Study Abroad: My Favorite City

San Sebastian: The Jewel of Spain

When people asked me “what’s your favourite place you’ve travelled to?” I found it very hard to answer because everywhere is so beautiful in its own way, and each trip was very unique. Now, I know my answer is San Sebastian.

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San Sebastian is located on the northern coast of Spain in the Basque region. Initially, I wanted to see the set of Dragonstone from Game of Thrones, and my friend told me that San Sebastian was supposed to be beautiful and not very far away from my destination. Three friends and I started planning our trip which included flying to the city of Bilbao, driving to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, and then taking a bus to San Sebastian.

The city is the perfect mix of beautiful beaches, old European streets, and hiking with a view. I was immediately taken with this city on our first night when we asked for recommendations from our hostel and were given more suggestions than we could fit into our short time. The first sight we wanted to experience, on his suggestion, was hiking to the top of a hill and watching the sunset over the ocean. We quickly dropped everything at the hostel, crammed our bags into the lockers, and practically ran up the hill to be able to watch the sunset. Finally, after getting lost a few times, losing some of the party, finding a huge statue of Jesus at the top, and with sweat started to soak into my shirt, we made it to a lookout in time for the sunset. We sat on the grass with a dozen others who sat quietly, watching the colourful sky fade with the setting sun.

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After the sun disappeared, a security guard said the park was closing, so we made our way back down the hill. The path we took down the park led us to a bridge and a long road that was full of people sitting and standing and talking with all their friends. All of the streets in the surrounding area were packed with people of all ages enjoying a drink on the street and eating pintxos, a type of finger food that is famous in San Sebastian.

After our short but strenuous hike, we were starving and started looking for a place to eat. We found out that it was legal to drink on the streets in San Sebastian, so of course, we took advantage of that. We got take out of burgers and chips from a restaurant and found a small convenience store where we bought beer for 0.20 euros (beer is super cheap!). We walked until we saw the water and found a bench along the boardwalk where we cracked our beers and ate our burgers.

The second recommendation from our hostel was for us to get cheesecake. The cheesecake that is famous in San Sebastian is slightly different than the cheesecake I was used to in Canada, but oh my, was it amazing! We got the cheesecake to go, and wandered down to the pier and sat on big rocks along the water. We ate cake and listened to the waves.

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The next morning we got up and walked the empty streets until we found a cafe. We each ordered coffee and a waffle and made our way to the water where we ate and drank looking at the ocean and watching the sky light up. In Spain, people get up a little later than what I am used to in Canada. It was nice being able to walk around at 9am and have the streets to yourself.

The other reason San Sebastian is one of my favourite cities is for the beaches. There are 3 large beaches within walking distance of each other and they are long and flat. Unfortunately, we did not have time to really relax on the beach, but we walked along each of them. Then we crossed a bridge, found food, and explored a couple of shops. The airport was about an hour away from Donostia San Sebastian, so we caught a bus earlier than we needed to make it to the airport on time. I thought that the Kamloops airport was small, this airport was way tinier and didn’t open until 30 minutes after we arrived. I constantly struggle between wanting to see new places and wanting to visit my favourite cities again. San Sebastian is definitely a city I will go back to, I cannot wait until that day.

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To sum up my San Sebastian recommendations:

  1. Take a hike and watch the sunset from the hill by the ocean
  2. Share some pintxos at a restaurant (one thing I did not get to do)
  3. Enjoy drinking (in moderation!!) on the street since it is legal
  4. Get some amazing cheesecake and eat it by the ocean
  5. Take advantage of the beaches and relax, suntan, and walk all 3 of them

What about you? What’s your favourite place you’ve visited while studying abroad? Share it below!