Get Married On The Northern Coast of Spain
May 4, 2023
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Perched on a sandy half-moon bay on the northern coast of Spain, San Sebastián is a seaside paradise for newlyweds and couples planning a destination wedding. The city, called Donostia in Basque, brims with Art Nouveau buildings set along leafy boulevards, luxury hotels and some of the country’s best restaurants. Which explains why San Sebastián became a summer retreat for Spanish royalty beginning in the 19th century.
One of the most romantic places to stay is Villa Favorita, a boutique hotel overlooking Playa de la Concha, a golden swath of sand with shimmering turquoise water. The hotel lies in a charming 19th-century villa along a promenade lined with Belle Èpoque buildings, restaurants, cafes and La Perla Spa, established by Spain’s Queen Maria Cristina in 1912. Reserve a seaside Junior Suite for stunning beach views, which offer the soporific lull of the night surf. Room décor combines contemporary and historical elements in a soothing neutral palette with cream and topaz accents. The hotel’s restaurant, Amelia, has two Michelin stars and the chef, Paulo Airaudo, also oversees the breakfast and room service menus. Suffice it to say, you’ll eat well during your stay!
However, since San Sebastián has the second-most Michelin-stars (19) in Spain (Barcelona has 33), you’ll want to explore the city’s dining scene, beginning with pintxos, a Basque form of tapas, for which San Sebastián is famous. You’ll find the best ones in the bars packed in the old fishermen’s quarter, a warren of charming, narrow streets at the foot of Monte Urgull. Follow the locals’ lead and order a glass of wine or beer, and point to whatever pintxos look good. Most arrive on a round of bread with toppings ranging from Spanish ham heaped with sliced sausage, goat cheese and sweet pepper jam to slices of smoked salmon cradling mayonnaise and shrimp. In terms of dinner, you can’t go wrong with local fish and seafood. Just be sure to save room for the city’s famous Basque cheesecake, a softer, gooier and much lighter version than American cheesecake.
To explore the city, start with a stroll to Monte Igeldo, located at the end of La Concha Bay. Then, settle into one of the 1912 funicular cog railway’s wooden carriages for a ride to the summit. There, you’ll find breathtaking views over the entire city and Cantabrian Sea, along with a small amusement park. From there, head to nearby Playa de la Concha, a gorgeous beach with gentle waves. The city has two other beaches, including the smaller, quieter Playa Ondarreta and Playa Zurriola, famous for its surfing.
You’ll find the city’s grandest architecture in what’s called the romantic part of the city. This area also abounds with local and international designer stores, cafes and restaurants. Don’t miss seeing City Hall, completed in 1887 and once home to the city’s Gran Casino, along with Plaza de Gipuzkoa, a lovely square with manicured gardens, a duck pond and the Provincial Council building. Also worth visiting is the Zurriola Bridge, lined with gorgeous Art Deco-style street lights. Nearby, don’t miss popping into the infamous Hotel Maria Cristina, where star guests, many drawn by San Sebastián’s annual September film festival, have included Elizabeth Taylor and Brad Pitt.
For added adventure, consider booking a day tour to sample wines in Rioja. Only two hours by car from San Sebastián, the region has stunning vineyard landscapes and wineries in charming medieval villages serving the area’s famous red and white wines.
Then again, with its delectable food, fabulous pours and beachside luxury, you and yours might prefer to stay snug in this idyllic northern pocket of Spain.