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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

Savor the Tastes of Spain in San Sebastián


5. Oddball Day

The tame roller coaster atop Monte Igueldo wraps around the mountaintop.  

Take a break from playing gourmand to walk the two-and-a-half-mile waterfront of La Concha Bay, the geographical heart of San Sebastián (“Donostia” in the Basque language), and scale the small mountains overlooking the city at each end. Start off with a light breakfast of pastries ($3) and coffee ($2) at the Chez Croissant cafeteria (Calle Easo, 7, 943-43-0716) near the bay before hiking the winding paths up the 400-foot-high Monte Urgull, which played a crucial role in 1813 Siege of San Sebastián and the Carlist Wars of the late nineteenth century. (The city’s climate is temperate year-round, but swift weather changes are normal, so pack a light jacket and umbrella in case of light rain.) Get up close to the towering 39-foot statue of Jesus, erected in 1950, and explore the centuries-old military ruins and La Mota Castle. Once you're back at sea level, stop into the Aquarium Donostia-San Sebastián ($15) to gaze up at the skeleton of a 46-foot-long Basque whale and walk through a glass-encased tunnel providing 360 degrees of sharks and moray eels. For lunch on the beach, walk over to Marinela (Paseo del Muelle, 15, 943 42-7383). The space is disarmingly casual, but the unfussy seafood, like monkfish ($14) served on the bone with lemon and olive oil, speaks for itself. Next, stroll down the waterfront lined with waltz-playing buskers and watching small yachts bob in the bay before renting a stand-up paddleboard from Alo Kayak ($12 per hour) to cruise the gentle waters. Next, keep walking along the Paseo de Eduardo Chillida, following the signs to the funicular ($6), which will take you to the top of Monte Igueldo, where you can spend the rest of the afternoon at Parque de Atracciones Monte Igueldo, a classic, turn-of-the-century amusement park. The highlight is the tame roller coaster, Montaña Suiza, which feels more like a sightseeing tour that wraps around the mountain top. Try a slice of coconut or a chocolate-covered waffle ($2.50) from the food stall before heading to the top of the Tower ($2.50), an old lighthouse with even better views of the bay. End the night back in Old Town to snag a table in the courtyard at the back of popular Bidebide for satisfying late-night snacks including a sandwich of lomo (cured beef tenderloin), bacon, cheese, and aioli ($8).

Published on Sep 6, 2012 as a web exclusive.

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