From the misty green inlets of the north-west to the dusty south, via the rolling plains of the centre, Spain is nothing if not incredibly varied in terrain and temperature. Which is precisely what…
To step on San Sebastian’s hexagonal street tiles is to fall in love. This small city on the northern coast of Spain has something for everyone – a picturesque port and brownstone Belle Epoque buildings, three lovely beaches, and some of the best food in the world.
San Sebastian was placed on the tourism map over a century ago by the Spanish Royal Family. The Regent Queen Maria Cristina favoured it as a summer getaway, and, as a result, it blossomed with Belle Epoque architecture and wealthy visitors from the beginning of the 20th century.
Now, in the 21st century, the city calls itself home to a new kind of star: Michelin. San Sebastian is constantly at the top of the world’s list of the most Michelin stars per person. The town’s bars, however, vie for hungry diners’ attention: their countertops are lined with pintxos, more elaborate versions of Spanish tapas, which originated in San Sebastian.
1. Go for Pintxos in The Old Town
In San Sebastian, food comes first. The pintxo is to San Sebastian what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, so be sure to come hungry to best experience this city’s main attraction.
Every other storefront in the Old Town of San Sebastián is a restaurant or pintxo bar, so enjoy hopping from bar to bar to try world-famous miniature bites. Each spot has a speciality: start off simple with a perfect white vinegar anchovy atop a slice of bread at Txepetxa (C/ de la Pescadería, 5). Move across the street for some molecular gastronomy-inspired bites at Zeruko (C/ de la Pescadería), where a favourite is a smoking piece of cod served with a parsley cream shooter. Then head to 31st August Street, which has an overwhelming culinary offering.
By this time, you’re probably ready for some meat, so take your pick between Txuleta (Plaza de la Trinidad, 2) and Gandarias (31 de Agosto Kalea, 23), both well-known for their steak pintxos.
Finish off your night of feasting at Atari Gastroteka (Calle Mayor, 18), which has an extensive dessert pintxo menu as well as picture-perfect examples of the town’s honorary digestif: a gin and tonic the size of a fishbowl.
Top Tip: Eat pintxos like the locals: one pintxo and one drink per bar, then move on. You should pay on your way out the door, not before.
2. Arzak Restaurant
In a city with 17 Michelin stars, one for every 10,000 inhabitants, tasting the constellation becomes a high-ranking item on the to-do list. Arzak Restaurant, which holds three of the 17, is the best spot to start a dive into the starred cuisine.
Juan Mari Arzak took the restaurant over from his family more than 40 years ago, and quickly morphed it from a run-of-the-mill, if respected, traditional dining spot into a white tablecloth establishment intent on refining and pushing Basque cuisine to its limits.
The tasting menu is ever changing, but features some perennial favourites such as the foie “cromlech”, a crunchy-creamy tribute to the ancient stone monuments found across the Basque Country. Most nights Juan Mari or his daughter Elena is out on the floor of the restaurant, greeting and chatting with diners.
Top Tip: Ask to see the R&D laboratory. If you’re lucky, that will get you a tour through the bodega, where the chef makes his own sloe liquor, or patxaran, and also a peek into the room where all the dishes are created by a team of investigative chefs.
Hours: 1:30–3pm and 8:45–10:30pm; Closed Sunday/Monday
Address: Alcalde J. Elosegi Hiribidea, 273. Phone: +34 943 27 84 65. Arzak.es
3. Monte Igeldo Theme Park
The perfect place to take in the city’s beautiful views is atop Mount Igeldo, located on the west side of San Sebastian, rising up from the water at a steep, nearly 90-degree angle. Perfect for the sweeping views of the entire city, yes. But, as they say, it’s about the journey, not the destination, and Igeldo is no different.
To reach the peak, the best option is a 107-year-old funicular, a picturesque cable car that drops you off at the viewing point. Continue walking and you’ll stumble upon another feature frozen in time: the amusement park.
Both adults and children find this park impossibly charming; the rides have passed into vintage territory and riding the tiny roller coaster feels like hurtling back into the 1930s.
Hours: Weekends, 11am–2pm and 3:30–8pm
Phone: +34 943 21 35 25. Monteigueldo.es
4. Wine Cellar at Rekondo
On your way down from the theme park, don’t miss a stop at one of Europe’s top wine cellars. A small stone house about halfway down the mountain is home to Rekondo, a restaurant serving traditional Basque dishes in an elegant setting.
Reserve a table on the terrace – if the weather permits – and be sure to leaf carefully through their 250-page wine menu. The beauty of dining at Rekondo is pairing each dish with a once-in-a-lifetime glass of wine, like a Rioja from 1964.
Top Tip: The sommelier Martín will be on hand to help you choose between rare vintages, and if you catch him on a slow day, you can ask to see the wine cellar, which The Wall Street Journal called one of the top five in Europe.
Hours: 1–3:30PM, 8:30–11:30PM, Closed Tuesday/Wednesday
Address: Paseo de Igeldo, 57. Phone: +34 943 21 29 07. Rekondo.com
5. Naval Museum
Untzi Museoa, San Sebastian’s naval museum, falls under that quirky category of tiny museum passion projects. Wandering through the port, it’s easy to stumble upon this building, which is stuffed to the brim with information on ships, Basque whalers, naval charts, art pieces and other valuables.
Temporary exhibitions are often charming, super-specific looks at the Basque naval past.
Top Tip: Entry is free on Thursdays.
Hours: 10am–2pm, 4–7pm; Closed Mondays
Address: Del Muelle Ibilbidea, 24. Phone: +34 943 43 00 51. Untzimuseoa.eus
6. La Perla
La Perla spa is a saviour on one of San Sebastian’s numerous rainy days. The spa and sports centre has an enviable location, in the centre of La Concha beach. The centre is outfitted with a state-of-the-art gym, with daily cardio and spin classes, as well as a massage area with an ample menu.
The best part about La Perla, however, is the spa circuit. Sign up on a rainy day and enjoy the various circuit rooms, hydro massage pools, and saunas, some of them with views of La Concha bay.
Address: Paseo de La Concha, s/n, Edificio La Perla 20007. Phone: +34 943 45 88 56. La-perla.net
7. Strolling the Shopping District
San Sebastian is a Belle Epoque city, and vestiges of its turn-of-the-century glamour remain. One of the best things to do in San Sebastian is stroll its pedestrian shopping district’s wide streets, window shopping until, inevitably, you are drawn into one of the posh boutiques.
The Avenida de la Libertad is lined with big-box stores, but just off of it you will find lovely boutiques like Maje, a women’s fashion shop, or Ayestaran, a shoe shop with lots of history. Be sure to leave no street unstrolled, as some of the city’s gems are hiding away on less attractive side streets, like Loreak Mendian, a boutique with high-end modern Basque fashion.
8. Mimo San Sebastian Cooking Class
The basement of the one of the city’s most emblematic buildings used to house a spa; the pool was paved over a few years ago to make way for a luxury cooking school, further testament to the city’s culinary prowess.
Mimo San Sebastian now offers unique culinary experiences every day, from a food tour ranked among the world’s top 10 to daily cooking experiences, classes that transition into wine-soaked lunches around its enormous wooden table.
The classes are perfect for both kitchen aficionados and those just looking for things to do when it rains – the chefs are full of anecdotes about the local cuisine and you’ll likely leave with a few new pintxo-eating companions.
Hours: Daily cooking classes, 10:30am.
Address: Calle Okendo 1, 20004. Phone: +34 943 42 11 43. Sansebastian.mimofood.com
9. Peine del Viento
Basque art leans toward the manual: handicrafts and sculptures, made from durable, rugged elements such as wood and steel. Eduardo Chillida is the local art darling, and one of his most famous works is on permanent display – where else? – on the edge of the city, where ocean meets rocky cliff.
Put into place in 1977, it features Chillida’s signature curved metal figures, dotting a terrace designed to capture the sea’s force as waves crash the shore. These impossibly heavy structures float in the air, literally “combing the wind”, as their name suggests.
During high tide, holes in the ground become blowholes that direct a powerful burst of sea spray into the air – nature’s force made tangible.
Hours: Open 24 hours
Address: Eduardo Chillida Pasealekua, s/n, 20008
10. Isla Santa Clara
In the middle of La Concha bay, Santa Clara Island sits like a peacock preening its feathers, ready for a close-up whether for Instagram or a postcard. The island is small but dramatic, with steep cliffs with a picture-perfect white lighthouse on top.
Santa Clara has never been inhabited, save as a quarantine centre briefly during times of the plague, but in summer it comes alive as a playground for beach-goers. You can reach the island any time of the year by swimming, and during summer a boat goes back and forth every half hour.
Pack a picnic and set up on one of the stone tables, and enjoy the view of San Sebastian from the outside in.
11. Buen Pastor
Buen Pastor is San Sebastian’s only true cathedral. In the very centre of town and surrounded by stores and bars, it makes for a nice sightseeing break in between shopping. The 1897 neo-Gothic structure has a 75-metre high spire, visible throughout the city, which is quite useful for orienting yourself.
The cathedral is still in regular use by locals, but visitors can pop in to admire the work of architect Manuel de Echave, constructed with sandstone from the nearby Mount Igeldo.
Hours: 8am – 12pm and 5pm – 8pm
Address: Plaza del Buen Pastor, s/n, 20005
Telephone: +34 943 464 516
There are a couple of things easily lost in translation to visitors to San Sebastian. One of them is the official language: Basque. An ancient tongue unrelated to modern Romance and Latin languages, it is still widely spoken in the Basque Country and in San Sebastian.
No one expects a visitor to be fluent; however, learning one word will get you a long way with locals. Try ‘kaixo’, pronounced KIGH-show. It means hello, and is a fine way to greet everyone from shopkeepers to bartenders.
WHEN TO VISIT
Choosing the right time to visit San Sebastian is far from an exact science. The locals’ favourite refrain in reference to weather is “there’s a reason it’s green”: in one word, rain. The best months to visit are May and September for those who are seeking sunshine. Summer months are also usually sunny, although there always seems to be one month that gets bogged down by summer tempests.
The end of September marks the San Sebastian International Film Festival, a fun, glitzy gathering of stars in one of Europe’s most important cinematic dates. For those unafraid of a bit of rain, the winter months hold some of the city’s most exciting festivals, such as San Sebastian Day (January 20), when locals dress up as cooks and soldiers, the famed dining societies are open to anyone, and the streets are filled with the sound of music and drums.
Like our picks of what to see and do in San Sebastian? For more northern Spain travel inspiration, check out our guide to Santander.
Array (  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 64306 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2019-07-23 20:56:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-07-23 20:56:14 [post_content] => From the misty green inlets of the north-west to the dusty south, via the rolling plains of the centre, Spain is nothing if not incredibly varied in terrain and temperature. Which is precisely what makes the range of Spanish wines produced so diverse, lively and interesting. Here’s our 101 guide to some of the top Spanish wine regions to help you explore this fabulous country through one of its very finest assets: its grapes.
Spanish Red Wines
RiojaRioja is without a doubt, Spain’s best known red. Stretching away across three valleys – the Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Oriental – to the south of the Cantabrian Mountains, it’s a relatively small area that nevertheless packs quite a punch when it comes to global wine production. Some numbers, then: it’s Spain’s oldest wine (with written records dating back to the 9th century); there are more than 600 wineries and nearly 15,000 grape growers spread across 65,000 hectares of vineyards. Made from a variety of grapes it comes in three age classifications: Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. All are full-bodied and generally best served with food. One thing to look out for is whether the Rioja was aged in American oak, French oak or a mixture of both barrels, with each having their distinct tastes. A Rioja winery you must visit: Bodegas López de Heredia - in the town of Haro, it's one of the older wineries in La Rioja. By appointment only. More information: Lopezdeheredia.com.
Ribera del DueroThe ‘other’ great Spanish wine beginning with R. Only the best Tempranillo grapes are used to make polished Ribera del Duero wines, and there are many in Spain (and outside) who prefer the, frequently, softer more delicate taste, than that of their cousins from Rioja. Wines from Ribera del Duero are usually 100% Tempranillo and are mostly aged in French oak; they have the same age classification as Rioja (Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva). A Ribera del Duero winery you must visit: Matarromera - in the town of Valbuena del Duero, a trip to this winery can also include a visit to their museum, the EMINA Wine Museum. More information: Matarromera.es.
PrioratPriorat is probably Spanish wine’s greatest secret. With a wine growing history dating back to the 12th century, this southern Catalonian region these days produces some of the finest and fullest bodied reds in Spain… of which most people outside of Spain have never even heard. The terrain here is tough (even by Spanish wine region standards), so the vines are forced to search for water in the soil, making yield low - and prices high. The most common grape varieties used are: Garnacha, Cariñena with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. A Priorat winery you must visit: Alvaro Palacios - the name that practically singlehandedly spearheaded Priorat's ascent to the summit of Spanish wines back in the 1980s is still one of the leading wineries in the region. More information: Aseuniv.com.
Spanish White Wines
Rias BaixasOn the border of Portugal in the north-west of Spain, the Rias Baixas region of Galicia is cool, green and crisp – not unlike its white wine. The crowning glory of this wine-growing region is Albariño, which is clean, with occasional floral notes, and is absolutely ideal paired with the sublime local seafood. A Rias Baixas winery you must visit: Far from the largest, it's the setting of this family business - in the grand, fortified country house of Finca La Moreira - that makes it one the more atmospheric wineries in Spain. More information: Marquesdevizhoja.com.
CavaFrom the northeast of Spain above Barcelona, Cava is Spain’s most famous sparkling wine. Labelled with brut (dry) or semi-seco (semi sweet), Cavas can be white or rosé, and are usually made from Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo grapes. A Cava winery you must visit: Dating back to the Middle Ages, this Empordà winery certainly doesn't lack for provenance - and it's got the grand castellated headquarters to prove it. More information: Perelada.com.
SherrySherry is made from grapes grown within Cadiz's ‘Sherry Triangle’ between Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa Maria in Andalucia. It comes in sweet and dry varieties. Dry Sherries like Fino or Manzanilla are crisp and acidic, and make for the perfect accompaniment to fish and seafood; Oloroso is caramel-like and nutty and goes well with meat, while medium-dry Amontillado is perfectly paired with chicken or game birds. A Sherry bodega you must visit: Bodegas Tradición is not the oldest bodega in the Sherry Triangle by a long chalk (that honour goes to Domecq), but it is one of the most insistent on traditional techniques. More information: Bodegastradicion.es.
RiojaWhite Rioja is made with Viura; sometimes on its own, other times blending with Chardonnay or Garnacha Blanca amongst others. Most white Riojas are young but are still full-bodied to taste.
Malaga WineMalaga has a long and distinguished wine-making history, with wines having been made in the region since the Phoenicians were in southern Spain, before the Romans picked up the baton. British wine merchants were sending Malaga wines back to sweet-toothed Victorians in the 19th-century. These days, made from Moscatel or Pedro Ximenez grapes, vinos de Malaga are fortified and naturally sweet. Coming in both red and white, they’re at their best served with a ripe local goats’ cheese. A Malaga winery you must visit: Bodega F. Schatz - it's entirely in keeping with the international past of the Spanish wine industry that one of the best wineries in Malaga should have been founded by a German. More information: F-schatz.com.
RuedaThe most commonly drunk white wine in Spain can be just a little disappointing to a new world white wine drinker. The Rueda region is in Castilla y Leon and its wines are usually made with Verdejo grapes. It produces very aromatic wines, often with tropical fruit and fresh grass hints, that’s fresh with just a hint of bitterness.
Things to Look Out For with Spanish WineThere are several wine classifications in Spain, each holding specific criteria. The ones to look out for are Denominacion de Origen (DO), Denominacion de Origen Calificada (DOCa, DOC or DOQ) and DO Pago (only for single winery estates). On the bottle you’ll see the words Joven, Crianza (aged at least 2 years and 12 months in oak barrels), Reserva (aged at least three years with at least 12 months in oak barrels), or Gran Reserva (aged for a minimum of two years in oak barrels, and more than three years bottled before they’re sold). Like the sound of these wine regions in Spain and want to experience some of the very best wines they produce? Stay with The Luxury Villa Collection and you can order the finest Spanish wines direct to your villa, or arrange a tasting or tour through our concierge. [post_title] => A Brief Introduction to Spanish Wines [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => spanish-wine-regions-guide [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-07-24 05:40:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-07-24 05:40:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://theluxuryvillacollection.com/?p=64306 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 42015 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2019-04-11 15:08:18 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-11 15:08:18 [post_content] => Sun and sand: the two things for which Nerja is most famous. And many visitors to the area don't get beyond them. Which is a shame, really, as there's much more to the area than just a great flop and drop break. From wonderful walks to fabulous fiestas and, yes, some of the most beautiful beaches around, we've picked out just a few of the very best things to do in Nerja. Happy exploring.
1. Laze on the BeachThere's a pretty solid chance that if you're after tips for what to do in in the vicinity of Nerja, then a beach day is going to be fairly high on your checklist. Thankfully, there are no fewer than 12 beaches to choose from in and around Nerja. Three of our favourites in town are Playa de Calahonda, Playa de Burriana and Playa El Chorrillo.
2. catch the sunset from the Balcon de EuropaAfter a long, lazy afternoon on the beach, there's only one place to head: the Balcon de Europa. Grab an ice-cream, saunter down to the end of the promenade and watch the sun slowly melt into the Mediterranean. Altogether now... WOW.
3. Be amazed by the caves of NerjaFunnily enough, the sun doesn't even shine in Nerja's biggest attraction. But that doesn't make it any less spectacular. The Caves of Nerja is a 5km complex of caverns that includes the largest stalagtite in the world, some Bronze Age remains and, it's thought, mankind's oldest artwork - which dates back some 42,000 years. Remarkable. (Carretera de Bajada a Playa de Maro, s/n, 29787 Nerja, open 0930/1000-1530.)
4. Go Snorkelling from One Cove to AnotherJust a mile or two to the east of Nerja the sparkling coves of the Acantilados de Maro-Cerro Gordo Natural park stretch away. Snorkeling, sea kayaking or paddle boarding (see below) trips set off from Playa Burriana or Playa Carabeo for you to enjoy the crystal-clear sea teeming with sea life.
5. explore the coast by paddle BoardThe beaches of Nerja itself are urban, which comes with the distinct plus side of there being plenty of bars and restaurants on hand to choose from. But running away to the east is a stunningly wild, cove-lined coast that's great for exploring via paddle board. Rental and guided tours are available from Playa Burriana and Playa de Maro.
6. get out to a nearby villageVenture from Nerja and the idyllic whitewashed mountain villages of the Axarquia are within easy reach. Competa, Maro and the lovely Frigiliana (pictured) are some of the most inviting.
7. Eat Fresh Fish Cooked on a BBQ on the BeachEspetos de sardinas - sardines skewered and cooked on a BBQ until they're deliciously tender - are a local delicacy. One of the best spots to try them in Nerja is at the far westernmost end of town in Chiringuito Mauri (Playo Playazo, 29780 Nerja). Best washed down with an icy beer or two, of course.
8. walk the rio chillarEven by southern Spanish standards Nerja is surrounded by some pretty top-notch walking. Soaring above the town are the jagged peaks of the Sierras de Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama Mountains. For something just a little less adventurous, the most famous walk around Nerja is up the Rio Chillar. You follow a beautiful, ankle-cooling river as it babbles its way down from the hills, discovering narrow ravines, waterfalls and rock pools along the way.
9. Devour Baby squid at El PulguillaOK, so you don’t have to have baby squid - although we highly recommend you do - but you definitely should grab a quick tapas and a beer/wine in this stalwart of a restaurant in Nerja. Elegant fine dining it ain't, but it is a great way to experience a typical Malaga fish restaurant. (Calle Almte. Ferrándiz, 26, 29780 Nerja; 952 52 13 84)
10. View the AqueductThis 19th century aqueduct was built to supply the surrounding sugar cane factories with water. During the summer it's a sweaty 10-minute walk from the centre of Nerja, but (as you can see in the image above) it makes for a spectacular photo opportunity when you get there.
11. Pause for Thought in Ermita de las AngustiasBuilt in 1790 this church is the home of Nerja’s patron saint, Our Lady of Anguish (Plaza de la Ermita, 11, 29780 Nerja). It might not be the grandest of churches, but it is a lovely, cool little spot to catch your breath in for five minutes or so on a hot summer's afternoon.
12. Plan a Trip Around a FiestaNerja is in Andalucia. Which means, inevitably, it's a place that's serious about letting its hair down every once in a while. The five festivals that Nerja goes for in a big way are Easter, Carnival (February), San Isidro (May), Virgen del Carmen (July 16th) and the Epiphany (5th January). Nominally religious they may be, but trust us, they're also really just a good excuse to P-A-R-T-Y.
13. See Authentic FlamencoNearby Velez-Malaga has one of the most vibrant flamenco scenes in Malaga province, thanks to the efforts of local flamenco-cultural initiative, Flamenco Abierto (Flamencoabierto.com). So if you want to catch some real flamenco, as opposed to the tourist nonsense that's so often served up, the Peña Flamenca Niño de Vélez on a Friday evening is the place to head.
14. Eat at SollunBefore opening this lovely little restaurant in Nerja chef Juan Quintanilla helped put Skina in Marbella on the Michelin-starred map. As soon as you sit down, though, it's clear that Sollun is an even more personal project. If you choose to work from the short menu, the chef himself will come out of the kitchen and recommend what's particularly good that day. The tasting menu is a thing of beauty: it features a selection of dishes with a heavy local focus, each paired with a suitable wine. (Calle Pintada, 9, 29780 Nerja; 653 68 94 52) Like our pick of things to do in Nerja and looking for more recommendations on the Costa del Sol? Have a browse through a few of our favourite Marbella day trips. Alternatively, if you're after a beautiful country villa nearby, check out our Axarquia luxury villas collection, here. [post_title] => Things to Do in Nerja that You Just Can't Miss [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => things-to-do-in-nerja [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-05-01 08:13:09 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-05-01 08:13:09 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://theluxuryvillacollection.com/?p=42015 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) 1