Things To Do In San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian beach
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Have plans of traveling to Spain? One place that should not be missing from your itinerary is San Sebastian, Spain. This marvelous city is also known as Donostia in the local Basque language called Euskara. There are prolific hillsides and several golden beaches in San Sebastian, making it a popular resort town in Spain. Roam around cobblestone streets as you discover the tastefully designed art nouveau buildings, charming guesthouses, and eye-catching boutique hotels in San Sebastian lined up. This quaint, old town also has ornate bridges and well-kept gardens and plazas that are hard to find elsewhere. There are also several museums you can visit, as well as numerous monuments and statues to see. You will surely fall in love not only with the area’s exquisiteness but also with the fun activities you can take part in. Here are some of the top things to do in San Sebastian.

Stroll Along Parte Vieja

Parte Vieja San Sebastian

In the heart of the city is where the iconic Parte Vieja is located. The streets were made of cobblestones and have an excellent line of some of the finest restaurants and bars in San Sebastian. Though part of the city was devastated by fire in 1813, the government was still able to restore it to its grand state. Discover San Sebastian’s captivating boutiques, historic buildings, and other architectural gems by yourself or joining a city tour in San Sebastian. The streets are constantly lively, with many patrons filling up the place during lunch and dinner times. If you are looking to end your day with some drinks, this town offers the best nightlife spot. Be one with the locals as you try out the city’s world-famous pintxos and wine.

Wander through Plaza de la Constitucion

Part of San Sebastian’s old town is Plaza de la Constitucion. This attractive city square has existed since 1813 and was once used as a bullring. The arena’s seat numbers are still visible up to this day. Nowadays, this place hosts significant events, celebrations, and fiestas in San Sebastian, including the festival of Saint Thomas and the celebratory drum festival of the Tamborrada. When you are tired of exploring the area, you can expect taverns to line up tables and chairs with umbrellas so patrons can rest. This city square is a culinary destination offering the best pintxos in San Sebastian. Savor some mouth-watering dishes while replenishing energy.

Take a dip in La Concha Beach

La Concha Beach, San Sebastian

San Sebastian boasts of having an alluring coastline. One of the most beautiful urban beaches in Europe can be found here, La Conca Beach. This 1,350-meter beach is named because of its crescent-shaped feature, its name Concha which means shell in Spanish. This beach in San Sebastian is clean and well-maintained. Travelers can also attest that the waters are crystal clear. Its extensive size is perfect for paddling, sea kayaking, and other water activities. If you want to take things easy, you can make sandcastles with the kids or get tanned and bathe under the sun.

Engage in different sports at Playa de la Zurriola

 

zurriola-beach-San-sebastian

Suppose you are looking to spend a more challenging weekend in San Sebastian, head over to Playa de la Zurriola. Because of its excellent, powerful waves, the 800-meter beach became a favorite destination for sports enthusiasts. It offers an intimate vibe and attracts the young crowd more. Several major surfing championships in surfing, bodyboarding, and even skateboarding are also organized here. If you do not know how to surf, you can join some surf classes available. Besides popular water sports activities in San Sebastian, visitors take action by playing beach volleyball, football, or tennis. You can also explore the nearby Monte Ulía, a hillwalking area and an ideal spot to catch whale sightings.

 

Discover the hidden beauty of Isla de Santa Clara

Isla Santa Clara San Sebastian

Isla de Santa Clara is an adorable small island in San Sebastian situated between Monte Urgull, Monte Igueldo, and Bahía de la Concha. This historical national interest site is offshore, so you have to ride one of the ferries to San Sebastian to visit. Upon arriving, you will be welcomed to a sandy beach, as well as a cool chiringuito or small beach bar. Catch more spectacular paradise views and pass by through several picturesque spots while going up the lighthouse. During your visit, it is best to devour a delicious Paella serving, a Spanish cuisine made of rice, shellfish, and vegetables.

 

Get a Bird’s Eye View of San Sebastian from Mount Igueldo

view of San Sebastian

For fantastic San Sebastian sightseeing opportunities, climb the summit of Mount Igueldo. It is situated by the end of La Concha Bay and serves as the middle point between the city and the sea. Breathe in the fresh air as you marvel at the impressive view of the bay and watch as the waves crash against the cliff. Ride the famous funicular railway and let it take you down memory lane to how Donostians travel before. This will also transport you to the Mount Igueldo fairground, wherein kids and adults can enjoy trying out the wooden rollercoaster, trampolines, and other old-fashioned attractions.

 

Visit La Catedral del Buen Pastor

La Catedral del Buen Pastor, San Sebastian

One of the most prominent religious buildings in the Basque Country and must-see San Sebastian attractions is La Catedral del Buen Pastor. It was built in 1897 using Mount Igueldo’s sandstone with a design similar to most medieval German and French churches. It comes with sharply pointed arches, as well as stained-glass windows, gargoyles, and pinnacles showcasing a neo-Gothic architectural style. Upon entering, you will be in awe of the needle-shaped, 246- foot (75-meter) high bell tower and the cross made of alabaster. The cathedral also has an organ with 10,000 whistles. This treasured element of the cathedral will bring you to another level of spirituality as it is played.

 

Spend some quiet time at Palacio de Miramar

palacio-miramar-san-sebastian

Another historic building to visit while in San Sebastian is the Palacio de Miramar. Constructed in 1893, this palace resembles those English noble country houses during the 18th century. It belonged to the Spanish Royal Family but was eventually acquired by the local council in 1973. Since then, the palace became a venue for different kinds of public and private events. Outside the palace is an impressive array of lush green gardens. Here, people can lie down on the grass, have a spontaneous family picnic, or admire the coastal view. The surroundings also have several pathways wherein you can have peaceful strolls at the gardens and the palace.

 

Sample famous delicacies at the local dining destinations

Tapas in Spain

San Sebastian is highly honored for its dining scene and culinary excellence. The best restaurants in San Sebastian are rated with Michelin-Stars. San Sebastian has the most concentrated Michelin-Stars, with 18 stars within about a ten-minute drive. Also, the city has fantastic food markets offering fresh produce. Your San Sebastian vacation is not complete without trying out the famous Pintxos or Basque tapas. These are small pieces of bread served with prawns, hams, cheese, or even mushroom croquettes. Eating in San Sebastian would not be complete without tasting the most iconic seafood specialties like Percebes, consisting of goose barnacles, and Kokotxas, a traditional stew made with cod or hake cheeks. Level up your trip by having an avant-garde, 20-course dining experience at the best restaurant in San Sebastian, Mugaritz.

 

Attend festivals and cultural events

Festivals in San Sebastian

Spain declares that they are always ready to party, and so is San Sebastian! Make your stay more memorable by attending local festivals and cultural events. The festival San Sebastian calendar is jam-packed all year long! The Festival De San Sebastian Film Festival is one of the most popular events. Families of all generations gather around and prepare drinks and butifarra (sausages) to cook on the communal barbecues. If you are a music fan, the Kutxa Kultur Festibala or a festival of indie music and young artists should not be missed. You will also appreciate jazz music at Heineken Jazzaldia, a festival de jazz in San Sebastian.

An adventure in San Sebastian awaits

San Sebastian beach

This city is a haven, offering lovely sceneries and plenty of pleasurable San Sebastian things to do. The seaside setting, along with the mountains lined up, serves as a beautiful backdrop to the historical city. Zoom in a little, and you will see many preserved buildings with classic architectural styles representing the rich Donostia San Sebastian culture. Without a doubt, one day will never be enough to unfold the city’s glamour. You can check out San Sebastian Tripadvisor for reviews of things to do in and around the city.

FAQ’s

Are there campsites in San Sebastian?

Yes, there are several campsites near the city including Camping Igara, Camping Bungalows Igueldo, and Camping Oliden to name a few for you to check out.

Is there a Bilbao to San Sebastian Train?

Yes, the Bilbao to San Sebastian train takes approximately 6 hours and there are usually three trains per day. You will want to verify train options in advance because the schedule can change or they can be booked. The price for a one-way ticket can be as low as 14.95€. Book your tickets on The Trainline here.

Are there direct flights to San Sebastian, Spain?

That depends on where you are flying from. If you are considering flights, London to San Sebastian is about two hours on a direct flight. However, if you are flying from Dublin to San Sebastian, there is no direct flight. You may want to consider other airports near San Sebastian and then taking the train to the city center. Check out CheapOair for flight schedules and prices.

What is the name of the bus station, San Sebastian?

The Donosita bus station is located at Federico García Lorca Pasealekua, 2 Donostia Gipuzkoa, Spain. If you want to travel by bus to San Sebastian, there are countless options. The bus, Madrid to San Sebastian will take you approximately 8 or 9 hours. From Barcelona, it will take approximately 7.5 – 8 hours. It is a long trip, but you get to see a lot of the countryside.

Where is the best place to stay in San Sebastian?

Personally, I think boutique hotels in San Sebastian are the best places to stay. They give a more authentic experience than the big chain hotels. It also helps local people as the money you spend there stays in the area and does not go to the large corporate owners in other parts of the world. For a list of places to stay and prices check out Agoda Hotels.

What are some good day trips from San Sebastian?

There are many day trips you can take from the city. Here is a list of excellent Day Trips From San Sebastian from our affiliate Get Your Guide.

When is the best time to visit San Sebastian?

It depends on the type of weather you like. Personally, I think late spring (before the summer crowds) or early fall (right after the crowds) is the best time to visit. If you don’t mind a lot of people and paying more for your holiday, then July and August are a great time.

Where are the catacombs of San Sebastian?

There are no catacombs in the city. They are often confused with the Catacombs of San Sebastiano in Rome, Italy.

What is the best food in San Sebastian?

If you want the best food, I recommend eating at one of the many Michelin-Star restaurants. Mugaritz is considered one of (if not the) best in the world. However, there are numerous tapas bars that offer fantastic food.

Which is the best beach in San Sebastian?

If you like surfing and waves then Playa de la Zurriola is the best beach. However, La Concha Beach is probably the most popular.

Check our top travel resources

  • Find the best flights with CheapOair or Expedia UK.
  • For the Nomad: How to visit multiple destinations for the lowest price, visit Kiwi. Kiwi is a pioneer in virtual interlining (connecting flights from airlines that do not codeshare).
  • Travel throughout Spain and Europe via train. Book your tickets with the Trainline.
  • Travel inexpensively by bus through Spain and across Europe. Book tickets with Flixbus.
  • Find affordable accommodations on Booking.com or Agoda and Tripadvisor
  • Get reliable travel insurance from World Nomads
  • Search tours from GetYourGuide or Viator (Desktop version) or Viator (Mobile version)
  • Book your holiday with Intrepid Travel or G Adventures for responsible travel.
  • Check your visa requirement on iVisa

 

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By Sally Pederson

Sally is a semi-nomadic traveler. She is the owner of Luxurious Lifestyles – an award winning blog and resource for luxury travelers. Additionally, she is also the owner of Jet Setter Pet Sitter - a blog and resource for independent travelers that love pets.

29 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing these places, I’ll keep this in mind if ever I luckily travel to Spain.

  2. These all look like beautiful destinations. We have been watching some travel shows and a lot of places in Spain show up. I would love to check these out some day.

  3. Love this post especially because I love food. I’ve been to other parts of Spain and San Sebastian keeps coming up for the food. It’s great to see more about the city, and I look forward to exploring those Michelin restaurants at some point.

  4. Spain was one of our favorite countries we visited during our European trip and we earmarked it to absolutely go back. The coastal regions would like San Sebastian would be high on our priority list to see this time!

  5. I dream of visiting Spain! I would love to see Barcelona and Madrid, but I would also want to explore their beautiful beaches and wineries too. Oh, and of course, have my fill of local culinary fare. That would be awesome. Isla de Santa Clara looks like a really nice place to visit!

  6. I have never been there, but San Sebastian, Spain looks like a nice place to visit and explore.

  7. I love Spain. I would like to visit it all. And small places like San Sebastian have the real Spanish beauty and are so authentic.

  8. Oh wow, San Sebastian looks gorgeous! I’ve only been to Spain for a few hours as a stop on a cruise so we didn’t have a lot of time to explore. I definitely want to get back to Europe soon.

  9. I love a tapas bar when I visit Spanish coastal towns. You get a true taste of the local flavors.

  10. I would be all about the food here! I love trying foods for different cultures. I’d enjoy the beach as well!

  11. I’ve spent a lot of time in Spain but I’ve never visited San Sebastian unfortunately. It looks like there are lots of interesting places to see and things to do there!

    1. Ireland is a wonderful place to visit, I have been there twice. All of Europe, of course including Spain, has so many amazing places to visit.

  12. I cannot wait to go back to Europe! And I just saw a long English series on all-inclusive spots in Benidorm, Spain, I want to go!

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