On a day to trip to San Sebastián, we discovered the exquisite city beach, and charm of the city center. Following the walk around the city we ventured off into the inside streets and alleys to discover the pintxos and get a better feel of the city.
A pintxo in Basque literally means a 'spike' or 'thorn'. In Basque country, pintxos are small snacks that are attached to picks/toothpicks and are found in almost every bar in town. In San Sebastián, there is a bar around every corner with a amazing display of pintxos to choose from. Pintxos are a close of tapas, and just like tapas, they have a very strong socializing component - its like taking bar hopping to another level. Going out for drinks and socializing over pintxos and drinks have been a long staple of the Spanish tradition, and its definitely something to experience once you are here. The whole act of eating a pintxo and downing a beer even has its own verb - its called Txikitear. Becoming a Txikiteo in San Sebastián for day is a great way to get a feel for the local way of life.
Although San Sebastián has some world class pintxos, you can pick any bar and have a very wide selection to pick from, and they will all be very good. Start your walk from the Igelsia de Santa Maria, and work your way south, meandering through the pedestrian only streets.
If you are still sober and hungry by the time you finish your walk, the south-east corner of old town is Bar Haizea. Bar Haizea got dose of celebrity after being featured on 'No Reservations', a TV show by chef Anthony Bourdain, and since then has become much popular and touristy. Its a favourite of the locals, and I guess they liked to keep the secret to themselves. Nevertheless, if you go on a weekday, it'll be a little more quiet, and you'll see the familiar face pouring the Jacoli and serving pintxos from the kitchen. The pintxos here are fantastic, so save your appetite on the walk.
While walking through the old town, we stumbled upon a gem - the festival of the Grand Week (Semana Grande). Preparations and teaser events start early, and continue for many weeks, and we happened to be at the right place and right time for the Gigantes y Cabezudos. The Gigantes y Cabezudos walk is based on tradition that goes back to 1660, when a group of Moorish Kings marched through the city. Since 1982, this tradition was brought back, to celebrate the day of San Juan, and is now a yearly event. During the walk, the actors dress up in intricately designed giant paper mâché heads and dance along the streets, chasing kids, and while kids run along with them. Originally the heads were created with fiberglass, and they were in the shapes of animals and such, but they became too cumbersome, so it was changed to represent different characters from folk tales, and made with paper mâché so that running along the street is easier.
The Grand Week (Semana Grande) contains many different events, most importantly the fireworks. This usually occurs in mid-summer, around July, but check the dates before you go - in 2015, it is in August.
Along the Igelsia de Santa Maria, we also ran into a wedding. I love running into a local slice of life.
Also along the La Concha Bay is the sculptor Eduardo Chillida's and architect Peña Ganchegui's landmark The Comb of the Winds (El Peine del viento) steel artwork on the rocks. From certain angles, you can see it spells out "SB".
Some more information for eating your way through San Sebastián: