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San Sebastian and La Rioja

Toronto, Ontario
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332 posts
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San Sebastian and La Rioja

Many of you gave wonderful advice, which helped my husband and I decide on our trip to Basque Country this coming June 2013. We are very excited for a relaxing holiday with good food and wine, and I am hoping some of you can offer a little more guidance in terms of our itinerary. We will be arriving into Bilbao at 1:30pm on Saturday June 22 and will be flying out of Bilbao at 8am on Monday July 1. Currently, we have our heart set on visiting the La Rioja and San Sebastian areas but are unsure how to split our time. We should also probably spend our last night in Bilbao, since our flight is so early the next morning. Right now, I am thinking of the following itinerary:

Saturday June 22 - Wednesday June 26: La Rioja (we would stay in LaGuardia and visit wineries here, as well as in Haro and surrounding areas - we will have a car). For accommodation, we are considering the Erletxe B&B in LaGuardia.

Wednesday June 26 - Sunday June 30: San Sebastian (we might stop in Pamplona on the way if people thought it was worth it; we would get rid of our car once we arrive in San Sebastian but would potentially use public transportation to do a day trip to a small fishing village, such as Hondarribia). For accommodation, we are considering the Maria Cristina Hotel (a very different experience than the B&B in LaGuardia, which we think will be a great juxtaposition)

Sunday June 30-Monday July 1: Bilbao (we would make our way to Bilbao early in the morning, to have time to see a bit of the city on the 30th, and then be ready to catch our flight home in the morning of the 1st).

My main questions are:

(1) Is there any reason to reverse the order of LaGuardia and San Sebastian (i.e., wineries not open on Sun-Mon, etc.) I have read that many good restaurants in San Sebastian are closed on Sun-Mon, which is why I ordered the trip like this, but I am not sure if I will run into an even worse problem with Sun-Mon in the La Rioja area.

(2) Should we allow more than one day/night in Bilbao, even if we are NOT interested in modern architecture or the Guggenheim?

(3) are there any other places you would recommend staying instead of what we have come up with so far?

Thanks so much to anyone who can offer any guidance! Also, if anyone has any comments on the accommodations we are considering, that would be great too!

Edited: 28 December 2012, 21:53
Malaga, Spain
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for Malaga, Andalucia, Madrid, Zaragoza, Valencia, Seville
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1. Re: San Sebastian and La Rioja

Europa:

There are many things to see in Bilbao besides the Guggenheim. Read the top questions in the Bilbao forum for what to see.

Be aware that in La Rioja, you need to make reservations to see wineries.

Bilbao, Spain
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for Bilbao, San Sebastian - Donostia, Basque Country, La Rioja
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2. Re: San Sebastian and La Rioja

Definitely at least one more day in Bilbao, so you can explore a city that will, no doubt, surprise you in a very nice way. It´s not only the Guggenheim.

Hondarribia is a beautiful town, but far from being a "small fishing village". But, being without car, it´s a great option using public transport. A good alternative is Getaria, with the Balenciaga museum and home to the first person that circumnavigated the world, Elcano. And great fish restaurants.

I don´t think that Pamplona is worth the diversion on the way to SS...

Madrid, Spain
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3. Re: San Sebastian and La Rioja

In Bilbao I usually stay at the Conde Duque, within a walkable distance to the Guggenheim and the Old Town.

www.bestwestern.es/detail.aspx…

There are two traditional weekly farmer markets near San Sebastian. At Ordizia on Wednesday (since the 11th - 12th centuries) and at Tolosa on Saturday.

gipuzkoa.net/turismodocs/merk10/index_en.html

Transportation to Ordizia and Tolosa:

renfe.com/EN/…index.html

Biarritz, France
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for Biarritz, San Sebastian - Donostia, Basque Country
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4. Re: San Sebastian and La Rioja

I would say that you have planned very well so far. But perhaps as Mikelg has suggested you could spend another night in Bilbao.

Toronto, Ontario
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332 posts
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5. Re: San Sebastian and La Rioja

Thanks for your replies!

Does anyone have any insight into where we should base ourselves for the Sunday/Monday portion of our trip? I know things are more likely to be closed on those days, but I am just wondering where these closures would be worse? Right now I have the La Rioja region as our first stop (including Sunday/Monday) because I wanted to avoid missing out on a lot of the good restaurants in San Sebastian, which I have heard often close on Sunday nights and Mondays. However, now I am starting to think La Rioja might be even worse, since it is smaller towns. Does anyone have any thoughts/suggestions on this? I have tried looking in guidebooks and on line without being able to get an idea of just how much this would affect our time in La Rioja ...

Also, we could keep our car if there are some particularly beautiful small towns not accessible by public transportation in the San Sebastian area? Or we could stop at one or two of them on our way into San Sebastian from La Rioja (especially if Pamplona is not worth a stop)? Does anyone have any recommendations?

Edited: 29 December 2012, 15:56
Northampton, MA
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6. Re: San Sebastian and La Rioja

Good advice from MikelG. Getaria is worth a daytrip, Lekeitio is great too but you won't have time to do it all. I believe you have to reserve a tour of most wineries, so maybe try to email some and see if they are open for visits on Sun. and Mon. I would stick with your itinerary, it looks like a good one. There will always be some places to eat open on Sun. and Mon.

Bilbao, Spain
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for Bilbao, San Sebastian - Donostia, Basque Country, La Rioja
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7. Re: San Sebastian and La Rioja

Although it´s true that many restaurants close on Mondays, there´ll always be a good place to eat, anywhere in the Basque Country. So don´t worry too much about that part. Regarding places to stop, on your way to SS you´ll find nice places to stop, the landscape is fabulous and there are plenty of small towns to visit.

Bilbao, España
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8. Re: San Sebastian and La Rioja

Good afternoon Europa513 :

If you take 2 days in Bilbao don´t worry if one is Monday. For eating as it is a weekday bar, restaurants, ... are open. But there is more options to eat Menu del Dia is one of them. Not everybody is feed by pintxos we eat more things and for dessert Cuajada.

For Pintxos for the drink Zurito means a glass of Beer and Crianza a glass of Wine.

Enjoy your stay.

best regards.

Vitoria-Gasteiz...
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9. Re: San Sebastian and La Rioja

If you are staying in Laguardia on a Sunday don't worry everthing is open for the turist and is very easy to find where to eat 10 or more nice places.

The only problem will be that apart from "El fabulista" (which is quite small) wineries tend to close to the public on Sunday, but sure you can find others at the tourist office that are open on sunday.

Edited: 21 January 2013, 19:29
Toronto, Ontario
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10. Re: San Sebastian and La Rioja

Thank you everyone for the advice, I really appreciate it!