Old-School Shopping in San Sebastián

From bags to books to brews, shopping in San Sebastián tempts even the tightest wallet. Don’t get distracted if it seems the San Sebastiánites shop more Zara than thrift—when you’re not looking, they’re ducking into the shops that have been open for decades. Tapestries and traditional hats, wine and seafood—the basic necessities in San Sebastián each have their own temple, in the form of shops that boast a history as interesting as their wares.

Bretxa Plaza, 3, 20003 San Sebastián, Guipúzcoa, Spain
La Bretxa shopping center houses the usual trappings of a modern-day shopping mall, but below ground one can find the city’s largest and best market for the fruits of the sea. Cold, wet and crowded, this is the spot where you will find both renowned chefs and housewives of the city vying for the best anchovies, calamari, and cod of the day’s catch.
Narrika Kalea, 4, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
171 years crafting hats is a long time. The family behind Casa Ponsol are maestros of adorning heads, although they have since branched out into men’s fashion as well. The Basque beret is ubiquitous, and if you find yourself pining for one this is the spot to stop.
16 Prim Kalea
Vinos Ezeiza is a store of a dying breed. A knowledgeable owner stands among dusty wine bottles, able to answer any question you might have about his collection. Headed out to a fiesta? Bring your wineskin and fill it by volume. Buying Rioja wine in bulk is the ultimate Basque shopping experience.
Narrika Kalea, 8, 20003 San Sebastián-Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Perhaps it’s because of airline restrictions, but I’m willing to bet that you never thought of a knife as a great take-home from vacation. Stop in Cuchillería Colmenero and that will change. They have knives with beautiful hand-carved wooden handles, some with a Basque flavor, others that were/are used by Basque fishermen, and a whole lot more. They also sharpen knives on demand.
14 Getaria Kalea
A truly great store is one that makes you desire things that you didn’t know you wanted. Almacenes Arenzana achieves this, but lucky for the shopper, they happen to sell extremely useful items. Cork, cords, burlap, fabric, ropes, all by the length. Pop into this old-school store and let your crafty side cut loose. Guaranteed you won’t leave empty-handed.
Zabaleta Kalea, 43, 20002 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
While Vintage Closet isn’t technically an old store, this boutique carries a fascinating mix of vintage clothing and clothing that wishes it were vintage. It’s a rarity in Donosti, a city that leans more toward Zara than second-hand. Off the beaten path but worth a visit.
C/ Fermín Calbetón 9, 20003 San Sebastián, Guipúzcoa, Spain
If you’re in San Sebastián to eat, chances are you’ll be wanting to eat Pimientos de Gernika and Guisantes Lágrimas long after your trip is over. Semillas Elosegui is a classic stop in the Old Part of San Sebastián, and they have seeds for all of your Basque cooking needs. Perfect souvenirs for the foodies on your list.
2 Plaza de Bilbao
Donosti Librería is the bookstore that movies are made of. In the family for 40 years, the shop’s beautiful art nouveau façade hides a calming interior. Walls are stacked with books, handpicked by the owners, and the overall atmosphere is the perfect blend of peaceful and provocative.
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