First on our list was San Sebastian - a resort town on the Bay of Biscay in Spain’s Basque Country. It’s known for Playa de la Concha (my favorite) and Playa de Ondarreta, beaches framed by a picturesque bayfront promenade, and of course the highest concentration of Michelin stars in the world. In its cobblestoned old town (Parte Vieja), upscale shops neighbor vibrant pintxo bars and beautiful carousels and parks. We were fortunate to stay in San Sebastian’s grandest - hotel Maria Cristina – perfectly located walking distance from the old town and the beaches.
There is a relaxed elegance about San Sebastian… like a blend of Paris & Rio de Janeiro. My favorite thing was just walking around and getting lost in the small streets only to find yet another park for the kids. I was pleasantly surprised to find the town so family/kid friendly. Sunsets in San Sebastian are truly a thing of beauty – the sky turns pastel blue & pink and the entire town feels like a dream – oh and this is at around 10pm!
Next, we took a day trip to Biarritz. We had heard & read beautiful things about this elegant seaside town on southwestern France’s Basque coast - just 48 mins from San Sebastian. We didn’t make reservations in advance so we didn’t get to see the city’s landmark luxury resort and former royal residence, Hôtel du Palais, which was a bummer. The town, in general, was definitely the most glamorous of all the basque towns we visited – filled with designer shops and even a Galleries La Fayette! We spent the day eating macarons and shopping. I was surprised to find so many American surf wear brands here – quicksilver, RipCurl etc… but I guess it makes sense since it’s also a huge surf town. Our favorite find was a French surf & lifestyle brand/boutique called 64 – where we found comfy tees and sweatshirts for the whole family! https://www.64.eu/fr/
Just 15 mins away from Biarritz was Saint Jean de Luz –a fishing town at the mouth of the Nivelle river, in southwest France’s Basque country. Even though it’s also a beach & French basque town, it felt completely different from Biarritz, somehow more relaxed. It is busy but not overcrowded, beautiful but not overly luxurious. I had heard that espadrilles were the “thing to buy” in the basque country however what I ended up falling in love with were all the cotton-linen blend home goods – tablecloths, bedspreads, napkins etc. The traditional craftsmanship of the Basque Country fabric was sophisticated but with a rustic feel.
Last on our itinerary, and the most picturesque (my 5 year old daughter said it was Belle’s – from Beauty & the Beast – village) was Hondarribia, a charming coastal town in northern Spain, on the French border – just 13 miles from San Sebastian. Santa María gate is the main entry to the walled old town, which is where we strolled around. The Old Town is loaded with beautiful Basque houses, most having wooden balconies that are painted in a myriad of colors. There were also some baroque buildings throughout the maze of cobblestoned streets. Hondarribia is a natural destination for Spanish and French vacationers. But the town has yet to begin attracting International tourists so it’s still a place primarily for residents; most restaurants are occupied by local families and couples.