Hotel Villa Soro

San Sebastian, The Basque Country, Spain Book from Book from £102 per night

A country-house hotel in a magical city, with a beach close at hand and kind staff who do whatever it takes
This grand old villa stands back from the road with a pretty terrace to one side. The décor is traditional - marble hall, sweeping staircase, panelled bar, attractive salon. It is not the sort of hotel that tries to serve as your social hub during your stay. On the contrary, it is a discreet base with a clutch of extremely comfortable bedrooms that offer sanctuary in the city.

Staff are unfailingly helpful. They greet you on arrival, and carry bags up to your room. Later, they pour over maps and point you in the direction of San Sebastián’s world-class restaurants. You’ll find complimentary bicycles and beach towels for your stay, so spin over to La Concha or Zurriola, both fabulous beaches in the middle of the city. Bedrooms - some in the main house, others in the carriage house behind - have sparkly white bathrooms and extremely comfy beds. You’ll also find a small gym, a computer that’s free for guests to use, and some rather handy off-street parking that’s included in the price. This may not be the funkiest hotel you’ve ever stayed in, but it sure delivers where you need it to. A great haven in a cool city.

Highs

  • Arzak, one of the best restaurants in the world, is just up the road
  • San Sebastián is a bike-friendly city and the hotel offers complimentary bicycles - a neat touch and a great way to get around
  • Plenty of stately style in the grounds and communal areas
  • Elegant bar and sitting room for pre- or post-dinner drinks, with a sunny terrace in summer and a fire in winter
  • Helpful staff make all the difference

Lows

  • There’s no restaurant, but this actually makes sense: San Sebastián is Spain’s gastronomic capital and the competition in town is hot. Staff can book tables and taxis
  • It's a 10-minute walk into town and for the first 5 minutes you're on a fairly busy road
  • Bedrooms are warm and comfortable, though some lack character
  • You may hear noise from the road, though rooms are double-glazed and manicured grounds separate the hotel from the worst of the traffic

Best time to go

At any time - there are too many dates in San Sebastián’s calendar to highlight just one. This city is the cultural pulse of the Basque Country, more so than Bilbao. It is a seriously happening place, one of those cities you come across rarely that makes you think you could live in it. It’s a little like Edinburgh, a beautiful city with a strong identity and a lively population who are proud of where they live. Unlike Edinburgh, it has a lovely beach and lots of sun. May to October brings the warmest temperatures (and the biggest beach crowds), but expect the odd burst of rain at any time of year.

Our top tips

Come in January - the 19th to be precise - and you’ll experience Tamborrada, the feast of San Sebastián. Bands of drummers parade through town making as much noise as possible, but not enough to silence the fireworks that are exploding all around.

Great for...

Beach
Foodie
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 26
  • Breakfast (+ restaurants nearby)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

The 26 rooms are split between the main house and the carriage house which stands behind. All are fairly big - and they're certainly comfortable - but we felt they lacked oomph. Those in the main house - the Villa Deluxe Rooms - have more character, while some of the Standard Rooms in the carriage house open onto semi-private terraces (very popular). The Junior Suite is hidden away in the villa’s spacious basement, ideal for those looking for further seclusion and additional space. All share the same style: big beds, warm colours, crisp linen, pretty fabrics. You find flatscreen TVs and DVD players, with a small film library at reception.

Those at the front of the main house are grander, some with high ceilings, others with the odd antique. All but the smallest rooms come with a couple of armchairs. Bathrooms - white marble in the main house, white tiles in the carriage house - have showers and tubs, plus robes and Penhaligon oils. There’s a minibar with complimentary soft drinks, WiFi in every room, and air conditioning throughout. Two rooms in the main house stand on the lower-ground floor and have doors onto private patios.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • DVD player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite TV
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Breakfast is served in the dining room or the bar, with the day’s weather forecast waiting on your table. You’ll find jugs of freshly squeezed orange juice, yoghurts and fruit, cooked hams and cheeses, croissants and baguettes. When we visited, a bowl of seriously tasty cherries was the star attraction. Hot dishes are cooked to order if you want them, perhaps an omelette or fried eggs with bacon.

A small room service menu is available throughout the day, with simple dishes like vegetable soup, smoked salmon, veal meatballs, and plates of cheese.

At night you eat out. You have quite some choice - San Sebastián is heaven for food lovers, with more Michelin stars per person than any other city in the world. Arzak, considered one of the best restaurants in the world and a place of gastronomic pilgrimage, is less than 1km from the hotel’s front door. Juan Mari Arzak is the third generation of his family to cook here; his grandfather opened what was then a simple tavern in the 1930s. Juan Mari has been in charge for 45 years and won his third star in 1989. The drab exterior stands in sharp contrast to the glitzy interior.

If you want something less formal, try one of the city’s pintxos bars. Pintxos is fantastic food served in single portions, usually on a piece of baguette. Some dishes are laid out on the bar, others are cooked to order. The tradition is to stop at each bar, drink a small beer, eat a dish, and move on to the next place. Our favourites included Bar La Cepa (31 de Agosto, 7), where Ferran Adriá drops in when in town; Bar La Espiga (San Marcel, 48), which has contemporary design with the same old fabulous food; and Casa Gandarias (31 de Agosto, 23), possibly the best in town.

See our destination guide for more San Sebastián restaurant recommendations.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity: San Sebastian

Activities

  • Spend the day on La Concha, one of the most beautiful beaches you will find in the middle of a city. You can potter round to the small port for lunch. The blue and white sun shades can be hired by the day, the week, the month, or the season

  • Want to ride some waves? Then wander on to Zurriola beach around the corner. You can hire all the kit you need at the surf school. It’s always busy with locals

  • Explore on 2 wheels. San Sebastián is very bike-friendly, with dedicated lanes that crisscross the city. Walking is tiring, cycling is fun. What’s more, the hotel doesn’t charge for bikes. So saddle up and get out there

  • Climb Monte Urgull up to the statue of Christ for big views of the city and coast. Then roll back down into the Old Town for a cooling drink in Plaza de la Constitución

  • Check out the town hall, which was once a casino. Bring your roller skates and blade along the seafront. Stop for a coffee above the beach and watch the world pass by

  • San Sebastián is a cultural hub. Highlights are the film festival in September, the classical music festival in August and the legendary jazz festival in July

  • Wander round the western flank of La Concha and find famous Basque artist Eduardo Chillida’s Comb of the Winds sculpture on the rocks. Then take the funicular up to the top of Monte Igueldo. As well as great views, you’ll find a carousel and some bumper cars

  • Pack up a picnic, then take a boat across to Santa Clara, the island in the middle of the bay. Or hire kayaks in the old port and paddle across instead

  • Check out the cathedral in all its neo-Gothic glory. It’s in the centre of town, surrounded by cool shops

  • Like your football? Real Sociedad play at Anoeta, a 30-minute walk along the river from the Old Town. Games against Athletic Bilbao, their Basque rivals, are really something

  • Head west on the motorway and drop in to see the Guggenheim in Bilbao. It’s about an hour by car. While you’re there, head up to Getxo and check out the oldest transport bridge in the world. You can cross it in gondolas, quite some journey

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Festivals
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Kayaking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Shopping / markets
  • Surfing
  • Swimming

Kids

Children are welcome, but this is quite a formal hotel and there is little here for children to do. Most rooms can take baby cots (free) and all rooms can take extra beds (charged for).

Family friendly accommodation:

The Souterrain Junior Suite is ideal for small families as it features an independant lounge with sofa bed.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

Location

Hotel Villa Soro is located in the city of San Sebastián, in the Basque Country, northern Spain. It's a 10-minute walk from the Old Town and beaches.

By Air
The closest airports are Bilbao (99km away, and 80 minutes by car) and Biarritz (45km away in France, and 45 minutes by car). Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving these airports.

From the Airport
The hotel can arrange transfers from either airport (see Rates), and there are hourly buses between Bilbao airport and San Sebastián. If you want to tour the area around the city, consider hiring a car and driving (see below).

By Train
San Sebastián has overnight rail connections from Paris and Lisbon, as well as regular services from Barcelona and Madrid. The station is 1.2km (less than 10 minutes by taxi) from the hotel. See the excellent Seat 61 for more information on getting here by train, including travelling overland from the UK.

By Car
For car hire we see our car rental recommendations. If you fly into France and hire a car, make sure you are allowed to drive in Spain. The hotel has free off-street parking, but San Sebastián’s one-way system makes it difficult to find, so make sure you have directions to hand.

Detailed directions will be sent when you book through i-escape.com.

More on [getthere:thebasquecountry:getting to the Basque Country]

Airports:

  • Bilbao Sondica 99.0 km BIO
  • Biarritz 45.0 km BIQ

Other:

  • Beach 0.5 km
  • Shops 0.5 km
  • Restaurant 0.5 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 6 independent reviews from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

A fantastic hotel with real attention to detail in all that they do. The breakfast was perfection, scalding hot coffee with hot frothed milk, fresh juice, amazing bacon and eggs, all delivered to your table. Staff were most courteous and all spoke very good English. Would definitely return as we had a lovely time.

10/10,

Exceptional hotel with beautiful common areas and rooms. Only slight downside was being on a main road and the 30 minute walk to old town.

10/10,

Beautiful old villa, fantastic staff, and wonderful breakfast. We stayed in the main villa. The room was clean and classy; comfortable bed, beautiful bathroom. It did face the busy road which can be loud but with windows closed all was good! Our kids stayed in the new building behind the house. The room was much quieter but also much less luxurious. So, your pick.
The breakfast was wonderful- with a focus on organic local food and great attention to the guests. We also very much enjoyed taking the bikes, it is the best way to get around town in our opinion.
We will be back! Great stay!

10/10,

Really liked the little attentions to detail eg a beach bag with towels and water; also very helpful providing local information (transport etc). We only ate breakfast but it was delicious. Nearby restaurant Arzak was AMAZING, as was Akelarre.

10/10,

Very friendly staff. When asked for a room with a bath, this was arranged and we were moved swiftly. Nice big rooms with comfy beds. Breakfast is delicious. Recommended/

9/10,

Very warm, attentive and efficient service from everyone at this small hotel. Breakfast was a delight. We enjoyed a very happy stay here.

10/10,

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