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Bilbao/San Sebastian, Biarritz,Bordeaux Trip

Bilbao/San Sebastian, Biarritz,Bordeaux Trip

Old Sep 19, 19, 6:16 am
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Bilbao/San Sebastian, Biarritz,Bordeaux Trip

Hello, Going to Bilbao/San Sebastian (Potentially Rioja & Biarritz in between) & Bordeaux for my birthday. 3/4-14th/2020. Never been before.

So far this is what my notes look like for:
Bilbao- Guggenheim Museum, Casco Viejo, Paseo del Arenal, La Salve Bridge, Zubizuri Bridge, Vizcaya Bridge, Iglesia de San Nicolas Bari, Palacio Euskalduna and Mercado La Ribera
Hotel Choices- Gran Hotel D omine BIlbao, Hotel Carlton, NH Collection Villa de Bilbao, Hotel Miro (Boutique)
No Restaurants yet.

San Sebastian/Donostia-Old Town Plaza de la Constitucion, Monte Igueldo, Basilica de Santa Maria Coro. Maybe drive to Hondarribia town.
Few Michelin Star Restaurants to choose from: Arzak, martin Berasategui, Restaurante Akelarre, Zuberoa, Atari Gastroteca, Kokotxa, Ganbara. Would love some restaurants where locals love to go.
Hotel Choices- Hotel Maria Cristina, Hotel Villa Adoro, Hotel de Londres y de Inglatera, NH Collection San Sebastian Aranzazu, Hotel Astoria.

Then again we noticed the Hotel Marques de Riscal in Rioja and are wondering if we should detour there instead of San Sebastian (It's incredible)
We're also scoping Biarritz to do something different but I haven't done my homework there yet. Not sure also if worth taking the beaten path to mix It up.
I'm afraid it may be too much if detouring.

Bordeaux-No hotels yet/No restaurants yet. Know we want to visit St. Emilion and Medoc Vineyard for wine tours.
Places to see: Wine Museum, La Cite du Vine, Miroir D'eaue, Place de LaBourse, Le Grand Theater, Cathedrale Saint Andre.

Some suggestions of hotels, dinning spots, activities, must see/do recommendations, alternative routes or nightly entertainment will be greatly appreciated.
As of now just thinking of renting a car the first part of the trip and maybe taking a train on the way back.
So far we have no reservations anywhere just our airfare.

Thanks so much.
Lilly B.
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Old Sep 19, 19, 6:41 pm
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The Marques de Riscal is awesome to stay at, especially if youíre a fan of architecture. And of course itís a good base to explore wine in the region. Pintxos-hopping in nearby LogroŮo is also worth doing.
i wouldnít skip San SebastiŠn for it, but would reduce time in Bilbao (maybe just do the Guggenheim). I also suggest stopping at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, which is along the coast between Bilbao and San SebastiŠn. Iíve never been to Biarritz or Bordeaux, but those areas in Spain are phenomenal for sightseeing, food, wine ...
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Old Sep 20, 19, 8:43 am
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Agreed about Bilbao. I'll probably just come back a day prior to leaving out of Bilbao just to see the Guggenheim for the most part.
I heard for the train between Spain and France we'd have to get off the train on the border and hop on an other one once in France. Not sure how it works if it's a rental car.
We have 13 days to do all this so it's a matter of making sense of the routes and where should we spend more time. We've been to Spain 3x already but never to France.
My whole desire for going north of Spain was for the gastronomy as I hear San Sebastian has phenomenal if not the best culinary experiences and of course why not hop over
to Bordeaux being our favorite wine. Thank you Spainlover for your feedback.
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Old Sep 20, 19, 9:39 am
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We did Bilbao & San Sebastien a while back.

Only spent a couple of days in Bilbao, was more of an entry point for the rest of the trip. Found some decent restaurants, but don't recall names. The walk along the river by the museum is quite pleasant. We didn't go into the museum, but it's an attractive building to look around.

Coastal road to SS is quite bendy, to the extent that my other half got slightly car sick, which is unlike her, just thought I'd mention it.

We stayed in the Hotel Maria Cristina, and were very happy, although I have no great lasting memories of it. We loved Arzak, but were very disappointed with Mugaritz. Definitely do at least one pintxo tour. We were very fortunate to have Elena Arzak give us her personal recommendations, but hotel reception can probably suggest a good 'route'.

Went to Hondarribia to collect someone from the airport, but don't recall much about the place.

Went to Biarritz for the day. Weather not great but it's a lovely beach to walk along/around. Also take the fernicular for a great view.

Went to Pamplona for the day which was interesting if only for the difference in climate going inland.

Would recommend restaurant Kaia Kaipe in Getaria, some great fish including fresh anchovies straight off the boat.

Roads are typical Spanish (IMO) good quality and not busy. Watch out for the speed cameras especially at tunnels.
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Old Sep 21, 19, 4:59 am
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Definitely do not skip Donostia/San SebastiŠn - even if it is just for the food (which is amazing). Bilbao was only okay IMO, and the Guggenheim is more interesting from the outside than inside.

Lots of adorable little fishing towns in-between Bilbao and San SebastiŠn. San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Getaria, Zarautz, Hondarribia are all great and have nice hiking too if you prefer that (day trippable as well if you donít like packing and unpacking).

Crossing between France and Spain should be seamless.
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Old Sep 21, 19, 12:36 pm
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We just returned a week ago from San Sebastian. A few random notes:

- We were between the Maria Christina hotel and AirBnb. Went with the apartment for less money and exactly one block away from the Maria Christina, so a very nice location. Besides a very nice modern spacious apartment for less money, we were able to visit the market and get a few small things for breakfast while we were there. I think that's the way to go unless you're using Marriott points. Also saw the Hotel de Londres, right by the beach and close to the old town. Many of the AirBnb places seemed to be managed by Feel Free Rentals, and we felt they did a great job checking us in and made the whole process much easier than dealing with an individual as we usually do.

- Tried several different pinxto bars, several that were highly recommended. The only one that really stood out to us was Gandarias. We also tried to eat in the restaurant area one night without a reservation -- not possible. The pinxtos were very good there, but that means it's also crowded. Our favorite meal in town was actually across the river in the Gros neighborhood, at an Aussie-run restaurant & wine bar named Gerald's. We also liked that neighborhood for an afternoon break in the sidewalk cafes enjoying a beer or wine. It felt much less touristy even though it's near a beach.

- Lunch at Akelarre. Fantastic menu and experience, beautiful views. Then the next day we stumbled across Arzak, and when we saw how easily we could have taken the bus right from our front door to Arzak's front door, we wished we had tried it. Akelarre was just a little far out of town, but if you have a car, it's definitely a great experience.

- We also spent a day exploring Getaria and Zarautz, very nice small coastal towns. Tried to get a winery tour in Getaria but it was harvest season and we had missed the once daily tour by the time we got there. The restaurants there were cooking fish and lobster, fresh from the docks on their outdoor grills that looked delicious, but we had just had lunch before we got there.

- We also considered Bilbao, but in the end we were going just for the Guggenheim and to walk around a bit, and instead decided to visit the small towns closer to San Sebastian, which were easily reachable by bus without a full day commitment.

- Also considered some Rioja visits and tastings. If we would have had another day there, we would have rented a car and done it. We had also looked at some of the private and group Rioja tours and felt they were much too expensive for what they offered. That was probably our one regret, so you may want to consider working that into your itinerary.
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Old Sep 21, 19, 12:47 pm
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On the French side (make sure your rental car contract allows you to cross the border), I'd suggest driving through Biarritz but staying in one of the tiny Basque villages up in the hills from the coast. [Long ago I stayed in a small but perfectly fine hotel in a town with a name something like Henedix that had a Michelin two star restaurant that was very popular with locals.] I'd also try to spend a night in one of the castle hotels at a vineyard. You could also stay in St Emilion village, but it's touristic and crowded at times.
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Old Sep 22, 19, 1:09 pm
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The restaurant is a 20-minute drive outside of Bilbao, but you must eat at Azurmendi. It is my new favorite restaurant in the world now that Hertog Jan in Bruges has closed. Make sure to get the wine pairing as well - sherry aged for 60+ years is something to behold.

For food in San Sebastian - Arzak is very good, but I felt it missed where my expectations were set. I would check out Akelarre if I had the choice (it was seasonally closed when I was there in February). For local bites, Mimo (a tour agency) does a fantastic pintxos tasting tour. Their shop is in the lobby of the Hotel Maria Cristina (also a fabulous option to stay at). If you book the tour, hopefully you get Lourdes - she is an absolutely delightful lady who knows the spots to grab pintxos in the old city.
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