Please Don’t Go to Donostia

There isn’t much more that I can write about San Sebastián, or Donostia, as the city is called in Basque Country, that people don’t already know. Here’s a quick run-down of the highlights:

  • The coastal city is beautiful, among the most beautiful I’ve visited.
  • The amazing food–one of the food capitals of Europe–from the small pintxo bars in Old Town to the Michelin Star restaurants like Arzak.
  • The relationship between the people and the environment–sea before them, the green land behind them–that offers the the best, freshest ingredients every day. Anthony Bourdain said it best in his Parts Unknown episode on San Sebastián: “The love of food, the insistence on the very best ingredients, is fundamental to the culture and to life here.”
  • The compactness of the city, making it entirely walkable.
  • The numerous, beautiful bridges crossing the River Urumea.
  • The crashing of waves of the Atlantic Ocean against the Comb of the Winds sculptures and stone blocks that extend into the water near Gros Beach.

Going back to Bourdain, he pleaded to people not to come to San Sebastián, to keep it a wonderful secret. To keep it pure. To keep the small city of 186,000 people from become overrun by tourists. I don’t blame him one bit for wanting that, but it’s difficult to say that it hasn’t already begun to happen. English is definitely used more commonly here than in Bilbao, I noticed, and a lot of Europeans visit there, even during the Fall, so I can’t even imagine the crowds during the Spring and Summer.

That said, Basque Country is still relatively unknown as a food and travel destination by most of the world. Let everyone else have Madrid, Seville, and Barcelona. I’ll happily keep San Sebastián to myself.


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