You’ll need wheels if you’re shuttling the hour and a half between cities, but the best way to explore within each destination is on foot. The walkways of San Sebastián wind through town and into the hills that surround the city. Atop Monte Igueldo
(accessible by stairs or a 1912 wooden funicular) on the western side of the bay, there’s a charming old amusement park with a drone’s-eye view of the city’s beaches, churches, medieval boulevards, and belle époque buildings.
Down below, at the end of Ondarreta Beach, local artist Eduardo Chillida embedded modern ironworks into the rocks where the Cantabrian Sea breaks. To visit these magnificent sculptures during the evening paseo, with pedestrians strolling arm in arm and a natural blowhole providing a haunting soundtrack, is, Irurita says, “probably the best way to feel like a real Giputxi,” as someone from San Sebastián and its province of Gipuzkoa, is called.
Walking gets you to the heart of Bilbao as well. Heading south from the Guggenheim along the Nervión River and the edge of the medieval Casco Viejo, or Old Quarter, you come to La Ribera Market, Europe’s largest indoor food hall, with probably the planet’s greatest array of Basque meats, cheeses, and wines. You can shop like (and with) locals at El Corte Inglés
department store or amble from the República de Abando Park to the Zubizuri, a translucent glass footbridge spanning the river, and wonder how a destination this enchanting could remain a secret for so long.