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Basque Country at a glance


Bilbao is 2018’s European City of the Year (awarded by The Academy of Urbanism) and with good reason, it has utterly transformed its industrial roots to an epic city soaring with popularity. Bilbao has a youthful energy and a charming historic centre, an unrivalled combination ready to excite and inspire. The city’s hallmark is the Guggenheim Museum, built around twenty years ago, its iconic metallic structure and contemporary façade is sure to wow visitors, it houses a vast modern art collection and is one of the best in Europe.

The Basque Country is often described as a foodie’s haven boasting over forty Michelin-starred restaurants, and around nine of which are located in Bilbao! Bilbao provides an atmospheric Pintxos (tapas) culture, a city where lovers of food can savour delicious Pintxos, day or night. 

San Sebastian

San Sebastian was just a humble fishing village when the Spanish royal family chose it as the destination for their summer retreat. The town already boasted impressive Gothic and Baroque churches and beautiful sandy beaches when, in the late 19th and early 20th century, it was given a makeover that has left a legacy of elegant Belle Epoque architecture. The magnificent City Hall, formerly the Gran Casino, looking on to Alderdi-Eder Gardens and the beautiful beachfront La Perla Spa, built for Queen Maria Cristina in 1912, are just two of many examples. San Sebastian’s contrasting styles, art galleries and open air sculptures, alongside its lively atmosphere and gastronomy have contributed to its status as European City of Culture in 2016.

Frequently topping lists of the world’s best places to eat, San Sebastian is a foodie’s paradise, renowned for its numerous Michelin-starred restaurants and its Pintxos (tapas) culture which is incomparable to anywhere else in Spain.

Just as outstanding are San Sebastian’s beaches, with the Playa de la Concha perfect for basking in the sun and the surfing waves of Playa de Gros for the more energetic. The dynamic Parte Vieja (old town) lies across the neck of Monte Urgull, where the most popular pintxo bars can be found. South of Parte Vieja is the shopping quarter, and the east of the River Urumea is a pleasant and relaxed enclave.

Perfect if you’re looking for:

  • A bustling atmosphere 
  • Beachfront attractions 
  • Indulgent cuisine
  • A multi-centre break  

Getting around

Bilbao has a convenient metro system, with frequent trains during peak hours. Ticket prices are based on the number of zones your journey covers. A CreditTrans card, which comes in 5, 10 and 15 Euro denominations is a good option if more than a couple of journeys are anticipated, as it can provide up to half price discounts on each journey.

San Sebastian’s main bus stop is a 20-minute walk south of the Parte Vieja, the local buses number 28 and 26 connect with Alameda del Boulevard, this is also a good starting point for walking into the historic centre, especially pleasant when walking along the river. The city doesn’t have a proper station, but the bus companies have offices and ticket stands near the bus stop.

Dining in Basque Country

Food is an important part of Basque culture and a great way to experience the ingenuity of the region. Venture out to a traditional cider house on the hills of the Basque Country, where you will find quality grass-fed beef with distinct and complex flavours.

Much like the rebirth of Bilbao, traditional recipes are continually being reinvented with local produce and culinary expertise that has awarded many restaurants in the city with Michelin recognition.

Like Bilbao, San Sebastian is home to an impressive number of Michelin-starred establishments, foodies will enjoy gastronomic fusions of fresh produce and seafood specialities in many restaurants and bars.

Be sure to try the Basque Country’s version of tapas called Pintxos, traditionally served with bread on a toothpick.

Must-try local dishes:

  • Bacalao al Pil-Pil – salt cod, seasoned with garlic and olive oil. 
  • Piperrada – a traditional Basque dish consisting of onions, green peppers, and sautéed tomatoes flavored with red Espelette pepper..
  • Txuleton – quality aged cut of beef, chargrilled, served simply with a sprinkle of sea salt. Found in traditional cider houses located on the hills of the region.
  • Gâteau Basque – the region’s signature butter cake that comes with a variety of fillings including chocolate, black cherry or pastry cream.

Shopping in Basque Country 

The shopping areas of Piazza Moyua and Gran Via are great places to find high end and international brands, as well as large boutique shops, while historic Casco Viejo offers art galleries, small boutiques, as well as unique handcrafted items and gifts. For something a bit different, visit one of Europe’s largest indoor markets located on the south corner of the Old Town. Stretched along the riverfront, the market houses a large selection of local, fresh products including fish and seafood.

Shopping in San Sebastian is very convenient with shops concentrated in the same areas. Foodies, be sure to add local specialities like a jar of Cantabrian anchovies, Idiazabal cheese or a bottle of txakoli wine to your shopping list. The Old Town is also the venue for souvenir shops and designer stores, the centre is home to upmarket stores with recognisable international brands and the Gros District has a brilliant selection of art galleries, antique shops and sports shops. 

Get your tailor-made city break itinerary

Osprey Holidays can create a fabulous short break to the Basque Country designed completely around your needs. We can arrange whatever you need, including:

  • All travel and transfers on days of your choice
  • Accommodation from our handpicked range of hotels, to suit your budget and requirements

Our award-winning team can provide expert advice and recommendations, from general questions to tiny details. Contact us now for your tailor-made itinerary.

Important information
Population 2.189 million
Languages Spanish
Currency Euro
Visa Information No visa required for UK citizens
Average temperatures

(monthly highs °C)

Distance from airports
Bilbao Airport
San Sebastián Airport
Railway stations
Bilbao-Abando railway stationv
Estación del Norte

Tours and Excursions

San Sebastian Pintxo Tour

Pintxos are a type of tapas native to the Basque region and on this lunchtime tour you will try some of the best San Sebastian has to offer. Your local guide will share their passion for food and take you to the bars and restaurants frequented by locals. Here you can taste a range of produce such as fresh seafood, steak, cured meats and cheeses, all paired with local wines, beers or ciders.   

Old Town Walking Tour 

Discover the history and culture of this enchanting town with a private guide who will introduce you to its traditions and gastronomy. You will visit the fascinating Mercado de la Bretxa and learn about Basque cuisine, including the famous Pintxos.  Admire the Baroque architecture on Konstituzio Plaza the site of a former bull fighting arena. The tour also takes you past the Basilica de Santa Maria del Coro and up to Mount Urgull where you will have magnificent views over the city.

Hondarribia, San Juan & San Pedro Small Group Tour 

A short drive from San Sebastian along the beautiful Basque coastline brings you to the medieval town of Hondarribia. The tour then takes you across Mt. Jaizkibel, where you will get a panoramic view of the whole area, to the Bay of Pasajes to visit San Juan, where Victor Hugo spent a summer, writing. A short boat ride then takes you to the fishing village of San Pedro where you might try some pintxos or a txakoli (local wine).                                                                       

Vitoria & Rioja Wine Region 

On this enjoyable day tour you will travel south from Bilbao to Vitoria-Gasteiz, capital of the Basque Country, where your guide will take a walking tour of the medieval centre. Considered to be one of the best cities in Spain for quality of life, Vitoria has an abundance of green space and pretty streets and squares. In Rioja you will visit the medieval village of Laguardia and take a tour and tasting at one of its traditional wine cellars.

Bilbao Walking Tour

Meet your guide in the Old Town and explore both the old and new sides of Bilbao on this small group tour.  Stroll through the historic streets, soaking up the atmosphere as you pass by sights such as Plaza Nueva, Catedral de Santiago and Mercado de la Ribera.  As you cross the river to downtown Bilbao admire the modern buildings including the famous Guggenheim museum.


We would be happy to arrange an excursion for you. To discuss options with a member of our knowledgeable team or to book, please contact us on 0131 243 8098.