San Sebastián, Spain

Akelarre

Rates per night from$292.26

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 60 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (EUR257.73), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

Style

Delectable design

Setting

Basque-ing beauty

Straddling the coastal hills just outside San Sebastián, design hotel Akelarre is a perfect storm of head-turning interiors, world-class dining and a location overlooking the Bay of Biscay. Built alongside Pedro Subijana’s iconic restaurant of the same name, this hotel pushes all the right buttons to delight gourmands, wine lovers and design devotees alike. Envisioned by Madrid-based architects Mecanismo, the modernist design scheme is the perfect counterpart to Subijana’s cutting-edge cuisine; like his cooking, everything here begins with the best raw ingredients (such as black marble, pale oak and filitia stone), which have been prepared, combined and finished with the panache of a star chef at the top of his game.

Smith Extra

Get this when you book through us:

€30 spa credit and a bottle of limited-edition Akelarre wine

Facilities

Photos Akelarre facilities

Need to know

Rooms

Twenty-two, including two suites.

Check–Out

Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.

Rates

Double rooms from $292.26 (€258), excluding tax at 10 per cent.

More details

Rates include à la carte breakfast at Oteiza, and transfers to the city centre and beaches (subject to availability).

Hotel closed

The hotel will be closed from 23 December 2018 – 28 February 2019.

At the hotel

Spa, free WiFi throughout, laundry. In rooms: 40” TV with a Bang and Olufsen sound system and Apple TV, minibar and organic bath products by Per Purr.

Our favourite rooms

There are no bad rooms here – the smallest are 50sq m and they all have a regal sea view. If you’re after something really special, go for one of the Akelarre Suites, which have private stone-lined plunge pools next to the floor-to-ceiling windows. From your vantage point in the water, it almost looks like surface of the pool merges with the Cantabrian Sea on the horizon.

Poolside

There’s a stone pool with hydrotherapy jets in the spa.

Spa

Modern and minimalist, the spa is clad in textured stone on three sides, and has a wall of curving glass on the fourth. There’s a relaxation area with a sweeping sea view, a marble hammam, a sauna and three treatment rooms, one of them for couples.

Packing tips

Bring an appetite for minimalist design and avant garde cuisine.

Also

All of the hotel’s common areas – including the spa – are wheelchair accessible. One of the Deluxe Rooms has been specially adapted.

Children

All ages are accepted, but this grown-up stay is not recommended for under-14s. The fine-dining and general feel make the hotel better suited to adults. Extra beds and cots are available on request, but numbers are limited.

Food and Drink

Photos Akelarre food and drink

Top Table

Ask for one right by the floor-to-ceiling windows. The views present a strong case for booking in for lunch instead of dinner.

Dress Code

Smart Scandi threads will chime well with the minimalist decor.

Hotel restaurant

Helmed by chef Pedro Subijana since the day it opened in 1974, legendary Akelarre remains one of the brightest lights burning on San Sebastián’s restaurant scene. Subijana had originally planned to study medicine before he was drawn into cheffing, and you have to wonder if those early dreams resurfaced in the near-surgical precision that he brings to his cooking. Or perhaps his culinary wizardry is down to something else entirely: Akelarre translates as ‘witches coven’, after all. Whatever his secret, people come from all over the world to sample his dishes, which are served in a pared-back room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Bay of Biscay. Diners select from three tasting menus, all of which use local ingredients and play with traditional Basque cuisine. His other restaurant at the hotel is Oteiza, named after Basque sculptor Jorge Oteiza, a friend of Subijana’s. Both the à la carte and set menu showcase more simple dishes with strong Basque roots, but it’s still very much a fine dining experience. If it's a snack you're after, order a few of their delectable tapas. In March, April, May, October, November and December, Akelarre restaurant is closed for dinner on Sunday, and all day Monday and Tuesday. In June, July, August and September, it’s closed for dinner on Sunday and all day Monday. Oteiza is open all year-round.

Last orders

Breakfast is served at Oteiza from 7am to 11am. Both restaurants are open for lunch from 1pm to 3pm and dinner from 8pm to 10pm. Akelarre restaurant is closed for dinner on Sunday and all day Monday. In low season, it's closed on Tuesday too.

Room service

Available round the clock. Everything comes from the same kitchens that prepare the food in the restaurants, making this fine dining on your own terms. The menu includes smoked fish, an Iberian sirloin sandwich, and cod toast with olives and alioli.

Location

Photos Akelarre location
Address
Akelarre
Padre Orkolaga, 56
San Sebastián
20008
Spain

Planes

If you’re coming from outside Spain, fly into Bilbao, which can be reached direct from larger UK airports. From Bilbao, it’s a 70-minute drive to the hotel. The Smith24 team can arrange your flights and transfers; call anytime, day or night.

Automobiles

The hotel’s a few kilometres from the city centre, so having your own set of wheels will come in handy if you'd rather not rely on taxis. If you do want to hire, the Smith24 team can arrange it.

Worth getting out of bed for

It goes without saying that the restaurant is one of the greatest pulling points at the hotel – diners come from around the world to sample Pedro Subijana’s take on Basque cuisine. Of course, fine dining means fine drinking, too, and Akelarre’s cellar is a veritable goldmine, holding at least 650 fine wines. If you can’t get enough of their offerings at dinner, arrange a private tour and tasting. In San Sebastián itself, continue your Basque culinary tour with a pintxos crawl. The city’s bars turn out a huge range of these traditional Basque snacks, which are usually layered over bread and skewered with a cocktail stick; locals wash them down with plenty of txakoli, the local white wine. If you wake the next morning feeling like you need to work of last night’s excess, hike up to the top of Mount Urgull at the far end of La Concha Bay. The paths leading to the summit are pleasantly shady and lined with exotic vegetation, and once you reach the castle at the top, you’ll have a 360-degree view over the city, coast and hills. There’s another viewpoint, Monte Igueldo, on the opposite side of the bay, reached by a wooden funicular running since 1912. If you’ve got time for a day trip, head to Bilbao, around an hour's drive from the city centre. A visit to the iconic Guggenheim more than warrants the time spent on the road.

Local restaurants

The cultural and culinary capital of the Basque country, San Sebastián is a true foodie mecca, holding more Michelin stars per capita than any city except Kyoto. One of the fine-dining heavyweights is Arzak, which has several rooms serving a variety of tasting menus and an à la carte offering. Long-time chef Juan Mari Arzak still helms the kitchen and personally greets diners, showing little regard for the fact that he’s now in his 70s. Equally as impressive is the resturant's cavernous wine cellar, reportedly home to around 100,000 bottles. Just back from the promenade, Narru has a simple, even functional look that belies the quality of the food. Chef Inigo Pena started his career under none other than Arzak, spending three years with him before putting in time in several other illustrious kitchens in the region. Best of all is the value – the set dinner menu comes in under €35 a head (including wine). Another restaurant offering serious bang for buck is relative newcomer Xarma, which prides itself on serving up the best Basque cuisine at affordable prices. The dishes are modern and innovative, and the relatively small size helps keep the service slick and friendly.

Local bars

If you’re looking for somewhere to take a breather, stop in at Antonio Bar on Calle Bergara for a cold beer and a few of their high-end pintxos. The tuna carpaccio is a local favourite.

Reviews

Photos Akelarre reviews
Audrey Ward

Anonymous review

By Audrey Ward, Hotel-loving editor

On arriving in the coastal city of San Sebastian, which is hot and heaving with tourists, Mr Smith and I have two things on our mind. The first is a pintxo tour (pintxos is the term for the finger food served at bars throughout the Basque country). The second is to find somewhere calm to retreat to once we’ve eaten our fill. We gamely succeed on both fronts. After an afternoon of gobbling our way through the bustling old town and Gros, the city’s hipster neighbourhood, we drive three miles west of the centre and enter the secluded haven that is hotel Akelarre. 

Decades ago there was no hotel, only the Akelarre restaurant existed, but once the establishment secured an international reputation for traditional Basque cuisine and a whopping three Michelin stars, it acquired a hotel all of its own. And what a hotel! 

The guests are predominantly food pilgrims flocking to the gastronomic Mecca that is San Sebastian, but should they need a dramatic setting for the next James Bond movie, whoever is helming it could do worse than Akelarre. Set in a hillside perch on Monte Igueldo, the hotel overlooks the Bay of Biscay. It is an architect’s delight with its slick lines and smooth curves, wood panelling and hunks of rough grey stone, all of which combine to give the place an air of intrigue and otherworldliness. 

Once we’ve checked in, Mr Smith and I clamber down the impressive steel staircase that winds from the central lobby to the bar (a quick perusal of the drinks menu confirms that 007’s favourite tipple features) and step out onto a platform with six circular terraces set in stone pods. We pitch up at one and within minutes we are sipping chilled albarino and admiring the expansive sea view and the blue grey mountains.

Our deluxe room is located one further flight down. The floor-to-ceiling glass doors of the bar are replicated in our bedroom and lead out to a slate terrace, the perfect spot from which to catch a pink sunset. After unpacking our clothes into the swish walk-in-wardrobe and eyeing up the bath which looks out to sea, we set off in our dressing gowns. We slope past the gym and head on to the seriously sexy spa, which has moody lighting and is encircled in black stone. I splash about in the pool with hydromassage jets while Mr Smith reclines in the marble steam room. For dinner we opt for Oteiza, the more relaxed of the hotel’s two restaurants. The food – seafood snacks, roast shoulder of lamb and chicken casserole – is delicious (which is a relief as rain is falling and there are no other restaurants within striking distance). 

The following morning, after a deep sleep, there’s a knock on the door. We’ve ordered breakfast to our spacious room and a huge trolley is wheeled in, groaning with all manner of breads, pastries, juices, fruits, local meats and cheeses (and of course there’s the obligatory tortilla). It all amounts to a futile effort in self-restraint. 

As the sun reappears from behind some clouds, we make for the city – conveniently the hotel shuttle runs twice a day into the centre. Mr Smith, a third-wave coffee snob, is in need of a fix so we settle in for espressos in Sakona and I devise a plan. We will flop out on La Concha Beach, located in the shell shaped Concha Bay, and after a sea swim, we’ll sample some more Basque snacks. With sand speckled feet, we return to the pintxos trail and graze on everything from beef cheeks in red wine sauce and octopus skewers to succulent pork belly and spoonfuls of mushroom risotto. 

As the heat dissipates from the day, we slink back to Akelarre to lounge about on plush sofas in the library, and catch up on some reading. At bedtime we’re in for a treat. Some people question the need for the turn-down service but it must never be abandoned at the Akelarre because that would be to deny guests the most deliciously delicate almond tarts that form part of the ritual.

By day three Mr Smith and I feel the need for some post indulgence penance. We make like pilgrims of a different kind and join part of the famous Camino de Santiago route for a hike. We set off from the city’s Zurriola beach, and take the coastal route along the Ulia mountain to Pasajes de San Juan, a charming fishing village which is the perfect spot for a bit of exploration. 

After three hours of walking, our feet are aching and we’re craving the comfort of Akelarre. Once back at the hotel, we settle ourselves into one of the outdoor pods for the final Spanish sunset of our trip. The bar is filling up, the guests have all returned from their various afternoon adventures. There’s no sign of James Bond – yet.

The Guestbook

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Akelarre’s Guestbook below.

We loved

The style, the food, the peace, the staff. It's 10 mins by hotel car to the centre of San Sebastián.

Don’t expect

A lively atmosphere.

Rating

Stayed on 11 Jun 2018

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