Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: What's the most economical way to San Sebastian?

 

Q. We’re looking to book a trip for two to San Sebastian in Spain’s Basque region. We live in between Manchester and Liverpool. Can you suggest the most economical way to get there? Also, we’d like to stay within easy walking distance of the best tapas bars – can you recommend a couple of good value-for-money hotels please?

Geoff Robinson, Ashton-in-Makerfield

A. Good choice: San Sebastian is northern Spain’s most exciting and civilised city, with fabulous food, rich heritage and dramatic scenery on the doorstep.

It is one of relatively few big Spanish cities with no direct links from the UK; the local airport has flights only from Madrid and Barcelona. Fortunately, easyJet has just started flying (on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays) from Manchester to the nearby city of Bilbao. A taxi from the airport to San Sebastian costs around €100, or for much less you can take the quick and frequent airport bus to Bilbao bus station and wait a few minutes for the next departure to San Sebastian.

If these days of the week do not work for you, take the Ryanair flight from Stansted; it leaves daily at lunchtime and returns late afternoon, giving plenty of time for connections to and from the north-west. From the airport you can walk in 25 minutes to Biarritz railway station. Trains run frequently from here to the station on the Spanish border, Hendaye. Turn right out of the station and you find a much smaller station, which is the terminus of the narrow-gauge line that trundles all the way to San Sebastian in 40 minutes.

In terms of hotels: well, San Sebastian is one of the most expensive cities in Spain, and there are rarely good deals to be found in the old town or along the seafront. But in the newer areas away from the beach you can find good value – indeed, prices have fallen in the past few years.

An excellent choice is the Hostal Alemana, which occupies part of a large, elegant building at Calle San Martin 53 (00 34 943 462 544; hostalalemana.com). Clean, friendly and comfortable, it offers doubles from as little as €55. Breakfast isn’t included in that rate, but there are countless dining options nearby. You can walk to the Old Town in about 15 minutes and to the magnificent beach – La Concha – in about three.

 

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