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Quick Jaunt up to Northern Spain. Does this plan make sense?

Hi and thanks for your help! My wife and I are going to Spain in the late Spring and meeting some people when there. We've been before, they have not. Will be in Barcelona for 2 days. We've already been there, so the other couple will spend another 5 nights there/around there on their own, and we're going to head north for those 5 nights and then re-meet in Madrid.

No car, just train and local transportation. My wife wants to go to Zaragoza, so we will stop there for 2 nights and then go to Bilbao. I'm an art lover, so I know there are a couple museums, at least, that will keep us busy. But was also thinking we could do a day trip to San Sebastián, just to see it, since we're close. Is a day trip realistically do-able? Worth it? From what I've read, busses run frequently. I know it's a beautiful city (appeals to us), but touristy (does not appeal), and if we were to stay there, which was another thought we had, it sounds like the majority of things that sound nice to us are day trips OUTSIDE of SS (like going to Hondarribia, for example). But if we're in Bilbao, it isn't likely we'll be able to do that. Are there any "must see" spots in SS? Trudging along in crowds looking for a place to have pintxos and a drink doesn't sound great, but I don't really know what to expect.

Lastly, I know this isn't nearly enough time in what is said to be a lovely place. We're not even getting to the rural areas, which I have read is one of this nicest things about Northern Spain. Hopefully, we'll be back. Appreciate your input.

Posted by
201 posts

We were in Zaragoza last October, enjoyed it very much. For me, a day trip to San Sebastian is a no. At least one night in San Sebastian.

Posted by
27434 posts

I disagree. I see nothing wrong with a day trip from Bilbao to San Sebastian. You can walk along the waterfront, see the historic district (not terribly large, and now full of pintxo bars--it's difficult to find a place where you can eat sitting down) and go to the San Telmo Museum. You'll probably have time for the Chillida-Leku Museum if you like art; I missed that one because it was closed while I was in San Sebastian. A quick spin around the Gizpukoa Plaza area is worthwhile, as is crossing the river (canal?) to take a look at the area just beyond the beach.

If you finish up earlier than I'd expect, you can consider taking the train rather than the bus back to Bilbao. It will take a lot longer, but the scenery is very nice, and it's not like you'll be too late for dinner in Bilbao, given the extremely delayed meal hours in Spain.

Posted by
541 posts

A day-trip from Balbao to San Sebastian is doable but, you're going to be constantly moving/traveling daily. San Sebastian has an excellent food scene throughout its various neighborhoods of many pintxos bars, I found visiting the Aquarium a nice change-up of the travel standards of historical sites/churches/museums and its a good walking city either along its beaches or, hiking up hill park above the old town.

For the 5-days you're on your own, pick two of the three: Zaragoza, Bilbao and San Sebastian; this way you can enjoy the location you're at and not feel rushed or, forced to maintain a rigid schedule.

Posted by
690 posts

Bilbao and Donostia-San Sebastian have very similar pintxos atmosphere and bars, so if this is what you´re interested in, practically all towns in the Basque Country offer great food and pintxos, of course. No, we do not sit down for pintxos and it´s never a meal for us (it´s a pre-lunch or pre-dinner thing while socializing), but given the increasingly number of foreigners that demand to sit down and eat them as a meal, I´m afraid it´s another lost battle against the changing of local habits. Bus is the logical way to get from Bilbao to D-SS, cheap, good and fast.

"given the extremely delayed meal hours in Spain", well, here we think that many countries have extremely early meal hours!!!! :) ...but (IMO, sadly) we have been adapting to your early hours for dinner and you can find many places where you can start dinner around 8pm...filled with visitors and empty of locals, of course!. As a useful hint, please take into account that Lunch in Spain is the main meal of the day while dinner is much less important...opposite to the ways in other countries, so when coming here it may be good to adapt to this schedule to enjoy your meals according to local habits.

Posted by
296 posts

Highly recommend Chillida Leku as well as Peine del Viento in San Sebastion. Fun for everyone, especially art lovers!