Antigua, the magic neighborhood!
- Donosti Feeling
- 2020 Feb 28
Those of us from the Antigua neighborhood call ourselves “antiguotarras” before “donostiarras”, since this is the city’s oldest (Antigua means ancient or old in Spanish) and most magical (I promise, you’ll see!) neighborhood that has its own character along with everything else you could imagine! What other neighborhood is home to a beach with a park topped by a palace, all connected through an underwater tunnel?
But Antigua is much more than that. This is a traditional neighborhood where students from the public university mix and mingle with txikiteros (groups of txapela-wearing wine drinkers) on lively streets packed with small shops and bars with terraces.
We start the tour in Loretopea (which means 'under Loreto'), also known as Pico del Loro due to a bad translation. At low tide, you can walk from La Concha to Ondarreta beach. At high tide, it’s better to take the Miramart underwater tunnel. My suggestion: by the beach by day and by tunnel (which has really cool lighting) by night.
From Loretopea we walk up to the Miramar Palace, a former royal residence. Queen Maria Cristina had a keen eye and was inspired by English country houses, so strolling through her gardens or just kicking back and relaxing on the lawn overlooking the sea is a priceless experience.
After visiting Miramar, Ondarreta beach is the perfect place to take a dip: this is the city’s most family-friendly beach and is home to blue- and-white striped beach tents and beach bars right on the sand. You can rent kayaks, swim in the swimming pool or swim out to the island. If that’s too long of a swim for you, stop at the Gabarrón (right in the middle) and take a trip down the slide!
After we cool off, it’s time to visit one of the most unique places in Donostia: the Peine del Viento (Comb of the Wind). It is a magical place to sit and watch the sea or escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Beware of getting too close to the holes in the ground on days when the sea is angry. You’ve been warned!
From the Peine del Viento we’ll go up to Igeldo for the best views in the city. We can go by bus, by a century-old funicular or, for the more adventurous, by bike (the uphill climb is, of course, extremely tough!).
After all this activity it’s time to eat. We’ll head to the heart of Antigua: Calle Matia. On this street, just opposite the Miramar gardens, a pelota court is available for anyone who wants to see (or play) a match.
Bars, restaurants and pintxopote
Calle Matia is the soul of Antigua, home to a host of local shops, bars and restaurants. The ideal place to take the pulse of the neighborhood and enjoy its atmosphere. Not only that, but there is a pintxopote every Thursday starting at seven in the evening, when people make the rounds of the bars for a bit of food and drink.
Get a feel for the true neighborhood spirit at Trikuharri, Platero and Drinka: these bars offer pintxos, sandwiches, portions and set menus, all of the highest quality and at a good price. If you’re looking for something different, I suggest Txubillo, a Basque-Japanese fusion restaurant, or the newly opened Mera Mera, a Mexican restaurant that serves handcrafted beers.
Plaza Sert (with a very cool sculpture in the center – can you guess what it is? Here’s a clue: it’s called Moby Dick!) is packed with terraces where you can grab a drink. Take note: the pintxopote is on Wednesdays here. The toasts at the Mandrágora bar are great, as is the Spanish tortilla served at Lobo bar.
The Doka concert hall offers live music as well as salsa events every Wednesday. The Errotatxo pub is a diverse bar for people of all ages.
This small rock that joins La Concha and Ondarreta beaches references the Virgin of Loreto (Loretopea means ‘under Loreto’); there was a church in her honor that ended up in ruins in 1876. Today there is a small sculpture by Chillida: ‘El Abrazo (The Hug)’.
Former royal residence and current headquarters of the Basque Public University’s summer courses. The palace was designed by the English architect Selden Wornum and the gardens were the work of landscaper Pierre Duchase. In total, the Miramar Palace and its park cover an area of 34,136 m².
Crossing this 29-meter-long tunnel that runs under the Miramar Palace and connects the promenade along La Concha beach with Ondarreta beach is like taking a plunge into the sea. Designed by artist Víctor Goikoetxea and architect Xabier Barrutieta, this tunnel showcases art, architecture, technology and renewable energies, and also changes from day to night when its lights go on at dusk.
This is the city’s most family-friendly beach and is home to blue- and white-striped beach tents and beach bars right on the sand. You can rent kayaks, swim in the swimming pool or swim out to the island. If that’s too long of a swim for you, stop at the Gabarrón (right in the middle) and take a trip down the slide!
Peine del viento (Comb of the wind)
There are magical places in the world, and the Peine del Viento (Comb of the Wind) is one of them. The spot is special on days when the sea is calm and when the waves crash against this work by sculptor Eduardo Chillida and architect Luis Peña Ganchegui. The first two sculptures represent the past and the present and face each other, since the past conditions the present, but the third, the one that is further out at sea, looks up into the sky, since it represents the future, and we never know what the future will bring, no matter how much we’d we wish we could.
The uphill climb to get to Mount Igeldo is tough, but you’ll forget all about it once you see the views! It can be reached by bus or by a century-old funicular. Once up top, you can relax with a cup of coffee, eat at a grillhouse (which are very good) or ride the Montaña Suiza roller coaster at the Amusement Park. From there the views are incredible and constantly changing!
Wednesdays around Plaza Sert and Thursday on Calle Matia.
This park has a lovely unique feature: a “dantzari” (traditional Basque dancer) looks out from atop a hexagonal pyramid in the center of the pond and dances when a song is played. The water that fills the pond falls from the upper edge of two concrete walls as well as from the opening between them. The bronze figures of two children by sculptor Paco López observe how the water flows from the opening between the two walls.