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Burgos & San Sebastian - Our epic Northern Spain road trip - Part 1

San Sebastian - Our epic Northern Spain road trip


The first part of the travel blog post series is finally here! Today I'm going to share with you the first two destinations of our road trip in Northern Spain. I hope you enjoy reading this blog post which is about the places to visit, eat and drink in Burgos, where we stopped only for a short break, and in San Sebastian, where we spent a wonderful 24 hours.

(This blog post has more details, but if you want to quickly watch our San Sebastian vlog, click here!)

Burgos (Castila & Leon)

On a hot July morning, I managed to close my chock-a-block suitcase and left Madrid at about 8 o'clock. We jumped in our car and opened our Spanish rock playlist that we listen to on every long or short trip, which always manages to elevate our mood (click here to listen), and we set off towards the north. As we kept driving north, the first thing that caught my eye was that the flat, yellow steppes of Madrid were replaced by hills, mountains, and then lush forests. A complete change in landscape.

We made our first stop on the way in Burgos. As far as I could see, Burgos is a very clean, green, calm and beautiful city. According to my husband, the people who speak Spanish the best in Spain are Burgosians.

Its most important attraction is this Gothic-style cathedral, which was built in 1221. Its full name is Santa Iglesia Catedral Basilica Metropolitana de Santa Maria de Burgos. But you can call it Catedral de Burgos for short. We visited this beautiful and grand building, and took some photos.

Burgos Our epic Northern Spain road trip
The Cathedral of Burgos & me

Burgos - Our epic Northern Spain road trip

Since it was quite early in the morning and we were hungry, we stopped by the café Valor right next to the cathedral. If you come to this café, I recommend that you try Spanish people's favorite breakfast food, Churros (or the bigger ones, Porras), and dip it in thick, hot, pure Valor chocolate and enjoy. Valor is actually a very well-known brand that produces the most delicious chocolates in Spain, so don't leave without eating it (we bring hot chocolate powders and chocolate bars every time we return to Turkey. You can find it in every market in Spain).

Burgos & San Sebastian - Our epic Northern Spain road trip
Breakfast in Burgos: Porras (the bigger versions of Churros) and its best friend, hot chocolate.

If you want to spend more time here and try different flavors, you can also try their specialty called “morcilla” in Spanish or “black pudding” in English, because Burgos is famous for it. You may not be familiar with this food, and perhaps you are wondering why it is called "black pudding." Well, it gets its black color from the pig's blood in it, that's why. I have tried it, but personally, it is one of the few Spanish dishes that I am not a big fan of.

After this short break in Burgos, we got back to our car and started to head towards San Sebastian, where we would stay overnight. If you are wondering what to do and where to eat in San Sebastian in 24 hours, continue reading our article.

San Sebastian (Basque)

After the break in Burgos, we got in the car and headed to San Sebastian! This city, which is mostly known among Turkish people with its deliciously soft cheesecake, has so much more to offer: Long beaches with soft sands, esthetically pleasing buildings & streets, quaint bars that serve tiny unique tapas called pintxo (pincho), people cheerfully chatting for hours and having a good meal and a drink… Everything is really good, there is only one problem.

How to find good accommodation in San Sebastian without breaking the bank

Let me tell you the first memory that comes to mind when I think of San Sebastian... On our first visit in 2018, my husband had arranged a hotel in one of the villages outside of San Sebastian, in the middle of the countryside (since San Sebastian is a very expensive city). Although this hotel, which was in the middle of nothing, seemed calm and peaceful during the day, it was quite frightening in the darkness at night. There were no lights or people on the pathways leading to the hotel, and the interior of the hotel was very empty and old, like some place out of a horror movie. The cleaning lady was sulking, and the owner of the hotel did not reassure me at all with her weird make-up and ragged hair. While I was praying and counting the seconds to leave the hotel, my husband was busy getting restaurant recommendations from the hotel owner. The hotel room, on the other hand, did not get a passing grade from me with its toilet, which was not too bad but large enough to fit only half a person. This 10-day trip ahead of us, which was completely arranged by my husband, suddenly started to feel very long and unpleasant to me. If the first hotel was like this, I didn't even want to think about the next ones (don't get me wrong, I've stayed in cheap hotels and hostels many times, but this place has a special place in my memory due to its desolation and strangeness). That night, I locked the door and the window well, spread my clean beach towel on the bed and didn't sleep a wink. The next day, we made a sudden decision to go to Bilbao (hotels there are much more affordable and only an hour and a half away from San Sebastian). Oh, how angry I was at my poor, well-intentioned husband that day… So much so that I didn't even take a photo of the hotel at that time, but now I laugh when I remember it :)

Long story short, San Sebastian is very beautiful, but the hotels are expensive. There are also hotels in rural areas outside the city, but our experience was not very good. If you don't want to spend a lot of money on staying in the city, you can spend the whole day in San Sebastian, drive to Bilbao in the evening, and stay there in one of the very nice and affordable hotels. That's how we did it the first time.

On this visit (July 2021), we stayed one night in a decent, clean and safe hotel chain called Casual de las Olas San Sebastian (click on the name to see it) in San Sebastian. The best part was that we could walk to the city center in 15 minutes. After checking in to the hotel and leaving our belongings, we started walking to Bodega Donostiarra, which we were very pleased with when we went to San Sebastian before and had very good reviews and ratings on the internet…

Where to eat & what do eat in San Sebastian?

Pintxo (pincho) is what you should definitely try in San Sebastian, and in the Basque Country in general. These are the smaller snack-sized foods that Spaniards eat with a drink (usually smaller than tapas.) If you are wondering why they made small tapas even smaller and gave them a new name, we can say that pintxos are the gourmet version of tapas. They usually prepare it with unusual ingredients and interesting combinations. Therefore, if you buy a few pintxos and share with your group, you will taste different flavors. You don't usually leave with a really full stomach when you eat in these pintxo bars, but with a happy one because they are so delicious.

San Sebastian - Our epic Northern Spain road trip

Bodega Donostiarra is a very popular venue. It has indoor and outdoor seating areas, but it's not big, so it's likely to be crowded. If you don't make a reservation in advance, you may have to wait in line for a while.

You can choose the food by looking at the menu (click here to view) or choosing from the pintxos on the serving plates lined up on the bar. You can see the specialty foods of the day from the sign at the entrance that says “Platos del dia”. We reordered some pintxos we had eaten before and loved: Gilda (mini skewers with anchovies and pickles), Completo de Bonito (tuna sandwich), Pulpo a la Vinagreta (octopus salad), Ensaladilla Rusa (Spanish Russian salad - yes, there is really such a thing). The two of us shared them all.

San Sebastian - food guide
A nice selection of pintxos in San Sebastian

We got Marmitako de Salmon (Marmitako with salmon) as the main course and we shared it as well. I ate Marmitako for the first time and I liked it very much because it was very much like the potato, pepper and chicken dishes that we make at home, but with salmon. After dinner, we skipped dessert and started walking around the city.

basque food guide
Marmitako de Salmon

Ice-cream flavours to try when in Spain - Arnoldo Heladeria

While walking along La Concha beach, we decided to buy ice cream from an ice cream shop we had been to before. If you are eager to try different flavors like me, be sure to try the following ice cream flavors when you go to Spain:

· Leche merengada (cinnamon milk)

· Dulce de leche (milk caramel): It has a milder flavor than normal caramel.

· Turron (almond fudge): Turron is normally a traditional sweet nougat which comes out at Christmas time in Spain. It is made mainly with almonds and is loved by the Spaniards. If you're upset that you can't go to Spain in winter to eat them, try the ice cream!

Dinner at Bar Sport

If you go to the historic city center of San Sebastian in the evening, you will see that it is full of people sitting in pintxo bars, large and small, sipping their wine and watching the passers-by go through the maze-like narrow streets. If you are wondering how you will be able to decide when there are so many bars around to choose from, I have two suggestions for you.

The first is to hop from one bar to the next and eat different pintxos throughout the night. Don't worry, you won't have a stomach ache afterwards because at each bar you'll only get to try 1-2 pintxos unique to that bar. Then, hop to another bar. If you are going to San Sebastian for the first time, I can recommend you to do this.

The second is to go to a pintxo bar that you know is very good and sit down and spend the whole evening eating the pintxos there. We had eaten in different places the previous time, and as a result we came across a very good bar. Bar Sport in San Sebastian's Gros neighborhood, where mostly locals go, offers great food with friendly service. Since this place is becoming more and more popular, there is a long queue in front of it after a certain time in the evening. So, what do we eat here?

san sebastian pintxo bar guide
Bar Sport: We'd eat here again if we were in San Sebastian now.

What I remember the most from our San Sebastian pintxo tour a few years ago and which I found very original was the crema de erizo (creamy sea urchin). If you look at the photo below and wonder exactly which part of it is supposed to be eaten, it is the sauce inside. They cut the sea urchin in half and fill it with a creamy sauce. You eat it with a spoon. Even though I tasted it twice, I still can't describe its taste properly because I couldn't compare the taste to anything I knew before. I was very happy to try it (I don't know if I'll eat it for the 3rd time if I go again, though).

san sebastian foodie guide
Crema de erizo

If the sea urchin is not your thing, let's take a look at the other pintxos we chose from the menu:

• Tomate con mozzarella y anchoas (fried tomatoes with mozzarella cheese and anchovies) You can see it in the photo on the left.

• Mini hamburguesa de txuleta (mini hamburger with beef) A beef hamburger unique to the Basque region. Its photo is in the middle below.

• Foie a la plancha (duck liver) This was my husband's favorite pintxo because you spread the tender liver on a slice of crispy bread like butter and sprinkle it with black pepper. My mouth is watering as I am writing about it. Some people come here just to eat duck liver. You can see it in the photo on the right.

• Queso idiazabal (Idiazabal cheese) If you love cheese, you will love Northern Spain because it is a cheese paradise. Idiazabal is the cheese of the Basque region. A must try when you come here.

• Chipiron relleno de txangurro (stuffed calamari with garlic and pesto sauce) It comes in a tiny portion, but it's a flavor bomb. Perfect for garlic lovers like me.

San Sebastian Cheesecake for breakfast, anyone?

If you want to eat San Sebastian cheesecake (or the Basque burnt cheesecake, as they call it on some websites) in its original place, La Viña is the place to go. This is not actually a patisserie, but a typical Spanish bar, but its "tarta de queso" (i.e. cheesecake) is very famous.

san sebastian cheesecake basque burnt cheesecake
La Viña: San Sebastian cheesecake heaven

Located in the historic center of the city, La Viña is closed on Mondays (and we happened to go on a Monday, initially...). Since we did not want to leave San Sebastian, where we came for a day, without having a delicious slice of this cheesecake, we rushed here for breakfast on Tuesday morning. As a Turk, my eyes first searched for a savory dish for breakfast (we typically like having a mainly savory breakfast) and decided on Tortilla de Patatas (Spanish omelette), which was freshly baked in the morning. After the delicious Tortilla, which was soft, savory and perfect, we ate the legendary creamy and soft consistency cheesecake. It doesn't have fruit or sauce on it, but it doesn't need it either. That's why I highly recommend this place to anyone who comes to this city.

san sebastian breakfast food
Our breakfast menu in San Sebastian: Some Tortilla de patatas, a little cafe con leche, and the legendary San Sebastian cheesecake.

What can be done in San Sebastian in 1 day?

Azure waters, soft sand beaches

Yes, San Sebastian has a long big beach, right in the middle of the city! If you look at this beach from above, you can see that it looks like a seashell, so it's called La Concha, that is, a seashell. There are no big waves, and although it is in the north, the water is not cold. You do not pay any money to enter the beach because this is a public beach. It is very clean and nice, but you need to bring your own chairs and beach umbrella if you want.

If you walk along the coast, you will see another beach as big and crowded as La Concha, which is Playa de Ondarreta. This is another sandy beach which is as beautiful as La Concha. Like La Concha, the only downside is that it's very crowded on sunny summer days (I'm not kidding. see the photo below).

San Sebastian - Our epic Northern Spain road trip
A quiet day on Ondarreta beach

Palacio Miramar (Miramar Palace)

San Sebastian - Our epic Northern Spain road trip

Between the beaches of La Concha and Ondarreta, there is a palace located on top of the cliffs, the Miramar Palace. It was used as the summer residence of the Spanish royal family. The most beautiful aspect of this palace, which I found quite modest for a royal family, is its colorful garden and breathtaking view. You can sit or lie down on the grass in this well-kept garden and take as many photos as you want with the amazing view because it is open to everyone and free of charge. A great place to take a break (or even a nap) after a long, hot day.

San Sebastian - Our epic Northern Spain road trip
The view from the Miramar Palace

Monte Igueldo (Mount Igueldo)

At the end of Ondarreta beach there is a high mountain (Monte Igueldo). When you climb this mountain with a funicular, you will be greeted by a magnificent sight and you will see San Sebastian from a bird's eye view. At the top of this mountain, there are also souvenir shops, cafés, ice cream shops, and even a small amusement park. If you want, you can hop on a small boat and enjoy the panoramic view while cruising on the artificial river.

San Sebastian - Our epic Northern Spain road trip
Monte Iguieldo: At exactly this spot, you can have a small photoshoot and have numerous photos taken by your husband until he goes mad :)

Monte Urgull (Mount Urgull)

If you like hiking, you can also climb Mount Urgull by walking through the forest (I didn't, despite my husband's insistence and despite its cool name which sounds like it is out of a Lord of the Rings book!) While walking through the forest, you can see the defensive walls, the chapel at the top and the 12-meter-high statue of Jesus called Sagrado Corazon (Sacred Heart).

San Sebastian - Our epic Northern Spain road trip
Mount Urgull

If you'd like to watch all these places and foods I talked about in a video, you can head over to our YouTube channel and watch our San Sebastian vlog!

We took more than 30,000 steps in 24 hours in San Sebastian and left for Bilbao the next day. Bilbao, which I visited without much expectation, really surprised me. I would even argue that in some ways it is better than San Sebastian! Click here to read my Bilbao blog post, the second part of our Northern Spain tour!

Note 1: Since San Sebastian is in the Basque Country, do not be surprised if you see menus, signs, etc. in a language that does not resemble Spanish at all. Basque is widely used here. If you want to learn a thing or two in Basque in its simplest form, or if you are wondering how it can be so different from Spanish, click here to read my article!

Note 2: We always walked to the places I wrote about in San Sebastian. We didn't need to use the car in the city. However, if you want to go to the city center by car, you can leave your car in the underground (paid) parking spaces.



ispanya profil yeni.jpg


We are a Spanish & Turkish couple who is currently based in Turkey, but we call Spain our second home. We met in 2013, and since then, I have had the chance to travel to numerous destinations in Spain, enjoy the wonderful cuisine and experience the culture with my dear husband. In 2020, ...

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