Between the seemingly infinite amount of dining options, the beaches, and all of the cultural events, it’s hard to actually leave San Sebastián. Yet the surroundings vie for attention, luring with their natural splendor the same way a pintxo bar tempts with its bounty. Pop into France for a or feel like an extra on a Game of Thrones set at these stunning places in the Basque Country.
We polled our Mimo San Sebastián team about their favorite destinations and made this handy list of unmissable places you should add to your next Basque itinerary.
This quaint fishing village might be tiny, but it’s a powerhouse when it comes to seafood and txakoli wine. The surrounding green hills are crosshatched by vineyards, while the town’s picturesque streets offer some tasty pintxos. Seafood lovers HAVE to head to Michelin-starred Elkano, king of grilled fish, while fashion lovers might want to stop into the Balenciaga museum — Getaria was home to the famous designer. And as for the wine, you can’t go wrong with a visit to a txakoli vineyard. Check out our Getaria Uncovered tour for the full experience, from tuna and anchovies at the port to txakoli in one of our favorite bodegas.
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
Does it get more enchanting than this bit of Basque coast? You might know this scenic spot as the Dragonstone Castle in Game of Thrones. But even if you’ve never seen the show, you’ll be captivated by the sight of this small chapel sitting on a craggy islet in the bay of Biscay, reached by a winding staircase that twists its way to the top. Hike the 241 steps up and then ring the bell of the chapel three times — tradition says that your wish will come true.
Why not pop on over to France for the day? One of our favorite spots just across the border is Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a quaint seaside town peppered with timbered Basque houses and home to a lovely stretch of beach and promenade lined with picturesque homes. Make sure to head to the market (open daily, but Tuesdays and Fridays are busiest and best), which bustles with local flavor. It’s a great place for souvenirs, snacks, and people watching. Try the ttoro, the traditional local fish soup, and stop at Maison Adam for dessert – the macarons are a must.
It’s all about the journey when it comes to Pasaia, a fishing village that’s a stone’s throw across Monte Ulia. Sure, you can drive there in 15 minutes, but we prefer the beautiful hike along the coast, which takes about three hours — depending on how many times you stop to admire the stunning views along the way.
Pasaia has several sides: quaint waterfront homes and delicious seafood, but also the largest industrial port in Gipuzkoa. If hiking, you’ll arrive in Pasai San Pedro and pass the Albaola center, which is worth a stop – watch the building of a replica of the historic Basque San Juan whaling ship from the 16thcentury. Then hop on a ferry and cross over to the other side, Pasai Donibane, for lunch. Some of the best seafood can be had in this charming bit of waterfront.
Art and architecture combine to make Bilbao a must-stop on any Basque Country tour. The Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim museum is a mirage of angles and curves clad in titanium, changing colors throughout the day. Hailed as an architectural masterpiece, it’s reason enough to visit Bilbao – but there’s more to do in this city. Bilbao has a charming old town, Casco Viejo, with lovely architecture that will keep you happily snapping away. And though San Sebastián wears the crown when it comes to Basque gastronomy, Bilbao has plenty to offer, including a thriving pintxo scene and Michelin cuisine.
Check out our Private Best of Bilbao tour for a day trip with our expert guide – walking tour, transportation, and Guggenheim visit included