San Sebastian Old Town,  Spain

The port gateway into Parte Vieja, San Sebastian - Donostia, Basque Country, North Spain

The port gateway into Parte Vieja, San Sebastian Old Town.

Visiting San Sebastian Old Town (Parte Vieja),  the  first settlement

This little block of high, narrow Old Town alleys is not much to look at, though the two churches and one museum are of interest, but it’s a lively and fun place for eating and drinking, a must-do.

We wouldn’t recommend finding accommodation in Parte Vieja as it is cramped and will obviously be noisy until the wee hours.

Plaza Constitucion, the centre of the Old Town, San Sebastian, Basque Country, North Spain

Plaza Constitución, the centre of the Old Town, where bull fights used to be held, which is why all the windows are numbered.

Old McDonald in the Mercado, Parte Vieja, San Sebastian Donostia, Basque Country, North Spain

Old McDonalds in the Mercado, San Sebastian Old Town.

Best Tapas in San Sebastian Old Town

Typical lightweight, tourist-oriented tapas in the Old Town, San Sebastian Donostia, Basque Country, North Spain

Typical lightweight, tourist-oriented tapas, pretty good but not the best.

Donostia Old Town is famous for its pinxtos (Basque tapas) which are served either ready-made (grab a plate, load it up with pinxtos and get it priced by the barman) or select dishes from a chalk board and order them from the barman or waiter, which are then cooked to order (generally considered to be a much better way).

The best: On one occasion three of us ate (not the place above) plentifully of superb calamari (2 large plates), mussels (both mariniere and vinaigrette), grilled peppers, spicy boiled potatoes and three glasses of wine (in tumblers) at a cost of 33 euros. Admittedly we had to stand/eat/drink at the counter and shout our orders (in Spanish) in the midst of a Basque feeding frenzy but it was great value for very fresh home cooking!

Museo San Telmo, the Old Town

Santa Maria Church, Old Town, San Sebastian Old Town, Basque Country, North Spain

Santa Maria Church, inside Museo San Telmo, Parte Vieja. Back off sister, I have a camera and I’m not afraid to use it!

This church section is a small part of the labyrinthine museum. The centrepiece is of San Telmo, the patron saint of seamen, about to rescue a boat in trouble on a stormy sea.
The massive murals are by J. M. Sert, a Spanish Catalan artist specialising in gold/black murals.

The museum is closed on Mondays.

Museo San Telmo church nave, San Sebastian Old Town, Basque Country, North Spain

Previously a Dominican convent, Museo San Telmo is now a museum celebrating the Basque culture.

Museo San Telmo, Jai Alai

San Telmo Museum Jai Alai display, San Sebastian Old Town, Basque Country, North Spain

A San Telmo Museum Jai Alai display, with video! The challenge is. . . . can you see the ball?

Jai-Alai, sometimes known as Pelota (which actually just means ball in Spanish), is a Basque handball game where the ball is accelerated to such a speed by the use of these baskets that a spectator cannot see it, even when it bounces off a wall.

San Telmo's Basque art gallery painting, San Sebastian Old Town, Basque Country, North Spain

This is not San Telmo’s Basque art gallery’s best work, but the weirdest, provoking a number of thoughts. Sadly we neglected to note the artist or any information.

Basque Week, Semana Grande, San Sebastián-Donostia

The annual ‘Big Week’ festival takes place in mid-August and includes parades of giant Basque characters during afternoons and a major international fireworks in the evenings, among other activities.

This celebration of Basque culture happens at the beginning of September and involves various events such as traditional improvised poetry, Jai-Alai games, massive stone lifting contests and dance exhibitions. The highlight is the rowing competition, with teams of 14 rowers (unlike the traditional UK eight) competing for the Flag of La Concha.
We were not very captivated by the rowing as boats set off one at a time, in other words timed racing like Le Mans, and they rowed straight out into the Bay of Biscay from Concha, and anyway we weren’t supporting any team.

Monte Urgull, San Sebastian Old Town

Monte Urgull viewpoint, San Sebastian Donostia, Basque Country, North Spain

Monte Urgull viewpoint, at the top of the castle walls, not quite as high as the Urgull Christ figure but free, easy to reach and offering a fantastic panorama almost equal to that of Monte Igueldo.

English Cemetery, San Sebastian Old Town, Basque Country, North Spain

And on the Atlantic side of Urgull is the English Cemetery with a couple of figures sadly decapitated, probably by Basque separatists.

In 1813 British and Portuguese troops finally succeeded in capturing San Sebastian, a heavily fortified town occupied by Napoleon’s troops during the Peninsular War.
After many weeks of siege the troops entered the town leaving many dead in their wake. They did not behave well, ransacking the town for loot and in the process starting a fire that burned the place to ashes.