World’s Best Cities? UNSTOPPABLE Travel Judge chooses San Sebastian

Arizona hotel reviewer and blogger tapped as travel judge

Two young backpackers overlook San Sebastian from the hills east of the coastal town
Camino de Santiago pilgrims overlook San Sebastian, Spain.

Recently I was tapped to be a judge of travel destinations by FlightNetwork, the largest Canadian-based online travel company. The international panel of travel judges, of which I was part, was charged with choosing the World’s Best Cities©.   Read on to find out why this hotel reviewer turned travel judge chose San Sebastian, Spain.

Criteria used to judge the World’s Best Cities©

Three people walk siloutted against the sun setting over San Sebastian beach
San Sebastian is a beach town favored by the Spanish but yet undiscovered by the rest of the world.

FlightNetwork wanted me as a part of its trusted group of travel writers, bloggers and agencies to use my“worldly input and expert insight” to come up with a comprehensive list of most beautiful cities in the world. The criteria used to judge the World’s Best Cities© was:
• City with population of over 100,000
• Offers the best combination of natural and manmade beauty,
• Includes a juxtaposition of nature and architecture,
• City culture,
• Local weather.

We were asked nominate and vote for our favorite city in the world.

Which city would YOU choose, if you were a travel judge?

Experienced Hotel Reviewer turned 'Travel Judge'

Screen shot of online London Telegraph hotel review by hotel reviewer Unstoppable Stacey Wittig

My years of experience as a hotel reviewer helped with judging destinations. (I started writing hotel reviews for Forbes over 10 years ago and for the past three years, I’ve done many “Best Hotels” hotel reviews for The Telegraph-London.) 

Well, most of you know that asking me for my favorite place to travel or best city is like asking YOU to choose your favorite child. Augh! Don’t make me do it.

But with the help of the above travel criteria, I recommended the under-visited San Sebastian, a beach town in northern Spain to be included on the World’s Best Cities© list.

Never heard of it? Then check this out…

Why San Sebastian, Spain?

San Sebastian, Spain, is in Basque country. That means that — besides being inhabited by the outgoing Basque people — it has a rich culture, deep history and local language. Which, btw, delights and surprises international visitors. The city with a population of 186,000, like most Basques cities, towns and villages, has two names: a Spanish name and a Basque name. San Sebastian’s Basque name is Donostia and therefore is sometimes called Donostia-San Sebastian.

In case you’re looking for its airport…

San Sebastian: Explore the culture of place through food

San Sebastian food including a bowl of croute served in a sea urchin and a skewer of three shrimps with ham

San Sebastian has more Michelin stars per metre (square foot) than any other city in Europe. However, you don’t need to go to an upscale restaurant to get great food. The Pintxos Bars (think Tapas Bars – it’s that wonderful Basque language again) are welcoming.  Further, they’re affordable places to sample the local cuisine so based on the fruits of the sea.

Did someone say ‘Sea?’

Juxtaposition of Nature and Architecture

Pedestrians walk across San Sebastian bridge that connects the two parts of town. Wide blue river and arched bridge in background
A river flows through it, making nature easily accessed by San Sebastian locals and visitors.

And speaking of the sea, the city spreads around La Concha Beach on the Atlantic’s Bay of Biscay and a promenade (or Malecón) brings local people outdoors. In a juxtaposition of nature and architecture , Belle Époque edifices open to the beach.

In addition, historic bridges cross that northward flowing river that separates the city. The medieval town center in the western portion of San Sebastian contrasts solemn gothic architecture with the whimsical Belle Époque. The Camino del Norte runs right through town and you can hike to the surrounding mountains or drive up the coast for surfing which is so popular in this part of Spain.

So what do you think? Is San Sebastian “list” worthy?

Thoughtful and definitive lists of the World’s Best Cities

Tuna and mild pickled chiles arranged on small plate of San Sebastian pinxtos (tapas). Side of crusty white bread.
Simple fare like the pictured tuna and pickled chiles, or more upmarket, Michelin-star options make San Sebastian a foodies' haven.

I thought that San Sebastian fit the criteria for the World’s Best Cities©, including its food scene, Basque culture, and beach-town weather. Others must have agreed as well. My vote helped move San Sebastian, Spain, to the World’s Best Cities© list

Flight Network calls the list “one of the most thoughtful and definitive lists of the World’s Best Cities©.” Why, thank you, Flight Network!

You can check out my name on the list of travel judges at the FlightNetwork website.

If you, too,  agree that I am a trusted source of travel advice, please share my travel blog with your friends and family. Share by clicking on the blue or red social media share buttons below. This travel judge and travel storyteller would sure be honored and pleased.

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