The Gros neighbourhood: pintxos and surfers
No one can claim to really know San Sebastián until they’ve had a full immersion in the lively atmosphere of the Gros neighbourhood. This part of town has become fashionable in recent years and is one of the best places for heading out for pintxos.
Gros is also a surfer’s paradise – the local Zurriola Beach is a popular beach for those on the hunt for the perfect wave. Gros is all about sport, beach life, bars and charming little shops. You can easily spend a whole day there without getting bored. Read on as we reveal what Gros has to offer.
Gros: origins and location
San Sebastián’s Gros neighbourhood is in the eastern part of town and is delimited to the north by the Cantabrian Sea, to the south by the Egia district, to the east by Monte Ulía and to the west by the Urumea River. The first buildings appeared in the area during the 19th century when peripheral housing plans for San Sebastián started to bear fruit. The new development took over the sandy areas along the right bank of the river, and the district was named after the architect Tomás Gros, who drew up the design in 1894. Initially a mostly industrial area, strong trade soon changed its character. Today, Gros is one of the most desirable neighbourhoods in all of San Sebastián. You have to spend a day there to really experience the city’s authentic atmosphere.
Must-see attractions in Gros
This district has a plethora of interesting sites. Here are a few that you should definitely add to your list:
- Kursaal Conference Centre and Auditorium. This stunning building designed by Rafael Moneo was inaugurated in 1999 and is a symbol of the neighbourhood’s transformation. It comprises two immense glass cubes that sit together like two gargantuan rocks washed ashore. Hence the nickname ‘Moneo’s cubes’. Take a walk past the building after sunset – the lighting is worth seeing. The Kursaal is nestled between the river and the Cantabrian Sea. The entire scene becomes even more spectacular during the San Sebastián International Film Festival, given the Kursaal is the main venue.
- Zurriola Beach. Don’t be at all surprised when you see wetsuit-clad figures wandering the streets of Gros with surfboards in tow. Surfers are now part of the local scene, especially near the beach – a real goldmine for wave hunters. There’s plenty of space at Playa de Zurriola and it’s a great spot for water sports. Be careful if you do decide to give surfing a go. The waves here are usually fierce. In July this beautiful landscape is filled with jazz music during the annual Jazzaldia festival.
- Sagüés. The area behind the wall at the eastern end of Playa de Zurriola is a popular meeting place and one of the best spots in town for watching the sun go down. It’s also home to one of the most famous sculptures in San Sebastián: La Paloma de la Paz (The Dove of Peace). Created by Néstor Basterretxea, the piece symbolises dialogue as prevailing over violence and, like most other sculptures throughout the city, looks out to sea. The Sagüés wall is a local hang-out spot where friends get together to chat and while the evening away. The area is also a concert venue during the Semana Grande festivities.
- Monte Ulía. Another of the city’s green oases. There are several trails up and around the hill, taking you past cliffs and unbeatable sea views. Access to the hill is easy and there’s a children’s play area too, making it the ideal spot for a family day out.
Also check out the Plaza de Cataluña – the hub of the neighbourhood – and the Neogothic Iglesia de San Ignacio while you’re there. You’ll see several beautiful historic features while meandering through Gros, including the Kursaal bridge, linking Gros with the Parte Vieja, and the Paseo de Ramón María Lili, which runs alongside the river and takes you to the Centro neighbourhood.
Where to eat in Gros
Gros has become so famous partly owing to the number of great eateries that have opened their doors in this part of town. Take your pick and try some of the local cuisine. Calle Peña y Goñi and Calle Zabaleta, where the bars and pavements are always buzzing, are good streets for getting a feel for Gros.
If you’re in Gros on a Thursday you can enjoy pintxo-pote, when local establishments offer a pintxo and drink for a fixed price. Make sure you stop in at Lobo for a bluefin tuna or cod brandade pintxo. In Le Comidare the speciality is delicious steamed mussels, and one of the star pintxos in Bergara is the Txalupa. In Hidalgo 56 you must try the volcán de morcilla (black pudding volcano). Other places to include on your crawl are Bodegón Donostiarra and the tortilla in bar Zabaleta.
These are just some of the many bars that you’ll come across while wandering around Gros, not to mention boutique shops with garments from local designers, surf shops and more. There are plenty of ways to fill your day in what is one of San Sebastián’s most emblematic parts of town.