andes you immediately go down into their wine caves and actually spend most of your tour in the caves. You are given education about the history of the caves and the wine in them as well as some education about their more modern day wines. We were super excited that about half way through the tour we stopped at a beautiful cave and actually got to taste a bottle of their 2005 vintage that had been aging. Our small group was just us and one other couple along with our guide. The five of use shared this entire bottle and then the tour continued through the caves. We thought that was the tasting and we were really happy with the wine. But then the tour continued on through the caves and concluded in the modern part of their winery with a tasting of two newer bottles. This tasting was accompanied by snacks  (almonds, iberico ham, chocolate) to pair with the wines. Our guide explained a little about each wine we were tasting and then gave us time to enjoy the wine and the food on our own. We would highly recommend this tour to winos or anyone else visiting the area. The caves are a bit chilly so we would recommend bringing a light jacket or sweatshirt with you. If you don’t have a jacket or sweater the staff will offer you a vest to help you stay warm in the caves. There are some narrow hallways were only one person can walk through at a time but other than that none of the caves are super small or claustrophobic.

 

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We also stopped at Bodegas Muga which has a modern tasting room where you can taste their wines without having to do an entire tour. The tasting room was full of tourists from all over while we were there. Here they had a set flight so you tasted four of their reds and your fifth wine you could chose from two of their roses or a white. We really enjoyed all of the wines we tasted here.  Our last stop was CVNE, here we chose to taste two different reds which again we really enjoyed both.  They have multiple tasting options if you wanted to taste more than we did. For a quick lunch near the wineries we would recommend Asador Cerveceria Tirondoa. This place is nothing fancy but they had great fried chicken!
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Haro is a small city that is very walkable. There is a central square where you will find lots of places to sit and enjoy a glass of wine and a tapa or small snack. There are also several wine shops in the city where you can find a great variety of Spanish wines. Our last night in the city we had dinner at Restaurante Arrope and would highly recommend it.

 

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There are plenty of other wineries in Rioja to explore as well. We spent our time in Haro but have heard that Logrono is also a great place to base yourself for exploring Rioa. Either way you are sure to have some really wonderful wines!

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-TFWYs

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Visiting San Juan de Gatzelugatxe

San Juan de Gatzelugatxe for anyone who doesn’t know, is an island off of Spain’s northern coast. It’s in Basque country near Bilbao and San Sebastian. The island is connected to the mainland by a manmade bridge. On top of the island is a small church dedicated to John the Baptist.

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When we first saw pictures of San Juan de Gatzelugatxe we knew we had to visit while we were in Northern Spain! The place just looks incredible.  We later learned this place was also featured on Game of Thrones so it recently has been getting more tourists for that reason. We didn’t watch the show but we can certainly say that this place is beautiful! As long as you are up for a hike it is definitely worth a visit! We visited as a day trip from San Sebastian which was very doable. It was a little over an hour drive from the city. It is much closer to Bilbao so if you are planning to visit both of those cities it would be easier to get to San Juan de Gatzelugatxe from Bilbao.

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A more recent change to this place is that you now need a ticket to enter. The tickets were free of cost when we visited. You can book online ahead of time and then just scan your pass to enter. If you don’t book ahead of time you can get your tickets when you arrive but there will likely be a line you need to wait in to register for your tickets. We arrived just before 10 AM and then line was pretty small but having booked online we got to skip right through. Online it says this place opens to visitors at 10AM however there were people already at the top when we started our walk so they had to have let people in early. We would highly recommend getting there right when it opens so that you can be there before the crowds. Get your tickets here: http://web.bizkaia.eus/es/gaztelugatxe

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You will get great views of the church and the island as you walk the path down from the parking area to the start of the stairs. Then the real climb begins as you walk up the 231 steps up to the church. The staircase is pretty steep for much of the climb and fairly narrow. You will pretty much be walking single file. There are handrails the entire way but we would not recommend doing this walk if you do have mobility difficulties. The steps are cobblestone and uneven at times making it a bit challenging to navigate, wear good shoes for sure! The views of the surrounding coastline as you walk up are incredible, you will want to stop for pictures along the way! Once you are at the top you can see the church and if you would like ring the bell three times and make a wish. Total time it took us to walk from the entrance all the way up to the church and back down was about an hour and a half. We did see a small café and there was an ice cream truck setting up by the parking lot when we got back to our car. We didn’t eat at the café so cannot comment on the food or pricing but know that it is an option for after you hike.

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For more recommendations on what to do in the surrounding cities of San Sebastian and Bilbo check out our other blog posts here:

San Sebastian

Bilbao

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-TFWYs

Asturias Spain

Asturias is in the central part of Spain’s northern coast. It is a less traveled area but has a lot to offer! We had initially planned to do a road trip across northern Spain. But then we were listening to a podcast about the Camino de Santiago and got inspired to look into that. In doing some research we quickly found the Camino del Norte path which happens to go along the coast just as we had already planned to do. We decided to take a few days in our trip and walk part of the Camino del Norte. We got a guide book which said the best views on the trail are in Asturias so that is where we chose to do our walk. From Bilbao we took the train to Colombres. From there it was a short 5-10 minute walk to La Franca. This is where we started our time in Asturias and from there we headed to Llanes, Nueva, La Isla, Villaviscosa, Gijon and Cudillero. Asturias is a beautiful area full of some awesome beaches and cute little towns, whether you are on the Camino del Norte or just travelling through the area by car or bus we would recommend stopping into some of these towns.

La Franca: This is a very, very small town. Not a ton to do here but if you are on the Camino it is a nice place to stop. There is a pilgrim restaurant with an open kitchen all day long. You don’t need to be a pilgrim on the Camino to eat here,  the big difference with this restaurant is that the kitchen doesn’t close for a long siesta. If you arrive late afternoon/evening you can get a meal without waiting until 8 or 9pm when most restaurants in the area open their kitchen. We ate at this restaurant for dinner. We ordered the menu de la noche and were surprised when they brought out two of the biggest steaks we have ever been served. The steak was a Austrias traditional dish called Cachopo. This dish consists of two thin steaks with ham and cheese in the center, covered with bread crumbs and fried up. It was delicious! You will see mostly locals in this town. We didn’t see any other tourists or pilgrims while we were here. We stayed at a traditional cidery which had rooms above; Sidreria La Casa Abajo. The rooms are nothing fancy but they were clean and if you are passing through for a day or two we felt it was a good option. The cider here was actually one of our favorites we had during our time in Asturias. The cidery did have a restaurant but the kitchen didn’t open until 9pm and we were starving when we arrived so we couldn’t wait. We did of course have a few glasses of cider there after dinner and the food looked really good. Cider is big in Asturias, you will see apple trees growing everywhere and every little town will have at least one sidreria/cidery. When you order cider in Asturias you just get a bottle or a glass of whatever they have, you don’t have a list of ciders as you would at a brewery or cidery in the U.S. A bottle is very cheap so if two of you are sharing it is definitely worth ordering a bottle, maybe even a second!

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Llanes: We stayed at a pilgrim albergue called Albergue La Casona del Peregrino. We had a private room with our own bathroom. There were also shared rooms for very cheap. We booked online ahead of time and didn’t have to show proof that we were on the Camino but definitely all the other people staying here were pilgrims doing the Camino. Llanes is a much bigger town than La Franca. There is more of a tourist, beachside town feel to it. There are plenty of shops and small cafés and restaurants. There is also a small beach in town and a port where you can walk along the waterfront. This would be a great town to base yourself in for a couple days. The town just has a great vibe! It is full of prilgrims, locals and other tourists from all over just there to enjoy a beach vacation.

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Nueva: Again a very small town. We stayed at Hotel La Casona de Nueva. There are a few options here for food but again kitchens don’t open until 8 or 9pm. You will be able to have a drink at most restaurants; they won’t fully close for siesta but limited food options until later on for dinner.

La Isla: We spent a bit more this night and stayed right on the water at Hotel Bahia. The room here was very nice and we had a great view of the beach! There is a restaurant at the hotel but it was closed for dinner the night we stayed. They did have a breakfast buffet available in the morning which had a lot of options. Food options for dinner in this town are limited. There are several small cafés along the water but several of them just offer drinks and small snacks. Again we were starving after a long day of walking so we had limited patience during our search for food. We ended up eating at the hostel that was right next to our hotel called Hostel El Furacu. They have a small bar where you can order drinks and food which they will bring out to you at outdoor tables by the water. The food was nothing special but we were starving so it did the trick! We were supposed to go on from here and walk the following day but we decided we had gotten a good feel for the Camino. We honestly packed way too much and were also tired of carrying our way to heavy backpacks all day. So we decided to take the bus the next day after relaxing on the beach here in La Isla for the afternoon. The beach here is quite long, great for a beach walk. There is also a small rocky outcropping which is an island at high tide but you can walk right now to it and climb all over the rocks at low tide. This town also doesn’t see many tourists so we were some of the only people on the beach that afternoon which was nice. From here you can take a bus onward as we did. The bus company doesn’t have a website so we actually found the bus schedule on google and used google maps to also find the bus stop. There is a stop right outside of one of the pilgrim hotels: Hotel Monte Y Mar. There is a small sign that says Bus. That is your only indication that there is actually a bus stop here.

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Villaviscosa: This is the only town where we booked our accommodations through Air B and B. The rest of these towns we booked our rooms through booking.com. Here we stayed in a small apartment just a 5-10 minute walk from the center of town. There was a festival going on while we were here so we wandered around that for a bit and then had dinner at Sideria LENA. This place was amazing! The food was great and the staff are great. It’s important to know that cider in this part of Spain is meant to be drunk quickly. They pour you a small amount and if you don’t drink it quickly they may dump out what is left in your glass when they come back around to pour you more. The waiters and waitresses here are very skilled at pouring the cider from very high up which helps it get fizzy. We did not know the proper way to drink the cider until our dinner here when our waitress made sure she explained the rules to us. We would highly recommend eating here if you are in the area. Again from here we took the bus to Gijon and then from there we rented a car for the rest of our trip around northern Spain.

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 Gijon: Gijon is a large city with plenty to do. We stayed right in the city center at Hostel Gijon. Our host was amazing! He gave us a map and a ton of recommendations for places to see and places to eat. He was super helpful and made sure we had a great time even though we were only there one night. We would highly recommend this hostel. Do be warned it is right in the city center so it was a bit noisy at night. We ate dinner at Ciudadela and would highly recommend it, the food was absolutely amazing! We spend our afternoon walking around the city and relaxing on the beach. The beach here is huge at low tide but at high tide it comes all the way up to the city wall leaving no beach at all. Gijon is a very walkable city. From the city center where we stayed it was easy to walk around and find all the major attractions.

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Cudillero: This is such cute little seaside town! We drove here from Gijon for a few hours in the late morning. It is a place that you will see a lot of other tourists but for good reason. The town is built up into the hillside. There are plenty of small, windy stairs up the hills. You can easily get away from the crowds by going up. We wandered by a local lady out in her yard who very kindly pointed us in the direction of a specific staircase leading to an amazing look out point with great views of the city. There are also plenty of small shops and cafes in town.

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Asturias is full of some really amazing beaches to check out along the way. Check out our list of top 10 beaches in Northern Spain for some of our highlights. Also we recommend downloading the asturplaya App to help you find even more beaches then what we have listed.

Top 10 Beaches in Northern Spain

The picos de Europa are also in this area, We admired them as we walked the Camino but didn’t get a chance to head up into the mountains. We have heard that there are plenty of great little mountain towns to check as well if you have more time in this area.

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-TFWYs

 

Top 10 Beaches in Northern Spain

We love the beach! We always seen to plan our trips along some coastline somewhere. We spent two and half weeks making our way across Spain’s northern coast which just may be the most beautiful place we have been yet! Here is our list of the top 10 beaches we visited:
1. Playa de Torimbia: This beach is incredible. It is quite a hike down so do be prepared for that. Once you are on the beach you feel like your on another plant which such tall rock walls all around you. There is a small restaurant, more of a beach shack offering small plates, snacks and drinks. The hike down and back up does take some time but you will get amazing views along the way!
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2. Zumaia beach: This beach was featured on Game of Thrones. The rock formations that come right up to the water are like nothing we have ever seen. There is a restaurant overlooking the beach where you can grab lunch or a few drinks. This is also a great beach for surfing!
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3. Cathedral beach: The rock arches at Cathedral beach do not disappoint! You do need to plan your trip ahead of time as the number of people they let visit each day is limited. check out our blog post here for more details on this incredible place: Cathedral Beach: everything you need to know before you visit
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4. Gulpiyuri beach: This is a small, “hidden” beach off the coast. The waves crash through the rocks creating a small, shallow pool of water surrounded by a small sand beach. There are signs leading you down a dirt path to the beach.
5. Zurriola: This is the surfing beach in the city of San Sebastian. Great for surfing with tons of places nearby to rent board at. The beach is full of surfers all day long. This was our favorite beach in San Sebastian. It is bigger so it’s easier to feel like you are not right in the city while you are here.
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6. La Concha: This is the main beach in the city of San Sebastian. Here is where you go for swimming and other water activities. The beach overlooks La Isla de Santa Clara and you can see Mont Urgull and Mont Igueldo on either side
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7. Zarautz: This is another great surfing beach! The beach is huge offering lots of space for everyone. Also a great place for a beach walk. The small town of Zarautz has a great beach town feel but do pay attention to where you are parking. We unknowingly parked in a residential zone and ended up with a 20 euro parking ticket.
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8. Playa de Ballota: We passed this beach along the Camino del Norte, it is just before you reach the town of Llanes. It is another beach with quite a hike down but worth it for sure! There we alot of surfers there when we passed by. There is a campground nearby as well.
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9. La Isla: La Isla is a small beach town along the Camino del Norte route. This rock formation you can access at low tide but as the tide comes up it becomes a small island out in the water. there are a few small hotels, hostels and restaurants/cafes right along the beach so you can sit back and watch as the tides change.
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10. Playa de Vidiago: This was one of the first beaches we passed on our three days on the Camino del Norte. We were super impressed with this place! We kept walking and found the beaches only get better as we went!
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There are so many beaches along this coast, we definitely didn’t hit them all! If you are going through Asturias we would also recommend the AsturPlaya app to help you find all the best beaches!
-TFWYs

Why You Shouldn’t Skip Bilbao in Northern Spain

Bilbao was our first stop in our northern Spain trip. We only gave ourselves two days in the city before heading off to our next stop. The city is fairly small and very walkable. Two full days is enough time to see the major highlights and have time to wander the city without feeling rushed. That being said we really enjoyed Bilbao and would recommend giving yourself more time if you can. The city is beautiful and there are plenty of areas nearby that make great day trips.

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Getting around: From the airport there is a bus that will take you directly into the city. The Bilbao airport is quite small which makes finding the bus very easy. When you leave baggage claim there is literally just a door that says bus, you walk through and will immediately see the ticket counter and the bus stop. Don’t waste your money on a taxi, the city is just a short bus ride away, approx. 20 minutes.

As we said, the city itself is very walkable and the best way to see it is on foot. There is also a subway/metro which is easy to use. This will take you around the city and out of the city for a low cost. You will see most locals using a card/pass to pay for their routes (barik card). If you happen to get one of these cards it will cost you less for each route. We were lucky enough to have a wonderful Airbnb host who left us her extra card so we could load money on it and then travel on the metro for cheaper. We took the metro from the city center to the Las Arenas area which is on the bay of Biscay. This was approx. 20-30 minute ride and only cost us less than one Euro per person with the barik card. You can load money onto the card using an machine similar to an ATM at any metro station.

What to See and Do:

Old town (Casco Viejo): This is a beautiful part of the city and it is where you will get the best pintxos. This area is full of cobblestone streets, old churches and other beautiful buildings. We recommend you wander around and eat at any pintxo bar you pass that is full of people; the best pintxo bars are the crowded ones! For more information on how to order pintxos check out our blog post here: Ordering Pintxos in Basque Country  

 

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Guggenheim Museum: We stayed near the museum and we really liked that area. It was not a far walk to any of the areas of the city listed in this post. Staying in this area  or staying in old town would both be great options. We are not big museum people and we were only in the city for two days so we did not go into the museum. We had read that the entrance fee is a bit expensive. The big draw to the museum is the building itself. The architecture is very cool and surrounding the museum there are several sculptures which are worth seeing.

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Funicular up Mount Artxanda:  If you are staying in old town or near the Guggenheim you will need to cross the river to get to the funicular. From the top of Mount Artxanda you have the best views of the city. There is a look out point great for taking pictures, a small park area and several restaurants. We highly recommend doing this during your stay! The funicular leaves every 15 minutes during the day.

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Zubizuri Bridge: beautiful white foot-bridge over the river. If you walk along the river you can’t miss it! This is the bridge you will take to get across the river if you are heading to the funicular.

Mercado de la Ribera: This is the largest covered market in Europe. Here you will find venders selling local fruits and vegetables, meats, fresh seafood and local cheeses. We wandered through and were not hassled or pressured at all to buy anything. On the other half of the building there is a large sitting area with venders selling pintxos, coffee and drinks. You will find a good variety of pintxos here. Different from the pintxos bars in old town here you can order you pintxos and then go sit down at a table to enjoy them. Although normally pintxos are eaten standing up, in a crowded bar this setting can be more comfortable if traveling from somewhere where you are used to sitting down for all your meals. You will see a mix of locals and tourists eating here.

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Las Arenas: This area was recommended to us by our air b and b host. It was about 20-30 minutes ride out of town on the metro. There is a small beach area as well as a beautiful walkway along the port. You can also see the Vizcaya bridge which was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2006. For a small fee you can take the bridge across the river to the other side of the city. The bridge hangs over the water, unlike anything we had seen before. We spent an afternoon in this area, first wandering the city and then heading to the beach. It’s a great place to visit, especially if you aren’t planning on spending a lot of time on your trip along the coast. This area will give you the coastal city feel and some beach time without having to travel too far outside the city.

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Bilbao really took us by surprise! We expected to like it but it wasn’t the place we were most excited about on our trip. We found it to be an absolutely beautiful city which we would love to get back to. The people are kind and helpful and the city is not overrun by tourists yet so go soon!

-TFWY’s

6 Things You MUST do in San Sebastian

We had heard a lot of great things about San Sebastian in all of our research for northern Spain. We saved it for the end of our trip and made sure we gave ourselves several days to wander the city and take it all in. We would highly recommend staying at least 3 days in San Sebastian as a part of any northern Spain trip but you could easily stay longer. There are plenty of great spots along the Basque coast to explore as well if you are basing yourself in the city and planning on day trips out further. Here are our recommendations for what to see and do while you are in the city. There is definitely more to see and do that what we are listing here. For us we spend a lot of time on the beaches, eating some amazing food and just wandering the streets soaking up our last days in Spain. 

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Take a food Tour- Food is a big deal in San Sebastian. It is known for amazing pintxos and a significant number of Michelin star restaurants to choose from. We booked a food tour the first evening we were in the city and we were so glad we did! We booked through air B and B and ended up with a small group of 9 plus our guide. We got some general information about the city as we walked from place to place and the most important part, we had some truly amazing food! Food tours are a bit pricy but all your food and drinks are included. We are typically do it ourselves kind of travelers so we were a bit nervous we wouldn’t get our money’s worth. We were pleasantly surprised by the experience! We learned a lot and had several dishes we would not have even known to order if it weren’t for our guide. For more information on ordering pintxos and specific pintxo bars to eat at check out our blog post here: Ordering Pintxos in Basque Country

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Walk around old town (Parte Vieja) This is where you will find the best pintxo bars! The streets are lined with places to stop in for a pintxo. We recommend wandering around and finding the places that are crowded as those are the places that will have the best food. Old town is a beautiful part of the city with cobblestone streets and old churches. We would recommend staying in or near old town so that you will be close to everything you want to see and do in the city.

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 La Concha Beach- This beach is the closest to old town. It is the iconic beach you see in pictures everywhere. La Isla de Santa Clara is in the center and you can see Mont Urgull and Mont Igueldo on either side. There are plenty of boats mooring out in the bay as well. It’s a beautiful beach to spend the afternoon.

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Zurriola Beach- This is the surfing beach in the city. On good wave days there will be surfers of all levels out all day. We actually enjoyed this beach more than la concha since it is a bit further from the main part of the city and the beach is bigger. When you sit on this beach you don’t feel as much like you’re in the city. The surfing offers endless entertainment whether your out in the waves or just watching. There are several shops around the area to rent surfboards if you want to give it a try. It is good to know that if the red flags are flying at the beach the surf shops are not supposed to rent you a board. You can surf on those days if you have your own board.

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Hike up Mont Urgull – There are multiple paths you can follow that wind up the hill. There are multiple small park areas, a small café and lots of places to stop and get a view of the city and the sea as you walk up. At the very top there is a free museum with artifacts from the city’s history. Most of the museum is in Basque and Spanish only. As you walk through the museum you can get right up to the Sagrado Corazon (sacred heart) statue (also known as the Cristo de la Mota) at the top of the hill and get some great views of the city. You can also wander through parts of the Castillo de la Mota fortress that was built in the 12th century and was used to defend the city.

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Funicular up Mont Igueldo– This is where you will get the amazing view of the city and they bay, the one you have probably seen on every blog post or travel site for San Sebastian. It is a must do while you are in the city! There is a restaurant at the top of the hill with outdoor seating so you enjoy the view while you have a drink or a snack (reasonably priced considering the monopoly). The funicular leaves every 15 minutes.

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Free Parking – One good thing to know if you are driving (which we were as we did this as part of a larger road trip) is that parking in the city is pretty pricy. The last night we were there we parked in a parking garage in old town, close to our air b and b so that we could more quickly and easily get to the airport. We paid 24 euro for overnight parking. The first several nights we stayed in the city we parked in a free lot in Loiola. This was about 20-25 minutes walking to old town. There is also a bus stop nearby so you could park and take the bus into the city. The buses were running on schedule and were easy to navigate. Below is a map of the free parking lot!

We absolutely loved it in San Sebastian! It’s a wonderful sit to eat, relax and just soak it all in! It was a great way for us to end our trip through northern Spain and we would love to go back again!

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-TFWYs

 

How to Order Pintxos Like a Local in Basque Country

The food culture in the Basque region of Spain is truly amazing! San Sebastian is quickly becoming one of the top foodie destinations and for good reason. At the center of the Basque food culture are pintxos. These are small bites, similar to a tapa which people are probably more familiar with. In general pintxos are larger and more complex than most tapas offered in Spain. You can easily create an entire meal on pintxos, trust us we did this very often while we were in Bilbao and in San Sebastian. 

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 It can be intimidating to walk into a pintxos bar when you aren’t fluent in Spanish and aren’t sure the protocol. Most pintxo bars are small places and the best ones are jam packed with people. But don’t worry, we have some tips for how to order and what to order. The first stop on our northern Spain trip was Bilbao. When we arrived we knew we had to eat pintxos but we weren’t exactly sure what to do. We walked into a pintxo bar and just watched for a few minutes so we could see what people were doing and get a lay of the land. We saw people pointing to the pintxos on the bar so that is what we did. Most pintxo bars have cold pintxos out on the bar or just behind the bar, on display. So if you don’t know any Spanish you can simply point to which ones you want. Most often pintoxs are enjoyed with a drink so knowing how to order a beer or wine is helpful. Una copa de vino tinto or vino blanco will get you a glass of red or white wine respectively. You can ask for a cerveza and that will get you a beer but most locals will order a cana, which is a small glass of beer. Pintxos are meant to be eaten standing up and most locals go from place to place so don’t expect to sit at a table and stay at the same bar all night long.

We spent the first two days of our trip eating only these pintxos we saw on display. We ate well and were not disappointed but we knew we weren’t getting the full pintxo experience. We learned more later on in our trip once we got to San Sebastian. Here we took a food tour our first night hoping we would learn more than what we had already picked up on based on our observations.

What we learned is that a lot of the pintxo bars have a hot pintxo (pintxos caliente) menu which is often listed on a board (often a chalk board) on display on the wall behind the bar. Some of the bars will also have a paper copy on this menu and that may be offered in English. Hot pintxos can typically be ordered as pintxo size (small, bite size portion), a half portion (media racion) or as full portion (racion) which is a larger portion similar to what you would expect if you ordered an entrée. Either way most locals still enjoy their food standing up at the bar or a small counter. 

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La cuchara de San Telmo – 1/2 racion of Scallops

Once we discovered how to get hot pintxos there was no going back to the ones on display on the bar. The pintxos we ordered in San Sebastian were some of the best things we have ever eaten. While there are many Michelin star restaurants in San Sebastian we decided to stick with pintoxs each night we were there. That way you can still get amazing food but at a much lower price and get a real feel for the city as you wander the streets. You can get hot pintoxs in Bilbao but as we were there before we really had it all figured out we don’t have as many specific recommendations for Bilbao as we do for San Sebastian. Here is our list of pintxo bars you must eat at while in each city.

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La cuchara de San Telmo – 1/2 racion of Suckling Pig

San Sebastian:

La Cuchara de San Telmo: We ate here three times! The first time our food tour guide brought us. We loved it so much that we went back the following two nights. Everything on their menu looked amazing. The guy behind the bar taking orders was also awesome! He remembered our name and took time to say thank you and have a great night before we left. This is even more incredible when you see just how crowded this place is. Everything we had here was excellent, but you must try the Morcilla (blood sausage)! We also had the suckling pig, scallops, and pigs ear – and everything we saw come out of the kitchen looked and smelled phenomenal. One thing to note is that they almost exclusively have ration/half ration order sizes (no pintxos and everything is made to order), but don’t worry – you will wish you had more.

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La cuchara de San Telmo –  1/2 racion of Morcilla

Atari Gastroleku: We ended up going here twice. Once with our guided tour and once later in the week on our own. They are known for their Galician Octopus, and we also had the braised beef cheeks which are a traditional dish to the region. They are also known for their Gin & Tonics, so if you mind skipping the wine for a stop – this is the place.

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Atari Gastroleku – Racion of Octopus (pulpo)

Ganbara: This place is known for their mushrooms, you will see a pile of different types and there are a few different dishes you can get made to order with mushrooms and they are all on the menu. We also went here with our guide, and he ordered tuna off menu (called bonito in northern Spain, this place had it when it was in season).

Bar Sport: It was recommended by our AirBnB Host who’s brother owns this place. Despite the bias, we agreed it was very good. We mostly had the cold pintxos, and the sea urchin soup was really good.

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Bilbao:

Mercado de la Ribera: This is the largest covered market in Europe. You can buy fresh seafood, meats, cheeses, vegetables and fruits here. There is also a large indoor sitting area surrounded by venders selling a wide variety of pintxos.

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El Sacachoros: This was the first pintxo bar we stepped into. We didn’t really know what to do, so we ended up ordering off the cold bar, then sitting down at a table. We had the octopus pintxo in the picture below, which was excellent. the Iberico ham one was good too though!

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There are plenty of other pintxo bars in both these city’s. Wander through old town in Bilbao or San Sebastian and go into any pintxo bar full of people. We promise you won’t be disappointed with the food!

-TFWYs