Casa Nicolasa Hotel in San Sebastián, Spain

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Updated: July 30, 2020

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Review of Casa Nicolasa Hotel in San Sebastián, Spain.

Casa Nicolasa – Modern guesthouse with great staff in a fantastic location.

A wonderful, up-to-date iteration of the classic Spanish guesthouse (pensión), Casa Nicolasa proves how much hotels can offer guests on a budget. The rooms come packed with features you wouldn’t expect of a hotel of this category. The staff is always on call (via phone) and ready with recommendations. The location is fantastic: you’re just minutes from anywhere in the old town, the Área Romántica, or Gros, and yet the immediate street is quiet, so you can feel in the thick of it all and still get a good night’s sleep. In case the hotel is fully booked, fear not; it has two sister guesthouses of the same quality, run by the same friendly team. Next door to Nicolasa is Pensión Aldamar and a block away is Pensión Bule. The three only differ in décor and accessibility (Aldamar and Bule are less suitable for guests with disabilities due to the configuration of the old buildings).

Casa Nicolasa – Location

  • Address: Aldamar 4, San Sebastián.
  • Nearest Bus: Local buses can be caught on the Boulevard (100m, 1-minute walk).
  • Area: The hotel is on the cusp of the city’s 2 best neighborhoods for tourists: on the corner of Calle Aldamar in the Parte Vieja (old town) and one of the city’s main streets, the Boulevard Zumardia (known locally as the “Bule”), which demarcates the start of the Área Romántica. It’s the absolute best place for first-timers, packed with attractions and pintxo (pin-cho) bars, just a block from the river and a few blocks from the sea.
  • How to Get There: From San Sebastián Airport, the hotel is approximately 25 minutes (13 miles) via car or 50 minutes via public transport. From Bilbao Airport, the hotel is approximately 90 minutes (62 miles) via car or public transport. If taking public transport, you’ll either come into the main bus station (Donostiako Autobus Geltokia) and the long-distance (Renfe) Donostia-San Sebastián train station (0.6 mile, 12-minute walk), which are beside each other on the east side of the River Urumea, or the Amara regional train station (0.8 mile, 17-minute walk) just south of the Área Romántica.
  • Handy to: La Concha & Zurriola beaches, Parte Vieja, Monte Urgull.

Casa Nicolasa – The Basics

  • Ages: The hotel welcomes guests of all ages.
  • View: The rooms on Calle Aldamar have views of the Boulevard, a snippet of the sea, La Bretxa Market, and across the Parte Vieja to Monte Urgull.
  • Private Pools/Jacuzzis: No private pools or jacuzzis.
  • Laundry: Laundry services are not available.
  • Parking: Guests get 33% discount at the public Parking Okendo, a 5-minute walk away (0.3 mile, below Plaza de Oquendo and Hotel Maria Cristina, €17.50/day).
  • Wi-Fi: Free Wi-Fi throughout the property.
  • Extras: Umbrella on loan, luggage storage, complimentary tea and Lavazza coffee, vegan toiletries, as well as “Agua de Colonia” freebies.
  • When to Book: Book well ahead if you’re planning on coming in the summer or during one of the city’s major festivals (January, August, September, December).
  • How to Book: Booking.com will have the best rates.
  • Phone: +34 943 430 143
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Website: pensioncasanicolasa.com

Casa Nicolasa – Amenities

  • Pool: No pool (but you’re right in between 2 heavenly beaches).
  • Spa: No spa (try La Perla on La Concha Bay).
  • Fitness Center: No fitness center, but there are plenty nearby.
  • For Disabled Guests: The hotel has an elevator, and one room – the Double with Extra Bed – is fully wheelchair accessible.
  • For Families: Cribs can be provided (free), as can extra beds (additional charge).

Casa Nicolasa – Food and Drink

  • Restaurant: No restaurant, but there are hundreds of eateries within a few minutes’ walk of the hotel.
  • Lounge/Bar: Complimentary drinks, including Lavazza coffee, are available in the reception area.
  • Breakfast: No breakfast.
  • Room Service: No room service.

Casa Nicolasa – Rooms

  • Room Types: Single ● Interior Double ● Deluxe Double with Balcony ● Superior Double with Terrace ● Double with Extra Bed
  • Smoking Rooms: Casa Nicolasa is 100% smoke-free, except for the terrace of the Double with Terrace room.
  • Best Room: All rooms are of similar quality and each features a desk, TV, minibar, safe, full-length mirror, climate control, and an en-suite bathroom with rain shower, “Agua de Colonia Concentrada” as well as vegan toiletries, and a hairdryer. The double beds are all king-sized and can be split into twin singles. The Double with Extra Bed is the largest room but it is at the back of the building (no views). The Superior Double feels spacious thanks to its pleasant terrace and outdoor table and chairs, though it looks out on a residential courtyard. So, the winner in terms of views is the Deluxe Double: look one way and you see Boulevard Zumardia, look the other way and you can see the ocean, and right in front of you is La Bretxa market with the Christ statue on Mount Urgull looming above.
  • Family Rooms: No family rooms per se. While there are no interconnecting rooms, all the double beds can be separated into twin singles, and there is a triple room available.

Casa Nicolasa – Local Transport

  • Walking: San Sebastián is excellent for walking and Casa Nicolasa is well placed to explore most of the main attractions on foot. Within a 15-minute walk, you can get to everywhere in the Parte Vieja and Área Romántica, and as far away as the Aquarium on Monte Urgull, Kursaal in Gros, and Tabakalera in Egia.
  • Tram/Bus: The city is served by local buses known as D-Bus and regional buses known as Lurraldebus, as well as long-distance coaches. Many D-Bus and Lurraldebus lines can be caught from the Boulevard (100m, 1-minute walk). Long-distance and international buses can be caught from the main bus station (Donostiako Autobus Geltokia), just east of the River Urumea at the María Cristina Bridge (0.6 mile, 12-minute walk).
  • Train: Regional trains come into Amara Station (0.8 mile, 17-minute walk), while long-distance (Renfe) and international trains come into the main station on the east side of the River Urumea (0.6 mile, 12-minute walk).
  • Taxis, Uber, Lyft: Taxis are well regulated in the city; there is an official tariff and only licensed companies are allowed to operate. Taxi ranks are numerous and there is one close to the hotel on the Boulevard near the Ayuntamiento (0.2 mile, 4-minute walk). If you need to book in advance, try Taxi Donosti, which offers a 24-hour service (+34 943 46 46 46).

Casa Nicolasa – What’s Nearby?

Recommended Nearby Tours

  • Electric Bike Tour – As San Sebastián sprawls along the coast (and over a few hills), electric bikes are a fantastic way to get around. The company, Go Local, offers free walking tours and bike rentals from their office in Plaza Sarriegi, right by La Bretxa Market, behind the main tourist office on the Boulevard. 2-minute walk (0.1 mile).
  • Mimo – Located in the basement of Hotel Maria Cristina, this reputable company offers several high-end gastronomic experiences, including pintxo tours, wine tours, and private cooking classes. 4-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • Pintxos Like a Local – This guided tour of the historic center’s best pintxo bars is fabulous, with tons of fun facts and a good range of bars and local delicacies included in the price; the same company also does cider tours if you fancy getting out of the city. Tours set out from the cathedral, an 11-minute walk (0.6 mile) from the hotel.

Best Nearby Pintxo Bars

    There are hundreds of bars in this city and nearly all of them serve some sort of pintxo, aka the Basque version of tapas. Whether they come hot or cold, from the kitchen, pre-prepared on the bar, or grilled on skewers, the pintxos here are second to none; every local has their favorite place. Some are bar-restaurants, some are more like fast-food joints, while others are bars with snacks, but all of the picks below will offer amazing tapas washed down with good drinks. Pintxos are cheap, but eating several (plus drinks) can soon add up, so look out for pintxo-pote offers, where a drink plus tapas will set you back just €1 or €2.

  • Txepetxa – Anchovies, anchovies, and more anchovies served dozens of ways on a slice of baguette. A fish lover’s paradise. 3-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • Borda Berri – A local favorite for its changing menus of fresh cooked small plates. Pretty much everything is great, but the risottos (actually made from orzo pasta rather than rice) are fantastic. 3-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • Bar Sport – A really traditional haunt and favorite among locals, who rightfully love the fried foie gras and txangurro (spider crab) crepes. 3-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • MendaurBerria – Don’t let the somewhat sterile interiors put you off: the flavors this place packs into its small plates are wonderful. 3-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • Antonio Bar – A humble-looking place whose freshly-made pintxos delight. 6-minute walk (0.3 mile).
  • La Mejillonera – This place is unmissable for its fresh mussels and patatas bravas washed down with a beer or wine. 6-minute walk (0.3 mile).
  • Atari – Bar-restaurant outside the basilica with exceptional pintxos like artichokes with duck. Make sure to try the seasonal specials. 6-minute walk (0.3 mile).
  • A Fuego Negro – Michelin-recommended trendy and avante garde pintxos; bookings and tasting menus available. 6-minute walk (0.3 mile).
  • Rojo y Negro – Unlike many other places that only open for lunch and dinner, this place is open all day everyday (7 am-midnight) and serves pintxos as well as heartier mains and breakfasts. 11-minute walk (0.5 mile).
  • The New Sansse – Contemporary pintxos as well as grilled meats and burgers in a trendy modern space. 11-minute walk (0.5 mile).
  • La Espiga – This place might look slick and modern, with its distinctive wood and muralled interior, but it is in fact one of the city’s oldest bars and its food carries the mark of a generations-old family-run business. 11-minute walk (0.5 mile).

Best Nearby Restaurants

    The area is known for its extraordinary and creative high cuisine, and there are a handful of world-famous restaurants that have 2 or 3 Michelin Stars ($$$$) a short distance out of San Sebastián, including: Arzak (2.5 miles, 10-minute taxi ride), Martín Berasategui (6 miles, 20-minute taxi ride), Akelaŕe (5 miles, 20-minute taxi ride), and Mugaritz (7 miles, 20-minute taxi ride). But even if you can’t travel, there are several 1-star options in the city, including Amelia (0.6 mile, 12-minute walk) and Kokotxa (0.3 mile, 7-minute walk). Reservations are recommended at all restaurants in San Sebastián, especially when there are views involved.

  • Astelena 1997 – Wonderful, refined Basque cuisine in a romantic modern dining room. $$$-$$$$. 2-minute walk (150m).
  • Bodegón Alejandro – Outstanding basement restaurant that does hearty Basque dishes with the best ingredients. Informal and friendly. The lunch menu is extremely good value. $$-$$$$. 3-minute walk (0.1 mile).
  • Casa Urola – While this restaurant has been an old-town staple since the 1950s, it is only in the last decade that its plates have become artistic masterpieces thanks to Chef Pablo Loureiro Rodil. $$-$$$. 4-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • Ni Neu – In the Kursaal, this place has a superb location and is a great place to dine any time of day. $-$$$. 4-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • Kata4 Oyster Bar – Specializes in oysters and champagne, but offers delectable entrées and desserts, too. $$-$$$. 4-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • La Fabrica – Chic, contemporary fine dining with a daily menu, tasting menu, and a la carte dishes amid exposed brick and copper walls. $$-$$$$. 6-minute walk (0.3 mile).
  • Mariñela – Super-fresh fish and seafood at this friendly family-run joint on the harbor. $$-$$$$. 9-minute walk (0.5 mile).
  • Gerald’s Bar – Convivial wine bar with wood paneling, nautical flourishes, and absolutely fantastic back-to-basics food. $-$$. 9-minute walk (0.5 mile).
  • Ekeko – Excellent, hip Peruvian restaurant offering totally wild flavors, should you need a break from Basque. $-$$. 13-minute walk (0.6 mile).

Nearby Cafes, Bakeries, & Confectioners

  • Koh Tao – Quirk, cozy cafe with graffiti on the walls, good brunch-style food, and excellent coffee. The kind of place freelancers love. 2-minute walk (0.1 mile).
  • Galparsoro – Artisanal bakery in the old town where delicious bread, croissants, and local specialties roll out of the ovens. Arrive as close as possible to opening hours (8 am & 4:30 pm) to get the best as there are often lines out the door. 5-minute walk (0.3 mile).
  • Botanika – Hidden café on the riverfront full of plants, with a great menu that focuses on healthy and plant-based foods (plus great cocktails). 10-minute walk (0.5 mile).
  • Otaegui – Historic confectionery, founded in 1886 and specializing in blocks of marzipan turrón and pantxineta, a Basque layered almond cream cake. The original store is in the Parte Vieja (0.2 mile, 4-minute walk) and there’s a café in the Plaza del Buen Pastor (0.6 mile, 11-minute walk).

Best Nearby Bars

    Had your fill of pintxos bars? Try one of the “regular” bars or clubs below.

  • Altxerri JazzBar – Cozy jazz bar in a cave-like basement just around the corner. Live music, great cocktails, and late closing. 1-minute walk (50m).
  • Gu – In the iconic boat-shaped building on the harbor, Gu’s focus in the early evening is delectable cocktails – perfect for a sundowner looking over La Concha – before it turns up the music to party into the early hours. 5-minute walk (0.3 mile).
  • Dioni’s – This so-called “Coffee Bar and Disco Pub” has been a stalwart of the Sanse scene for decades. Go for a gentle drink and pintxo on the terrace during the day, or party until the early hours every weekend. 5-minute walk (0.2 mile).

Nearby Shopping & Cool Shops

    The 2 main shopping hotspots are Parte Vieja, especially Calle Mayor, and Área Romántica, in the streets around the Mercado San Martín (see below, under Markets). It’s worth bearing in mind that many shops – especially in the Parte Vieja – close for lunch from around noon-4 pm. Many places shut altogether on Sundays and holidays.

  • SKFK – Sustainable and ethical womenswear brand that offers chic urban garments made from recycled fibers. 2-minute walk (0.1 mile).
  • Casa Ponsol – If you want to get the San Sebastián look and don a hat (preferably a beret), look no further than this beautiful old store founded in the 1830s. 3-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • Pohorylle – Beautifully crafted and chic, these unisex canvas and leather bags are handmade in the Basque country from Spanish materials and natural dyes. 3-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • Alboka Artesania – For every weird and wonderful Basque souvenir you could hope for. Right on the Plaza de la Constitución. 4-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • Perfumería Benegas – Run by the Benegas family since 1908, this must be one of the loveliest perfume stores in the world. As well as international brands, their own line of toiletries is covetable. 4-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • Mimo San Sebastian Gourmet Shop – This gourmet food shop is one of the best places in town to find high-end delicacies to take home with you or savor as they are, as well as English-language books on pintxos. The same company runs tours and experiences too (see above under tours). 4-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • auka – Concept store selling fine things, be they clothing, perfumes, children’s toys, accessories, or simply objects of lust. 4-minute walk (0.2 mile).
  • Chocolates de Mendaro – Selling the wares of master chocolatiers from Mendaro, a town about halfway between Bilbao and San Sebastián, this place specializes in handmade truffles. 6-minute walk (0.3 mile).
  • Loreak Mendian – This cult brand was born in San Sebastián, and there are separate womenswear and menswear stores. It shuns seasonal fashion by developing high-quality basics with a twist: bold zippers, odd materials like neoprene, luminous colors, and oversized scarves. Both stores are a short walk. Store 1: 5-minute walk (0.3 mile). Store 2: 7-minute walk (0.4 mile).
  • Pukas – These guys have been hand-crafting surfboards and beach bum apparel in San Sebastián since the 1970s and have a store in the Parte Vieja (0.3 mile, 5-minute walk) and a surf school/board rental shop in Gros (0.4 mile, 7-minute walk).
  • Ezeiza Vinos y Licores – Wonderfully characterful old store that should be your first stop if you want to explore Basque wines and liquors. 11-minute walk (0.5 mile).
  • Room 278 – Trendy San Sebastián related graphic design slapped onto prints, canvas bags, mugs, and more. 13-minute walk (0.6 mile).

Nearby Attractions

  • Parte Vieja: The city’s most charismatic neighborhood offers a grid of narrow pedestrianized lanes which create a convivial atmosphere for the city’s favorite pastime: pintxo-bar-hopping. The best streets for this are 31 de Agosto/Abuztuaren 31 and Fermín Calbetón, although there are places with wonderful food on almost every street in this part of the city, including on the magnificent Plaza de la Constitución, where you can see the original Ayuntamiento building, as well as the balconies-cum-viewing platforms from the days when bullfights used to be held here. The square is at its best (and busiest) during one of the city’s many festivals. Near the plaza are 2 of San Sebastián’s loveliest churches: the baroque Basílica de Santa María del Coro, with its unmistakable statue of the city’s eponymous martyr, Saint Sebastian, has a cavernous interior and interesting sculptures, especially the cross by Eduardo Chillida; and the Iglesia de San Vicente, from the early 16th century, which used to form part of the city wall. Its altarpiece from 1586 is overwhelmingly tall and the church is renowned for its stained glass. The San Telmo Museoa offers an in-depth look at Basque culture, which can feel impenetrable to the uninitiated, and there’s a fabulous restaurant inside. A couple of blocks from the museum is Mercado de la Bretxa, which dates back to the 1870s. Today, it’s split into different areas including a food market (see markets, below) and a mini-mall in one of the historic buildings. Everything in the Parte Vieja can be reached within an 8-minute walk.
  • Área Romántica: The so-called Romantic Area is the real heart of the city. It houses most of the administrative buildings, banks, chain stores, and traditional plazas for which the Spanish are famed, and on top of this, it has a graceful unified look, thanks to the excellent town planning and architecture built in this zone during the Belle Époque. To see this area in its full glory, simply stroll along the beachside promenade around Bahía de la Concha, where there is ornate ironwork and the beautiful Cafe del Mar, La Perla Spa, strangely exotic Parque Alderdi Eder, and Ayuntamiento (city hall). On the River Urumea side, there’s the wonderfully symmetrical Teatro Victoria Eugenia next to the glamorous 5-star Hotel Maria Cristina as well as the resplendent Puente María Cristina (Maria Christina Bridge). Don’t miss the 2 main plazas in this neighborhood: Plaza del Buen Pastor, which features the neo-gothic Catedral del Buen Pastor and the Basque culture center, Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea, which has regular exhibitions; and Plaza Gipuzkoa, which features a verdant central square – complete with a duck pond – the regional council headquarters, and shops and bars sheltered under colonnaded sidewalks. Everything in the Área Romántica is less than an 11-minute walk from the hotel.
  • Kursaal & Playa Zurriola: On the eastern side of the River Urumea is Zurriola Beach, where the winds whip up brutal waves, making the city a mecca for surfing. If this is why you are in town, head straight to one of the surf schools on the seafront to rent a board or find a teacher. Unmissable is the uber-modern Kursaal, designed by Rafael Moneo. It always has great programming for concerts, from opera and ballet to jazz and pop, as well as a tasty restaurant. Further east, you’ll come to the Sagüés sea wall, the Dove of Peace statue, and after a hike up Monte Ulía, the Michelin-starred restaurant Mirador de Ulía at a gorgeous look-out point. Mount Ulía also marks the start of a stunning coastal park covering some 32 hectares, which includes a section of the Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James) pilgrimage hike. It’s a 4-minute walk (0.2 mile) to the Kursaal, from where it’s a further 12-minute walk (0.6 mile) along the beach to the base of Mount Ulía.
  • Tabakalera & Around: If you arrived by public transport, you may have already seen the city’s premier culture destination, the Tabakalera, as it is right by the main national and international train station as well as the bus terminal. Set in a sensitively renovated old tobacco factory, the huge building not only houses free exhibitions and events, but also stores, cafes, and a rooftop lookout point with fabulous views. It’s set next to the Parque Cristina Enea with its rolling hills, exotic plants, and a dramatic pedestrian bridge over the train tracks. It’s a 14-minute walk (0.7 mile) from the hotel to the Tabakalera via the stunning Puente María Cristina (Maria Christina Bridge).
  • Puerto & Monte Urgull: On the peninsula jutting out of the middle of the city stands Monte (mount) Urgull, with the port cradled in its south-western corner. There are several routes up to the top of the hill but most people approach it via the path behind the San Telmo Museoa, the passageway beside the basilica, or via the puerto (port/harbor), where there are fantastic seafood restaurants, and the world-class Aquarium with its walkthrough ocean tunnel (complete with sand tiger sharks). Approaching Monte Urgull from here will not only give you the chance to check out the schedules for boat trips to Isla Santa Clara (the little island in the middle of the bay), but it will also bring you to Jorge Oteiza’s magnificent contemporary sculpture Construcción Vacía (Empty Construction). Up Urgull itself is a tangle of trails flanked with exotic fauna that lead to a fortified castle, Castillo de la Mota, which houses the Casa de la Historia, a city museum. There’s also a 40-foot statue of Christ, a chapel, and an ‘English Cemetery’. From the hotel, it’s a 6-minute walk (0.3 mile) to the San Telmo Museum or a 12-minute walk (0.6 mile) to the Aquarium; then, from either, it’s a further 10-15 minutes to Monte Urgull’s summit.
  • Bahía de la Concha: The wide yellow crescent of La Concha Bay calls you as soon as you orientate yourself in the city: it is unmistakable and unmissable. If it’s a nice day, head straight to Playa de la Concha (La Concha Beach), which usually has crystalline aqua waters. A stroll west from the hotel along the glorious Belle Èpoque promenade will take you past La Perla Spa to Palacio Miramar (with its lovely gardens) and on to Ondarreta Beach in the Antiguo neighborhood (see below) via a dramatic pedestrian foot tunnel. Meanwhile, walking east will take you through the Parque Alderdi Eder, the de facto main town square, to the grand Ayuntamiento (city hall) and beyond to the Parte Vieja and the puerto (port/harbor). It’s a 9-minute walk (0.5 mile) to the beach, a 15-minute walk (0.8 mile) to La Perla, and a 26-minute walk (1.5 miles) to Miramar Palace.
  • Playa de Ondarreta & Monte Igueldo: A walk around La Concha Bay to the neighborhood of Antiguo is a must for any trip to this city. The first place you’ll come to is the whimsical English-style Palacio Miramar with its lovely gardens – a favorite hangout spot for locals. From here you can either wander into Antiguo town, where there are plenty of bars, cafes, and restaurants clustered around Calle Matia, or head down to the beach. Walk west towards Mount Igueldo to experience the hair-raising antique funicular railway which zips up to the top of the hill for spectacular views, a couple of bars, and a small amusement park. Or, continue on the seafront path to get round to Eduardo Chillida’s Peine del Viento (Wind Comb), a wonderful cluster of statues that during rough seas really do appear to interact with the elements. It’s around a 35-minute walk to all these places.

Nearby Markets or Grocery Stores

  • Mercado de la Bretxa – These days, the market features a few dozen stalls in and under Plaza la Bretxa, but there’s evidence all around the plaza of its former splendor. The subterranean part of the market also houses a Lidl for anyone needing basic supplies. Stores around the plaza, like Aitor Lasa and Solbes, offer gourmet produce, specialty ingredients, and locally made preserves. 1-minute walk (100m).
  • Mercado San Martín – While there has been a market on this spot since 1884, the modern mall is functional rather than fascinating. Nevertheless, there’s an FNAC department store as well as a food hall with stalls selling fresh produce alongside cured meats, cheeses, street food, and smoothies. There’s also a supermarket in the basement. 10-minute walk (0.5 mile).

Casa Nicolasa – The Hotel

The hotel is located in a beautiful old building.

Casa Nicolasa takes up the second and third floors of this beautiful old building on the corner of the old town. Right next door is the hotel’s sister property, Pensión Aldamar, while the renowned gourmet delicatessen Solbes is on the first floor.

Entrances of both sister properties are next to each other.

The elegant arched doorways to both hotels are next to each other. Although the windows and their shutters look original, they are in fact modern and very soundproof.

The hotel has an elevator.

The elevator is right inside the entrance. The hotel’s renovated interior fuses modern glass and pine with old stone walls.

Corridors are bright and colorful.

Corridors have been brightened up with plenty of lights and quirky artwork.

The reception is not always manned.

While the reception is not permanently manned, staff will only be as far away as Pensión Bule a block away, should you need anything.

The lounge has free beverages and guides.

The little lounge in the reception area has a good drinks station, all free of charge, including a Lavazza coffee machine that makes lots of types of coffee. There’s also a bookshelf with tourist information and guides.

The Double with Extra Bed is wheelchair accessible.

This is the Double with Extra Bed. It’s wheelchair accessible, with a roll-in shower, sliding door, and grab-rails. The windows are frosted but the room gets enough natural light and fresh air.

The Superior Double with Terrace is spacious.

The Superior Double with Terrace is spacious enough inside, but the real coup here is the outside space.

The Parte Vieja neighborhood is tightly packed.

It’s very unusual to get outdoor space in the Parte Vieja, as all the buildings are so tightly packed. The building on the right, where the paint changes color from cream to white, is the Pensión Aldamar.

The Deluxe Doubles feature unique artwork.

The Deluxe Doubles all face onto Calle Aldamar. They are not the largest but have plenty of room for a comfy stay. Each features unique artwork.

Rooms come with France-inspired wardrobes.

The attractive stone and wood-clad walls add tons of character, as does the France-inspired wardrobe.

Bathrooms are clean and bright and feature rain as well as hand showers.

Balconies offer partial views of the sea.

Standing on the pretty iron balconies is a treat. Across the road (bottom left) is Mercado de la Bretxa and 3 blocks to the right is the sea.

One can also see the Bule from the balconies.

The other way is the Boulevard Zumardia, known by locals simple as the “Bule”; it’s a great landmark for orienting yourself. One way heads to La Concha Bay while the other ends at the River Urumea.

Plaza la Bretxa is opposite the hotel.

Right opposite the hotel is Plaza la Bretxa, which is always bustling. The current iteration of the eponymous market is in the middle, surrounded by the historic market buildings.

Bodegón Alejandro serves rustic Basque fare.

A block west of the plaza is one of the best streets for food: Fermín Calbeton. Head to Bodegón Alejandro, an underground restaurant that offers rustic-but-classy Basque food.

Borda Berri is great for pintxos.

A great place for pintxos on the same strip is Borda Berri, which does mostly hot small plates freshly made to order.

Bullfights were once held in the Plaza de la Constitución.

A couple of blocks further into the Parte Vieja is the neighborhood’s main square, the Plaza de la Constitución. The attractive balconies with their shuttered windows once doubled as the spectator areas for the bullfights that were held here.

Alboka sells quirky souvenirs.

On the plaza is Alboka, a quirky souvenir shop for all things Basque.

148 Gastroleku specializes in gourmet pintxos.

Opposite Alboka is 148 Gastroleku (sister restaurant to Atari and Gu), renowned for its gourmet pintxos and superb grilled meats.

Iglesia de San Vicente is a 12th-century church.

North of the Plaza de la Bretxa is the Iglesia de San Vicente – there’s been a church on this site since the 12th century.

San Telmo Museum is a must-visit.

A block north of the church is the San Telmo Museum. Its architecture, which allows plants to sprout out of the holes in the concrete, makes it look like it’s a living part of Monte Urgull. It is set in a pleasant plaza and has a fantastic restaurant.

Monte Urgull offers panoramic views from its peak.

Behind the museum is a path up to the top of Monte Urgull where you’ll be rewarded with views of the city, La Concha Bay, and the sea. Additionally, there’s an old castle and a museum up here.

Basque artist Jorge Oteiza's sculpture is remarkable.

Walk down the opposite side of Mount Urgull and you’ll reach this remarkable sculpture by Basque artist Jorge Oteiza.

The restaurants near the aquarium serve fresh seafood.

Walk back towards the city around the hill and you’ll arrive at the remarkable Aquarium. The restaurants on your way back into town from here serve the freshest seafood in town.

Gu bar/club at the Nautical Club is great for a sundowner.

On the port is the Art Deco-era Nautical Club. It houses Gu bar/club, a great place for a sundowner. It’s a straight walk along the Boulevard toward the hotel.

Calle 31 de Agosto has the best pintxo bars.

Back in the Parte Vieja, don’t miss the Calle 31 de Agosto, which has some of the best pintxo bars and also the grand Basílica.

Pukas is a great place to shop for surfing gear.

The street leading south from this little plaza is the Calle Mayor, along which you’ll find Pukas. It’s the longest-established surf brand in town. Their shop in the Parte Vieja is a great place to get your gear before heading over to their surf school on Zurriola Beach and testing the waters.

Galparsoro is arguably the city's best bakery.

A couple of shops further south is the wonderful Galparsoro, the best bakery in the city. It offers different specialties each day: don’t leave it too late or they sell out.

The city hall was once a casino.

At the southern tip of the Calle Mayor is the Ayuntamiento (city hall). It’s in the Alderdi Eder Park and was originally built as a casino.

La Concha Beach becomes Ondarreta Beach further on.

The park hugs La Concha Beach, which swoops right around the bay until it becomes Ondarreta Beach in the Antiguo neighborhood in the west of the city.

La Perla spa offers pools and jacuzzis wit sea views.

As you stroll around the beachside promenade, you’ll pass this spa. It’s in a gorgeous Belle Époque building, and inside there are pools and jacuzzis with views out to sea.

The Miramar Palace gardens are very graceful.

Walk around the bay far enough and you’ll come to a tunnel underneath the quirky Miramar Palace. Its graceful gardens slope down to the beach and are a favorite for locals to hang out.

The funicular is a fun way to go up the mountain.

If you walk towards Mount Igueldo, you’ll soon find the entrance to the creaking old funicular railway. It’s a wonderful – albeit slightly terrifying – way to get up the mountain.

Mount Igueldo offers magnificent views.

Whether you ride the funicular or hike up, it’s more than worth ascending Igueldo on a clear day for the incredible views.

Altxerri is a cute underground jazz bar.

Back at the hotel, if you head east for a minute or so on the Boulevard, you’ll find this cute underground jazz bar, Altxerri.

The Kursaal building has interesting architecture.

Just past Altxerri is the River Urumea and beyond is the neighborhood of Gros. You can’t miss the Kursaal building for its architecture, concerts, restaurant, and nearby shops.

Playa Zurriola is a year-round surfing destination.

Just behind the Kursaal is the start of Playa Zurriola, which has become a year-round mecca for surfers thanks to its excellent waves.

The Tabakalera cultural center is a great exhibition space.

Just south of Gros is the Egia neighborhood, home to the main train and bus stations. This photo is taken from the roof of the Tabakalera cultural center, a great exhibition space to wander around and ascend for awesome views.

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