Fall in Love with San Sebastian, Spain – Day 2 of 4

San Sebastian

White sandy beaches of San Sebastian. Photo: San Sebastian Tourism, Javier Larrea

Recently, Carolyn Worthington, editor-in-chief of Healthy Aging Magazine had the opportunity to visit San Sebastian and sample the gastronomic and cultural offerings. Her experiences and recommendations for what not to miss appear as a four-part Healthy Aging® website series and a feature in Healthy Aging® Magazine. Subscribe here: Healthy Aging Magazine, the lifestyle magazine that is all about following your passion and what you can do rather than what you can’t.

By Carolyn Worthington

Day 2

Hopefully, you have slept in after a late night sampling pintxos, discovering new restaurants and bars while rubbing shoulders with the locals. Today is a perfect day to walk, bask in the sun on a beach and experience the spectacular panoramic view of San Sebastian from Mount Igeldo.

Surfing in San Sebastian

Surfing in San Sebastian

Beaching It

San Sebastian is a beach lover’s haven. Choose from several main beaches. La Concha with its white sand stretches almost a mile and a half. It is considered one of the world’s most popular and beautiful city beaches.

Odarreta is a bit smaller, about a half mile in length, and is a favorite place for beach volleyball. Surfers love it here when the wind picks up.

Zurriola, located in the Gros district, is the surf beach. From spring through fall, there are loads of local, national and international championships held there. Rent a board or take a lesson from the local pros. Or, rent an umbrella and chair to just watch the dare devils.

Santa Clara Island is fun to explore and has a small beach. You can get to this small island by boat. Small paths lead to its lighthouse, picnic areas, bars, restaurants and, of course, swimming in the nooks and crannies. The island is so popular that a life guard is on duty.

Igeldo Funicular by O Morand, Wikimedia

Igeldo Funicular by O Morand, Wikimedia

Ride the Cable Car for Panoramic View from Mount Igeldo

To take postcard-worthy scenic photos or a spectacular selfie, a stop at Mount Igelo is a must.

The trip to the top can be an experience in itself when you ride the Igeldo Funicular Railway located nearby and next to Ondarreta Beach. Over 100 years old, the wooden cable car ride takes three minutes up a steep cliff. You can catch the ride year round.


View of La Concha Bay from Mount Igeldo

Stunning View of La Concha Bay

When you reach the top of Mount Igeldo, you will feel like you have stepped back in time as you get out of the cable car in the Monte Igeldo Amusement Park.

First, enjoy the most stunning view of La Concha Bay. You might want to shoot this scene with your panoramic camera setting to capture it all … Ondarreta and La Concha Beach, Santa Clara Island, all against the glistening sea. Check it out here on Google Earth

Test the Rides at Mount Igeldo Amusement Park


House of Horrors at amusement park

Then, become a kid again at the amusement park. Built in 1910, the park boasts a wooden roller coaster, “The Labyrinth” which you explore in a toboggan, and love boats that glide through the softly moving river. Test your scary side in the house of horrors (“Casa del Terror”), raise your heart rate on the steep toboggan run, exercise your mind with the arcade games and more.

Cycling friendly San Sebastian with miles of bike lanes. Photo: San Sebastian Tourism, Bidegorri_Oteiza

Cycling friendly San Sebastian with miles of bike lanes. Photo: San Sebastian Tourism, Bidegorri Oteiza

Cycling in San Sebastian

San Sebastian is a cycling paradise. It’s no wonder it was chosen for the start of the Tour de France back in 1992. You can feel like a pro when you rent a road, touring or mountain bike and explore the 11 miles of cycling lanes in and around the city. For more adventure, serious riders might ride to Bilbao, about 63 miles.

Tabakelera Museum

After your active morning, explore the Tabakalera Museum. This former tobacco factory was closed in 2002 and reopened as a multi-use cultural center. It was here 1000 workers rolled cigars from Cuban tobacco. You can almost hear the chatter of the women rollers as you walk up the dramatic center hall staircase to view art exhibits, film labs, and children’s activities. There is an open air theater for summer experiences.

Restaurante Arzak

Restaurante Arzak

Lunch or Dinner at World Famous 3-Star Michelin Restaurant: Arzak

Today is the perfect day to have lunch or dinner at Arzak, the 3-Star Michelin restaurant under the watchful eyes of chefs Juan Mark Arzak in collaboration with his daughter, Elena Arzak. The Basque style cuisine here is described as cutting edge and always evolving. It’s truly an experience not to be missed.

Arzak’s recipe for success combines classical culinary methods with new wave ideas and ingredient combinations while drawing from the finest local foods with an added splash of theatrical presentations.


Father and daughter, Juan and Elena. Photo: Restaurante Arzak

“The story of the restaurant is, as far back as I can remember, the story of my family,” Juan Mark Arzak, 73, said. The house was built in 1897 by his grandparents as a wine cellar and tavern in the village of Alza which is now part of San Sebastian. “Many of my earliest childhood memories took place there,” he said.

It remained a tavern until his parents took over. They turned it into a simple restaurant with carefully prepared recipes. Soon word traveled that this was indeed a special restaurant. It soon became popular for banquets and family celebrations. In 1951, his father passed away but his mother continued to build the restaurant.

In 1966, after completing hotel and restaurant management studies, Juan Mark Arzak began working in the restaurant. A year later, he was joined by Maite Espina who helped build the business further. She became his wife and they had two daughters, Marta and Elena. Over the years, he learned the secrets of gastronomy from his mother and then began adding his own creativity.

In the 1970s, Arzak began to receive prizes and awards culminating with the 1989 prestigious Michelin star.

Elena Arzak started in the kitchen at age 11 and is now the fourth generation of this family dedicated to building the restaurant even further while sharing the families passion for great cuisine. She is the winner of the coveted Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef award among many others.

Today, the restaurant has consistently ranked within the top 10 of the World’s 50 Best restaurants

Red mullet with oak leaves. Photo: Coconut

Red mullet with oak leaves. Photo: Coconut

Perhaps, today is your day to experience the very special cuisine that is presented with flair and some showmanship. If you have made reservations months in advance that is. Some say there might be a three month wait for a table!

Don’t despair if you did not plan ahead. Chef Elena Arzak recommends calling the day of or day before to check on cancellations.

The intimate restaurant accommodates 50 diners at two seatings, lunch and dinner. Wine lovers will be impressed by the extensive wine list. Arzak boasts a collection of 100,000 bottles from 2300 wine makers.

You will immediately feel at home here in part from the welcoming staff some of who started working here


Photo: Restaurante Arzak

for Chef Arzak’s grandmother. Every ingredient is fresh and mostly local. The bread is made by a local baker and is delivered a mere 20 minutes before the meal service.

If you have a group of 8 to 10, you can request the special table in the kitchen. Here you will experience the bustle of the kitchen while seated at a marble work station covered in a white tablecloth tucked into an alcove decorated with framed artwork on the walls.

A tasting menu sampled included such artistic delicacies as

Creative sampling from Arzak. Photo: Coconut

Creative sampling from Arzak. Photo: Coconut

marinated prawns on lemon grass and mint served with beetroot and crunchy krill; sea bass cooked with a mojo sauce and served in a corn husk; roast pigeon with “potato feathers,” a feathery textured potato; ice cream in the shape of bird’s eggs and presented in a bird cage.

Be prepared for an experience of a lifetime. Arzak is a unique opportunity to be served graciously and to sample Arzak’s signature, cutting edge cuisine in the Basque style with a touch of theatrics.

Donostia / San Sebastian
This article is one of a four-part series on travel to San Sebastian, Spain. To read the entire article, subscribe to Healthy Aging Magazine, the lifestyle magazine that is all about following your passion and what you can do rather than what you can’t.
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