From pintxos crawls to twilight swims – a travel editor shares her favourite sundown memories

From evening swims in the Balearics to strolls and sundown beers around San Sebastian, travel editor Helen Coffey picks her best-loved sunset moments

Sundown in San Sebastian

There’s something indefinably magical about sundown, whatever the destination. As someone who travels for a living, what I’ve noticed is this: when the sun starts to dip, the energy of a place transforms. The business of the working day is done; people are ready to switch off and relax, to eat, drink and be merry, to open themselves up to new connections and fresh possibilities.

In the glow of the golden hour is when you often see a place at its best – streets come to life, locals head out to meet up with friends, and landscapes are bathed in a flattering light that makes everyone and everything look like they just stepped out of a perfectly filtered Instagram post.

And you don’t need to visit somewhere far-flung or “exotic” to tap into that feeling and taste a slice of local life. I’m all about slow, sustainable travel; I haven’t set foot on a flight since November 2019. But, if anything, my sundown experiences have been enhanced by the decision to swap plane for train, boat, bus, bike and my own two feet.

Some of my most cherished travel memories take place at that sweet spot between day and night; here are just a few of my favourites.

Running wild in Hastings

A run along the beautiful Hastings seafront cured the January blues

You don’t need to go far to experience the so-gorgeous-it-hurts majesty of a superior sunset. At the beginning of this year, struck down with a serious case of the January blues, I took myself for a “workation” to the seaside town of Hastings on the Kent coast. By day, I kicked off with early morning swims before working from a cute apartment. By eve, I headed out on runs along the seafront. I say “run”… every 100 metres or so I simply had to stop and stare and try to capture the colours – peach, tangerine, amber, flamingo pink – on my phone. The euphoria of that kaleidoscopic sky combined with the endorphins of a bout of cardio resulted in me grinning like a buffoon at everyone I saw, delight bubbling over like boiling water in a pan. January blues? What January blues?

Pintxos crawls in northern Spain

A laidback tour of San Sebastian and some beers in the sunset made for a relaxed, restorative evening

For me, sundown and eating and drinking are inextricably linked – and, to be perfectly honest, cuisine is one of my major incentives to travel anywhere. This feels particularly true in Spain, where getting well-fed and watered for a decent price is one of the great draws as a tourist, regardless of which part of the country you visit. But the northern Spanish region of the Basque Country is in a culinary league of its own: it’s all about pintxos (their version of tapas) and the freshest seafood, with menus dominated by octopus, squid, crustaceans and cod. On a recent trip, my partner and I spent a day and night in foodie heavyweight San Sebastian. We took a lazy tour of the sublime old town during the golden hour, stopping every now and then for a sangria or cerveza (beer) here, a prawn and scallop brochette there – a pintxos crawl, you could call it – and marvelled at how sweet life can be once you take your foot off the gas.

Sunset swims in Mallorca

Embracing the villa life – and twilight swimming – in Mallorca

Like many groups of friends, mine picked a holiday destination we adored years ago and have stuck to it loyally ever since: the island of Mallorca in the Balearics. What’s not to love about this sun-drenched isle, accessible by ferry from the Spanish mainland if you’d rather not fly? Away from the more party-prone west side of the island (we’re well past our Magaluf years), we’ll rent a villa with a pool for a week or long weekend and spend our days munching on crisps and sipping chilled drinks in the shade to escape the heat. Then, come sundown, our pale English skin can finally handle the rays – we’ll drive to one of a handful of favoured idyllic beaches to plunge into clear, aquamarine water under the waning light.

Sundown sailing to Morocco

Taking in the glimmering skies while setting sail for Morocco

My longest flight-free trip so far was in 2021, when I journeyed from Marseille in the south of France to Tangier, Morocco, on a 40-plus hour ferry crossing. We set sail in the evening, with the sky illuminated by the most spectacular array of pinks, from candyfloss to dayglo neon. As if on some invisible cue, all the passengers gathered on deck to watch as we pulled away from port, silently staring up at the light show above. It had the air of a cathedral – the atmosphere seemed infused with a reverence that remained unbroken for the next 45 minutes or so as we forged a path through waves tipped with glimmering light, until finally plunged into the darkness of night. Dazzled by the beauty of it all, I realised right there and then that I was most definitely a sucker for the slow travel life – and for a sunset.”

Sundown, tapas and beer, the perfect holiday combo

To celebrate sunny days, warmer evenings and sharing it all with friends, San Miguel is once again hosting its summer bar at London’s scenic Somerset House. With its stunning riverside location and view of the iconic London skyline, the Somerset House Terrace Bar with San Miguel is the perfect spot to relax and unwind, and enjoy an ice-cold beer, delicious tapas, and live music experiences at sundown. San Miguel are also partners across a number of incredible musical events throughout the summer: at the annual Somerset House Summer Series, you can enjoy a San Miguel while you rock out to Black Midi (13 July), enjoy the luscious indie of Arlo Parks (12 July), grab some grime at Ghett’s set (14 July), get down to disco with SG Lewis (15 July), party to perfect pop with Carly Rae Jepsen (11 July) and Mabel (17 July), and enjoy the soulful vibes of John Legend (16 July). At Wilderness Festival from 4-7 August you can share a beer at sundown and indulge in the idyllic surrounds of Cornbury Park , Oxfordshire, listening to Years and Years, Jungle and Underworld. While at Classic Ibiza you can enjoy music from the White Isle reinvented by the Urban Soul Orchestra, live vocalists and headline DJs in breathtaking stately surrounds including Ragley Hall, Warwickshire (1 and 2 July), Weston Park, Shropshire (16 July), Bowood House, Wiltshire, (22 and 23 July), Burghley House, Lincolnshire (30 July) Blickling Estate in Norfolk (6 August) and Hatfield House, Hertfordshire (20 August). To find out more visit @sanmiguel_uk

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