5. San Sebastián, Spain
This Basque coastal city may be a summertime hotspot for surf and sand, but San Sebastián in the off-season is just as alluring: the weather is mild, hotels are at their most affordable, its mega-concentration of Michelin star restaurants often have availability and one of the city’s biggest cultural events is on the calendar.
Take to the streets on January 20 for the eponymous San Sebastián Day, the city’s most anticipated festival. The citywide celebration includes traditional Basque meals, a jubilant gathering in Plaza de la Constitución to raise the flag and tamborradas. These drum parades involve thousands of drummers booming energetically through cobbled streets.
Keep the party going with a glass of strong stuff. January is the start of the area’s cider season. Head to a cider house, where tradition dictates filling up a glass at a freshly tapped barrel with the cloudy, dry tipple. Pair it with local dishes like salt cod omelette and Basque steak.
Sustainable tip: San Sebastián is laced with bidegorri (bike lanes), making it ideal for exploring on two wheels. It’s also extremely walkable, with many of the city’s main attractions reached via a 15-30 minute flat stroll underfoot. Book a free daily small group walking tour or an e-bike excursion with Go Local, who run sustainable tours that support the local economy.
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