Rioja and San Sebastian: best day trips

The Rioja region and San Sebastian, on the north coast of Spain, make the perfect pairing for a gastronomic trip. San Sebastian boasts the beaches on the Bay of Biscay, whereas Rioja has the mountains and the vineyards. And both know about fine cuisine, with a Michelin star or 16 between them.

San Sebastian’s famous restaurants meet their match in Rioja’s high quality wine and dining. Whether you’re staying in San Sebastian in the Basque region or on a wine tour in the Rioja region, Rioja in Style can easily arrange day trips or transfers between these two gastronomic highlights of Spain.

To see and do on a day trip to San Sebastian

San Sebastian (Spanish) or Donostia (Basque) is renowned for its delectable tapas – called pintxos by the Basque locals, and the narrow streets of the Old Town spill with enticing pintxos bars. Just remember to save room for those Michelin-starred restaurants later!

It’s not all about the food in San Sebastian, though. See and be seen on the famous beaches of Playa de la Concha, with The Comb of the Wind sculpture, and Playa de Ondarreta. Gaze at the ocean-facing Belle Époque mansions that hark back to when this resort city first became fashionable with the wealthy and glamourous. After all, it is no wonder that the city hosts the San Sebastián International Film Festival every year.

A promenade – the Paseo Nuevo – wraps around the two bays so makes a delightful stroll from where you can take in the white sand beaches and azure ocean views.

If you’re feeling more energetic, you can stride up Mount Urgull, which overlooks city and sea for even more stunning views. Opening Times: 1st of May to 30th of September from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 1st October to 30th of April from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Get your cultural fix with an explore of this beautiful city with its range of art nouveau architecture to admire, the San Telmo museum in a 16th-century convent, and the Good Shepherd Cathedral.

San Sebastian’s top restaurants

On a day trip to San Sebastian, you simply cannot miss a meal in one of the city’s fabulous restaurants. We can help you choose, and for the meantime here’s a taster of some of our favourites:

Akelarre – three Michelin stars: Akelarre restaurant dates all the way back to 1974 and has since achieved three Michelin stars with a focus on local seafood dishes. Head chef Pedro Subijana has been at the helm since 1975 and his talents helped lead San Sebastian into the global gastronomic scene.

Arzak – three Michelin stars: Arzak made it into The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. And it’s no wonder, with the now 74-year-old chef Juan Mari and his daughter Elena running the show. You can choose from dozens of sample menus or a la carte and are likely to meet Juan Mari, as he likes to roam the dining spaces of his gorgeous hilltop restaurant. 

Martin Berasategui – three Michelin stars: Named TripAdvisor best restaurant in the world, set in beautiful countryside on the outskirts of San Sebastian, Martin Berasategui’s restaurant is a delight. Known for his creative cooking, the eponymous chef is an expert in Basque cuisine and boasts no fewer than 10 Michelin stars.

Mugaritz – two Michelin stars: Mugaritz is also considered to be one of the world’s best restaurants and ranked seventh in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants of Restaurant Magazine’s toplist, while GQ magazine sees it as one of the world’s most adventurous restaurants. On a hilltop setting above the city’s beaches, chef Andoni Luis Aduriz creates exciting dishes that turn your gastronomic expectations on their head.