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Beaches, San Sebastián

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San Sebastián
Spain's insider take:

San Sebastián is home to three terrific swimming and sunbathing beaches, all with golden, powdery sand. La Concha, named for its curved seashell shape, is right off the city center and the longest of the three (nearly a mile from end to end). It's also narrow, though, and the crowds can reach Coney Island density during the summer. The water is calm here, so expect lots of families with kids. Just west of La Concha, the smaller Ondarreta draws a slightly tonier crowd. Though it's only a third of a mile long, its breadth means there's room for rows of striped cabanas (which can be rented by the day and offer some small measure of privacy). Zurriola, east of La Concha and across the river in the Gros neighborhood, is the hippest and most sceney; it's the choice of the city's gay population, and its rougher water also attracts surfers.

If baking in the sun's not your thing, take a stroll, jog, or bike ride along the elegant paseo (boardwalk), fronting La Concha and Ondarreta. Along the way, you'll pass Miramar Palace, the former summer home of Spanish royalty, built in the 1880s. Though the building is now used for conferences and educational events and is not open to the public, the beautifully landscaped gardens that face the ocean (and are free to visit) are an ideal place to stop and relax with a good book. If the weather cooperates, you can walk to the end of the boardwalk to see Eduardo Chillida's dramatic sculpture The Comb of the Winds, three steel forms fused onto a rocky outcropping, where they're constantly buffeted by the ocean's spray.

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