Bahia de la Concha beach.

©Justin Folkes/Lonely Planet

San Sebastián

Framed by golden beaches and lush hillsides, San Sebastián has undeniable allure, from its venerable dining scene to its grand architecture and packed cultural calendar.

Attractions

Must-see attractions.

Landscape of La Concha beach in the city of San Sebastian, in the Spanish Basque Country, on a sunny day with people enjoying the beach and Mount Urgull in the background.

Playa de la Concha

Fulfilling almost every idea of how a perfect city beach should be formed, Playa de la Concha (and its westerly extension, Playa de Ondarreta) is easily…

Inside the Aquarium of San Sebastian.

Parte Vieja

Fear for your life as huge sharks bear down behind glass panes, or gaze at otherworldly jellyfish. The highlights of a visit to the city's excellent…

Zurriola beach in the Basque city of San Sebastian.

Playa de la Zurriola

Stretching 800m in front of Gros, from the Kursaal to Monte Ulía, 'Zurri', as it's known locally, has some excellent waves that draw surfers from near and…

Kursal bridge night.

Designed by Rafael Moneo and opened in 1999, the Kursaal is one of the city's most striking buildings. Consisting of two cubes made of translucent glass…

SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 5, 2014: Interior of San Telmo Museum in San Sebastian. Spain; Shutterstock ID 233388997; Your name (First / Last): Josh Vogel; GL account no.: 56530; Netsuite department name: Online Design; Full Product or Project name including edition: Digital Content/Sights

San Telmo Museoa

One of the best museums in the Basque Country, the San Telmo Museoa has a thought-provoking collection that explores Basque history and culture in all its…

Peacock in the Cristina Enea park in Donostia San Sebastian.

Parque de Cristina Enea

Created by the Duke of Mandas in honour of his wife, the Parque de Cristina Enea is a favourite escape for locals. This formal park, the most attractive…

Tabakalera

Sun-drenched cultural space Tabakalera occupies a beautifully reconfigured tobacco factory dating from 1913. It's a hub for the arts and design, as well…

Peine del Viento

Peine del Viento

A symbol of the city, the Peine del Viento (Wind Comb) sculpture, which lies at the far western end of the Bahía de la Concha, below Monte Igueldo, is the…

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The Best Things to Do in San Sebastián

By Sarah James

View from above of San Sebastian Spain in Basque Country

San Sebastián is one of the most-loved cities in the world. It's not just the editors of Condé Nast Traveler who have fallen for this diminutive oceanfront city in the Basque Country, but our readers too—you voted it the  best city in Europe  in our  2023 Readers' Choice Awards .

And it checks out. San Sebastian has some of the finest restaurants in the world (there are more Michelin stars per square foot than any city on the planet), a rich history, plus some excellent places to stay. But what should you do once you arrive? Below, we've rounded up the best things to do in San Sebastián to inspire your next trip to this people-pleasing city.

Spain Basque Country San Sebastian. Traditional Pinchos  snacks.

Go pintxos bar-hopping

Tapas is more synonymous with Spanish culture—but this is the Basque Country, really, and pintxos are the order of the day here. A pintxo is a small snack served in tavernas or bars and is most often (although not always) served on top of a slice of bread, speared with a cocktail stick to keep the toppings (anchovies, perhaps, or goat cheese and ham, or tortilla) in place. Pintxos are small enough to whet your appetite over a glass of wine or beer pre-supper—but in San Sebastián, we recommend foregoing a sit-down dinner altogether, instead embarking on a pintxos hopping tour. One popular route starts at Borda Berri (order the confusingly named ‘kebab’, which is actually a melty pork rib) before wandering down the street for pitstops at Bar Sport (order the txangurro, or crab) and Txepetxa, where all the pintxos come with an anchovy and your choice of additional toppings. Whichever route you take, make sure to finish the crawl at La Viña, the birthplace of the burnt Basque cheesecake .

Sunbathe at La Concha

San Sebastián has a prime position in the Basque Country, set right on the sea. The city skyline curves around the main, crescent-shaped beach La Concha, which itself melts into gin-clear water overlooking Santa Clara island, which rises from the ocean a few hundred metres from the shore. A promenade edges the beach, for those who aren't in the mood for sandy trainers – follow the railings to the right, as you look at the water, and you'll reach the 1920s-built Nautical Club and the City Hall. Or head onto the beach and into the sea – the water is usually shallow, but the waves can come thick and fast.

The sun sets behind the Monte Urgull of San Sebastian Basque Country Guipuzcoa. Spain. View from Zurriola Avenue.

Hike up Monte Urgull

At one end of La Concha sits Monte Urgull, a gorgeous green space which winds up gradually to the summit, where the Sagrado Corazón statue and the ruins of Castillo de la Mota still sit. There are four paths that will lead you to the top; each has exceptional viewpoints to gaze at the city and sea below as you climb. The best route starts next to San Telmo Museum.

Stroll through Parque de Cristina Enea

Take an approximately two-mile stroll around Parque de Cristina Enea, the one-time home of its namesake the Duchess of Mandas, and her Ducal husband Fermín. This is the biggest park in San Sebastián, set over 23 acres and dating back to the late 1800s. Ducks, swans and peacocks swim in the ponds, and a handful of buildings dating from the period are scattered across the grounds, ripe for exploring.

Baroque painting rooms inside the San Telmo Museum San Sebastian  Guipuzcoa Basque Country Spain.

Get a culture fix at the San Telmo Museum

Those hankering after some Basque history and culture shouldn't sleep on the San Telmo Museum, which is set at the foot of Monte Urgull in the city's Old Town. A space known as the San Telmo Museoa has existed here since 1902, but the collection moved to its present-day setting in a 16th-century convent in the 1930s, with a brand new building added alongside a few years ago. These days, you can expect a collection focussing on photography, religion, and local art as well as temporary exhibitions spotlighting topics such as vintage tourism posters.

Silhouettes of surfers at the beach in Zarautz Spain

Try your hand at surfing

We've already waxed lyrical about San Sebastián's plum position on the Atlantic Ocean—and this setting makes it an ideal spot for surfing, too. The best time to surf in the area is actually between September and December, when there are less visitors and the swell of the waves is more consistent. If you're a beginner, book a couple of lessons with a local surf school such as Pukas Surf Eskola ($45 for 1.5 hours). If you're more confident, the best spots are at Zarautz, about 20 minutes away from the main city, and Zurriola, in the city itself.

Visit the old Tabakalera

Artsy types should make tracks for Tabakalera, the city's former tobacco factory turned international cultural centre. Here, you'll find exhibition halls, multi-purpose plazas and halls, a cinema theatre, a library, art spaces and a restaurant—plus a fifth-floor terrace with great views.

Parque de AlderdiEder. the town hall. San Sebastian. Basque country. Spain. Europe.

Parque de Alderdi Eder

This sweet plaza, fronting the honey-hued former casino (now, ironically, serving as the City Hall) is set just back from the beach and is a lovely spot for a pre-supper wander. There's a vintage carousel (good for entertaining little ones, as is a gander at the street performers who often set up here during the late afternoon). There are shady benches with exceptional views, for those less keen on the beach, and loads of gorgeous flora and fauna to admire, too.

Spain Basque Country San Sebastian.

Chill out at Playa de la Zurriola

We mentioned Playa de la Zurriola above for its surf scene – but even those who don't want to take to the waves will want to while away a few hours here. You could watch the surfers chase waves from the comfort of the sand, spectate locals playing volleyball or beach tennis, stroll the 2,600 feet of sand along the waterfront, or simply splay out on the sand and enjoy the mild Basque sunshine.

A version of this article originally appeared on Condé Nast Traveller .

Recommended

Hotel Maria Cristina, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Sebastián

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19 Absolute Best Things to Do in San Sebastián | Spain’s Basque Country

Top things to do in San Sebastian Spain - Spain's Basque Country

San Sebastián is the Basque country’s culinary capital. If you’re a foodie, then this is your paradise. Did you know, Spain’s Basque Country boasts the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world? Having a meal here is just one of many top  things to do in San Sebastián .

San Sebastián’s appeal stretches beyond its plates of pintxos . Overlooking the crescent-shaped Bay of Concha, San Sebastián is located on Spain’s northern coastline set amongst scenic mountains making it an impossibly charming city. After spending 5 days exploring, relaxing, and eating my way through San Sebastián I’ve come up with the ultimate list of the best things to do in the San Sebastián.

Going to the Basque Country? Enrich your travels with my free Basque travel phrase guide plus audio. I also have a Spanish phrase guide too!

San Sebastián & Donostia – The City with Two Names

San Sebastián actually has two names – San Sebastián is its Spanish name and Donostia is its name in the local Basque language called Euskara. While they look completely different, that both mean “Saint Sebastián”. In the Basque language, dona/done/doni means “saint” and is derived from Latin word domine. The second part, -stia contains a shortened form of the saint’s name.

Map of Things to do in San Sebastián, Spain

Want to know where you’ll be going? Take a look at the detailed map below.

Tip: For a larger view of the map, click on the icon in the top right corner.

Click on this interactive map and see where this itinerary will take you. I’ve created this map using Google Maps which you can save and use as you visit San Sebastián.

The coloured pins represent different pockets of the town to explore each day. Click on any pin for more information. Things to do – Yellow pins Where to eat – Pink pins Where to stay – Green pins

Here are the Best things to do in San Sebastián

1. stroll along the seaside at la concha promenade.

Top things to do in San Sebastian Spain - Walk along the Concha Promenade - Park Bench

Essential information

Address – Kontxa Pasealekua, 20007 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain Admission  – Free Opening hours – 24 hours. Sunrise and Sunset are especially magic. Reviews – Read Tripadvisor reviews of La Concha Promenade

2. See the Peine del Viento sculptures

Top things to do in San Sebastian Spain - Peine del Vento sculpture and waves

Completed in 1976, the sculptural group is made up of three curved steel sculptures that are welded into huge granite rocks located in direct contact with the sea. Strong winds and huge sea waves crash upon this area with great intensity and through a system of holes in the ground waves explode into the air in high columns. This place is even more spectacular on stormy days or when there is a heavy swell.

Peine del Viento gets its name from the combination of the shape of a twisted comb (peine) seen in the sculptures, along with the characteristic wind (viento) in the area.

Address – Eduardo Chillida Pasealekua, s/n, 20008 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain Admission  – Free Opening hours – 24 hours Reviews – Read Tripadvisor reviews of Peine del Viento

3. Explore the Old Town (Parte Vieja)

Top things to do in San Sebastian Spain - Church of San Vicente

San Sebastián’s Old Town dates back to medieval times but much of it was rebuilt after a fire devastated the city in 1813. Highlights include the Municipal Museum San Telmo, the Gothic church of St. Vincente,  the Baroque basilica of Santa María del Coro, and the stunning Plaza de la Constitución with its arcades and balconies. To learn more about San Sebastián’s history, join a guided walking tour of the Parte Vieja or a pintxos tour.

The Parte Vieja takes on a whole new atmosphere as patrons spill out onto the streets around lunch and dinner times to enjoy an endless variety of tantalizing pintxos. Pintxos is the Basque Country’s answer to the Spanish tapas. Local specialities include deep-fried cod, marinated anchovies, handmade croquettes, and of course tortilla de patatas (potato omelette). Tips on where to eat in San Sebastián coming up shortly!

Address – Start at Calle Mayor and walk to the end to see Basílica de Santa María del Coro before taking any side street. Admission  – Free Opening hours – Times vary per establishment, with most places closed on Mondays and during siesta hours (14:00 until 17:00 for shops and 14:00 until about 20:00 or 21:00 for bars and restaurants). Reviews – Read Tripadvisor reviews of San Sebastián’s Parte Vieja

4. See the bullet holes in San Sebastián’s City Hall

Top things to do in San Sebastian Spain - Town Hall and Palm Tree

If you looking closely you can still see bullet holes on the facade of the building as a result of the fighting that took place here during the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939) between the nationalists and republicans.

It wasn’t until 1947 that the City Council moved its headquarters here from the Plaza de la Constitución. Today, San Sebastián’s City Hall faces the quiet Alderdi Eder gardens, an essential stopping point for those looking to relax after wandering along the promenade.

Address – Ijentea Kalea, 1, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain Admission  – Free Opening hours – Monday – Friday 09:00 – 14:00 Reviews – Read Tripadvisor reviews of San Sebastián’s City Hall

5. Wander the arcades of Plaza de la Constitución

Top things to do in San Sebastian Spain - Visit Plaza de la Constitucion

Address – Plaza Constitución, 12, 20003 San Sebastián, Guipúzcoa, Spain Admission  – Free Opening hours – Bars and restaurants have varying opening times between 10:00 – 03:00. Reviews – Read Tripadvisor reviews of Plaza de la Constitución

6. Visit the stunning Basílica de Santa María del Coro

Top things to do in San Sebastian Spain - Facade of Basilica de Santa Maria del Coro

Address – 31 de Agosto Kalea, 46, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain Admission  – Free Opening hours – Monday to Sunday from 10:15 to 13:15 and from 14:45 to 19:45. Reviews – Read Tripadvisor reviews of Basílica de Santa María del Coro

7. Relax on Playa de la Concha

Top things to do in San Sebastian Spain - Town Hall from Playa de la Concha

Address – 20007, Gipuzkoa, Spain Admission  – Free Opening hours – 24hrs Reviews – Read Tripadvisor reviews of Playa de la Concha

8. Take the Funicular up to Monte Igueldo for Exceptional Panoramic Views

Top things to do in San Sebastian Spain - Panorama from Monte Igueldo

Those with a family in tow can have a fun day out at the Parque de Atracciones de Monte Igueldo amusement park located here which features charming carousels and a traditional wooden roller coaster.

You’ll be happy to know that all rides are reasonably priced so you won’t break the bank. There are food stands and a restaurant with a balcony where you can enjoy your meal with a view.

If you’re looking for something more sophisticated, head to Hotel Mercure Monte Igueldo, for a drink on their outdoor terrace or dine in their elegant restaurant. Extend your stay and book a room in their hotel.

Not to be missed is the 16th-century El Torreón tower which you can climb for views of the lighthouse and the rolling hills of the Basque countryside to the west.

Unless you have a car and prefer to drive, the best way to reach the top is by taking the funicular.

Address The funicular is located at Funikular Plaza, 4, 20008 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain at the far end of Playa de Ondarreta near the Royal Tennis Club.

Admission There are two ways you can arrive to Monte Igueldo

  • By Funicular: Adults 3,75 € / Children 2,50 €
  • By Car/foot 2,30 € per person

Attraction prices range between 1 € – 2,50 €

Opening hours

  • Funicular 10:00-21:00 (every 15 minutes)
  • Attractions 11:00-14:00 / 15:30-20:00 – Closed Monday-Friday
  • Enclosure/lookout – 10:00-21:00

Reviews – Read Tripadvisor reviews of Monte Igueldo Official website –   Plan your visit with the official Monte Igueldo website

9. Have a picnic at Miramar Royal Palace (Palacio de Miramar)

Top things to do in San Sebastian Spain - Have a picnic at Miramar Royal Palace

The house itself isn’t open to the public but you can visit its beautifully manicured and colourful gardens. This is an idyllic spot to come and sit and marvel at the beautiful views over a picnic lunch.

Address – 48 Paseo Miraconcha, 20007 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain Admission  – Free Opening hours – 07:00 – 21:00 Reviews – Read Tripadvisor reviews of Miramar Royal Palace

10. See the huge crashing waves at Paseo Nuevo

Top things to do in San Sebastian Spain - New Promenade

Address – Pasealeku Berria, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain Admission  – Free Opening hours – 24 hrs Reviews – Read Tripadvisor reviews of Paseo Nuevo

11. Step inside Catedral del Buen Pastor, San Sebastián’s largest church

Top things to do in San Sebastian Spain - Inside Catedral del Buen Pastor

Located in the New Town, this Neo-Gothic cathedral was designed by Basque architect Manuel de Echave in 1880 and was completed in 1897. Inside is richly decorated with stained-glass windows and an organ consisting of more than 10,000 whistles, making it one of the biggest in Europe.

Address – Urdaneta Kalea, 12, 20006 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain Admission  – Free Opening hours – 08:00 to 12:30 and 17:00 to 20:00 Reviews – Read Tripadvisor reviews of Catedral del Buen Pastor

12. Visit the Museo de San Telmo History Museum

Learn about the cultural heritage of the Basque country at Museo de San Telmo, the biggest museum for Basque history from prehistoric times to the present day. The museum building is equally impressive occupying both a 16th-century Dominican convent and Renaissance-era buildings.

Over 26,000 historic artefacts are on display here providing an interesting insight into the country’s past.  The collection is divided into four key areas including fine arts, history, archaeology, and ethnology. In the fine arts area are paintings, drawings, and sculptures by El Greco, Rubens, Morán, and Ribera alongside Basque artists such as Arteta, Echagüe, Salaberría, Ugarte, and Zuloaga.

The history exhibit showcases weapons from the 15th century to the present day and the archaeology exhibit includes a collection of ceramics, coins, and pre-Columbian artefacts.

Address – Plaza Zuloaga, 1, 20003 San Sebastián, Guipúzcoa, Spain Admission  – Adult 6,00 €  / Students and over 65 years 3,00 €, free admission on Tuesdays Opening hours – From Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00 – 20:00 Reviews – Read Tripadvisor reviews of Museum de San Telmo Official website –   Plan your visit with the official Museo de San Telmo website

13. Surf, swim or stroll along Playa de Ondarreta

Top things to do in San Sebastian Spain - Playa de Ondarreta

During the winter, you’ll find bodyboarders and surfers here and from June to August the beach fills up with classic striped beach cabanas, lounge chairs, and sun parasols. On its promenade is a lovely garden with a sculpture of Queen María Cristina.

Address – Ondarreta Pasealekua, 20008 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain Admission  – Free Opening hours – 24hrs Reviews – Read Tripadvisor reviews of Playa de Ondarreta

14. Catch a ferry to Santa Clara Island (Isla de Santa Clara)

Top things to do in San Sebastian Spain - Santa Clara Island from Monte Urgall

Considered a Historical National Interest Site, this island offers a peaceful bathing experience paired with a café, restaurant, and picnic areas. Go in search of its natural swimming pools located in hidden nooks around the island before taking a leisurely and scenic stroll up to its charming lighthouse for excellent views.

Scenic boat rides around the bay with underwater viewing plus a trip to the island are available for 6,50 €.

Address – 82C2+J9 Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain Admission  – 4,00 € return Opening hours – During summertime from June 1 to September 30, a ferry runs from the San Sebastián harbour to the island every 30 minutes from 10:00 to 20:00. Reviews – R ead Tripadvisor reviews of Isla de Santa Clara Official website –  Plan your trip using the official Motoras de la Isla website.

15. Eat the World’s Best Cheesecake at La Viña

Where to Eat in San Sebastian - La Vina Cheescake

People from all over flock to La Viña bar and restaurant who critics claim make the “World’s Best Cheesecake”. La Viña bakes upwards of 100 cheesecakes a day so it’s fair to say they’ve definitely mastered the art of this mouthwatering crustless cheesecake (gazta tarta).

The caramelised cheesecake is a cross between a dense New York-style cheesecake and Spanish flan and for just 5,00 € each serving comes with two slices, which you won’t want to share. At least, I didn’t!

Address – 31 de Agosto Kalea, 3, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain Price   – 5,00 € for two slices Opening hours – Tuesday to Sunday 11:00 – 16:00 and 19:30 – 23:30 Reviews – Read Tripadvisor reviews of La Viña

16. Go surfing at Playa de la Zurriola

Top things to do in San Sebastian Spain - Playa de la Zurriola

Address – Zurriola Ibilbidea, s/n, 20002 Donostia-San Sebastián, Guipúzcoa, Spain Admission  – Free Opening hours – 24hrs Reviews – Read Tripadvisor reviews of Playa de la Zurriola

17. Visit the 12th-century Castillo de la Mota

Top things to do in San Sebastian Spain - Town Hall

Adorning the top the castle is a 12-meter high sacred heart statue (Cristo de la Mota) watching over the city by Frederico Coullaut who completed it in 1950.

Today, the castle is home to the Casa de la Historia (History House Museum) which documents the city’s 800-year history. Explore the museum with a tour guided by audio-visuals, models, objects and scenographies.

The walk to the top is lovely and for the most part, is shaded. The path up can be reached from Kaiko Pasealekua where the boats are or from the streets behind Basílica de Santa María del Coro. On a hot day, I recommend cooling off with a beer or ice-cream at Polboriña, a small cafe located near the castle with outdoor seating and gorgeous views of Santa Clara island.

Address – 82G6+2C Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain Admission  – Free Opening hours

  • Every day from 11:00 to 20:00 (July 1 – August 31)
  • Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 17:30 (September 1 – June 30 )

Reviews – Read Tripadvisor reviews of Castillo de la Mota

18. Visit Iglesia de San Vicente, San Sebastián’s oldest church

Top things to do in San Sebastian Spain - Iglesia de San Vicente Entrance

The church you see today was built during the first half of the 16th century under the Gothic style. Before entering the church, notice the sculpture of “La Piedad”, by the artist Jorge Oteiza on the church’s facade. Church of San Vicente is home to one of the best Romanesque altarpieces and highlights of the church, made by Ambrosio de Bengoechea in collaboration with Juanes de Iriarte.

A fun little fact I learned is that those who are christened in here are called “koxkeros”, after the stones protruding from the church (koxka in Basque).

Address – San Juan Kalea, 15, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain Admission  – Free Reviews – Read Tripadvisor reviews of Saint Vincent Church

19. Spoil your taste buds with a Pintxos and Ice-cream

Where to Eat in San Sebastian - Rojo y Negro - Patatas bravas and Sangria

A local tradition is to sample a local ice-cream so don’t be shy, try one, two or three San Sebastián’s ice creams in any of its ice-cream shops which boast a wide range of flavours.

Not sure where to start? For recommendations on where to eat in San Sebastián , see the section below!

Where to eat in San Sebastián

Let your taste buds take you on a tour of San Sebastián with these tasty restaurant recommendations.  A quick word of warning. If you’re vegan or vegetarian (like me), finding pintxos that meet your dietary requirements will be very difficult. The closest you’ll get is a tortilla de patatas, but you can’t just have this for every meal. My advice is to stick to dining in a restaurant where you’ll have more options. I also found this vegetarian pintxos tour which I’m annoyed I didn’t see earlier.

Here are all the places me and my friends ate at and recommend.

Old Town Coffee

Where to Eat in San Sebastian - Old Town Coffee - Bagel and Avocado toast

Address : Reyes Catolicos Kalea, 6, 20006 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain Opening times: Tuesday-Saturday 09:00 – 18:00 / Sunday 09:00 – 13:00

La Casa Vergara

Where to Eat in San Sebastian - Pintxos at La Casa Vergara

Address: Calle Mayor, 21, 20003 San Sebastián, Guipúzcoa, Spain Opening times: Everyday 11:00 to 24:00

La Cuchara de San Telmo

La Cuchara de San Telmo is well-known for preparing some of the best dishes in Basque cuisine. I must admit that nothing on the menu appealed to me as a vegetarian (I ate at a nearby restaurant afterwards) but nonetheless, my friends absolutely loved it.

Unlike most pintxo bars in San Sebastián, everything at La Cuchara de San Telmo is made to order based on what’s in season. For this reason, I recommend arriving early, no later than 20:00 otherwise you risk waiting in the long queue and once you get your food, you’ll have to eat it standing up outside. There is very little space inside and tables outside fill up quickly.

Everything here is good, or so my meat-eating girlfriends tell me. Some vegetarian options are available but to be honest, I’ve never liked French Onion soup 😛

Address: Santa Korda Kalea, 4, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain

Opening times:

  • Tuesday – Friday 19:30–00:00
  • Saturday – Sunday 12:00 – 15:30 and 19:30 – 23:30.
  • Monday closed

Xibaris Restaurante

I had one of my better vegetarian meals here. I had probably the best patatas bravas of the trip here and a large garden salad. It might look small from the outside but there is additional seating available downstairs. The service was excellent too.

Address: San Jeronimo Kalea, 20, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain Opening times: Monday – Tuesday 11:00 – 16:00 / Wednesday – Sunday 11:30 – 00:00

Where to Eat in San Sebastian - Polo Loco ice-cream

Address: Narrika Kalea, 10, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain Opening times: Everyday 11:00 – 01:00

Getting Around San Sebastian

San Sebastián is a very walkable city so it’s unlikely you’ll need to use public transportation to get around the city centre.

DBus is San Sebastián public bus network. Fares cost €1.70 (€2.10 at night) and can be bought on board from the drive. Buses run from 07.30 to 22.30 after which a limited night bus service continues until about 04:00. One of the most useful routes is bus 16, which connects the city centre with Monte Igueldo.

Taxis are available 24hrs a day with official rates in place which operate with a taximeter. unlike in other cities, taxis in San Sebastián do not normally stop when hailed down in the street. The best idea is to head for a taxi rank or phone Taxidonosti +34 943 46 46 46 or Vallina Teletaxi +34 943 40 40 40.

How to Get to San Sebastián from Bilbao city

If you’re coming from Bilbao you can catch the tram to San Mamès and catch a bus to San Sebastián. Tickets must be booked in advance via alsa.com . The journey time is roughly 75 minutes.

How to Get to San Sebastián from Bilbao Airport

San Sebastián has a domestic airport which is only 20 kilometers away with numerous connections to/from Madrid and Barcelona.  If you’re arriving from abroad, then your best bet is to fly into Bilbao  International which is approximately 100 kilometres away. The best and cheapest way to get to Donostia-San Sebastián from Bilbao Airport (Loiu) is by bus. There is a direct bus service which departs from the airport and will take you to the city centre in just 75 minutes. The bus stop is located outside the airport to your right, and the name of the bus company is PESA.

Departures: There is one departure per hour from 07:45 to 23:45. The bus making the route San Sebastián-Bilbao airport departs on the hour from 05:00 to 21:00. Price: Single tickets cost 17,10 euros. Check times and book your ticket here

Accommodation: Where to stay in San Sebastián

Accommodation Where to Stay in San Sebastian - Airbnb lounge room

Tours and Day trips from San Sebastián

Got more time? Consider going on a day trip or join one of these tours.

  • French Basque Countryside Tour
  • Biarritz and French Basque coast tour
  • San Sebastian Lunch Time Pintxo Tour with Wine
  • San Sebastián Electric Bike Tour
  • Basque Pintxos and traditional dishes cooking class
  • La Rioja Wine Full Day Experience Tour
  • Basque Cider Tour
  • Hondarribia and Pasaia (San Pedro & San Juan) Tour

san sebastian spain travel

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16 Best Things to Do in San Sebastian, Spain

By: Author Laura Bronner

Posted on Last updated: March 27, 2024

16 Best Things to Do in San Sebastian, Spain

When planning your trip to northeastern Spain, you’ll want to discover all of the best things to do in San Sebastian, Spain.

In San Sebastian, rising bluffs and golden sands create a memorable picture frame. They act as delightful boundaries and present experiences that put you in touch with the utter beauty of Basque Country. But what lies within the frame, the picture itself, is much more grand.

Like any work of art, the more you study it, the more unique wrinkles and discoveries you uncover. Enjoying the best things to do in San Sebastian is like that, albeit within a compact space.

Split by ancient walls, the city’s old and new sections create a brilliant blend of past and present. Historic architecture, cultural landmarks, and the aromas of traditional cuisine add layer after layer to San Sebastian. It’s a culinary destination above all else, so foodies will want to prepare for an epic vacation.

If you are visiting this region of Spain in March or April , it’s getting warmer, but just know that it will be quite rainy. Check out full guide for what to pack for Spain to make sure you have all of the essentials.

How to Get to San Sebastian

San Sebastian lies along Spain’s northern coast and is 13 miles (21km) from the French border. Although, it’s fairly simple to get to San Sebastian, even the local airport lies in a separate municipality.

San Sebastian Airport is around 20 minutes from town and has regional connections to Madrid and Barcelona Airport .

However, if you’re flying here from an international destination, then we recommend flying to either Biarritz or Bilbao Airport which both have more diverse options. The cities are 45 and 70 minutes away, respectively.

If you prefer to take the slow and scenic route, Spanish trains and buses depart regularly for San Sebastian from Madrid . This journey takes roughly 5.5 hours.

The promenade in San Sebastian is a beautiful place to stroll any time of day.

Where to Stay in San Sebastian

There are so many great places to stay in San Sebastian. While the town is known as a hub for luxury, it’s not difficult to find affordable pensiones  and hostels.

Uma Suites Ondarreta is well located in the old town only a few blocks away from La Concha and close to tons of great restaurants and pintxos bars in San Sebastian. Rooms are clean and simple and the price is unbeatable at €50 per night. Book a stay at Uma Suites Ondarreta here .

Enjoy Comfort is a little pension hotel located just three blocks from the beach. Locally owned, this little guest house has a few rooms with a shared bathroom and free coffee and tea facilities. It’s cleaner and more comfortable than a hostel and a good option for couples who want more privacy than a hostel.

Rooms start at €78 per night. Book a stay at Enjoy Comfort here .

Looking out over La Concha, guests will enjoy fabulous views from Hotel Niza that extend far beyond the price tag. The interior is infused with bright decor and the terrace allows you to enjoy the beautiful Bay of Biscay.

The hotel restaurant is inspired by the best of Biarritz and your excellent location means your steps from the water and minutes from the Old Town. Rooms start at €120. Book a stay at Hotel Niza here .

You can save money without losing on location with a stay at Hotel Parma . On the edge of the Old Town, this hotel looks over La Zurriola Bay, steps away from the town’s best surf. The family-run hotel comes with comfortable and bright rooms with a daily buffet breakfast. 

Rooms start at €125 per night. Book a stay at Hotel Parma here .

Near the celebrated Calle 31 de Agosto lies the beloved Hotel Maria Cristina . The architectural masterpiece, set along the Urumea River, is the height of luxury.

Draped in Belle époque elegance, your upscale room comes with great views, marble bathrooms, and rain showers. Downstairs lies a fine dining restaurant, and guests will be a brief stroll away from the heart of the Old Town.

Rooms start at €325 per night. Book a stay at Hotel Maria Cristina here .

15 Things to Do in San Sebastian

These are 15 of the best things to do in San Sebastian. Whether it’s your first time to this stunning beach town in Spain or you’re back for another summer in the Spanish sun, this list should help give you some fun new ideas. 

San Sebastian’s Old Town is a beautiful place to explore and one of the best things to do in San Sebastian.

1. Wander the Old Town

Wondering what to do in San Sebastian? Exploring the city’s Old Town is a great way to get acquainted with this beloved Spanish beach town. Known as Parte Vieja, the historic core lies between the Alameda del Boulevard and the heights of Monte Urgull .

San Sebastian provides visitors with a relaxed pace of life.

However, the history, eye-catching architecture, and the movements of locals provide this part of town with a pulsating atmosphere.

At its heart lies the Plaza de la Constitución. This sprawling public square brings locals and visitors together as one. The former bullfighting space is surrounded by lovely wrought-ironed balconies.

Wander without agenda down the many old, cobbled streets to find traditional Basque tapas and pintxos eateries. Plus, the historic Gothic church, Iglesia de San Vicente , is the oldest in the city.

2. Experience Mercado de la Bretxa

The history of San Sebastian will draw you in as much as the beauty found at along the coast. At Mercado de la Bretxa , you can wander back to 1870, when San Sebastian’s most prominent market began.

Mercado de la Bretx is a fixture of the Old Town. Not only does the facade of the market delight the eyes, but it’s also the perfect introduction to the city’s fabulous Basque cuisine. The cornerstone of this culinary delight is the quality of its fresh produce.

Come and explore the range of complex cheeses, fruits, and meats to create your own charcuterie picnic to enjoy at the beac. All the while, you can soak in the vibrant atmosphere of the traditional stalls. 

Santa Clara Island is well worth seeing up close.

3. See Santa Clara Island Up Close

Inevitably, you’ll find yourself soaking in the Spanish sun at La Concha Beach. From here, you’ll have a stunning view of Santa Clara Island. The vista will only tempt you to see it up close.

The island is surrounded by rugged rocks like. Santa Clara, in all its quaint beauty, is a welcome departure from the happening waterfront. Exploring it is one of the top San Sebastian activities.

You can paddle out to the island on kayak, but many prefer the helping hand of Motoros de la Isla and their boats. Once here, you can explore the natural swimming pools at high tide.

If the tide is out, a remote beach is exposed with memorable views. Afterward, check out the historic 1864 lighthouse before settling in for drinks and snacks at the resident beach bar.

4. Explore Montes Urgull & Igueldo

The town is surrounded by two beautiful bluffs, Monte Urgull and Monte Igueldo.

To start, we suggest heading up Monte Urgull . First, head to San Sebastian’s aquarium to connect with the Paseo Nuevo. Here, you’ll rise above Parte Vieja and wander around the tip of the hill that’s crowned by the alluring 12th-century Castillo de la Mota fortress .

Later, refuel with some tapas and take your weary legs to the other side of the bay. Here, you can ride the funicular to the top of Monte Igueldo , 600 feet (182m) above the sea.

On arrival, a mix of San Sebastian, the Basque countryside, and the arch of La Concha Beach provide a feast for the eyes. Oh, and there’s an amusement park here too!

Explore all of the different churches and cathedrals in San Sebastian.

5. Admire Buen Pastor Cathedral

The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, AKA Buen Pastor Cathedral , was completed in 1888. It lies in the newer part of town and is the biggest and most striking religious complex in San Sebastian.

Built from sandstone sourced from the subterranean wares of Monte Igueldo, the Neo-Gothic cathedral is highlighted by its 250ft central tower. The facade is simple yet breathtaking. The collection of spires, the colors of the sandstone, and the surrounding greenery fit together like puzzle pieces.

Yet, it’s what lies within that will leave the greatest impression. The enormous interior, spread across 20,600 square feet (1,913 sq meters), requires more than just a moment to take in.

Stained-glass windows line the walls, creating a kaleidoscopic effect. Lying at the end of the ethereal cathedral is the cathedral’s organ.

6. Take a Food Tour

Lying on the coastal edge of the rolling Basque countryside, San Sebastian is a foodie haven. It’s a place where you can eat as you stroll, popping in and out of local establishments to refuel on famous pintxos.

You’ll quickly start to get the hang of it. But to truly become an expert in Basque cuisine, one requires a local tour guide . Across your five stops, each paired with fantastic local wines, you’ll get to know the traditional flavors, each with its own story to tell.

On this food tour , you’ll also dive into San Sebastian’s Old Town to discover its impressive past that has evolved into a pintxos mecca. Your friendly, expert guide will help peel back the layers behind both the past and the evolution of the local cuisine. Book a food tour here .

Pintxos are a must-try when you are in San Sebastian.

7. Sunbathe on La Concha Beach

La Concha Beach is the white sand welcome mat set between San Sebastian and the spectacular waters of La Concha Beach. It’s this very bay, this soft sand and these gentle waves that have made this town so famous around Europe.

Its alluring Belle époque aura, thanks to the backdrop of classic buildings, is a pleasant reminder of Queen Maria Cristina. The queen’s pronouncement of La Concha being a Royal Beach made the city one of the most popular places for royals and dignitaries from around Europe to visit.

Today, all you have to do is lay down the beach towel and revel in the mix of golden sands and cobalt blue seas. For more action, kayak along the shores or wander the gorgeous Paseo de la Concha.

8. Try the Best Pintxos (Calle 31 de Agosto)

After your food tour, you’ll know a thing or two about pintxos. But when the cravings for these mouthwatering creations arise, where should you go? The answer is, Calle 31 de Agosto .

This convivial street is lined with pintxos bars serving up this traditional treat in all the right ways. Spread along the historic street, with architectural highlights of its own (hello, Basilica de Santa María del Coro), you’ll be faced with seemingly endless choices.

If you’re unfamiliar with pintxos, they are the Basque equivalent of tapas. Most often they are served on a slice of crusty bread and can range from fried seafood to sliced meat and cheese. They are usually pre-prepared and ready at the bars to have with a drink as a light snack. 

The best way to handle the smorgasbord of options is to enjoy just one at each establishment. Not only does this keep the appetite alive, but doing so allows you to experience a brilliant mix of atmospheres, not to mention the vibe of one of the city’s best thoroughfares. No wonder it’s one of the top attractions in San Sebastian.

San Sebastian is moody during the spring and early summer, making it great hiking weather, but not ideal beach weather.

9. Sightsee from The Water

So, you’ve seen the water from the land, but how about the land from the water? San Sebastian’s resident Bahia de la Concha is a small bay packed with highlights and you can see them all from the water.

Meeting at Donostiako Port, this catamaran experience takes you out into the bay for memorable panoramic views. As you glide across the turquoise waters, you’ll cruise by major highlights. These include the beautiful Oteiza sculpture and the impressive Paseo Nuevo sea wall as you make your way into the bay.

Soon, you’ll pass Peine del Viento sculpture and, once again, see Santa Clara Island. All while the mountains of Urgull and Igueldo stand like trustworthy companions. It all reaches its pinnacle when the Miramar Palace comes into view alongside the Pico del Loro. Book that boat tour here .

10. Experience San Sebastian Architecture

If you can’t get enough of San Sebastian’s captivating architecture and plethora of landmarks, then we have just the solution. Alongside a born-and-raised San Sebastian guide, you can take in all the must-see attractions.

This small-group tour begins on Boulevard Street along the 19th-century city walls that split the Old and New towns. It’s an appropriate spot to start ticking off the architectural highlights along the serpentine inner-city streets.

As you go, you’ll have the chance to see not only the iconic sights, but also the beloved local gems like the Hotel de Londres, Maria Cristina, and the Victoria Eugenia Auditorium. Like any good San Sebastian walking tour, it ends with a round of pintxos at a traditional bar. Book that architecture tour here.

San Sebastian is packed with tourists in August thanks to the good weather and European summer holidays.

11. Take a Basque Cooking Class

In San Sebastian you don’t eat while you visit, you visit while you eat. However, it’s one thing to experience the culinary brilliance of this port town. It’s a whole other thing to leave with some helpful tricks to recreate the tapas and pintxos in your own kitchen.

To aid in this, take part in a hands-on cooking class that unveils the secrets of Basque cuisine. The class is held within a real, family-run restaurant. This allows you to enjoy a class not just with a professional chef but in a unique environment too.

Across two and a half hours, you’ll learn how to create four iconic dishes, all before enjoying the fruits of your labor and trying your own creations. Book the Basque cooking class here .

12. Taste the Best of La Rioja Wineries

Arguably Spain’s most famous wine region, La Rioja, lies just two hours south of San Sebastian. The scenic drive takes you away from the coast, through Pamplona, and into the magical countryside.

The best way to visit the region as a day trip is to take a wine tour from San Sebastian. On arrival, you’ll have your choice of celebrated wineries spread among the beauty of northern Spain. The region is spread into eastern and western zones with different climates, leading to a welcome diversity of vinos.

Although the drive to the region and the flexibility of having a rental car is helpful. You can really indulge and leave the driving to your guide with this experience . You’ll also be able to go behind the scenes, discover local wine-making practices, and explore the medieval village of Laguardia. Book the wine tour here .

San Sebastian is without a doubt one of the most beautiful cities in Spain along the coast.

13. Visit Gaztelugatxe and Guggenheim

Game of Thrones may have come and gone, and some fanfare was lost among that odd 8th season. However, the film sites still make for great side trips with the history and visual accuracy creating a portal to the world of GOT.

Ninety minutes from San Sebastian lies the 10th-century fort of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe , or, as you may know it, Dragonstone. The impressive fort makes the 241-step climb more than worth it, with its historic charm and spectacular views.

With a chance to rest your feet, take a brief trip into the city of Bilbao . Here, you’ll find the iconic Guggenheim Museum. The unforgettable architecture makes way for fascinating exhibits showcasing contemporary art.

Book a tour that visits both as a day trip here .

14. Ride the Waves at Zurriola Beach

On the other side of Monte Urgull lies another sandy cove to enjoy during your time in San Sebastian. Where La Concha is all about relaxation, Zurriola Beach is all about action.

Depending on the time of year, the swells at Zurriola Beach can soar to heights of over six feet (1.8 meters). During the spring and summer, you’ll find beginner-friendly swells allow for the perfect sunset surf.

If you didn’t come to San Sebastian with your shortboard, you’ll find several rental shops in town and along the beachfront. Some will even offer lessons for newbies or those looking to take the next step. When it’s time to chill, Zurriola Beach has ample sand to laze about.

There are so many sculptures around the coastline that you can only see if you get out on a boat to explore.

15. Enjoy a Day Trip to Biarritz

Forty-five minutes northeast of San Sebastian is the beach town of Biarritz. Overflowing with elegance, the beloved resort town shares the same royal beginnings as San Sebastian. Ever since Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III, arrived in the 1800s, Biarritz has grown in popularity.

It makes for an easy day trip from your hotel and provides a lovely change of scenery further along the Bay of Biscay. As you admire the rolling waves of the, you’ll notice the dramatic coastline that lies in stark contrast to the town’s prestigious architecture. The difference makes Biarritz very easy on the eyes.

Like San Sebastian, you can visit great restaurants along the promenades, while even better surfing waits for those who want to chase the perfect break. Book a day tour to Biarritz here .

16. Listen to Music at Jazzaldia

Every summer, jazz lovers descend upon San Sebastian for a week of wonderful music.

The San Sebastian International Jazz Festival, known as Jazzaldia, happens each year in July. In 2024, it will take place from 23-28 July. It is the oldest jazz festival in Spain and has had acts like Bob Dylan, B.B. King, Simple Minds, and Patti Smith to name a few.

You can listen to the music for free if you get to the beach early enough to get a spot on the sand. You can also get tickets to some of the larger shows which give you access to be close to the stage.

You can learn more about the acts that are playing this year as well as get access to tickets on the Jazzaldia website .

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  • Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra
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  • La Concha Beach
  • Monte Urgull
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  • Ultimate San Sebastian Pintxos & Wine Tour (Evening)
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San Sebastian city guide: Where to stay, eat, drink and shop in Spain’s gourmet hot spot

Made with all the senses in mind, from its towering sea cliffs to the subtle belle epoque charm, san sebastián might be known as one hell of a foodie destination – but it’s so much more, says paul stafford, article bookmarked.

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Golden sand and green hillsides border San Sebastian

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T he waves crashing against surly cliffs, gracefully sweeping bays and verdant, landmark-capped hills around San Sebastián are the kind of backdrop that would elevate even the tackiest seaside resort. But San Sebastián is a different breed, concocted to satisfy the exacting demands of the Spanish Royal Court, which began summering in the city from the mid-19 th century, when Queen Isabella II was ordered to bathe in the Bay of Biscay waters to treat a skin condition. The result of that royal rash is a graceful Belle Epoque city that has aged beautifully, fringing the wide, sandy sweep of La Concha Bay.

By the mid-20 th century, the city’s stock declined somewhat, but San Sebastián never stopped trying to impress, particularly when it came to the inventive tapas-style pintxos . To gourmands, this is the unrivalled capital of Spain’s food scene, where top chefs are treated with the reverence of A-list celebrities, and where you’ll find the world’s highest ratio of Michelin stars per capita. The bar is raised so high that even the drabbest neighbourhood eateries keep culinary pace with the big players. Ingredients that sound exotic elsewhere, such as sea urchin and foie gras, are bandied about like they were flour and tomatoes.

It would be easy to stop at the food and miss out on the wealth of other experiences offered in this cultured city, but with museums exploring the region’s maritime and shipbuilding pedigree, hikes to hilltop viewpoints and some excellent surfing on the wild seas, there’s plenty of intrigue and entertainment to cram into your trip.

Read more Spain travel :

  • Coach versus train: Which wins out on a flight-free odyssey to southern Spain?
  • The ultimate Spain travel guide
  • How to plan the perfect pintxos crawl in Bilbao

Get up high

The majestic La Concha Bay’s entrance is presided over by two steep hills: Monte Urgull to the east and Monte Igueldo to the west. The former remains mostly forested, despite the city’s Old Town, Parte Vieja, and main port nuzzling right up to its lower reaches. Shaded paths zigzag through the trees and battlements of the 12th-century Castillo de la Mota, which caps Monte Urgull. The castle contains Urgulleko Historiaren Etxea , a small museum detailing the city’s history in Spanish, although the highlight is upstairs: the balcony with its lofty statue of Christ, which looks out over San Sebastián to the mountains beyond.

On the opposite side of the bay is the taller Monte Igueldo (205m), which is best accessed by the Funicular Monte Igueldo . At the top there is a small funfair for children and a sturdy 16th-century lighthouse, Torreón de Monte Igueldo . However, the main reason to venture up is for the sunset views from the various stone balustrades.

Discover local heritage and culture

San Sebastián is best discovered by simply walking through the pedestrianised warren that makes up the Old Town. In among these restaurant- and bar-packed streets are the city’s finest museums, particularly San Telmo Museum , where the history of local shipbuilding (which made the Spanish Empire possible), Basque culture, art and archaeology unfurl beneath the rafters of a 16th-century Dominican convent and its modern annex.

On the other side of the Old Town (no more than a 10-minute stroll away) is the impressive Aquarium , which has a walkthrough tank filled with grey nurse sharks, turtles and rays, plus separate exhibitions on naval history and marine biology. Nearby, the Euskal Itsas Museoa holds thoughtful, often revisionist, temporary exhibitions about the city’s role as shipbuilder in the Spanish Empire’s expansion, the slave trade and the whaling industry.

Get closer to nature

You’ll notice rather quickly that the Bay of Biscay in these parts is wild and uncompromising, which is why surfers love it. Zurriola Beach (aka Zurri), in the city’s youthful Gros neighbourhood, has the ideal beach breaks for learners, with plenty of nearby surf shops and hostels catering to the surfing crowd.

While the sea may be rough along much of the coastline, the waters in La Concha Bay are kept far calmer thanks to the two enclosing headlands and the bulwark of Isla de Santa Clara, a rocky island in the middle of the inlet. Motoras de la Isla runs regular boat trips to the island from the port beside the Old Town during the summer months, allowing you to explore Santa Clara’s wooded paths and visit the small lighthouse.

For beach lovers, Playa de la Concha is a lovely stretch of gently shelving, ochreous sand, lapped by much calmer waves than those over at Zurriola, making it the ideal place to swim in relative safety. It is overlooked by the 1912 Belle Epoque La Perla Thalasso , a thalassotherapy spa (using salt water in its treatments) and sports centre. The beach connects to the Old Town on its eastern edge and culminates in a rocky outcrop to the west, although the seafront promenade continues on to Ondarreta beach, which has a decidedly more orderly look to it, with its rows of blue and white beach umbrellas.

San Sebastián is the first major stop along the Camino de Santiago in Spain, with many hikers plying the excellent coastal paths in either direction. A popular 7.7km jaunt from San Sebastián winds eastward over the clifftops and drops down into Pasaia, where the Albaola Foundation runs the Itsas Kultur Faktoria , exploring the region’s history of whale hunting. The undoubted highlight here, however, is the full-scale replica of the San Juan ship being built using the traditional, 16th-century shipbuilding techniques used in the construction of the original galleon, which sunk off the Newfoundland coast in 1565.

Where to stay

Hotel maria cristina.

Perhaps the finest example of Belle Epoque architecture in the city is the five-star Hotel Maria Cristina, built in 1912 at the height of the city’s early popularity. The hotel, built by the French architect Charles Mewes, is named after the former Spanish Queen Regent. It is neatly sited a few minutes from La Concha Beach, and the Old Town and Gros neighbourhoods. The building contains a gourmet food shop and Mimo , which runs cooking classes on pintxos-making, as well as Basque and Spanish cuisine.

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Hotel Amenities

Health & wellbeing, hotel de londres.

Perched above La Concha Beach, Hotel de Londres, built in the 19 th century, is one of the city’s first stately hotels. The best rooms are those with sea views and little balconies fronting the elegantly furnished spaces. Some even have hot tubs with a view of the shoreline. Hotel guests receive discounted visits to La Perla Thalasso spa.

Surfing Etxea

One of the handful of surf hostels in San Sebastián’s Gros neighbourhood, Surfing Etxea is a modern space with ample lockable storage in four- or eight-bed dorm rooms. The shared lounge, terrace and in-house bar make it a good place to meet fellow travellers, not all of whom are here for the surfing. However, if you are here to tame the waves, classes for all abilities are bookable via the hostel reception.

Where to eat

The humble Spanish tapas gets a decadent makeover in the Basque Country in the form of pintxos. They are often small enough to polish off in a few bites but surprisingly complex when it comes to flavour, ingredients and construction. Even more confounding is the general level of quality wherever you go. This is largely due to the exacting standards of locals, whose custom keeps establishments afloat outside of the main tourism season; places that do not pass muster tend not to last very long.

There are scores of bars and restaurants serving pintxos, which are often arranged as small plates heaped atop the bar. The general approach is to order one or two whenever you order a drink. Common regional specialities start with the simple gilda (anchovies, chilis and an olive skewered on a cocktail stick) to more adventurous fare including sea urchin, foie gras, spider crab, and bonito. Try as much as you can in as many places as you can. Bar Sport, La Cuchara de San Telmo, Txepetxa Taberna and Bar Nestor are great starting points in the Old Town, while Bodega Donostiarra and Eguzki Berri are fine options in Gros.

Basque cuisine

Beyond pintxos, Basque cuisine makes fine use of the surf and turf delicacies the region is able to offer. The Basque coastline gave rise to dishes such as bacalao al pil-pil (salt cod coated in garlic and olive oil), while the verdant land is suitable for cattle-rearing. Chuleton el buey (steak) is served in huge, juicy chunks, often with a side of vegetables, such as hongos (wild mushrooms) or padrón peppers. La Txuleteria in the Gros neighbourhood serves up huge steaks, which arrive sizzling and already sliced atop a hotplate.

Restaurante Muxumartin is typical of Basque restaurants in San Sebastián, in that it will leave you wondering how it doesn’t have a Michelin star yet. Pintxos and regional cuisine are both served, the latter best represented on the tasting menu, which evolves with the seasons. The ravioli de txangurro (spider crab ravioli) and foie gras jugo de cebolla (onion soup) are highlights.

Michelin-starred dining

Currently there are three restaurants with at least one Michelin star in San Sebastián and another five in the city’s satellite towns. The Basque region as a whole has 22 restaurants with at least one Michelin star – and many more deserving of one. The Michelin Guide features 45 restaurants in San Sebastián alone, a city with fewer than 190,000 inhabitants. By way of comparison, York, Portsmouth and Colchester, each cities of similar size, can only muster 25 between them, only one of which is starred.

Within the city centre, Kokotxa (one star) in the Old Town, presents creative seafood-based concoctions that are firmly rooted in traditional Basque recipes, but borrow from the culinary idioms of countries such as India and Korea, for example lobster with kimchi. Amelia by Paulo Airaudo (two stars) adds an impeccable setting, overlooking Playa de la Concha, to its creatively crafted seasonal dishes, with caviar often featuring at some point.

Where to drink

Urgulleko polboriña.

This bar ’s view is the envy of all other bars in Spain. It sits atop the western battery ramparts of the Castillo de la Mota and is only usually open during the late spring to early autumn months. If your trip coincides with the bar’s being open, there really is no other competition.

Basque cider

Cider is a big deal in the Basque and in the sagardotegis ( sidrerías in Spanish), it is presented with a theatrical flourish that often involves pouring from great height to aerate the drink. Most traditional options like this are located in the hills around San Sebastián, particularly in the town of Astigarraga. In the city, try Txirrita Sagardotegia Sidreria , whose wooden panelling and large communal tables overlooked by floor-to-ceiling cider barrels offers a unique drinking and dining experience.

Old Town bars

You might be able to walk from one side of the Old Town to the other in 10 minutes, but it’ll take you 10 years to try all the bars crammed into this remarkable area. Etxeberria is notable for its selection of craft beers made at its own brewery. Borda Berri is typical of the majority of bars in the city, where you’ll find the Basque Country’s own exceptional white wine, known as txakoli (pronounced cha-koh-lee). Txakoli is traditionally served alongside tapas, which are excellent here. Thanks to its dry nature and high acidity, txakoli pairs well with seafood, particularly shellfish.

Where to shop

Gourmet basque food.

The wealth of local cider, wine and produce make gourmet food shops San Sebastián’s main go-to for souvenirs. La Oveja Latxa is a great place to sample and buy the region’s broad variety of cheeses, including those made from the milk of cows, goats or sheep, which are all farmed abundantly in the region. You can also pick up bottles of txakoli and olive oil. An alternative option, where fine wine is the central focus, is Lukas Gourmet , housed in Hotel Maria Cristina.

There are two main markets in central San Sebastián. Traders have plied their wares at Mercado de la Bretxa since 1870. Skip the supermarket and chain stores there for the covered market downstairs. This is where plenty of local chefs source their ingredients. Further south, Mercado San Martin also has decent produce stalls each day. Its proximity to Playa de la Concha makes it ideal for grabbing some tasty beach picnic supplies.

Architectural highlight

The Kursaal is one of San Sebastián’s finest modern buildings, upholding the penchant throughout the Basque Country for groundbreaking contemporary architecture with the betterment of public life in mind. As with much of the best new design, architect Rafael Moreno echoes the building’s natural surroundings by mimicking the cliffs to both the east and west of the city, in its two glass prismatic blocks. The Kursaal overlooks the sea, reflecting double when illuminated at night, while providing a 1,806-seat auditorium, a chamber hall and mixed-use events spaces within. It also hosts the annual San Sebastián International Film Festival.

What currency do I need?

What languages are spoken.

Spanish and the Basque language, known as Euskara. Many local residents are bilingual and many of the towns and cities are either named in native Euskara or add the local name in front of their Spanish names, hence Donostia-San Sebastián, with Donostia being the abbreviated Euskara version of Saint Sebastian.

How much should I tip?

Adding around 10 per cent to the bill is always appreciated, although it isn’t expected at bars and pintxos restaurants.

What’s the time difference?

How should i get around.

The Old Town is compact and easy to navigate thanks to it being largely pedestrianised. Bus 16 is regular and connects the Old Town to the funicular heading up Monte Igueldo.

What’s the best view?

On a clear day, nothing tops the panorama from the top of Monte Igueldo’s tower.

Insider tip?

Many people like to swim out to Isla de Santa Clara in summer. The shortest route is a 500m swim from Ondarreta Beach, to the southwest of La Concha bay, which is helped further by the presence of resting platforms called gabarrones , anchored in the water midway between the beach and island.

Getting there

Travelling flight-free.

It’s possible to travel by train from London to San Sebastián. Grab a Eurostar train from London St Pancras station to Paris Gare du Nord, then get to the other side of central Paris by Metro or taxi to Gare de Lyon. From here, take the TGV service to Hendaye, on the France-Spain border, which departs at least five times a day. Euskotren station is located beside Hendaye station, and connects onwards to San Sebastián.

Travelling by air?

British Airways runs direct flights between London City and San Sebastian airports roughly once a week. Otherwise, you can fly into Bilbao year-round from London and Manchester with easyJet , or from Gatwick with Vueling .

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Wanderlust Chloe

The Ultimate San Sebastian Itinerary – A Compact City Break For Foodies

View of La Concha

From where to eat the best pintxos to the most beautiful city views, this San Sebastian itinerary is the perfect introduction to the city.

Question: do you have a bucket list? That list of places that you hope to visit one day in your life.

One thing I love about a bucket list is that they’re 100% personal. A place that’s top of my list might not be somewhere you’ve ever dreamt of travelling to, and vice-versa. As a foodie, there were seven cities I’ve always wanted to eat my way around: Tokyo, Bologna, Lyon, Singapore, Montreal, New Orleans and San Sebastian.

Over the last few years I’ve eaten fresh sushi in Tokyo , sampled rich Lyonnaise cuisine in Lyon , cracked some crawfish in New Orleans , and just weeks ago I feasted on fresh tortellini in Bologna . There was only one dream foodie city left on my foodie bucket list, and it turns out I might have saved the best until last!

Ready to eat the laksa at Disfrutar Restaurant, Barcelona

San Sebastian is renowned for its amazing food scene. Every year, many people visit this city in northern Spain for a wining and dining experience like no other. It’s hardly surprising, after all San Sebastian in Spain’s Basque Country has the most Michelin-starred eateries per capita in Europe. In fact, there are more in this one city per capita than in London, and that’s really saying something!

There are two sides to eating out in San Sebastian. You can opt for high-end cuisine, enjoying Michelin starred tasting menus, or eat the local way with dish after dish of pintxos.

San Sebastian road trip

Pintxos are small dishes, often placed on a slice of bread or a skewer, providing tasty flavour experiences. They’re usually devoured in a few mouthfuls, so the best way to immerse yourself in the food scene is to bar hop around the old town, enjoying a little bite and a drink at several spots. Basically, it’s time to go on your very own pintxos tour !

In Bar Nestor San Sebastian

While the excellent cuisine might be the main reason for your visit, it turns out San Sebastian is a beautiful city with plenty to do. There are pretty walks, great viewpoints, historic landmarks, great shops and plenty more on offer. Lucky really, as if you’re really going to get the most out of your city break in San Sebastian, you’ll need to walk off a few pintxos to make room for the next round!

Enjoying the beach in San Sebastian

While the top-notch cuisine might be the main reason for your visit, it turns out San Sebastian is also a really beautiful city with plenty to do. I’ve always loved cities by the ocean (Barcelona, Nice, Split to name a few) so I had a feeling I’d like it in San Sebastian. There are pretty walks, pretty viewpoints, historic landmarks, quirky shops and plenty more. Pretty lucky really, as if you’re really going to truly this city, you’ll need to walk off a few pintxos to make room for the next round!

San Sebastian Plaza

If you’re just starting to plan your San Sebastian itinerary, I’ve packed this guide full of travel tips, so you can make the most of every single second!

Travelling with Original Travel

Our trip was organised by Original Travel, who specialise in luxury tailor-made holidays. They believe that as no two travellers are the same, no two itineraries would ever be identical either. Their team took care of all the hard work, so that all we had to do was relax and enjoy ourselves.

We spoke to the team and outlined the kind of trip we’d be interested in doing, how many days we had available and what our interests are. They then plotted out an itinerary with a mix of guided and self-guided elements, plus travel and accommodation.

Airport lounge

One of my favourite things about this trip was the ‘meet and assist’ service at Gatwick Airport. I’m a frequent traveller, so why would I need help checking in and going through security? Well, I don’t but wow does it have perks! We were met from our train by Paul, who then fast-tracked us to the premier check in desk, then whizzed us through the fast-track security to a fancy lounge. He collected us just before our flight and waved us off! What a luxury service, and something that’d be ideal for anxious or elderly travellers, or those with children. It really did make the airport experience stress-free.

Original Travel also included three tours on our San Sebastian itinerary: a pintxos tour, a wine tour and a cookery class. Each was the ideal fit for our interests. There was even an app and a personal concierge service, meaning we could call or text someone on the ground in Spain, who would help sort any queries during the holiday.

The accommodation that was selected for us was also a great match for our travel style. We were thoroughly impressed with the service by Original Travel and would definitely recommend the company if you’re looking for a stress-free personalised luxury holiday. While we tested out one of their Spain holidays , they can organise trips worldwide, so I’d recommend taking a look at the website here for more information.

So, back to the itinerary. Are you ready to dive in and find out my top tips for visiting San Sebastian? Vamos!

The Ultimate San Sebastian Itinerary

Go on a pintxos tour in san sebastian old town.

It can be a bit of a minefield knowing where to eat in a new city, so I was so happy that Original Travel found a great food tour for our first evening. Our guide Veronica was passionate about food, storytelling and the history of the city. Over the course of three hours we ate our way around the pretty streets of the Parte Vieja (Old Town).

San Sebastian pintxos

We learned all about the pintxos culture, what to order, how to order and where to find the tastiest morsels in town! Oh, and of course we needed a drink to go with each dish, so we were pretty merry by the end, sampling numerous local wines throughout the evening!

I’d 100% recommend adding a food tour to your San Sebastian itinerary. Yes, you could easily bar hop on your own, but you’ll appreciate the ingredients, the dishes and the Basque Country cuisine a whole lot more with a bit of insider knowledge.

Pretty streets of San Sebastian

If you’re visiting the city for a foodie break too, I’d recommend reading my guide to the best pintxos in San Sebastian . This post includes a really handy map to make eating your way around the city even easier!

Catch the Monte Igueldo Funicular

San Sebastian city centre is nestled between some small mountains, with lush, green undulating scenery all around. One of my favourite activities in San Sebastian is to catch the old funicular up to the top of Monte Igueldo . I loved hopping on board the ancient carriages of the bright red funicular (built in 1912) and watching as the views expanded below. It takes you up around 350m, which would be pretty painful to walk! 

Add the Monte Igueldo Funicular to your San Sebastian itinerary

Once at the top you’ll have one of the best views of San Sebastian, stretching right along La Concha beach to the old town and Monte Urgull. It’s spectacular! If you’ve seen photos of the city, with Santa Clara Island in the centre, most likely they were taken from this spot.

View from Monte Igueldo

Sadly, during our visit, the famous fairground at the top was closed. In peak season though you can enjoy stepping back in time on the vintage fairground rides, which include a wooden rollercoaster, a haunted house and a traditional carousel.

Book a cookery class in San Sebastian

I’ve already mentioned how visiting pintxos bars with a local gave me a greater understanding of the Basque culture. But, shopping for ingredients in the local markets and cooking with a chef gave me a whole new appreciation for the regional cuisine. Original Travel organised a five-hour cookery experience with a top chef from Mimo, focused on fresh fish and seafood.

Market tour of San Sebastian

We started the day at a marisqueria (fish market) in the centre of the city, learning about all of the interesting sea creatures caught close by. We also went to Mercado de la Bretxa, the city’s main market to pick up more ingredients, including some tasty Basque cheeses. Seeing the locals go about their daily shopping, interacting with market stall owners and sampling the fresh produce gave us lots of guidance, but also the confidence to return on our own!

Cookery class Mimo San Sebastian

Back in the kitchen at Mimo we created several dishes with the help of skilled chef Pato. These included gooseneck barnacles, a raw prawn carpaccio, cod jowl with green tear peas and red mullet in a dashi broth with smoky aubergine. It’s fair to say we made some gourmet dishes, but most were with ingredients I’d never worked with before. What a great introduction to modern Basque cuisine!

Trek to the top of Monte Urgull

In between all the feasting, you’ll no doubt be looking for a few places for some exercise! I mean you need to burn off a few pintxos to make room for your next plate! One of my favourite scenic hikes was from next to the San Telmo Museum up to the top of Monte Urgull. There are several options of trails, and the one we picked offered a lovely mix of coastal views and woodland.

View from Monte Urgull, San Sebastian

At the top you’ll find the 12m Sagrado Corazón statue, Castillo de la Mota, a chapel and the English Cemetery. The views over La Concha and the coast are stunning, especially if you visit on a sunny day.

If you get thirsty, I’d recommend stopping at Urgulleko Polboriña . This small café bar is perched on the edge of Monte Urgull and offers one of the best views in the entire city. For a couple of Euros, you can relax with that epic view as a backdrop – heavenly!

Coffee at Monte Urgull

Sample some of San Sebastian’s most famous dishes

While I’d definitely recommend booking a pintxos tour for your trip to San Sebastian, there are a few bars that are pretty legendary, for all the right reasons. They’ve been serving great food for a long time, are mentioned in all the guides, and they’re busy because they’re good!

So what would I recommend? Well, you simply have to try San Sebastian’s most famous pintxos: the Gilda. This is a skewer stacked with three pickled peppers, two olives and one anchovy. It’s salty, spicy and pickley all in one.

Gilda pintxo

I’d recommend visiting Bar Nestor or La Viña for the city’s famous txuleta – a rib steak that’s usually enormous and served pink with a tasty crack of salt over the top. Order sides of tomato salad and pimientos (fried padron peppers) to go with it. YUM!

San Sebastian txuleta

To finish? You have to try the famous San Sebastian cheesecake at La Viña! It’s a baked cheesecake, with a smooth, creamy middle and a burnt caramelised outside. I can confirm, after two portions (!!) it’s absolutely delicious!

San Sebastian cheesecake

Relax on La Concha

How about spending the day on San Sebastian’s most famous beach? La Concha is often regarded as one of the best urban beaches in Europe. The large bay is just under a mile long and has glorious golden sand, a chic promenade and is topped with a scattering of bars and restaurants. Set behind you’ll be able to spot the vast Miramar Palace, a late 19th-century palace built for the Spanish Royal Family.

La Concha beach in San Sebastian

Choose your patch of sand, enjoy a spot of sunbathing or take a refreshing dip in the water. The water here is sheltered by the peninsulas of Mount Urgull and Mount Igueldo, as well as Santa Clara Island. It’s also a lovely place to go stand up paddle boarding or kayaking.

Learn about Txakoli on a wine tour

Before our pintxos tour in San Sebastian, I’d never heard of Txakoli. It’s a variety of wine produced in this region of Spain, that’s dry and lightly sparkling. I quickly learned how delicious it was, and had several glasses on our city break!

It turns out some of the vineyards are just 20-minutes from the city centre making this one of the best day trips from San Sebastian. Isn’t that amazing? Original Travel organised for us to visit Hirutza for a wine tour and tasting. I was in awe of the scenery! Big mountains, sweeping valleys and rows of vines lay before us. It really is the most spectacular location!

Walking through Hiruzta vineyard

After touring the winery and learning about the production of Txakoli, we sat down in the sunshine and enjoyed three wines paired with tasty pintxos. This was one of the highlights of our San Sebastian itinerary! Sitting there enjoying the natural beauty of northern Spain while sipping on light and elegant wines – what’s not to love?!

Hiruzta wine tasting

Go shopping in San Sebastian Old Town

It’s a given that you’ll spend a lot of your evenings in San Sebastian old town, but I’d recommend making time to visit the skinny streets during the daytime too. While some of the tapas bars will be closed, you’ll discover a maze of independent stores selling stylish clothing, homewares and foods. I particularly liked the surfer shops, selling cute and colourful beachwear.

San Sebastian Old Town

Many tourist city centres are filled with souvenir stores, but the heart of San Sebastian doesn’t seem to have that. You really can have an enjoyable and authentic shopping experience.

Catch some surf on Zurriola Beach

One of the things we enjoyed about the location of our accommodation was that it was a few minutes’ walk from La Zurriola. This beach is popular with surfers and is a great place for people watching. From complete beginners having their first lessons, to pros tearing up the waves, you’ll find people of all abilities here.

La Zurriola Beach

There are several restaurants and cafes across the road in the Gros neighbourhood too. This district is pretty hip and cool, and has a younger feel than the old town.

Walk or run along Paseo Nuevo

I love it when a destination has a proper promenade along the coast, and in San Sebastian there’s Paseo Nuevo. This ‘new promenade’ surrounds the base of Mount Urgull and provides a great route for walkers, joggers, dog walkers and cyclists who love to get close to the ocean!

I loved my early morning run along here. With the sea breeze in my hair and sounds of the crashing waves – it definitely made a change to my London park runs!

Enjoy a Michelin-Starred meal

There are 11 Michelin-starred restaurants in San Sebastian, so if you’re visiting for a foodie-themed trip, I’d recommend booking one special meal. Yes, they’re expensive, but they offer a chance to try some of the best food on the planet. This is a city filled with top chefs, expressing their creativity through food. How exciting is that?!

The top ranking of three stars goes to Arzak, Akelarre and Martin Berasategui, while Mugaritz and Amelia have two Michelin stars. I dream of visiting one of these one day, but we decided to start with one star restaurant Mirador de Ulia . This is a restaurant offering a gastronomic experience packed full of Basque Country flavours and ingredients, with the most incredible view. It’s located in the hill overlooking Zurriola Beach, so from your table you’ll have sweeping panoramas of the entire city.

Mirador de Ulia view

We enjoyed an 11-course tasting menu, which featured duck, artichoke, pork tartar, fish and clams. One of my favourite dishes looked just like an apple, but actually contained a cider granita! It really played with my mind! There were also some fun moments of theatre as clams were set on fire by the table and a crepe suzette was scorched with a blow torch.

Mirador de Ulia

Get to know the Gros neighbourhood

Looking for the trendy side of San Sebastian? Leave the old town behind and head to the Gros neighbourhood. This youthful part of the city has La Zurriola surf beach at the front, followed by several streets of lively pintxos bars, hipster cafes and clothing stores.

Looking for somewhere to eat? Don’t miss Bergara, Bar Ricardo, Pagadi, Matalauva, The Loaf bakery and the ever-popular Bodega Donostiarra Gros. For a gastronomic (and very photogenic) food experience check out the tasting menu at Galerna Jan Edan. In terms of shops, don’t mix Six Store on the seafront and Oh Lala.

Prawn skewer at Pagadi

Where to stay in San Sebastian

We stayed at Hotel Villa Soro , a boutique luxury hotel with a country-house feel, selected by Original Travel. Once a large family home, this smart villa oozes charm and sophistication with its high ceilings, vast lobby and grand staircase. We stayed in one of the best rooms (13). It was once the master’s bedroom and has a wide balcony overlooking the lawn.

Villa Soro, San Sebastian

This hotel is just a fifteen-minute walk to the old town, and five minutes from La Zurriola Beach. If the walk feels like too much effort, the hotel offers free bikes, making it easy to get around and see the sights.

Relaxing at Villa Soro

Service was exceptional, and while it’s a bit further out than many of the city’s hotels, you get a wonderful feeling of tranquillity by not being right in the hustle and bustle.

Villa Soro San Sebastian

How to get to San Sebastian

If you’re looking for international flights to San Sebastian Airport, you’ll be disappointed! The city has a commercial airport (in Hondarriba) but it’s mainly for internal flights. Most people fly to Bilbao, which is around one hour away by taxi or bus.

A big thanks to Original Travel for organising our dream foodie holiday to San Sebastian. It really was a big bucket list tick! You can find out more about travelling to Spain with Original Travel here . As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Don’t forget to check out my guide to the best pintxos in San Sebastian , which includes a really handy map of all the best pintxos bars.

If you’re looking for other ultimate foodie breaks, I’d recommend reading my guides to Bologna and Valencia . Or for other travel tips for this region of Spain, check out my Northern Spain road trip itinerary .

Chloe Gunning

With a passion for food, fun and adventure, Chloe is the content creator behind one of the UK's top travel blogs Wanderlust Chloe. From volcano boarding in Nicaragua, to sailing around Sicily and eating her way around Japan, her travels have taken her to some of the coolest spots on the planet. Named Travel Influencer of the Year in 2022, Chloe regularly works with a number of tourism boards, producing inspirational travel content across multiple platforms. Find out more about Chloe here.

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Spain Guides

San Sebastian Spain

Visitor Guide & Tourist Information

 San Sebastian Spain

San Sebastian Spain

Welcome to our latest comprehensive one-stop visitor and tourist guide that will help you plan your next trip to San Sebastian Spain.

San Sebastian, located in the Basque Country of northern Spain , is known as the Pearl of the North due to its stunning architecture, beautiful beaches and world-renowned culinary scene.

The city's unique blend of Basque and Spanish cultures makes it a fascinating place to visit.

One of the city's main attractions is La Concha Beach, a crescent-shaped beach that attracts surfers, swimmers, and sunbathers alike.

Along the beach is the beautiful promenade Paseo de la Concha, which is a perfect place for a lone stroll overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and stunning views of the city and the surrounding mountains.

San Sebastian Old Town, or Parte Vieja, is home to some of the city's best historic sites and charming bars and restaurants . The narrow streets are lined with pintxos bars, each one serving their unique take on this famous dish of small tasty snacks typically served on bread with various toppings.

Pintxos ( Tapas )  are an important part of San Sebastian culture. These small bites are often served on skewers and can be found in almost every bar in the city. Some of the most popular pintxos include Gilda, a skewer of olives, peppers, and anchovies, and the Txalupa, a skewer of prawns and mayonnaise.

One of the best ways to experience San Sebastian's gastronomic culture is through the numerous food tours and cooking classes offered in the city. You can learn all about the renowned culinary scene including the cooking techniques that make Basque cuisine so unique.

San Sebastian is also famous for its beautiful Belle Epoque architecture, such as the stunning Palacio de Miramar and the Teatro Victoria Eugenia , both of which are located in the city center.

If you´r a history and culture buff, the San Telmo Museum is a must-visit. The museum showcases Basque history and culture through a variety of exhibits and interactive displays.

5 Interesting Facts About San Sebastian Spain

San Sebastian Promenade

  • San Sebastian was given to the King of Navarre in 1265 as part of a wedding dowry, this provided the kingdom with a perfect seaport to trade and export goods.
  • San Sebastian was almost totally destroyed in 1808 when Napoleon's troops laid siege to the city. Only one street survived, the 31st August Street as it is known today. When they rebuilt San Sebastian stone was used instead of timber as it was before.
  • The modern tourism love affair with San Sebastian began in the early part of the 19th Century when it was frequently visited by Royalty escaping the heat of central Spain.
  • The gastronomy of San Sebastian is unequalled and one of the best reasons to visit the city.
  • San Sebastian has a near-perfect urban design and is often compared to being like Rio de Janeiro.

24 Best Things To Do In San Sebastian

Tapas Bar San Sebastian

  • Visit La Concha Beach: Relax on the golden sands of La Concha, one of Europe's most beautiful urban beaches, offering stunning views of the bay and the cityscape.
  • Explore the Old Town (Parte Vieja) : Wander through the charming streets of the Old Town, filled with pintxos bars, traditional shops, and beautiful architecture.
  • Taste Pintxos: Indulge in the culinary delights of San Sebastian by sampling it on a pintxo tour , the local version of tapas, at renowned bars like Bar Zeruko and La Cuchara de San Telmo.
  • Climb Mount Urgull: Hike to the top of Mount Urgull to enjoy panoramic views of the city, visit the historic Castillo de la Mota, and explore the open-air sculpture park.
  • Discover Monte Igueldo: Ride the funicular to the top of Monte Igueldo and enjoy breathtaking views of San Sebastian, along with an old-fashioned amusement park.
  • Visit the San Telmo Museum : Explore the San Telmo Museum , which showcases Basque culture and history through its impressive collection of art and artefacts.
  • Surf at Zurriola Beach: Catch some waves at Zurriola Beach, a popular spot for surfing and other water sports.
  • Explore the Peine del Viento: Marvel at the sculptures of Eduardo Chillida and the crashing waves at the iconic Peine del Viento (Comb of the Wind) located on the rocky coast.
  • Go on a Gastronomic Tour: Join a guided food tour to discover the best local restaurants, markets, and hidden culinary gems of San Sebastian.
  • Visit the Basilica of Santa Maria : Admire the stunning Gothic architecture of the Basilica of Santa Maria , the main church in San Sebastian's Old Town.
  • Take a Boat Trip: Explore the scenic coastline and nearby islands on a boat trip, offering breathtaking views and opportunities for swimming and snorkelling.
  • Enjoy the Aquarium: Visit the Aquarium Donostia-San Sebastian to discover a diverse range of marine life and learn about the ocean ecosystem.
  • Walk along the Paseo Nuevo : Stroll along the Paseo Nuevo, a picturesque waterfront promenade that offers stunning views of the sea and the city's skyline.
  • Visit the Museum of San Telmo: Discover the rich history and art of the Basque region at the Museum of San Telmo , housed in a former 16th-century convent.
  • Explore the Kursaal: Marvel at the modern architecture of the Kursaal, a cultural and congress center that hosts various events and exhibitions throughout the year.
  • Relax at Ondarreta Beach: Enjoy a peaceful day at Ondarreta Beach, a serene stretch of sand known for its tranquillity and picturesque surroundings.
  • Visit the Chillida-Leku Museum: Experience the renowned sculptures and artwork of Eduardo Chillida at the Chillida-Leku Museum , set amidst beautiful parkland.
  • Hike to Mount Jaizkibel: Embark on a scenic hike to Mount Jaizkibel, offering breathtaking views of the coastline and the French border.
  • Attend the San Sebastian International Film Festival: Experience the glitz and glamour of the prestigious San Sebastian International Film Festival , held annually in September.
  • Visit the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd: Admire the neo-Gothic architecture of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, the main Catholic church in San Sebastian.
  • Explore the Miramar Palace: Wander through the gardens and enjoy panoramic views of the bay from the Miramar Palace, a former royal residence.
  • Dine out in one of the highly-rated Michelin-starred restaurants .
  • Pop on a ferry across to Santa Clara Island.
  • Visit the City Hall - bullet-ridden walls and all!

San Sebastian Neighbourhoods

If you plan to visit San Sebastian then it will help to get acquainted with each of the main sub-district. Each area offers a unique charm and distinct personality offering visitors different aspects of the city.

The City Centre

La Concha Beach

The city centre ( Google Maps ) is situated around the middle of the Playa La Concha , the Old Quarter and the start of the Amara district.

Starting from the north end of the City at the Alameda del Boulevard head south along the Calle Legazpi to the Plaza de Guipuzcoa close to the Calle Camino , along the route you will see some fascinating architecture.

Heading south again enjoy the buzz of the city as you walk down to the Avenida de la Libertad.  This is the financial district of the city where you will find most of the major Spanish banks along with the top brand-named stores.

Crossing over down the Bergara and Prim streets, this will then lead you to the Plaza Bilbao , home of some of the most striking buildings such as the Cathedral del Buen Pastor , and the home of the current post office - Edificio de Correos .

If you go east of the Plaza Bilbao you can also reach the Estacion del Norte ( the North Railway Station ) which was designed by a famed architect, Monsieur Eiffel, famous for another well-known landmark in Paris.

Just off the Plaza Bilbao heading east I would recommend a visit to the Marie Cristina bridge ( Puente de Marie Cristina ). This unique ornate bridge was built at the turn of the 20th Century out of iron and concrete and has some very interesting features such as sculptured dragons, navel scenes and coats of arms.

The Romantic Area

Basque Country Tapas Bar

The Romantic District of San Sebastian ( Google Maps ), also known as Parte Vieja or Old Town, is a charming and historic neighbourhood in the heart of the city.

It is famous for its narrow streets, historic buildings, charming architecture and lively atmosphere.

The district is home to several attractions such as the picturesque port area, the famous La Concha Beach, the San Telmo Museum, and the stunning Baroque-style Basilica of Santa Maria.

It is also a popular destination for foodies, with numerous pintxo bars and restaurants serving delicious Basque cuisine.

Head off to the Romantic district for a stroll around the winding streets, soak in the local culture, and indulge in some fantastic food and drink.

The Old Quarter

Plaza Salamanca San Sebastian

As the name suggests this is the old part of the city of San Sebastian, It stands sandwiched between the foot of Mount Urgull ( Google Maps ) and the city centre and opens out to the sea on both sides from the Plaza de Salamanca to the old Harbour area. The area was completely rebuilt after a devastating fire therefore only a very few buildings predate 1813.

Soak up the atmosphere whilst walking around the cobbled streets and narrow alleys discovering some of the best pintxo bars, restaurants and speciality shops that San Sebastian has to offer. To the north of the old quarter is Mount Urgull, a demanding climb to the top is well worth the effort as you will be treated to an exhilarating view over the city and the Mota Castle .

On the west side of the mount is the English Cemetery , the  Military Museum and the fascinating Aquarium which has a glass tunnel walkway where you enjoy a 360-degree view of the marine life, and the Naval Museum which is located slightly north of the Royal Nautical Club.

If you enjoy walking around local indoor food markets as we do then try a trip to the Bretxa Market -  Mercado de la Bretxa   - situated just off the Avenida del Boulevard there you will find many colourful stalls full of all the fine produce the area has to offer.

Two of the city's oldest churches can be found in the old quarter, the Basilica de Santa Maria del Coro and the Convent of San Telmo which now acts as a museum.

At the centre of the old quarter is the beautiful Plaza de la Constitucion where the main city's festivities take place and is fondly known as ”La Consti ” by the locals.

The plaza used to be the bull ring in the Middle Ages and is surrounded by buildings with large white painted balconies, which are numbered and where the spectators could easily view the fight.

Roaming around the old part is a great way to soak up the charm whilst enjoying the unmistakable atmosphere of an area steeped in history yet still manages to continue with its traditional local life.

Gros District

Kursaal Bridge San Sebastain

The Barrio Gros ( Gros District ) is located to the east of the city and the river Urumea, it provides a picturesque view of San Sebastian and has the lovely beach of La Zurriola , a large beach of fine golden sand.

The Gros district ( Google Maps ) can be both laid back and tranquil and then again bustling with commerce, depending on the time of day and week you spend visiting the area. The Kursaal convention hall is situated in this district and attracts swarms of conventioneers, it also houses exhibitions and cultural events.

There are also a good number of tapas bars and restaurants to cater for the large numbers of tourists, locals and conventioneer along with a good selection of Hotels and Hostels. Eating out in the Gros District is as good a place as any in San Sebastian with some of the finest restaurants being located here along with a good selection of Tapa ( Pintxo ) bars where you can arguably find the best hot tapas in Donostia.

At the Western end of the beach and Gros District, you will find the Puente de Zurriola ( The Zurriola bridge ) which is also known as the Kursaal bridge , it majestically straddles the River Urumea and has some quite spectacular fixtures such as the lighting which are six light-house shaped towers.

Best Attractions in San Sebastian

Santa clara island.

San Sebastian

The little Santa Clara Island is situated just offshore in the beautiful bay of La Concha , and although it is quite small in dimensions, it does, in fact, have a clean sandy beach.

The charming island can be reached by boat, however, the beach area gets completely covered during the day due to the high tides, so best to make sure you know the tide times before planning your trip to the island.

The Comb of the Wind - Peine del Viento

Comb of the Wind - Peine del Viento

The Comb of the Wind is a collection of three sculptures created by renowned artist Eduardo Chillida which were then arranged as an architectural work by the Basque architect Luis Peña Ganchegui.

The sculptures are located at the foot of Monte Igueldo at the end of the Ondarreta beach.

San Telmo Museum

San Telmo Museum San Sebastian

The  San Telmo Museum is the oldest in the Basque country. It was created in 1902 and is dedicated to the interpretation and showcase of Basque prehistoric to modern society. The museum is situated below Mount Urgull and houses over 26,000 art pieces across 11,000 square meters of display space.

Mount Urgull

Mount Urgull

Urgull Mount towers over the center of Donostia, offers magnificent views over the city, and houses a public park with remnants of 18th-century cannons and fortifications. It played an important role in the conflict between the French and the local population.

San Sebastian International Film Festival

San Sebastian Film Festival

The  San Sebastian International Film Festival is an annual Donostia festival that is considered just as important as the Cannes festival. It is held in late September, showcases about 200-250 international films and awards the Golden Shell.

Basilica of Santa Maria

Basilica Santa Maria

The  Basilica of Santa Maria is emblematic of the city and is an important element of Donostia's history. Its construction was completed in 1764, and today it is considered important by both atheists and believers.

Tabakalera Museum

The  Tabakalera museum houses avant-garde and contemporary displays across the media of sound, science, films and television, design, contemporary art, technical observatory, gastronomical showcases, etc. This is a must-visit for enthusiasts of innovative art.

Victoria Eugenia Theatre

This iconic building first opened in 1912 as an important cultural stage in San Sebastian. Recently renovated, the  Victoria Eugenia Theatre  today is one of the most beautiful buildings in town and is a host to musicals, plays and other cultural events throughout the year.

Kursaal Exhibition Centre

The  Kursaal exhibition centre  is an icon of San Sebastian with a large auditorium, chamber music hall and exhibition rooms. It hosts the Film Festival and other concerts ranging from classical to contemporary pop and rock. The unusual design of the building with its translucent crystal structure also makes it an admirable attraction in itself.

The San Sebastian Heineken Jazz Festival

The  Heineken Jazz Festival  is held every year, usually in the third week of July, a tradition that has been going on since 1966. The festival usually hosts a hundred concerts across 12 indoor and open air venues. The shows at  Kursaal Auditorium  and Zurriola Beach are particularly popular.

San Sebastian Spain Beaches

San Sebastian is renowned for its picturesque beaches that offer something for everyone, from sunbathers and surfers to families and couples.

Here are some of the best beaches in the city:

  • La Concha Beach: Often cited as one of the best urban beaches in Europe, La Concha is perfect for swimming and sunbathing. The golden sands and calm waters make it ideal for families. It's also close to the city center, offering easy access to restaurants and shops.
  • Ondarreta Beach: Located at the western end of La Concha Bay, Ondarreta is smaller but equally stunning. This beach is favoured by locals and is great for sunbathing, beach volleyball, and paddleball.
  • Zurriola Beach: This is the go-to beach for surfers. Located in the Gros district, Zurriola offers strong waves suitable for surfing and bodyboarding. The beach is also popular among young people and has a vibrant atmosphere.
  • Isla Santa Clara: This small island in the middle of La Concha Bay has its own beach which can be accessed by a short boat trip. The beach is small and gets submerged during high tide, but it offers excellent views of San Sebastian.

Gastronomy of San Sebastian

San Sebastian is a culinary destination like no other, visitors flock here from all around the globe to enjoy its delicious gastronomic offerings.

It's considered one of the best food destinations in the world, with an incredible variety of local dishes and a thriving pintxo bar culture.

One of the most famous dishes is the Basque-style cod, also known as bacalao al pil-pil. Other popular dishes include txangurro, a spider crab dish, and kokotxas, hake cheeks served in garlic and oil. The Basque region is also famous for its grilled meats, with txuleton, a large sirloin steak, being a must-try dish.

San Sebastian has more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than any other city in the world. Some of the most famous ones include Arzak, Akelarre, and Martin Berasategui.

Pintxo bars, which offer bite-sized snacks and a variety of local wines and ciders, are also a huge part of San Sebastian's gastronomy scene. Some of the best pintxo bars include La Cuchara de San Telmo, Bar Zeruko, and Gandarias.

San Sebastian also hosts the annual San Sebastian Gastronomika food festival, which attracts chefs from all over the world to showcase their culinary creations. The festival includes cooking demonstrations, workshops, and tastings.

About the famous Pintxo

Pintxos are small dishes of food, similar to tapas, that are commonly found in bars in the Basque Country, particularly in San Sebastian.

There are many versions of how and where the Pintxo was invented, one thing is for sure, the Basque Country and San Sebastian have taken them to a whole new level.

San Sebastian is now home to some of the best pintxo bars in the world. These charming and busy bars offer a wide variety of pintxos, from traditional classics to modern, innovative creations.

Some of the most popular pintxo dishes in San Sebastian include Gilda, a skewer of anchovy, guindilla pepper, and olive; Tortilla de Bacalao, a salt cod omelette; and Txangurro, a stuffed crab dish.

In addition to these traditional pintxos, San Sebastian is also known for its Michelin-starred restaurants, many of which offer their own unique take on pintxos.

Top places to eat out in San Sebastian

Pintxos

Restaurant Arzak

One of the finest restaurants in San Sebastian is undoubtedly  Restaurant Arzak and if your budget will allow then it is crucial to try at least once.  Chef Arzak and his daughter are masters at the best Nueva Cocina Vasca .

Easily scoring 3 Michelin stars, Arzak can be quite exclusive though and you will need to make a reservation. Clients can choose from a very large assembly of foods and tastes with traditional San Sebastian dishes as prepared by one of the best chefs in the area.

Location:  Av Alcalde Elósegui, 273, 20015 San Sebastián-Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain.   Wesbsite:   https://www.arzak.info/

Restaurant La Cepa

La Cepa is a fine local culinary institution famous for serving up the finest Spanish cured  Jabugo, known for its unique taste and quality. Other typical dishes on offer include octopus, meatballs, and homemade sausages. They also offer a fine wine collection from the best wineries in the Rioja and Ribera del Duero. They’ve been operating for more than 70 years and are highly recommended by the locals.

Location: 31 de Agosto Kalea, 7, 20003 San Sebastián-Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain.     Website:   https://barlacepa.com/

Bar Goiz Argi

A small bar located at Calle de Fermin Calbeton 4, Goiz Argi also specializes in seafood, try the shrimp skewers or Brocheta de Gambas . They also offer octopus and what is known locally as breakfast wine! It’s a fairly small bar though so get there early as it starts to fill up quite early as it well favoured by the locals.

Location:  Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 4, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain . On  Facebook : 

Txepetxa Tapas Bar

The first tapas bar on our list Txepetxa which is located in the old part of the city in  Calle Pescaderia num.5.  This is one of the most popular tapas bars in San Sebastian opened its doors in 1973 and has been on the receiving end of many gastronomic awards over the years. They serve some of the best homemade pintxos prepared with love and dedication.  You can enjoy a large variety of local ingredients including crabs, octopus, anchovies, mussels, and shrimp.  All of these are served with a flair that certainly wets the appetite the minute you enter the bar whilst enjoying the artistic display of its famous patrons from the past.

» Check out our guide to the best places to eat out in Sabastian .

Useful Travel Information

San sebastian weather.

The climate of San Sebastian is quite mild with rainy winters and reasonably cool summers.

The wind blows frequently off the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay Of Biscay and can get quite strong. However, the city does enjoy the effects of the warm and dry winds that blow up from the Cantabrian mountains.

The average temperature of the coldest month (January) is around 8 °C, while the average temperature of the warmest month (August) is around 20 °C reaching up to around 25°C throughout the warmer summer months of July, August and September.

In winter (December - February) it is generally mild and rainy due to the passing of Atlantic disturbances washing in from the Bay Of Biscay.

Overall, San Sebastián offers a pleasant climate, with mild winters cool summers, and plenty of sunshine.

How To Get To San Sebastian

Ave High Speed Train

San Sebastian is a great destination that is easily accessible by plane, car, train, or bus.

San Sebastian is around 464 kilometres from Madrid and is accessible by plane, train and car. The train from Madrid takes approximately 5.5 hours and costs around €40 one-way.

Barcelona is some 560 kilometers from San Sebastian with a train journey taking around 7 hours at a cost of approximately €35

By plane, you can fly into one of the three nearby airports (2 used for national and international flights). The main airport is situated 22 km northeast of Hondarribia Town in the Bay of Biscay and is a 20-minute drive away.

If you want to drive, San Sebastian is connected to the rest of Spain and France by several major highways that include the AP8, A1, A15, AP1 and the A63.

If you're looking to take the train, the city's "Estacion del Norte" offers connections to cities all over Spain.

Finally, the San Sebastián bus station , "Estacion Donostia Geltokia", has lines to cities throughout Spain and part of Europe. There is a  bar, newsstand, and luggage office with 66 lockers.

No matter how you choose to get there, San Sebastian is an easy and convenient destination to reach.

San Sebastian Airport

Iberia Aircraft Spain

San Sebastian Airport is a great option for travellers looking to explore the Basque Region and the nearby southwest coast of France.

The airport is situated 22 km northeast of Hondarribia Town in the Bay of Biscay and is a 20-minute drive away.

The airport consists of a single two-level terminal and a runway that stretches along the Bidasoa River, right on the border of Spain and France.

There is an ATM and post office located on the arrivals level of the terminal and a VIP lounge that can accommodate up to 25 people for private or business meetings.

Although there is no duty-free facility, Aeroshops sells newspapers, magazines, local wine, cider, txacoli, sweets, and souvenirs.

The taxi fare from the airport to central San Sebastian costs around €35 for max 4 passengers.

The Mugi Tourist Card

Mugi Travel Cards

The two main airports for people flying into the region is Bilbao located at Loiu and the smaller San Sebastian/Donostia airport at Hondarribi/Fuenterrabía.

A one-way bus ticket from Bilbao airport costs around €17 and a one-way ticket from San Sebastian airport is around €1.75 per person.

San Sebastian runs a comprehensive internal bus service with modern buses running constantly between 7 am and 11 pm every day.  If You plan to stay for a few days in the city then it is best to buy a D-Bus travel card .

You would then be charged the following for each trip. One-way ticket: 1.65€ Turista card: 3 days – 9€ for 6 trips 5 days – 16€ for 12 trips

Taxis are everywhere in the city, you can expect to pay around €8 for a 4 to 5-km trip.

Where To Stay In San Sebastian

There are plenty of choices when it comes to finding that perfect place to stay in San Sebastian.

There are five main districts to choose from around the city, the City Centre, the Ondarreta, Gros, Amara and the Antiguo districts, each one offers something different to visitors.

The city centre is the most popular area to stay in San Sebastian as it provides all of the amenities you'd expect from a historic beautiful city destination.

The central area is also easy to navigate on foot and you can explore the historical buildings, including the 12th-century fortress of Mount Urgull, which has stunning views of the Bay of Biscay.

The Ondarreta neighbourhood is within walking distance of La Concha - the largest beach in San Sebastian which is backed by the beautiful Miramar Palace Gardens,  once part of a royal summer palace.

The Gros district of San Sebastian is a great place to stay if you're looking to try out surfing!  This area is home to several surf schools and offers prime conditions for experienced and novice surfers alike. Not only that, but Gros also has a vibrant cafe scene and a variety of nightlife options to explore.

Amara is a great choice if you're looking for a quieter neighbourhood but still quite close to the city centre. It's one of the largest neighbourhoods in the area, so you'll have plenty of options when it comes to accommodation.

There are some great four-star hotels in Avenida de Ranch el Sabro if you're looking for something more upmarket. Getting into the city centre is quick by bus or train.

Antiguo is also a good choice for a restful and relaxing stay in San Sebastian. It's the oldest neighbourhood and has a great variety of accommodation options, from luxurious hotels to cosy bed and breakfasts. It's full of hidden gems, like traditional shops and delicious restaurants serving traditional Basque dishes.

San Sebastian Spain Hotels

Maria Cristina Hotel

San Sebastian is a beautiful city in Spain full of incredible sights and activities. It's also home to some of the best hotels in Europe.

Whether you're looking for a luxurious 5-star experience or a budget-friendly place to rest your head, there's something for everyone in San Sebastian.

  • Hotel Maria Cristina – a grand 5-star hotel with a classic style and attentive service.
  • Hotel NH Collection San Sebastian – a modern 5-star hotel with a contemporary design and a great location.
  • Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra – a boutique 4-star hotel with a traditional Spanish design and a great location near the beach.
  • Hotel Silken Amara Plaza – a modern 4-star hotel with a great location and a rooftop terrace with stunning views of the city.

Camping In San Sebastian

Camping San Sebastian

Camping in San Sebastian is a wonderful way to experience the beautiful outdoors!

There are three great campsites to choose from: Camping Bungalows Igueldo San Sebastian offers a stunning location right on the beach, while Camping Igara de San Sebastian is in a wooded setting with spectacular views. Camping Oliden is also set in a wooded area and provides a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere.

San Sebastian has an oceanic climate characterised by mild temperatures and relatively high precipitation.

Here is a month-by-month breakdown of the weather you can expect:

  • January: One of the coldest months, with average temperatures ranging from 8-12°C (46-54°F). Expect frequent rain showers.
  • February: Similar to January, but with slightly longer days. Temperatures range between 9-13°C (48-55°F).
  • March: Spring starts to set in, and temperatures rise to 10-15°C (50-59°F). Rain is still common but less frequent.
  • April: A noticeable improvement in the weather, with temperatures between 12-17°C (54-63°F). Rainfall starts to decline.
  • May: A pleasant month with temperatures ranging from 14-20°C (57-68°F). Expect more sunny days, although rain is still possible.
  • June: The onset of summer brings temperatures between 17-23°C (63-73°F), and this month is generally drier.
  • July: One of the warmest and driest months. Temperatures can go up to 25°C (77°F) during the day.
  • August: Similar to July, with temperatures ranging from 19-26°C (66-79°F). Occasional thunderstorms may occur.
  • September: The beginning of autumn, yet the weather is generally still pleasant. Temperatures range between 18-24°C (64-75°F).
  • October: A noticeable drop in temperature, falling to 15-21°C (59-70°F). Rain becomes more frequent.
  • November: One of the wetter months, with temperatures dropping to 11-16°C (52-61°F).
  • December: Winter sets in with temperatures between 9-14°C (48-57°F). Expect short days and long nights.

While San Sebastian can be visited year-round, the best time to go depends on what you're looking to do. Summer is ideal for beach activities, while spring and autumn offer milder climates suitable for sightseeing. Winter is quieter and less crowded but comes with colder and wetter conditions.

FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

Is san sebastian spain worth visiting.

Absolutely, San Sebastian is well worth a visit. Located in Spain's Basque Country, it's famed for its stunning beaches like La Concha, exceptional food scene, and rich cultural heritage. Whether you're a foodie, a beach lover, or a history enthusiast, San Sebastian offers something for everyone.

What is San Sebastian Spain known for?

San Sebastian, Spain is renowned for its culinary scene, particularly its pintxos bars, as well as its beautiful beaches. It's also famous for hosting international events such as the San Sebastian Film Festival. The city's rich history and stunning architecture add to its allure.

Where do you fly into for San Sebastian?

To get to San Sebastian, the nearest international airports are Bilbao Airport in Spain and Biarritz Airport in France. Both are around an hour's drive from San Sebastian. There's also the smaller San Sebastian Airport, but it mainly serves domestic flights from Madrid and Barcelona.

What month is best to visit San Sebastian?

The best months to visit San Sebastian are from May to September when the weather is warm and outdoor activities are plentiful. July and August are the busiest and warmest months, perfect for beachgoers. However, September offers milder weather and fewer crowds, ideal for a more relaxed visit.

Is San Sebastian expensive?

San Sebastian is often considered a more expensive destination in Spain, especially when it comes to dining and accommodation. Its reputation for high-quality food and scenic beauty comes with a price tag. Budget travellers may find it challenging but not impossible to find more affordable options.

Is San Sebastian a walkable city?

Yes, San Sebastian is a highly walkable city. Most of its major attractions, including the Old Town, beaches, and dining establishments, are within close proximity. Walking is often the best way to explore and soak in the city's charm and scenic beauty.

Why is San Sebastian so popular?

San Sebastian is one of those perfect destinations in Spain due to its fascinating history, world-renowned gastronomy, stunning beaches, stunning coastline, and rich cultural offerings.

What part of San Sebastian is best to stay in?

The best area to stay in San Sebastian largely depends on your interests. For beach access and stunning views, staying near La Concha is ideal. The Old Town offers historical charm and is a foodie's paradise with its many tapas bars. Gros is trendy and popular among surfers.

Is San Sebastian a big city?

San Sebastian is not a particularly large city; it has a population of around 195,000 residents. However, it offers a rich blend of cultural, gastronomic, and natural attractions, making it feel much bigger in terms of experiences. The city is easily navigable, and often best explored on foot.

What is an interesting fact about San Sebastian?

One interesting fact about San Sebastian is its culinary fame; the city boasts one of the highest numbers of Michelin-starred restaurants per square meter in the world. This culinary excellence makes it a gastronomic paradise for food lovers globally.

Are people in San Sebastian friendly?

Absolutely! San Sebastian is known for its warm and welcoming locals. They take pride in their Basque culture and are often eager to share their traditions, cuisine, and stories with visitors. Engaging with them can enrich your visit and offer a genuine taste of the city's spirit.

What time do the bars normally close in San Sebastian?

In San Sebastian, bars typically close around midnight during the week, but many extend their hours until 2-3 am on weekends. However, it's always a good idea to check specific establishments as hours can vary, especially during festivals or special events.

Is it safe to walk around San Sebastian at night?

Yes, San Sebastian is generally considered safe for nighttime strolls. Like any city, it's wise to remain aware of your surroundings and stick to well-lit areas. The main promenades and city center are especially lively and secure even after dark.

Is everything closed in San Sebastian on Sunday?

Not everything is closed in San Sebastian on Sundays. Most shops and supermarkets will be closed. Many bars and restaurants will be open for lunch but will close earlier on Sunday evening. Many of the main tourist attractions will be opne during the day.  It's advisable to check specific places in advance if you have particular destinations in mind for a Sunday visit.

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The World Was Here First

The Ultimate 2 to 3 Days in San Sebastian Itinerary

Last Updated on January 9, 2024

by Maggie Turansky

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. That means if you click a link and make a purchase, we may make a small commission. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see our privacy policy.

san sebastian spain travel

As arguably the top destination in Spanish Basque Country, planning out a 2 or 3 days in San Sebastian itinerary is a highlight of any trip to Spain! Known for its culinary chops, beautiful seaside location and compact yet cosmopolitan feel, no trip to Spain is complete without venturing to this gorgeous city.

Though small in size, there is quite a lot to do in San Sebastian and its surrounding area so planning more than a day or two is a good idea.

From eating your weight in pintxos to strolling along Playa de La Concha to enjoying the views from Monte Igeldo, San Sebastian has so much to offer to all who choose to visit.

This guide will help you figure out what to do with 2 or 3 days in the city and its surrounding area!

Table of Contents

How Many Days in San Sebastian?

How many days should you spend in San Sebastian? At first glance, it can seem like this Basque city is quite small and wouldn’t have much to do, however, you would be mistaken in that assumption.

Not only is San Sebastian absolutely gorgeous, but it has a lot of stuff to do so I would suggest planning more than a day trip to the city and mapping out at least 2 days in San Sebastian.

If you plan to spend two days in the city, you will have enough time to see the majority of the central attractions while also giving you time to enjoy the countless pintxos bars both in the Old Town and further afield (that’s why you’re coming to San Sebastian, right?).

However, if you would like to explore a bit more of the Basque Country and the surrounding area, then consider planning to spend 3 days here.

There are a lot of places where you could go on a day trip and see some areas of the region that you wouldn’t otherwise have time for. Also – more time to indulge in the sensational Basque cuisine!

View of San Sebastian from Monte Igeldo

Getting To and Around San Sebastian

Unfortunately, despite its popularity, San Sebastian isn’t super conveniently located to the rest of Spain and it is kind of a journey to get there if you don’t already happen to be in Basque Country. If you are arriving by air, the closest international airport is located in Bilbao , about 100 kilometres west of San Sebastian.

Getting from Bilbao to San Sebastian is pretty easy and quick no matter what mode of transport you choose. There are frequent bus connections that will get you between the cities in about an hour and it takes roughly the same time to drive if you happen to have your own vehicle.

San Sebastian can also be reached by bus or train from elsewhere in Spain, but keep in mind that it will take some time from Barcelona or Madrid . That is not to say that there aren’t options and it is relatively easy to reach San Sebastian from other areas of Spain, it just might take a while! You can view schedules here.

Once you’re in San Sebastian proper, you will find that the city is immensely walkable and you can get most everywhere that you’d like to go while relying on your own two feet.

However, especially if you’re planning 3 days in the city or want to go on some day trips, it can be very helpful to rent a car. While there are ways that you can visit some places by public transit or via organised tour, you will have a lot more flexibility to visit where you want for the amount of time that you’d like.

If you want to hire a car in San Sebastian, I suggest browsing through Rentalcars.com to find compare prices across several major and local car hire companies.

Plaza de la Constitución

2 to 3 Days in San Sebastian Itinerary

If you only have 2 days in San Sebastion, simply plan to stay in the city itself and follow the first two days of this itinerary.

Day 1 – Explore the Old Town

Day one of this itinerary will see you exploring all of the highlights of the old town before taking a stroll along La Concha Beach and seeing some beautiful views of the city.

Old Town (Parte Vieja)

Begin your first day in the beautiful and historic Old Town, taking in all of the interesting sites of the city. You can opt to wander around independently, but it can be very worthwhile to go on a walking tour to give you more historical context.

We recommend the free walking tour with Go Local San Sebastian , however, you can also book a paid walking tour if the times don’t suit you.

The majority of San Sebastian’s old town was actually completely burned to the ground in 1813 by occupying British and Portuguese troops, so the “old” town really isn’t all that old. There are, however, some buildings that did survive the fire and are still standing today.

There is a lot to see in the old town and it is very much worth taking the time to wander through and explore at a leisurely pace. Make sure to take in the two major churches – the Church of St Vincent and the Basilica of St Mary of Coro.

Basilica of St Mary of Coro

Historically, the former church served residents of the city that were lower-income and the latter was considered something of the upper-class church. Both churches are some of the few buildings that survived the 1813 fire.

The Church of St Vincent was originally constructed in the 15th and 16th centuries and is notable for its Gothic style, distinct lack of windows and unfinished walls.

The Basilica of St Mary was once poised to be the main cathedral of San Sebastian, however, it did not meet certain criteria to consecrate it as such. The main cathedral — the Good Shepherd of San Sebastian — is located one kilometre away and was only consecrated in 1897.

Other major sites to take in while in the old town include the lovely Plaza de la Constitución . Traditionally used as a bullfighting venue in days past, this main square of old San Sebastian is now lined with inviting bars and restaurants.

Another beautiful place in the old town to take in is the Alderdi Eder Park . These lovely gardens are situated at the beginning of the seaside promenade and are filled with gorgeous flowers, inviting benches and even a classic carousel. The park is also located in front of the beautiful San Sebastian City Hall building.

Alderdi Eder Park & San Sebastian City Hall

Old Town Pintxos Crawl

After spending your first few hours wandering the old town and taking in all of the sites, it’s likely that you’ve worked up quite the appetite. Well, fortunately, you are visiting one of the top gastronomic cities in the world!

Though San Sebastian is known to have the highest concentration of Michelin stars per capita (a whopping 19 stars awarded across 11 different restaurants), you do not need to shell out €250/person to enjoy the high-quality and flavourful cuisine that the Basque Country, and San Sebastian in particular, is known for. Just head out for some pintxos!

Pintxos are the Basque version of tapas and they got their start right here in San Sebastian with the briny and savoury Gilda – a skewer of pickled peppers, green olives and anchovies so named after the 1946 Rita Hayworth film.

These days, pintxos come in all shapes and sizes and you will see some bars with lavish displays of cold pintxos behind each bar. The key to eating like a local, however, is to order “hot pintxos” off the menu.

Pintxos & Cider from Bar Txepetxa

If you’re looking for some great old town recommendations for pintxos, there are a number that are worth stopping at in the old town.

Bar Txepetxa is an excellent stop for the region’s famous anchovies. They have countless options that go down great with a traditional Basque cider or txakoli (an effervescent white wine). Bar Nestor is famous for its limited menu, which includes an excellent tomato salad, blistered padrón peppers and the famous T-bone steak known as txuleta .

Bodra Berri is well-known for its creamy orzo risotto but has plenty of other delicious dishes to sample, as well. And the inventive pulpo Gallego (Galician style octopus) at La Cuchara de San Telmo was absolutely incredible.

Keep in mind that the pintxos culture in San Sebastian sees you ordering a drink and only one or two dishes per person before moving on to the next place. It is not commonplace to order a lot of dishes at one place. Also, don’t be concerned if there is standing room only – the best pintxos bars have few (or no) tables.

If you’re intimidated by tackling pintxos bars on your own or simply would like a local guide to take you through all the customs, consider going on a guided pintxos tour of San Sebastian!

Pulpo Gallego from La Cuchara de San Telmo

La Concha Promenade & Beach

After getting your fill of pintxos, it can be a good idea to go for a nice, long walk to help aid in your digestion and there is no better place to do that than along La Concha Beach.

There is a vast promenade that stretches from the Alderdi Eder Park all the way to Monte Igueldo which goes along La Concha and Ondarreta beaches.

The pathway is roughly 2.5 kilometres long and it is flat, so you can easily walk its entirety in about thirty minutes. There are some places to stop and take in along the way, for instance, the old bathing houses that were once used for Queen Isabel II to splash in the salty waters without being exposed to the sun.

If it is low tide when you are on your walk, you may even be able to cross from La Concha beach to the smaller Ondarreta beach, something you cannot do if the tide has come too far in.

If you want to make a detour, consider exploring the Antiguo neighbourhood near Ondarreta beach for a more local and off the beaten path vibe. If you want to grab a bite to eat while there, we recommend the Sukalde Kultura bar for some great pintxos or raciones.

Enjoying La Concha Promenade

Miramar Palace

Right before reaching Ondarreta beach and crossing over into the Antiguo neighbourhood, you will see the Miramar Palace.

Originally built to be the royal summer residence in the late 19th century, the palace today is used for cultural events and lectures and it isn’t open to the general public, today. Its gardens, however, are.

The gardens of Miramar Palace are vast and free to enter and have gorgeous views over La Concha Bay and Santa Clara Island. This is a wonderful place to break up your wander along the promenade, especially if you’re a fan of parks and gardens.

Miramar Palace

Peine del Viento Sculpture

At the end of the promenade, you will find yourself at the Peine del Viento, or Comb of the Wind, sculpture.

Designed by famous Spanish sculptor Eduardo Chillida, the Peine del Viento consists of three metal sculptures anchored to the rocks over the sea. They are meant to symbolise how the wind combed La Concha bay.

Peine del Viento Sculpture

Monte Igueldo

If you walk back and a bit inland from the Peine del Viento sculpture, you will find the Monte Igueldo funicular, a cable car that was first built in 1912. This funicular is a lot more “old timey” than others in Europe (even in nearby Bilbao), but it just adds to its charm.

It is worth paying the €4.50 per person return fee for the funicular as you still need to pay a €2.50 entry fee into Monte Igueldo park if you choose to walk up instead.

A one-way fee for the funicular is €3. It is also worth noting that there is nowhere to purchase a ticket for the funicular at the top so if you walk up, you must walk down.

Not only does Monte Igueldo have fantastic views over the entirety of San Sebastian, La Concha Bay and Santa Clara Island, but there is also a small amusement park atop the hill.

There are classic games that are present everywhere and there is also an old wooden roller coaster that presides over the cliff edges. For the more daring among us, it is sure to provide excellent views along with a good dose of adrenaline!

Monte Igeldo

Day 2 – San Sebastian’s Neighbourhoods

The second day of this itinerary is dedicated to exploring a bit beyond the old town and taking the time to get to know some other neighbourhoods of this lovely city.

La Bretxa and San Martín Markets

Begin your day by browsing one or two of San Sebastian’s market halls. There are two major food markets located in central San Sebastian that you can visit (so long as it’s not a Sunday!).

Market culture is incredibly important in all of Spain, however, it is especially important in the Basque Country where the local cuisine relies heavily on fresh, local ingredients.

If you want to see all of the local, freshly caught seafood, browse through seasonal vegetables, sample some traditional Basque pastries or pick up some aperitivos like olives and anchovies, the market is a great place to do this.

La Bretxa Market is located in the old town beneath a shopping centre. They are actually in the process of renovating the old fish hall to move this particular market above ground and to make it a more modern and gastronomical experience.

San Martín Market is another great marketplace to visit in the city centre. It is also located on the bottom two basement floors of a shopping centre and is slightly larger than La Bretxa Market.

Old Fish Hall next to La Bretxa Market

San Telmo Museum

After exploring the markets, take the time to head over to the San Telmo Museum, located in the Old Town.

This museum is excellent to visit if you want to understand more about the culture of San Sebastian and the Basque Country, in general. This includes exhibitions about Basque history and language and also other interesting cultural exhibits.

Tickets for the museum a €6 for an adult entry and €3 for students (over age 25) and senior citizens. If you are under the age of 25, general entry into the San Telmo Museum is free of charge.

San Telmo Museum

Pasealeku Berria Promenade & Zurriola Beach

From the museum, take a stroll along the pathway up Mount Urgull for views of the bay. and make your way toward the San Sebastian Aquarium. While you can visit the aquarium, we recommend taking a leisurely walk along the path that winds around directly above it.

From here, you will get a different perspective of La Concha Bay and the beaches. Though the view isn’t as nice as from Monte Igeldo, it can be worth it to climb up to the Jesus statue if that suits your fancy.

Wandering down the path, it’s time to walk in the opposite direction of the La Concha promenade along the Pasealeku Berria Promenade toward Gros and Zurriola Beach. This pathway is set directly on the wild Bay of Biscay and is a lot more dramatic than the route you would have walked yesterday.

It will take around 30 minutes to reach Zurriola Beach, which is the main surfing beach in San Sebastian. This beach is beautiful and it can be wonderful to sit on a bench and watch the surfers catch those waves.

Zurriola Beach

After your walk, it’s time to explore the hip and happening neighbourhood of Gros! This area isn’t nearly as popular with tourists as the Old Town or central area, however, there are some great bars and restaurants to check out if you’re hungry. It can be a great idea to have another lunchtime pintxos crawl here!

If you want some recommendations on where to eat in Gros, consider heading to Bodega Donastiarra for a great place for some classic dishes in a lovely setting. We had some delicious griddled octopus and morcilla (blood sausage) with a pepper sauce here.

Another great place for a more rustic vibe is La Kaba which is known for their anchovy dishes. Anchovies are a local speciality in the Basque Country as a whole and they are particularly good to eat here.

View from Gros to central San Sebastian

Central San Sebastian

End your day exploring the lovely central area of San Sebastian. There is a lot to see and do here, including visiting Gipuzkoa Plaza and enjoying the lovely gardens here or taking in the elegant architecture of Hotel Maria Christina .

There are also some incredible places to eat in central San Sebastian that are more frequented by locals rather than tourists.

If you want to continue your pintxos crawl, we recommend heading to Bar Antonio if you’re after some more modern dishes that are absolutely amazing. This is another place that is known for their anchovies and they even cure their own in-house.

If you’re looking for a more down-home vibe, then consider heading to Bar Ciaboga . This is a bar that only has a handful of things on the menu. They’re known for their garlic potatoes, but their mushroom caps with shrimp are also absolutely delicious.

Anchovies from Bar Antonio

Day 3 – Explore the Surrounding Area

Day three is dedicated to heading out of the city and exploring a bit of the Basque Country in the surrounding area. Having your own car would be the ideal way to do this, but there are options if you don’t want to drive.

Any one of these options makes for a great single-day trip and unfortunately, it’s not possible to visit them all in one day! However, you can obviously add a day or two to your San Sebastian itinerary if you want to explore more!

Hondarribia, San Pedro (Pasaia) & San Juan (Pasai Donibane)

A great day trip option is to head to the towns of Hondarribia, San Pedro and San Juan.

Hondarribia is a good choice if you want to get as close to France as possible without actually crossing the border as it is the closest coastal town to France. You can even take a ferry across the harbour to visit the French side if you don’t want to drive.

San Pedro and San Juan are two small towns that are located right across from each other, situated only about 7 kilometres from the city centre of San Sebastian. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even opt to do a coastal hike from San Sebastian to San Pedro.

San Pedro (known as Pasaia in Basque) is also the main fishing port of the area, with all commercial fishing vessels having been moved from San Sebastian. As such, you can find great seafood here. If you’re looking for a good, affordable recommendation, we suggest getting a bite to eat at La Lonja .

If you wish to visit little San Juan (Pasai Donibane), there is a small ferry that can take you from San Pedro. This boat costs €0.90 per crossing and doesn’t leave on any particular schedule, just when it is needed. The crossing only takes a minute or two.

If you’re interested in taking an organised tour of these areas, this small-group tour or this small-group tour is an excellent option.

View of San Juan from San Pedro

French Basque

San Sebastian is located only a stone’s throw from the French border and if you are interested in seeing how the culture is different (or similar) in French Basque Country, you can opt to visit some towns there for a day.

The towns of Biarritz, Bayonne and St Jean de Luz are all located within easy reach of San Sebastian and can be a great option for a day trip from the Spanish Basque city. You can book a guided tour here if you don’t have a car.

If you don’t have the time in your trip to visit both cities and can’t make the decision between visiting San Sebastion or Bilbao, then you can always opt to visit Bilbao as a day trip . Though we do recommend spending at least a couple of days in this city, it is incredibly doable as a day trip.

Visiting Bilbao is a good option if you want more city vibes and also if you don’t want to hire a car but still care to travel independently. There are frequent bus connections between the two cities and the journey only takes about an hour.

Colourful buildings in Bilbao

If you don’t mind venturing outside of Basque Country, Pamplona makes for another great day trip from San Sebastian. Located just south of the city, Pamplona is most famous for its Running of the Bulls. However, it is a lovely city and the regional capital of Navarre and very much worth visiting in its own right.

You can easily reach Pamplona via public transit, making it another great option if you haven’t hired a car. There are frequent bus and train connections and the journey time will take a bit over an hour each way.

Where to Stay in San Sebastian

Hotel Boutique Villa Favorita – If you’re after a luxury getaway in San Sebastian, then this swanky hotel is an excellent choice for you. With a location overlooking La Concha Bay, this hotel is perfectly situated for exploring San Sebastian. They have several lovely rooms to choose from, a restaurant and bar on-site and there is even free parking!

Hotel Villa Katalina – A great mid-range option, this hotel is an excellent choice in San Sebastian. They have many lovely rooms available, an excellent location within easy walking distance of all of the city’s top attractions and plenty of amenities to ensure you have a great stay.

Private Rental – If you’d like to experience San Sebastian like a local, then a private rental is an excellent choice for you. Places like this sunny apartment near La Concha beach can give you a great idea of what it might be like to live in this beautiful Basque city.

Surfing Etxea – If you’re travelling solo or on a budget, then this highly-rated hostel is a great option for you! Located in the trendy Gros neighbourhood just a stone’s throw from La Zurriola Beach, this hostel is great for those who want to try their hand at surfing or simply want an affordable and amicable place to meet other travellers!

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more San Sebastian hotels!

San Sebastian Cathedral

With so much to see, do and eat, planning the perfect San Sebastian itinerary is a delightful task. No matter how long you have to spend in this beautiful Basque city, you’re sure to leave with great memories (and a full belly!).

Are you planning to visit San Sebastian? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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About Maggie Turansky

Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from the US, she has lived in five different countries and has travelled to dozens more, both solo and with her partner, Michael. She particularly loves exploring Spain and spending time in the Caucasus and the Baltics. Read more about Maggie

Hello Maggie, I am in the process of putting together a plan for our visit to Spain in May 2024. We are planning to travel as much of Spain as we can in 6 weeks. Would you say that you can see Pamplona in a day from San Sabastian or do you think it would be wise to spend a night or two there. I am just not sure if is worth spending more than a day in Pamplona or if we make our base San Sebastian and just go for a day. We will have a car and we will start our adventure out of Barcelona. Thank you for any insight you can provide.

Hi, can you share about visiting the wine region Rioja by public transportation? Thank you.

Unfortunately, I haven’t visited La Rioja from San Sebastian so I can’t offer any insight here 🙂

Thankyou for this very extensive over view – I am a senior Aussie & will be travelling to Spain June 2023! so this was helpful as I am a tad nervous!

Happy you found this helpful, Fran! Hope you have a great trip 🙂

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  • Best things to do in San Sebastian

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There are many things to see in San Sebastian , and the best thing about it is that, being a fairly small city, everything is very close at hand. Most of the tourist attractions can be visited on foot, which is the main attraction of the city.

There are also many people who decide to visit the city by bicycle, as it is one of the cities in Spain that is best adapted to this means of transport, so renting a bike to visit the city can be very comfortable and even fun.

It is an ideal destination to be visited in a weekend , as San Sebastian can be too short in one day .

If your time in Donosti is limited and you don’t want to miss its main attractions, here is a list of places not to miss on your next visit. Will you join us?

10 Things to see in San Sebastian and not to be missed

1. strolling through the “old town” of san sebastián.

Old Town

Undoubtedly its main attraction is the old part of the city. Its streets are full of charm and it is located in a unique enclave next to the port and the “ Paseo Nuevo” , which you cannot miss. It is a very pretty walk along the seafront to end at the small port and enter through one of the main arches into the Old Town .

Once inside, as well as the fabulous bars where you can taste the famous pintxos, you should visit the Basilica of Santa Maria and to a lesser extent the Church of San Vicente , two of the most characteristic religious buildings in the city.

The Constitution Square , in the centre of the old town, will also attract your attention, especially its balconies, which still have the numbers with which each of the boxes used to identify each of the boxes used to watch the bullfights, as this was their function in the past.

2. Visit to the City Hall and Boulevard

City Hall

The Boulevard is a pedestrian avenue that separates the old town from the rest of the newer city. The central “kiosk” and the gardens that decorate the entire length of the Boulevard are striking.

3. Walk along the “Paseo de la Concha”

La Concha beach

La Concha beach is not only the most famous beach in San Sebastian but also one of the most recognised worldwide thanks to the numerous awards it has won.

The beginning of the promenade starts next to the town hall and you can walk along it all the way to the end of Ondarreta beach , in the Antiguo neighbourhood. It is a very beautiful walk around the bay that is spectacular if you find yourself on a sunny day. If the tide is low, you can even walk along the shore if the weather is good and soak your feet a little bit 🙂

4. Miramar Palace

Miramar Palace

This Miramar Palace , the former residence of the monarchy, is today one of the most beautiful buildings in the city and enjoys a privileged location in the city.

You can take advantage of the walk along the bay that we recommended earlier to stop off and visit it, as it is located halfway between La Concha and Ondarreta beaches.

The views from its gardens are equally spectacular. Personally, it is one of my favourite views of the city.

5. Peine del viento (Wind Comb) and ascent of Monte Igueldo

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After visiting the Peine, the best thing to do is to take the funicular (which is just behind the Real Club de Tenis) and go up to the top of Mount Igueldo to enjoy the best panoramic view of Donosti. Also, if you’re travelling with children, you’ll find an old but pleasant amusement park that they’re sure to love.

6. Buen Pastor Cathedral

Buen Pastor Cathedral

It has recently been refurbished to allow access to the bell tower in the future for those visitors who wish to do so.

Access to the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd is currently free, so if you go, do not hesitate to go inside and see its interior, where its large stained glass windows stand out.

7. San Sebastian Aquarium

San Sebastian Aquarium

It is currently the most visited attraction in all of Guipúzcoa, so if you like this type of visit, the Aquarium is not to be missed. The best thing about it is that it is close to the Old Town and the Port, so you have no excuse not to spend some time there.

8. Kursaal and Zurriola beach

The Kursaal

It is the venue for major conferences and concerts throughout the year. The Film Festival , for example, has been held there since its inauguration.

The beach is a favourite destination for surfers from all over the world. The atmosphere and sport on this beach are guaranteed.

9. Climbing to Urgull

Urgull mount

Mount Urgull , unlike Igueldo, is a 20-minute walk, but it is well worth it, both the walk and the views from the top.

At the top you will find the great figure of the Sacred Heart along with the ancient walls and cannons that protected the city.

Urgull can be accessed from several sides. We recommend that you go up from the access between the port and the Old Town, up some stairs at the beginning, or from the back of the hill if you go from the New Promenade, up a slope that you will see easily at the end of the walk.

10. Taste the best pintxos in the city

Pintxos

If there is something that everyone enjoys and that no one leaves without trying, it is the famous pintxos donostiarras.

OK, it’s not something to see, but it’s definitely one of the things you must do, if you can’t. To tell the truth, you can find good pintxos in almost any neighbourhood in the city.

To tell the truth, you can find good bars in practically any neighbourhood in the city, but the most famous and popular pintxos are to be found in the Old Quarter and in the Gros neighbourhood, which has become more and more popular over the years and nowadays has a large number of bars where you can try them.

In both places you can try a wide variety of tapas, both traditional and haute cuisine.

Other things to do around San Sebastian

If you are lucky enough to visit San Sebastian for several days, you will have time to do a lot more, which is great as there are plenty of things to do in the surrounding area.

Places like Zarautz, Orio, Fuenterrabía (Hondarribia) or even Biarritz (France) are a must for anyone who enjoys a holiday here. They are half-day or even full-day visits.

You can also go for lunch at one of the best cider bars in the area or visit one of San Sebastian’s museums, such as the San Telmo Museum or Chillida Leku .

If you are travelling with children, a visit to the amusement park at the top of Monte Igueldo is a must. The kids will enjoy the rides and the grown-ups will enjoy the most famous views of the city.

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18 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in San Sebastián

Written by Lisa Alexander Updated Dec 24, 2023 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

Set on the crescent-shaped Bay of Concha, this elegant town is one of Spain's most fashionable beach resorts. The expansive shoreline extends for several kilometers along a curving coastline, bookended by the Urgull and Igeldo hills.

Aerial view of San Sebastian, Spain

The natural splendor of San Sebastián sets the stage for a fabulous vacation. Favorite things to do include sightseeing, sunbathing at the beach, gourmet dining, and taking evening strolls through the Old Town or along the waterfront promenade.

The city is famous for its cuisine and renowned for its Michelin-starred restaurants . For an authentic experience, you must wander the city's quaint cobblestone lanes in search of pintxos , the Basque version of tapas. These tantalizing small bites include specialties such as seasoned olives, marinated sardines, and salted cod omelets.

Discover the best places to visit in this happening seaside city with our list of the top attractions and things to do in San Sebastián.

See also: Where to Stay in San Sebastián

1. The Seaside Elegance and Beautiful Beach at La Concha Bay

2. historic charm and gourmet cuisine in the parte vieja (old town), 3. monte urgull & monte ulía: historic sites & nature walks, 4. museo san telmo, 5. palacio de miramar, 6. amusement park on monte igueldo, 7. isla de santa clara, 8. basilica de santa maría del coro, 9. playa de la zurriola: surfers' beach, 10. playa de ondarreta, 11. aquarium san sebastián, 12. catedral del buen pastor, 13. international jazz festival in july, 14. scenic walks in the parque de aiete, 15. fishing village of hondarribia, 16. carretera del jaizkibel (scenic drive), 17. day trip to getaria, 18. monasterio de san ignacio de loyola, where to stay in san sebastián for sightseeing, tips and tours: how to make the most of your visit to san sebastian, map of attractions & things to do in san sebastián.

Playa de la Concha

The picture-perfect white-sand beach of the Bahía de la Concha (Bay of Concha) is the most iconic sight in San Sebastián. This expansive beach has a wide shoreline and mesmerizing turquoise waters that are safe for swimming. During July and August, rows of blue-and-white striped parasols make the beach look even more vibrant.

The Playa de la Concha (Beach of Concha) has retained the regal air of its Belle Époque days. In 1868, Queen Maria Cristina inaugurated the Playa de la Concha as a "Royal Beach" and established San Sebastián as a prestigious summertime resort.

Part of the distinguished heritage are La Perla's thalassotherapy spa on the shores of La Concha and the Palacio de Miramar (summer residence of the Spanish royal family until 1973) perched on a hillside above the beach.

La Perla thalassotherapy center has been offering therapeutic treatments since the Belle Époque. This upscale spa features Jacuzzis, saunas, steam baths, a gym, a saltwater pool for aquatic therapies, and a gastronomic restaurant with amazing views of the bay.

The spa also provides beach access and 5,500 square meters of swimming facilities found on the site of the former Royal Bathing Pavilion.

Paseo de la Concha

Besides sunbathing and swimming, La Concha is a place to visit for scenic strolls. The Paseo de la Concha encircles the bay along the beach. This pedestrian-only seafront promenade features decorative railings and elegant street lamps.

Sporty types appreciate La Concha Beach for the kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding opportunities. Other outdoor adventures include boat trips (departing from the Bahía de la Concha port), such as fishing excursions and scenic cruises.

The Playa de la Concha has public toilets and showers, lounge chair and parasol rentals, and lifeguards on duty during high season.

Within walking distance of the Bay of Concha is the tree-lined Alameda del Boulevard , a hub of San Sebastián's life with many shops, restaurants, and cafés. From here, you can explore the charming Old Town of San Sebastián.

Parte Vieja (Old Town)

The Parte Vieja (Old Town) of San Sebastián is tucked between the base of Monte Urgull and the Alameda del Boulevard. This bustling area is one of the most popular places to see and be seen, for both tourists and locals alike.

A highlight of the Parte Vieja is the arcaded Plaza de la Constitución , a large public space that once hosted bullfights while the spectators watched from the rows of balconies above.

Notable attractions nearby include the Neoclassical municipal library and the traditional food stalls at the Mercado de la Bretxa , a 19th-century covered market hall.

Also near the Plaza de la Constitución is the 16th-century Iglesia de San Vicente . This Gothic church is San Sebastián's oldest church and has a richly carved retablo dating to 1584.

A favorite pastime in the Old Town is strolling the quaint cobblestone streets in search of traditional Basque tapas. This lively quarter is filled with authentic pintxos restaurants . In the evenings, tourists and locals flock to the area to enjoy convivial dining.

Pintxos are delicious little snacks rather than a full meal, but are served in abundance with plenty of variety. These tantalizing delicacies range from deep-fried cod and marinated anchovies to crisp handmade croquettes. Sampling pintxos is a Basque culinary adventure.

Mota Castle

Beginning at the aquarium, the Paseo Nuevo encircles the entire Monte Urgull. The hilltop is crowned by the Castillo de la Mota , a formidable 12th-century fortress, and a statue representing the Sacred Heart.

The promenade of Paseo Nuevo invites leisurely rambles on warm sunny days, especially during summertime, when the beach-vacation ambience fills the air. (During wintertime, waves can crash above the sea wall onto the promenade.) You will be awed by views of La Concha Bay, the Cantabrian Sea, and the rocky shoreline extending to the Urumea River.

Beyond the river's Puente de la Zurriola (bridge), a seafront promenade runs east towards Monte Ulía. This early 20th-century bridge features a Modernist design with futuristic lamps. Nearby is the Teatro Victoria Eugenia , an opulent Belle Époque theater that hosts music concerts and other cultural events.

Beyond the Zurriola Beach, the expansive Parque de Ulía is a beautiful natural space that's ideal for hiking and picnics. If you don't feel like carrying your lunch, the Mirador de Ulía restaurant serves gourmet cuisine. The dining room affords panoramic views of the city, beach, and water from its perch on the slopes of Monte Ulía.

Museo de San Telmo

The Museo San Telmo presents an overview of the Basque Country's cultural heritage. The exhibits are displayed within a former Dominican convent, dating to the 16th century, in the Old Town.

The museum's collection includes several different departments: Archaeology (pre-Columbian, Egyptian, Phoenician, and ancient Roman artifacts); Fine Art (paintings, drawings, engravings, and sculptures); Ethnography (focused on Basque culture); as well as Photography (mainly local photographs) and History (from the 15th century to present day).

Among the highlights are historical paintings by El Greco, Alonso Cano, Rubens, Depièce, Morán, Ribera, and Coello. The Basque artists represented include Ugarte, Zubiaurre, Echagüe, Salaberría, Arteta, and Zuloaga.

The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, with free admission on Tuesdays. The museum is closed on Mondays and on January 1st, January 20th, and December 25th.

Address: 1 Plaza Zuloaga, San Sebastián

Miramar Palace

Presiding over La Concha Bay, the Palacio de Miramar was built as a vacation home for the Spanish royal family. Several Spanish Queens favored this location for their summer holiday.

The palace was designed in 1888 by architect Selden Wornum of England. Queen Anne style predominates, but the building also incorporates Neo-Gothic architectural elements. A coat of arms of the Habsburg dynasty (a line of the Spanish royal family) adorns the facade.

This elegant country "cottage" was designed with two floors for the private residence. Today, the palace is used as a venue for weddings and other events.

A lush parkland surrounds the palace, including manicured gardens with spectacular sea views. Below the gardens is a beachfront promenade along the Bahía de la Concha.

The gardens of Miramar Palace are open daily, free of charge. The palace is not open to the public.

Address: 48 Paseo de Miraconcha, San Sebastián

Scenic views from Monte Igueldo

For stunning views of the San Sebastián scenery, head to Monte Igueldo just beyond the Playa de Ondarreta at the far end of the beach near the Royal Tennis Club.

You can take a funicular ride up to the top. The hilltop stands 180 meters above the sea, offering sensational panoramas.

A favorite tourist attraction is the Monte Igueldo Amusement Park . Children love the charming carousels and roller coasters.

Another highlight is the Igueldo Tower , an 18th-century lighthouse. Ascend the tower for magnificent views of the town, the Bay of Concha, and the rolling hills of the Basque countryside.

For gourmet dining with fantastic sea views, try the restaurant at the four-star Mercure San Sebastián Monte Igueldo . The restaurant specializes in Basque cuisine prepared from local, seasonal ingredients.

Isla de Santa Clara

Hop on a ferry and enjoy an island getaway right in the city of San Sebastián.

Declared a Historical National Interest Site , the Isla de Santa Clara is a tiny 30-meter-wide island just off the coast, combining the peacefulness of nature along with the amenities of civilization. The island has cafés, restaurants, picnic areas, and a post office.

From mid-April through October, ferries run from the San Sebastián harbor to the island several times daily.

Isla de Santa Clara in Concha Bay

The island's small beach is surveyed by a lifeguard during summertime and is ideal for swimming. Hidden nooks along the island's coast offer natural swimming pools.

You can also go for a scenic stroll to the island's lighthouse and enjoy the stunning views along the way.

Basilica de Santa Maria del Coro

This exquisite 18th-century Baroque church stands on the foot of Monte Urgull. In the heart of the Old Town, the Basilica of Santa María del Coro was built on the site of an ancient Roman temple.

The church has a splendid facade with a statue of Saint Sebastián in a niche and two towers. Exemplifying Churrigueresque (Spanish Baroque) style, the exterior reveals an abundance of lavish details that give it the appearance of a decorative wedding cake.

Step inside to admire the grandiose interior. The sanctuary features delicate Neo-Gothic vaulting and impressive pillars with ornate capitals.

A must-see attraction, the Basilica de Santa Maria del Coro is one of the most-visited monuments in San Sebastián. The basilica is open daily year-round. Organ concerts are held here on occasion.

Address: 46 Calle 31 de Agosto, San Sebastián

Playa de la Zurriola: Surfers' Beach

This well-known surfers' beach is in a commercial district of San Sebastián that has many sports shops, large department stores, and art galleries. The Playa de la Zurriola draws surfers from all over the world because of its challenging waves and surf competitions.

With its broad shoreline of golden sand, this beach is also a favorite destination of sports enthusiasts, who come here to play beach volleyball, football, and beach tennis.

Playa de la Zurriola: Surfers' Beach

The beach is found between Monte Ulía and Monte Urgull, and is backed by a wide promenade with benches for admiring the picturesque landscape and sea views.

At the western end of the Playa de la Zurriola is the Centro Kursaal , which has an auditorium for music concerts and space for cultural events. Architect Rafael Moneo designed the center to blend into the beachfront geography. The building was awarded the Mies van der Rohe Contemporary Architecture Prize.

Also nearby is the Puente de la Zurriola , a Modernist bridge with a wide pedestrian concourse that leads to the Old Town.

Playa de Ondarreta

This lively beach swells with vacationers during summertime. On the Bahía de la Concha, the Playa de Ondarreta borders Monte Igueldo and the grounds of the Palacio de Miramar.

This fine golden sand beach is a great place for sunbathing, strolling, swimming, and playing beach volleyball, or for taking a stroll along the promenade. The 100-meter-wide shoreline extends for a kilometer, offering enough space to handle the high-season crowds.

During the most popular months of June, July, and August, the shore is packed with families, water sports enthusiasts, beach volleyball players, and sunbathers lounging on beach towels. Kids love the children's playground that's right on the beach.

In the winter, when the waves are up, the beach draws many bodyboarders and surfers.

Turtle at the Aquarium San Sebastián

The San Sebastián Aquarium is fittingly located along the harbor at the end of the Bahía de la Concha in the Old Town. The aquarium began as an Oceanographic Society in 1908 and is one of Europe's first museums devoted to ocean sciences and marine life.

At this dazzling aquarium, you will find 31 habitats filled with colorful aquatic species, from tropical fish and sharks to species unique to the Atlantic and Cantabrian areas. You can observe over 40 different species of fish.

Not to be missed is the Oceanarium , an underwater exhibition space. A walkway leads through a clear tunnel with 360-degree views of the swimming fish, sharks, and sea turtles in the aquarium.

Next to the aquarium is a lovely seaside restaurant that serves exquisite Basque specialties. The Bokado Mikel Santamaría offers innovative regional cuisine in a modern dining space. The floor-to-ceiling windows and shaded outdoor terrace afford sweeping views of La Concha Bay.

The San Sebastián Aquarium is open year-round every day except Mondays. During July and August, the aquarium is open every day including Mondays.

Address: Plaza Carlos Blasco de Imaz, San Sebastián

Cathedral of the Good Shepherd (Catedral del Buen Pastor)

The largest church in San Sebastián, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd is in the New Town near the busy Calle de San Martín . With its 75-meter-high tower, this monumental edifice is an important city landmark.

This Neo-Gothic cathedral was designed by Basque architect Manuel de Echave in 1880, constructed over a nine-year period beginning in 1888 and inaugurated by Spain's royal family in 1897.

The cathedral was built out of sandstone from the Monte Igueldo. The immense structure covers an astounding surface area of 1,915 square meters. The spaciousness of the interior is breathtaking.

An abundance of stained-glass windows gives the sanctuary an ethereal, soul-inspiring quality. In fact, the windows cover almost all the cathedral's side walls. The stained-glass windows were created by Juan Bautista Lázaro.

You may visit the cathedral daily year-round. Opening hours are from 8am until 12pm and 5pm until 8pm.

Address: Plaza del Buen Pastor, San Sebastián

Saxophone player

At the end of July, the International Jazz Festival is a must-do cultural event in San Sebastián. Concerts are performed at the Centro Kursaal along with seven other venues in the city.

Devoted to high-caliber jazz and blues music, this prestigious festival presents a wide range of musical styles and genres. The festival takes place over six days with more than 60 performances.

Concerts at the Centro Kursaal and Trinidad Square require tickets, while the concerts at the other venues, such as Playa de la Zurriola and the Kursaal Center's outdoor terraces, are free.

Parque de Aiete

The 19th-century Palacio de Aiete of the Dukes of Bailen was built on a Camino de Santiago site where medieval pilgrims stopped on their way to Santiago de Compostela . The aristocratic palace once hosted illustrious visitors, including Queen Victoria of England.

Today, the palace grounds are used as a public park and venue for cultural events. It's a delightful place to explore on a sunny day, especially during spring and summer when the colorful flowers are in bloom.

The romantic parkland was designed by French landscape architect Pierre Ducasse. With its lake, ponds, and rushing waterfalls, the lush landscaping gives the impression of untouched nature. Hundreds of different trees and plants flourish in an idyllic setting.

The Parque de Aiete also has walking trails, a children's playground, and a café-restaurant with pleasant outdoor seating.

Hondarribia

Hondarribia is a charming little fishing village and seaside holiday resort. If you appreciate quaint historic towns, Hondarribia is a wonderful place to base your vacation.

The Old Town (classified as a Historic Artistic Site) is a medieval walled city, entered through the 15th-century Puerta de Santa María . Wandering the narrow cobblestone streets leads to the discovery of many historic landmarks, including houses with coats of arms on the facade.

An important sight is the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción . In this Gothic church, the marriage of Louis XIV of France and the Infanta María Teresa of Spain was sanctified.

For coastal views, head to the Plaza de Armas , which overlooks the mouth of the river and the lighthouse on Cabo Higuer to the north.

Hondarribia is also known for its gastronomy. The city boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant, the Alameda , which specializes in Basque Nouvelle Cuisine. Seasonal cooking, based on mostly local ingredients, is the focus of this fine-dining establishment.

For those who want to live like a king for a night, stay at the renovated Castillo de Carlos V , a 10th-century castle that has been converted to the luxurious four-star Parador de Hondarribia hotel.

Hondarribia is a 23-kilometer drive from San Sebastián.

Carretera del Jaizkibel

This scenic driving route begins 25 kilometers outside of San Sebastián and less than three kilometers from Hondarribia. The road travels up the bare sandstone ridge of Jaizkibel to a height of 584 meters, where the pilgrimage church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe stands.

For a relaxing stay in the area, try the Hotel Jaizkibel . This modern four-star hotel offers quiet, comfortable accommodations, a lovely garden setting, and excellent services including a breakfast buffet and concierge. Some guest rooms have views of the countryside and coastline.

Getaria

Getaria is a worthwhile excursion, about 25 kilometers from San Sebastián. On the way here, you will enjoy a lovely scenic drive.

Beginning at Zarautz (22 kilometers away from San Sebastián), the Cornisa Cantábrica (Cantabrian Corniche) scenic route extends along the rocky coastline.

The fishing port of Getaria lies on a picturesque promontory, with its harbor sheltered by the fortified island of San Antonio. The town's port is below the 13th-century Gothic Church of San Salvador , and the waterfront of the harbor is lined with enticing seafood restaurants.

Monasterio de San Ignacio de Loyola

Nestled in the Urola Valley about 40 kilometers from San Sebastián, the Monastery of San Ignacio de Loyola now houses a Jesuit college. The monastery was built between 1689 and 1888 based on the design of Carlo Fontana, a student of Bernini.

The splendid Baroque church at the monastery features an impressive 65-meter-high dome by Joaquín de Churriguera and is considered one of the finest in Spain.

You will be dazzled by the lavish sanctuary, with its overwhelming spaciousness and decorative marble inlays. A masterpiece of Baroque art, the high altar displays a statue of Saint Ignatius.

Most top attractions in San Sebastián are found in the Parte Vieja (Old Town) and along the crescent of beaches that skirt the Bay of Concha. Across the Urumea River, the bustling Barrio de Gros quarter is within walking distance of the Old Town and close to a popular surfers' beach. In the center of the Old Town, the Calle 31 de Agosto street is lined with convivial pintxos bars. Here are some highly rated hotels in San Sebastián:

Luxury Hotels :

  • Overlooking the Urumea River and just around the corner from Calle 31 de Agosto, the Hotel Maria Cristina is a grand hotel in a central location of San Sebastián. This Belle Epoque landmark catered to aristocrats and royalty in the 19th century and still offers sumptuous accommodations, as well as impeccable service. Amenities include a concierge, a fine-dining restaurant that serves Asian cuisine, and a tea room/ pintxos bar.
  • The Hotel Villa Soro is close to the shops and pintxos bars in the Barrio de Gros neighborhood. Surrounded by enchanting gardens, this 4-star boutique hotel occupies a 19th-century villa listed as a historic landmark. Hotel services include a concierge, bicycle rentals, and a gourmet breakfast with French pastries served on the garden terrace.
  • You will appreciate being in the heart of the city's action at the 4-star Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra , a stately Belle Epoque hotel facing La Concha Bay and a short walk to the Old Town. The bright cheerful rooms feature fine linens and recently renovated bathrooms. Some rooms have balconies with sea views. The hotel's gastronomic restaurant serves traditional Basque cuisine.

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • The 3-star Hotel Niza overlooks the beach promenade along La Concha Bay and is steps away from the Old Town. The chic contemporary-style guest rooms feature private balconies, some with sea views. Amenities include a concierge, paid parking, free use of bicycles, and a restaurant that serves pintxos and traditional Basque dishes.
  • On the hill just above the Playa de Ondarreta near Miramar Palace, the NH Collection San Sebastián Aránzazu has stylish modern guest rooms and excellent amenities, including a concierge and fitness center. The hotel's restaurant specializes in local cuisine.
  • A 15-minute walk from the Old Town and La Concha beach, the Hotel Zinema7 features rooms decorated on the theme of classic motion pictures. Amenities at this 4-star hotel include a swimming pool, fitness center, and restaurant. Guests appreciate the location in a quiet neighborhood on a street lined with shops and restaurants.

Budget Hotels:

  • The Parma Hotel is located at the edge of the Old Town across the river from the Playa de la Zurriola. This 2-star hotel has tastefully decorated guest rooms, some of which have sea views. The hotel provides a 24-hour front desk, concierge, and a breakfast buffet.
  • The centrally located Hotel Zaragoza Plaza is one block from the beach and an easy walk to many shops, tourist attractions, and the railway station. A concierge and 24-hour front desk ensure an enjoyable stay. A breakfast buffet is available.
  • Guided Walking Tour: Take a San Sebastián City Tour that covers the city's highlights: Monte Igueldo, Miramar Palace, Zurriola Beach, the Mercado de la Bretxa, and Buen Pastor Cathedral. Your knowledgeable guide will share interesting commentary along the way. The tour includes pick-up and drop-off.
  • Electric Bike Tour: You'll have fun touring the city on a small-group electric bike tour of San Sebastián . With this guided tour, you will see more sights (in three hours) than is possible on a walking tour. Battery-powered bicycles make the trip up Mount Igueldo a breeze. The tour takes the group to popular spots like La Concha Beach and Miramar Palace, as well as some lesser-known gems.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

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Seaside Splendor in Santander: Tourists looking for more gorgeous beaches on the shores of northern Spain will want to visit the laid-back coastal town of Santander , home to a variety of golden-sand beaches, as well as historic landmarks and excellent museums.

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Cultural Attractions of Bilbao: Located about halfway between Santander and San Sebastián, the cultured city of Bilbao is renowned for its museum and Basque cuisine. Bilbao's initial fame came with the construction of the Guggenheim Museum, and the city's popularity has grown as visitors discover its other museums and interesting neighborhoods.

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Beautiful Biarritz: San Sebastián sits close to the French border, and less than an hour's drive along the coast to the east is the fashionable seaside resort town of Biarritz . Here, you will find stunning beaches, regal mansions, and elegant boulevards full of shops and restaurants.

San Sebastián Map - Tourist Attractions

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7 Best Things To Do in San Sebastian

Updated Feb. 11, 2021

San Sebastian primarily caters to travelers who opt outside. La Concha Beach is the picture-perfect spot for sun-seekers to enjoy while Zurriola Beach serves as the home base for the city's surfing community. Monte Urgull 's and Monte Igueldo 's

  • All Things To Do

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Parte Vieja Parte Vieja free

Parte Vieja, also known as the Old Town, is the heart of San Sebastian. Despite its name, it's actually not the oldest part of the city (that honor belongs to Antiguo), but it is the most lively. Parte Vieja's pedestrian-friendly streets are flanked by centuries-old buildings that house a plethora of restaurants, shops and bars. It's considered the best nightlife spot in San Sebastian, as well as the best place to grab pintxos (the local term for light bites, similar to tapas). These two tend to coincide among locals, who begin their nights out pintxos barhopping.  

If you're not a night owl, you can still find things to do in Parte Vieja. Pintxos are served all day and there are a few architectural gems that warrant further exploration. The San Vicente church, located next to the San Telmo Museoa, is the oldest in the city, dating back to the 16th century. Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus, found at the base of Monte Urgull along the bustling Calle Mayor, is also located in this neighborhood. Meanwhile, Plaza de la Constitución is an excellent place to rest your feet and watch the world go by. Keep in mind, though, that the plaza's restaurants may be pricier than other parts of the city due to their central location.

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Pintxos Food Tours Pintxos Food Tours

A good chunk of San Sebastian's international foodie fame is credited to its pintxo, so you'll want to put aside some time to explore the city's pintxos bars either on your own or with an organized group. Pintxos (pronounced "peen-chos") are essentially the Basque version of tapas, with a few key differences. Traditional pintxos consist of slices of baguette bread topped with any kind of food, held in place with a toothpick. Another difference lies in presentation. While most other places in Spain serve patrons a plate of tapas with the order of a drink, pintxos are laid out in bulk on the bar, allowing diners to pick what they want.

Pintxos in San Sebastian have significantly evolved over time and bars don't always adhere to the traditional bread or skewer base when serving them. Zeruko chooses to put the contents of its txitxarro dish (chopped fish, sheep's milk cheese and mint) on top of a strawberry wafer. Another popular spot, La Cuchara de San Telmo, also forgoes tradition by not having its pintxos lined out on the bar. Here you can order bits of suckling Segovian pig or veal cheek (a traveler favorite). If you're more interested in sticking to the classics, head to Ganbara, which features gilda, txistorra (cured Basque sausage piled on bread) and savory spider crab tartlets (a San Sebastian specialty).

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La Concha Beach La Concha Beach free

You wouldn't be able to miss this attraction even if you tried. La Concha Beach (named after its seashell shape) is located a stone's throw away from Parte Vieja . Situated southwest of Parte Vieja, the beach stretches about a mile wide and offers spectacular views of Monte Urgull , Monte Igueldo and Santa Clara Island, as well as the beautiful architecture that borders La Concha Promenade. This promenade, famous for its decorative, white wrought iron barrier, is a gateway to other points of interest in the city, including Parte Vieja and Miramar Palace, as well as a few beachside parks. 

Travelers and experts agree that La Concha Beach is incredible and shouldn't be missed. Even if you're visiting during the cooler months, a stroll along the picture-perfect shoreline is a must. Visitors also appreciated how well-maintained the beach was: Travelers say the sands were clean and the water crystal clear. And considering the beach experiences fewer waves than the nearby Zurriola Beach , the setting makes La Concha a great option for families. Keep in mind, though, that during the warmer months, the shoreline becomes quite crowded, so make sure to get there early if you want to claim a stretch of sand. 

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Popular Tours

Ultimate San Sebastian Pintxos & Wine Tour (Evening)

Ultimate San Sebastian Pintxos & Wine Tour (Evening)

(756 reviews)

from $ 142.59

San Sebastian Pintxo, Wine & Market Foodie Tour(Small Group)

San Sebastian Pintxo, Wine & Market Foodie Tour(Small Group)

(251 reviews)

from $ 154.75

Biarritz and French Coast Small Grop Tour from San Sebastian

Biarritz and French Coast Small Grop Tour from San Sebastian

(108 reviews)

from $ 74.23

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Monte Igueldo Monte Igueldo

Located on the western end of La Concha Bay, Monte Igueldo is a hit with travelers for its arresting vistas and attractions at the summit (just a few reasons why visitors preferred Monte Igueldo to Monte Urgull ). At the top, you can get an eyeful of La Concha Bay, Monte Urgull (situated directly across from Monte Igueldo) as well as panoramic views of the Bay of Biscay. An amusement park also sits at its peak, offering everything from a sky-high rollercoaster to fun houses to go-carts.

Travelers say the views from Monte Igueldo are unmatched and so breathtaking that you'd be doing yourself a disservice by not visiting while in San Sebastian. To get to the top of Monte Igueldo, take the funicular located at the base of the hill, which can be found a couple blocks from Ondarreta Beach. Round-trip funicular tickets cost 3.15 euros (around $3.50) for adults and 2.35 (about $2.50) for children. Hours vary by season, but the funicular is generally open every day from 10 a.m. to 9 or 10 p.m. and departs every 15 minutes. Hours of operation at the amusement park vary greatly depending on the season and if there's a public holiday. Consult the Basque Country tourism board's website for the amusement park's hours of operation. There is no admission fee for the amusement park, but rather a charge for each individual ride.

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Monte Urgull Monte Urgull free

Monte Urgull is one of two peaks that bookend La Concha (the other is Monte Igueldo ). The lush hill makes for a great hike, with incredible views awaiting visitors at the top. Along with the panoramic vistas at the summiy, hikers will find Castillo de la Motad, which dates back to the 12th century and once served as a fortress to protect the city from invasion. 

It's also home to the nearly 40-foot Cristo de la Mota, or Sacred Heart, statue (visible from the bottom of the hill). Relics, including canons, are strewn throughout, but if you're interested in learning more about Monte Urgull's long, storied role in defending San Sebastian, stop by the Casa de la Historia museum, also located at the top.

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Zurriola Beach Zurriola Beach free

Located on the other side of Monte Urgull , Zurriola Beach (or Playa Zurriola) differs from La Concha in that it's an action-packed surfing spot. In fact, the waves are so impressive (swells can reach a foot-and-a-half on a regular day), numerous local and international surfing competitions are held here. The best time for surfing in San Sebastian is during fall and winter. That's because waves are the biggest this time of year, reaching 5 to 6 feet in height. Even if you're not a surfer, you can still enjoy Zurriola Beach. The beach features plenty of space to stretch your legs and is completely safe for swimming. 

Travelers who came to relax on Zurriola's sands or ride its waves reported a good time. Surfers compliment the conditions and recommend renting a board at one of the many nearby surf shops. Just remember: because so many flock here to surf, it's best to arrive early in the day to avoid crowded waters (though, reviewers say there are far fewer beachgoers here than La Concha). Some swimmers did complain that because there are so many surfers, the area of the beach dedicated to swimming can feel small compared to La Concha. 

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San Sebastian Aquarium San Sebastian Aquarium

If you've got kids in tow, then a visit to the San Sebastian Aquarium should be at the top of your list. That's because the aquarium, appropriately located right above the ocean's waters, features about 31 different exhibits broken up by region housing more than 200 species. Expect to find aquarium regulars, such as turtles, sharks, sea stars and stingrays, as well as plenty of fish big, small and colorful. There's also a giant skeleton of a North Atlantic right whale that acts as the center piece within the aquarium, as well as a 360-degree underwater tunnel that goes right through one of the aquarium's tanks.

Travelers young and old enjoyed their time at the San Sebastian Aquarium. Kids liked getting up an up-close view at the sea life, especially in the underwater tunnel. Meanwhile, grown-ups appreciated that the aquarium also houses exhibits chronicling the city's maritime history. Some adults felt this enriched their experience, as it helped give a greater context to the story of the animals that call the aquarium home.

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  • Travel Guides

The Seaside City With The Loveliest Stretch Of Golden Sand In Europe, Per Rick Steves

Golden beach with town behind

It's no secret that Europe has some of the most spectacular beaches in the world. If you need a hand in choosing the best beach vacation destination on the continent , European travel expert and TV host Rick Steves has a suggestion: San Sebastián. Located in Northern Spain, San Sebastián is famous for its striking beaches like Ondarreta Beach and Zurriola Beach. Steves highlighted the coastal city in his Basque Country episode of "Rick Steves' Europe." He also raved about San Sebastián on his website , describing it as a must-visit.

Steves' wrote (via his website,  Rick Steves' Europe ), "Shimmering above the breathtaking bay of La Concha, elegant and prosperous San Sebastián (or "Donostia" in the local Euskara language) has a favored location with golden beaches book-ended by twin peaks, and a cute little island just offshore." In this case, Steves' is referring to none other than La Concha Beach. However, Steves is not the only one who appreciates its vast beauty. In 2024, La Concha Beach received a Travelers' Choice Award for the Best of the Best beaches from Tripadvisor.

Additionally, Tripadvisor ranks it as the No. 1 thing to do in San Sebastián. Reviewers praise La Concha Beach's mountain scenery, pristine water, sand, and amenities. On his website,Steves' notes that there are complimentary lockers and showers for beachgoers. Likewise, the PBS host mentions La Concha Beach's iconic promenade, ideal for an oceanside walk. Another bonus? That "little island" Steves' referred to is  Santa Clara Island and it is accessible to the public.

Visit Santa Clara Island

Santa Clara Island is a  lesser-known European island perfect for beachside relaxing . This day trip destination features a natural pool where visitors can do exactly that. In addition, Santa Clara Island is known for its breathtaking views of San Sebastián. Notably, there is a hike that leads visitors to a historic lighthouse that provides the ultimate lookout point. Describing the hike, a Tripadvisor reviewer who goes by DP49  said, "The sloping paths crisscrossing the island are a combination of steps and stone pathways. While there is a steady incline upward, you can reach the top with minimal effort."

Restroom facilities are available and there is also a restaurant. Several Tripadvisor reviews commend the eatery's paella, which is a traditional Spanish seafood dish. However, if you want to pack food and snacks, reviewers say the island is a picturesque spot for a picnic. So how do you get to Santa Clara Island from San Sebastián in the first place? Visitors can take a 10-minute boat ride from the port of Donostia with Motoras de la Isla .

Their Red Line tour runs every 30 minutes from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Note that this excursion is only offered during the summer. At the time of this writing, a round trip from San Sebastián to Santa Clara cost less than $5. Alternatively, visitors can also swim from Ondarreta Beach to Santa Clara Island. Ondarreta Beach is within walking distance of La Concha Beach.

What else is there to do in San Sebastián?

Undoubtedly, San Sebastián's beaches draw visitors to the city. However, there is much more to explore and experience. On his website , Rick Steves recommends visiting San Sebastián's Old Town. He wrote, "Its Old Town hides heavy Baroque and Gothic churches, surprise plazas, and fun little shops, including venerable pastry stores, rugged produce markets, Basque-independence souvenir stands, and seafood-to-go delis." That said, visitors who want to learn more about the city and its history can do so with Free Tour San Sebastián . The fee for this two-hour walking tour is donation-based. Tours are held daily at 10:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

The San Telmo Museoa also aims to educate visitors about Basque art, history, and more. Impressively, the museum is housed in a former convent, and admission is about $10. San Sebastián also has many Michelin-starred and highly-rated restaurants. Steves suggests dining on tapas at Ganbara , which is in the Michelin guide and was beloved by Anthony Bourdain. Reviewers on Tripadvisor repeatedly mention the grilled mushroom with egg yolk and the spider crab tartlet. For nature lovers, there are several parks in the city, including Aiete Parkea, home to the lavish Aiete Palace. 

If you're ready to pack your bags and head to Spain, San Sebastián is a brief flight from Madrid, the country's capital, and Barcelona. If you enjoyed this story, check out destinations to skip when booking a European beach vacation .

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How to get around

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Donostia / San Sebastián is a city made for walking . Getting around on foot is easy and there is access to multiple public transport options that connect different parts of the city.

Locals are used to moving around on foot, bike and public transport. Did you know that over 32 million trips are made on San Sebastián’s public transport annually, a figure that grows year after year? The city also has 77 kilometres of bike lanes and the walking distances between the major attractions are within a radius of about 15-20 minutes over flat terrain .

And if you travel to the city by car , San Sebastian has over 6,000 parking spaces . We recommend parking in one of the car parks and using public transport to get around , particularly during peak tourist periods.

san sebastian spain travel

San Sebastian is a city made for walking . It is a city designed on a human scale and can be easily crossed on foot, thanks to short distances   between attractions, extensive pedestrian sections , spectacular walks  along the river and sea , and strolls through streets and avenues dotted with stunning architecture .

Movilidad San Sebastián

Visiting the city in an alternative, environmentally friendly, active and fun way is also fully possible in Donostia / San Sebastián. Over 30 km of bike lanes, known locally as bidegorris (literally “red roads” in Basque ) and more than 77 km of separate and safe bike lanes (63% of the all roads) make it easy to visit the best the city has to offer, on wheels.

From the promenades to the streets of the city centre, all of San Sebastían has been equipped for bikes, making it a quick and convenient way to visit the city.

Several bike rental shops are also available.

On public transport

Movilidad San Sebastián

Donostia has a comprehensive and efficient city bus service , managed by the Dbus company. that will move you quickly from one end of the city to another. You can pay directly on the bus with your credit card . Consulting the lines and bus tours around the city is very easy from the Dbus website !

And if you’re looking for an even easier and cheaper way to get around on public transport, you can purchase the San Sebastián Card at Donostia / San Sebastián tourism offices. This card is highly recommended for anyone who wants to use public transport to explore the city. The Basque Card is another option and includes trips to the surrounding region. Both cards offer unbeatable discounts at museums, restaurants and shops.

ACCESSIBILITY

Information on the accessibility to the city bus network (Dbus company)

como-moverse-tarjetas-turis

Hours vary depending on the lines. Most start running around 7:30 a.m. and stop service at 10:30 p.m. You can find the schedule for each line and the frequency at the stops.

Dbus has a night bus service called “Búhos”. Most night bus lines start around midnight and end service around 4:00 p.m. The Búhos lines operate exclusively on Fridays, Saturdays and the nights before public holidays. All leave from Boulevard de Donostia / San Sebastián.

  

San Sebastian has a large, modern fleet of taxis that operate 24 hours a day. Rates are metered and official. Unlike in other cities, taxis in San Sebastian do not stop on the street , so it is best to go to a taxi rank or call :

Taxi companies

  • Taxidonosti
  • Vallina Teletaxi

Information on the accessibility to Taxi Donosti company

Information on the accessibility to Vallina Teletaxi company

Vehicle rental

Bike rental.

  • Basque Country Cycling- Kili
  • La Bicicleta
  • Oh my bike!
  • Sanse bikes

Car with driver rental

  • Talur Luxury Cars

Scooter rental

  • Rental Moto Donostia

Buses and coaches

  • Autobuses Aizpurua
  • Autocares Apaolaza
  • Autocares David
  • Iparbus Vip Services
  • Vallina Bus-Auto

San Sebastián is user-friendly; it is easy to get around using the public transport services that connect the different parts of the city.

Tourist Card

Don’t think twice... get yourself one.

  • Because the TouristCard is the master key to the city.
  • Because the TouristCard marks the difference between visiting or getting to know San Sebastián and Gipuzkoa.
  • Because you can use the TouristCard on public transport, and it offers you excellent discounts in museums, restaurants and shops

Public transport

How to get around San Sebastian

San Sebastián has a large bus fleet run by the company Dbus for fast and easy travel from one end of the city to the other. You can pay directly at the bus with your credit card. Take a look at the different lines on the Dbus website .

San Sebastián has a large and modern fleet of taxis available 24hrs a day. The rates are official and they operate with a taxi meter. In San Sebastián, unlike in other cities, taxis do not normally stop when hailed in the street. The best idea is to head for a taxi rank or phone for one:

In San Sebastián you can leave your car in one of the more than 6,000 parking places found in different parts of the city.

parking-donostia-pago

RECOVERY OF VEHICLES FROM THE MUNICIPAL POUND

The municipal tow truck is authorised to remove a vehicle and take it to the municipal pound in the event of illegal parking, security concerns or the commitment of any other type of infraction (lack of documentation, drink driving, judicial order, traffic accidents, incorrect documentation etc.)

In general, it is possible to go to the pound directly and get the vehicle back on the spot, after having paid the appropriate fee (it is possible to pay in cash or by card). In some circumstances, depending on the infraction that has been committed, it is necessary to go to the Guardia Municipal [municipal police] first to ask them for permission to collect the vehicle.

Rental of cars with a driver:

Buses and coaches:

Guided-tour

Tourist bus panoramic route

Guided-tour

Tourist train

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san sebastian spain travel

This foodie paradise has been crowned Spain's best coastal spot

N estled in the Bay of Biscay in northern Spain ’s mountainous Basque country, San Sebastián is known for its gorgeous sandy beaches, world-famous restaurants and historic old town – much like Barcelona .

And if you’re looking for a cultural experience similar to Barcelona, but without the crowds, the Basque town of Donostia/San Sebastián is a sure-fire way to have a super foodie holiday for slightly less.

Consumer champion Which? invited travellers to rate their experiences of Spanish seaside towns, based on factors like food and drink, accommodation, value for money, safety, the quality of the beach and seafront and value for money. 

An overall score was calculated based on general satisfaction and likeliness to recommend from from more than 1,200 travellers, .

San Sebastián ranks as Spain’s best seaside town, with visitors obsessing over the Pintxos (small portions of food served with cocktails) and its top-tier restaurants.

The annual average price of a three or four star hotel is £155, while respondents rated it highly for its beach and seafront, attractiveness, safety and friendliness.

Termed ‘gorgeous’ by adorning visitors in one Reddit thread , San Sebastián has earned its stripes, but it’s often overshadowed by the likes of Spanish tourism giants Madrid, Valenica and Seville.

But in 2023 alone, more than 12 million people holidayed in the Catalan capital of Barcelona – and the Sagrada Familia is now one of the most visited tourist attractions in  Spain .

WIN VIP tickets to Pub In The Park worth £110 each!

Tom Kerridge’s Pub in the Park returns to Chiswick, Reigate and St Albans for 2024 – and we’ve got five pairs of VIP tickets to give away, worth up to £110 each. 

The much-loved food and music festival celebrates everything there is to love about the glorious British pub: delicious food, award-winning chefs , epic live music, delicious drinks but above all else, a fantastic time with friends and family. Van Morrison, Busted, McFly, Paloma Faith, Sam Ryder, Gabrielle and Olly Murs have all been confirmed to play across the four weekends, with even more acts still to be announced!

To find out more and for your chance to win the ultimate summer day out, click here . You have until  midnight 15 May  to enter, so sign up soon! Full T&Cs apply, see here .

San Sebastián is also just over an hour away from the larger, more industrial port city of Bilbao, famous for the curvy Guggenheim Museum and looming hills.

Things to do in San Sebastián

If you’re in search of a foodie long weekend away, then San Sebastián has everything you could ask for. The most popular dishes here are comprised of fish, including baked spider crab, hake cheeks in green sauce, and hake koxkera.

The local pintxos (not dissimilar to tapas, but often spiked with a tooth pick) are also popular, with dishes including stuffed peppers, tortilla de patatas, and croquettes.

If you’d like to experience the best local places, you can even book yourself onto a Pintxos Tour in the Old Town – available through the likes of TripAdvisor.

For San Sebastián’s answer to Barcelona’s (undoubtedly more crowded) sandy beaches, there’s the likes of La Concha Beach, Ondarreta Beach, and Zurriola Beach, all featuring stunning blue waters.

Meanwhile, Monte Urgill overlooks the ocean, and reaches an impressive 123 metres at its peak. Converted into a military fortress in the 12 th century, its walls were attacked throughout the years – including by France, the UK and Portugal.

Peine del Viento is a classic snapshot of San Sebastián, a modern iron sculpture designed by Eduardo Chillida and embedded into the rocks by the sea shore.

And, to learn more about Basque history, visit the San Telmo Museoa, a converted monastery that now operates as a museum, presenting items from various periods in Basque history.

How to get to San Sebastián

While there isn’t a direct flight from London to San Sebastián, the closest airport is Bilbao.

Flights from London Gatwick Airport to the Basque city take two hours, and are available via Vueling for as little as £45 return.

From there, San Sebastián is just over one hour by car, or one hour and 11 minutes on the train.

From Manchester, you can take a flight to Barcelona El-Prat Airport, which takes two hours and 25 minutes, and transfer for a flight to San Sebastián Airport. This is slightly more costly though, coming in around the £120 mark for a return journey.

Places to eat in San Sebastián

If you’re heading to San Sebastián, chances are you want to feast on pintxo. Many establishments can be found in the Old Town.

Ganbara is highly rated on Tripadvisor for its food and service. Solo traveller, mrstraveller1, gushed about the food in their review, writing: ‘This was on the list of top pintxo bars suggested by my hotel and it was an excellent choice. 

They added: ‘All the dishes sampled were delicious, most particularly Ganbara’s speciality, the spider crab tartlet. Wines by the glass were also gorgeous, and so reasonably priced.’

La Cepa also has an impressive 4.5 rating on Tripadvisor, as is La Cuchara de San Telmo .

More restaurants in San Sebastián

  • Casa Vegara
  • Borda Berri

When to visit San Sebastián

If you’re in search of sunshine, then the summer is undoubtedly the optimum time of year to visit San Sebastián.

In June, temperatures can reach 21C, whilst in July and August the mercury can swoop up to 23C and 24C respectively.

If you want to avoid the crowds though, there’s always the possibility of some winter sun.

In February and March, temperatures flit between a respectable 13C and 14C (arguably warmer than the UK that time of year, when London averages between (9C and 12C).

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At These Restaurants, Feeding the Staff Comes First

The “family meal” tradition of serving workers before customers is getting new life as a perk, a motivator and a teaching tool.

Noah Steers, a young chef in whites and a black baseball cap, sprinkles something over a pan of food in a restaurant kitchen.

By Julia Moskin

When Eric Ripert was a young cook at La Tour D’Argent , possibly the oldest restaurant in Paris and certainly one of the stuffiest, all the cooks sat down before service to a proper French meal: appetizer, entree, dessert and cheese.

He is hardly nostalgic for his time there. (“I have PTSD” from the experience, he said.) But he had that meal in mind when he posted a job opening for “Staff Meal Chef” at Le Bernardin , his temple of seafood in Midtown Manhattan, making it one of only a few U.S. restaurants to hire a chef just to cook for its own employees.

Serving and sharing a meal before diners arrive is a longstanding tradition in the culinary world — at restaurants that can afford it. In most kitchens, especially in fast food and casual dining, workers have to stagger their breaks and bring or buy their own food. Even at high-end restaurants, staff meal has often been a last-minute effort, with line cooks scrambling to refuel their co-workers as quickly and cheaply as possible.

But many American chefs are devoting new attention and care to staff meals, or family meals, as they are often known. In a notoriously abusive industry, the mental and physical health of employees has become a priority, and retaining staff has become an imperative amid a post-pandemic labor shortage. With benefits and perks like family meal, restaurants are trying to build loyalty among employees. Increasingly, they’re are also using the meal as a teaching opportunity, a testing tool and a creative incubator.

Mr. Ripert said that he created the position at Le Bernardin because the daily struggle to get family meal ready affronted his pride in a kitchen that runs like clockwork. “It got under my skin,” he said.

On a May afternoon, a few weeks into his new job as the restaurant’s staff-meal chef, Noah Steers was loading a cart with trays of shawarma-style chicken, turmeric-tinted rice, beet salad, Greek salad, tzatziki and chocolate mousse. He had to feed 100 employees between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m., a task complicated by the fact that his kitchen is many corridors and an elevator ride away from the converted storage room where the workers eat.

When Mr. Steers applied for the position, his experience cooking in Thailand, Peru and Mexico impressed Le Bernardin’s chef de cuisine enough that he was offered a job in the kitchen, but he chose this role instead.

“It’s more creative than being at a station prepping the same thing every day,” he said, racing through the bowels of the office tower that houses the Le Bernardin complex.

The tradition of restaurant workers breaking to eat together exists in many parts of the world. The French system that produced Mr. Ripert, encoded by the chef Auguste Escoffier in the 19th century, was designed for busy hotel kitchens that served steadily from breakfast through dinner. Cooks ate while they sweated at the stove, and the job of keeping them on their feet with food and drink was delegated to the lowest person in the culinary hierarchy: the “communard,” who ranked above only the “kitchen boy” and the bussers.

The low status of the role — and the low quality of the meal, at most restaurants — was the standard in the United States until very recently. Long before food waste became a public concern, chefs were preoccupied with squeezing every cent from their budget. Family-meal cooks had to build meals on scraps, trimmings and food on the verge of spoiling, usually bulked out with a starch like pasta or rice.

But as the farm-to-table movement took off and the culinary profession attracted more recruits, that changed. In 1999, “ The French Laundry Cookbook ” by Thomas Keller included recipes for “staff lasagna” and salad dressing. In 2000, David Waltuck, the chef and co-founder of Chanterelle in TriBeCa, dedicated an entire cookbook to the subject: “ Staff Meals from Chanterelle .”

Along the way, “staff meal” has become “family meal,” emphasizing the emotional connections forged by sharing food during a lull in the tornado of service.

In most ambitious U.S. restaurants, there’s now a tub of ingredients dedicated to family meal, or a shelf in the walk-in labeled “comida.” At this time of year, there might be asparagus that aren’t pretty enough for the dining room, or an overflow supply of ramps.

Figuring out how to turn those into a satisfying spread is what makes family meal a proving ground for cooks. Cheetie Kumar , the chef of Ajja in Raleigh, N.C., said she uses it as a teaching tool, and a test.

“It’s an opportunity to develop all the skills that turn a cook into a chef: planning, breaking a recipe down to its components, delegating and managing time.”

And it frequently produces signature dishes. At Budonoki in Los Angeles, the chef Dan Rabilwongse said, two dishes created for family meal have made the jump to the regular menu: charred sweet potato with miso butter and chives, and fried chicken wings tossed in a South Asian-ish sauce (based on the skewers at Disneyland’s popular Bengal Barbecue stand).

The chef Fariyal Abdullahi said that posting photos of family meal at Hav & Mar in Manhattan to her 28,000 Instagram followers is part of her mission to help customers connect with the people who make their food, not just the ones who bring it to the table.

She also uses family meal as a motivator to get reluctant employees to work on Sundays, by supplying the lead line cook, Victor Estolano, with the ingredients for a sprawling Filipino feast.

“Family meal refuels not only your body, but your spirit and your mood,” said Mr. Estolano, who has worked in kitchens for 11 years.

Musashi Osaki, a sous-chef in Brooklyn, said he tries to achieve the combination of lightness and nourishment that he observed in family meal when he worked as an apprentice in Kyoto, Japan.

Mr. Osaki has shot to sudden fame in TikTok videos made by his partner, Jasmine Stoy, that show him cooking in their home kitchen and behind the scenes at Restaurant Yuu in Greenpoint. Often, he’s seen stirring soup or roasting vegetables for family meal, to prepare the team for serving 15 courses to 18 guests twice each night, in a theatrical sequence of culinary choreography.

“Family meal isn’t considered as social time,” he said. “We actually need the fuel.”

Mr. Osaki grew up working at his parents’ busy sushi restaurant near the Hamptons and moved to Kyoto when he decided to pursue a culinary career. Like the other cooks at the traditional kaiseki restaurant, who had committed to 10-year apprenticeships, he often worked from 7:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. six days a week, with family meal — always a soup, a protein and rice — as the only break in the day.

Laila Bazahm, the chef of El Raval in Austin, Texas, is one of many chefs who encourage employees to bring their home-cooking skills to family meal. She grew up in the Philippines, worked as a banker in Dubai and decided at age 26 to move to San Sebastián in Spain to train at the celebrated restaurant Mugaritz . As at most high-end European kitchens, she and the other unpaid interns (called stagiaires) were responsible for family meal, an experience she describes as “terrifying” for an unskilled cook.

She fell back on adobo , the food of her childhood. Later, at her restaurant in Barcelona, Hawker45 , the staff hailed from so many parts of the world that Thai curries, Senegalese stews and Vietnamese soups all came to influence the menu.

“We used to trade family meal with nearby restaurants,” she said, a goal she’s now trying to achieve in Austin.

Family meal rarely observes standard mealtimes. At Hawker45, because many Spanish restaurants don’t open for dinner until 8 p.m., staff meal was served at 7 p.m.; at El Raval, it’s at 4 p.m.

Family meal is served at 6:30 in the morning at Koko Head Cafe in Honolulu, an all-day breakfast spot created by the chef Lee Anne Wong. It has to be good to get employees to come to work on time, she said. “In Hawaii, people don’t think twice about having rice and protein first thing in the morning,” so family meal might be bibimbap with Spam, or congee with fish.

Parche is a new restaurant in Oakland, Calif., dedicated to modern Colombian food, where the chef and owner Paul Iglesias encourages the cooks making family meal to start with a cookbook. The classic “Gran Libro de La Cocina Colombiana,” commissioned by Colombia’s culture ministry and published in 1984, is the one cookbook that his mother, a professor of art history, brought along when the family immigrated to the United States.

“It opens their eyes to Colombian food: the Lebanese and Turkish influences from the Atlantic port of Cartagena, the breads we make from cassava and yuca and corn, before Spanish settlers brought wheat,” Mr. Iglesias said.

The staff’s favorite family meal is buñuelos , cheese puffs stuffed with meat that are so popular that he has to enforce a rule of two per person. Parche’s family meal is open to every employee whether they are working that day or not. “No questions asked,” he said.

At Le Bernardin, where the restaurant’s famously fresh fish start pouring in before sunrise, there are two family meals each day. Mr. Ripert said he has only one rule when it comes to feeding his cooks: meat and poultry are preferred.

“They get a bit tired of seafood,” he said.

Follow New York Times Cooking on Instagram , Facebook , YouTube , TikTok and Pinterest . Get regular updates from New York Times Cooking, with recipe suggestions, cooking tips and shopping advice .

Julia Moskin covers everything related to restaurants, chefs, food and cooking for The Times. More about Julia Moskin

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The Sunny Spanish City That's Known for Flamenco Dancing Has Tasty Tapas, Striking Landmarks, and Elegant Boutique Hotels

Here's what you need to know before visiting Seville.

Lindsay Cohn is a writer, editor, and avid traveler who has visited 45 countries across six continents — and counting. She contributes to Travel + Leisure, Hotels Above Par, InsideHook, Well+Good, The Zoe Report, and more.

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  • Best Hotels & Resorts

Best Things to Do

Best restaurants, best time to visit, how to get there, neighborhoods to visit, how to get around.

Rory Fuller/Travel + Leisure

There are many reasons to visit Andalusia, but none are more compelling than its vibrant riverside capital. Originally founded by the Romans and later conquered by the Moors, Seville is rich in cultural traditions. “As one of the most significant Atlantic ports on the Iberian Peninsula dating back to ancient times, its monumental heritage creates an amazing combination of history, beauty, and food for travelers to enjoy,” says Alvaro Carmona , a ToursByLocals guide based in Seville.

Elegant and endlessly attractive, the city displays almost constant reminders of its time under Moorish rule with striking landmarks such as the Royal Alcázar of Seville (one of the most beautiful places to visit in Spain ) and La Giralda as standouts. Seville is the birthplace of flamenco with many famous venues for visitors to take a lesson or catch a show. It’s also the storied backdrop for over 100 operas — among them "Carmen," "The Barber of Seville," and "Don Juan de Mañara" — and has some world-class museums. The tapestry of influences, abundance of regional products, and immense local talent translate to a culinary scene that rivals the many epicurean power players throughout the country. Plus, the Mediterranean climate means sunshine, blue skies, and warm weather throughout the year — so it’s always a good time for sightseeing and enjoying a glass of wine or sherry at an alfresco café.

Whether you're looking to tour UNESCO sites or sample tasty tapas (probably both, right?), use this guide full of recommendations from local insiders to plan the perfect trip to Seville.

Top 5 Can’t Miss

  • See a flamenco show. 
  • Marvel at the Royal Alcázar of Seville.
  • Climb La Giralda for panoramic views.
  • Do a tapas tour. 
  • Stay at Hotel Alfonso XIII, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Seville.

Best Hotels & Resorts

Courtesy of Nobu Hotel Seville

Hotel Alfonso XIII, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Seville

What did the king of Spain do when he needed to host international dignitaries during the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibition? He commissioned a grand hotel befitting his high-status guests, of course. Nearly a century later, Hotel Alfonso XIII, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Seville remains a symbol of grandeur and glamour that easily goes toe-to-toe with the most spectacular stays in Barcelona and Madrid.

Nobu Seville

The new Nobu Seville brings its signature sense of Japanese minimalism to Plaza San Francisco. While loyalists will find all the Nobu classics — black cod, rock shrimp tempura, and toro tartare with caviar — the 25-key property also exudes a soulful sense of place thanks to traditional Andalusian touches and a rooftop terrace with a guest-only plunge pool, leafy gardens, and sweeping city views.

Hotel Mercer Seville

Ever dreamt of snoozing in a palace? Situated inside the former Casa Palacio Castelar in the heart of the El Arenal quarter, Hotel Mercer Seville is full of history. The refined boutique atmosphere and relaxing suites complete with oak floors, crisp linens, and high ceilings make it an ideal place to unwind after visits to nearby Nueva Square and Real Maestranza Bullring.

Hotel Palacio de Villapanes

Originally built by Admiral López-Pintado in 1729 and later the residence of the Marquis of Villapanés and his descendants, Hotel Palacio de Villapanes still reflects its roots as a Baroque mansion. The tiled central courtyard with a fountain, leafy plants, and arched columns commands focus. Not to be outdone, noble suites show off immense carved wooden doors, high ceilings, and Philippe Starck-designed tubs.

Radisson Collection Hotel, Magdalena Plaza Sevilla

For something a bit more modern, check into the Radisson Collection Hotel, Magdalena Plaza Sevilla . The brand’s first outpost in Spain blends clean lines and local character. Blue velvet accent chairs evoke the Andalusian sky, while plants nod to the many leafy squares and gardens around the city. “It’s also well positioned in the shopping area and very close to many top tourist attractions,” adds Carmona.

Tour the Royal Alcázar of Seville.

The first thing on the to-do list for many travelers coming to Seville? A visit to the UNESCO-listed Royal Alcázar of Seville, a stunning architectural masterpiece and historic royal palace crowned by ornamental tile work, carvings, and artwork that grew out of a 10th-century citadel.

Rory Fuller/Travel + Leisure

Visit the Seville Cathedral.

The impressive Seville Cathedral is the largest Gothic Christian church in the world. Size aside, it’s breathtakingly beautiful and also boasts the iconic La Giralda, which was originally constructed as a minaret for the Great Mosque of Seville and later converted into a bell tower.

See a flamenco show.

“No trip to Seville is complete without experiencing the passion and intensity of a traditional Flamenco show,” says Antonio Morilla, head concierge at Hotel Alfonso XIII, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Seville . La Casa del Flamenco and Tablao Flamenco El Arenal are some of the most famous theaters to watch the Andalusian dance.

Learn about Spanish history at the Archivo General de Indias.

Occupying a stately 16th-century merchant guild building, Archivo de Indias is an archive dedicated to the history of the “New World.” It holds more than 80 million pages of documents, photographs, drawings, and diaries from the likes of Columbus, Cortés, and Pizarro.

Ayhan Altun/Getty Images

Stroll through the Plaza de España.

Designed by Sevillian architect Aníbal González for the Ibero-America Exhibition of 1929, Plaza de España is one of Seville's crown jewels. The famous plaza comprises magnificent buildings that marry elements from art deco, Spanish Renaissance Revival, Spanish Baroque Revival, and Neo-Mudéjar architectural styles, plus a large fountain, canals, and tile-accented bridges.

Irina Shatilova/Getty Images

Michelin-starred Cañabota draws admiration from diners and critics alike. “It’s well-regarded for its modern versions of classic Sevillian seafood dishes and fantastic wine list,” says Morilla. Pro tip: Grab a seat at the counter to watch the masterful cooking up close.

Abantal is an elegant Michelin-starred restaurant that’s famous for its refined, flavorful cuisine. Head chef Julio Fernández combines Andalusian cooking traditions, innovative techniques, and high-quality local ingredients into incredible gastronomic tasting menus. It’s worth splurging on the wine pairing.

Sobretablas

Helmed by chef Camila Ferraro and sommelier Robert Tetas, Sobretablas celebrates the bounty of Andalusia in exciting and elevated ways. The cuisine puts a contemporary twist on classic regional recipes and pairs perfectly with the selection of natural and organic wines.

Bodeguita Romero

Out-of-towners and locals rub elbows over jamón ibérico, bull tail stew, and smoked sardine toast, plus Spanish wine and sherry, at Bodeguita Romero , a buzzy tapas bar in El Arenal that often has a line around the block. Carmona calls it “an essential stop in Seville.”

La Cochera del Abuelo

Tucked inside an 18th-century carriage house, La Cochera del Abuelo feels warm and intimate. The food very much matches the homey atmosphere. The curated menu changes regularly, so there’s always something new yet deliciously familiar to tickle your tastebuds.

With more than 3,000 sunny hours annually, Seville is really beautiful every day of the year. Carmona favors the beginning of spring when more than 40,000 bitter orange trees flower at the same time. “It’s simply magical!”

Seville Airport (SVQ) sits just six miles from the city center. It mainly receives domestic flights, so most travelers connect through Madrid. “If you're coming from another Spanish city, particularly the capital, taking the train is a great option. The high-speed trains (AVE) are very comfortable, reliable, and fast, allowing you to reach Seville from Madrid in approximately 2.5 hours,” explains Morilla.

The old Jewish quarter is known for its narrow, winding streets lined with whitewashed houses, picturesque plazas, and the city’s most famous landmarks, including the Royal Alcázar of Seville, the Seville Cathedral, La Giralda, and the Flamenco Museum.

“Located on the west bank of the Guadalquivir River, El Arenal offers a vibrant atmosphere, historic buildings, and cultural attractions such as the Maestranza Bullring and the Torre del Oro. According to Morilla, it’s also a great neighborhood for tapas and nightlife.

Flamenco was born in Triana, and the residential neighborhood is still a great place to see a show. “The incredible views over the city center, the ceramic workshops, and the many bars also make it a wonderful area to spend time on a trip to Seville,” says Carmona.

Seville was plotted out long before the invention of cars, when people used to walk and ride horses. “In my opinion, strolling around is the best way to slowly savor the beauty of the many squares, churches, gardens, museums, landmarks, and bars,” says Carmona.

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San Sebastian airport

San sebastián.

Place: Fuenterrabía  View map

Website: https://www.aena.es/es/san-sebastian.html

How to get to the airport: It is accessed by the AP-8 road. It is also possible to use the Ekialdebus company, whose E20, E21, E23, E25, E77 and E78 routes connect the airport with San Sebastián and various cities in the province.

Terminals: It has a terminal

Aberdeen airport

Place: Dyce  View map

Website: https://www.aberdeenairport.com/

How to get to the city: To reach the airport, take the AB96 road, which connects the cities of Aberdeen and Inverness. There is also a bus service that connects the airport with Dyce and Aberdeen.

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  2. 19 Absolute Best Things to Do in San Sebastián

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COMMENTS

  1. San Sebastián travel

    History. San Sebastian is coastal Spain's best winter escape. Dec 9, 2019 • 4 min read. While plenty flock to this picturesque coastal city for summertime surf and sun, a trip to San Sebastián in January affords advantages travelers may have not…

  2. San Sebastian Tourism: Your travel guide

    SAN SEBASTIAN: TRAVEL AND TOURISM GUIDE. San Sebastian is the capital of Guipuzcoa (Gipuzkoa in Euskera), being the smallest province in Spain, however, it is definitely one of the most attractive for tourists.If you are thinking of visiting Donostia (as it is known in Basque) in the near future, here you have this guide to San Sebastian where we shared with you all the secrets to enjoy your ...

  3. The Best Things to Do in San Sebastián

    San Sebastian. Basque country. Spain. Europe. ... As the most discerning, up-to-the-minute voice in all things travel, Condé Nast Traveler is the global citizen's bible and muse, ...

  4. 19 Absolute Best Things to Do in San Sebastián

    Here are the Best things to do in San Sebastián. 1. Stroll along the seaside at La Concha Promenade. One of the best ways to orientate yourself with the city and enjoy its seaside views is by wandering along the lovely La Concha Promenade (Basque: Kontxa Pasealekua).

  5. San Sebastian Tourism

    Donostia San Sebastian Turismoa Official Website The most comprehensive site of tourist information on San Sebastian, Spain. Proposals and activities to facilitate your visit. ... Press & Travel Agents; Partners +34 943 481 166 +34 607 187 462 +34 943 481 166

  6. 16 Best Things to Do in San Sebastian, Spain

    Plus, the historic Gothic church, Iglesia de San Vicente, is the oldest in the city. 2. Experience Mercado de la Bretxa. The history of San Sebastian will draw you in as much as the beauty found at along the coast. At Mercado de la Bretxa, you can wander back to 1870, when San Sebastian's most prominent market began.

  7. San Sebastian Travel Guide

    San Sebastian is a city the Basque Country, a region in Spain. While the Basque Country still adheres to Spanish cultural norms (think siestas, late night dinners), it does have its own distinct ...

  8. San Sebastián Travel Guide Resources & Trip Planning Info by Rick Steves

    San Sebastián. Shimmering above the breathtaking Concha Bay, elegant and prosperous San Sebastián (Donostia in the Basque language) has a favored location with golden beaches, capped by twin peaks at either end, and with a cute little island in the center. A delightful beachfront promenade runs the length of the bay, with an charismatic old ...

  9. San Sebastian

    120,024. PLAN YOUR TRIP San Sebastian - Donostia. While many visitors come for the beaches, arts celebrations and fiestas, San Sebastian-Donostia is serious about its food and drink. The Old Quarter's narrow, winding streets are full of bars and restaurants, and in the modern city, sidewalk cafes are all around. The city specializes in seafood.

  10. An expert travel guide to San Sebastián

    The basics. Flight time: There are direct flights twice a week from London City to San Sebastián (EAS). Daily flights from London to Bilbao normally take around an hour and a half, then a bus to ...

  11. San Sebastian travel guide: Best things to do, where to stay and more

    San Sebastian city guide: Where to stay, eat, drink and shop in Spain's gourmet hot spot. Made with all the senses in mind, from its towering sea cliffs to the subtle Belle Epoque charm, San ...

  12. 36 Hours in San Sebastián, Spain

    Advertisement. Travel | 36 Hours. 36 Hours in San Sebastián, Spain. By INGRID K. WILLIAMSOCT. 20, 2016. Beyond the beach, this seaside resort's enticements include art, architecture and, of ...

  13. The Perfect 2 Day San Sebastian Itinerary for First Timers

    Here's a list of the top things to do in San Sebastián in 2 days. Climb Mount Urgull. Eat pintxos in Parte Vieja, the old town in San Sebastian. Soak up the sun at La Concha beach. Take the funicular up to Mount Igueldo. Dine at one of the gourmet restaurants or eating clubs in town.

  14. Travel Guide to San Sebastian, Spain -Basque Country's Most Beautiful

    The largest nearby city to San Sebastian is Bilbao, further west along the coast. From Bilbao's Abando station, the Basque-owned trains called Euskotren depart every hour for San Sebastian. The journey takes about 3 hours - sometimes even more - with ticket prices costing between €6 and €10.

  15. Ultimate San Sebastian Itinerary: 2024 Guide

    Eating gelato in Bologna I've had so many great food experiences around the world! San Sebastian is renowned for its amazing food scene. Every year, many people visit this city in northern Spain for a wining and dining experience like no other. It's hardly surprising, after all San Sebastian in Spain's Basque Country has the most Michelin-starred eateries per capita in Europe.

  16. San Sebastian Spain

    Plaza Salamanca San Sebastian. As the name suggests this is the old part of the city of San Sebastian, It stands sandwiched between the foot of Mount Urgull (Google Maps) and the city centre and opens out to the sea on both sides from the Plaza de Salamanca to the old Harbour area.The area was completely rebuilt after a devastating fire therefore only a very few buildings predate 1813.

  17. The Ultimate 2 to 3 Days in San Sebastian Itinerary

    As arguably the top destination in Spanish Basque Country, planning out a 2 or 3 days in San Sebastian itinerary is a highlight of any trip to Spain! Known for its culinary chops, beautiful seaside location and compact yet cosmopolitan feel, no trip to Spain is complete without venturing to this gorgeous city.

  18. Best things to do in San Sebastian

    There are many things to see in San Sebastian, and the best thing about it is that, being a fairly small city, everything is very close at hand.Most of the tourist attractions can be visited on foot, which is the main attraction of the city. There are also many people who decide to visit the city by bicycle, as it is one of the cities in Spain that is best adapted to this means of transport ...

  19. 18 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in San Sebastián

    Aerial view of San Sebastian, Spain. The natural splendor of San Sebastián sets the stage for a fabulous vacation. Favorite things to do include sightseeing, sunbathing at the beach, gourmet dining, and taking evening strolls through the Old Town or along the waterfront promenade. ... Spain Travel Guide. 19 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in ...

  20. 7 Best Things to Do in San Sebastian

    Kyle McCarthy|Sharael Kolberg December 4, 2023. Ranking of the top 7 things to do in San Sebastian. Travelers favorites include #1 Parte Vieja, #2 Pintxos Food Tours and more.

  21. Visit San Sebastian: Travel Guide to Spain

    Bilbao Airport is the largest airport in the Basque Country. It's about 100 km (62.1 miles) west of San Sebastian. There are a few ways to get from Bilbao Airport to San Sebastian but the quickest and most convenient is by direct Pesa bus. Travel time is around 1 hr 15 mins.

  22. How to get here

    Getting to San Sebastián by car is extremely easy. The city is connected to the rest of Spain and France by the N-1 (the national highway connecting Madrid to Irun), the AP-8 (Bilbao-Irun) and A-63 (Paris-Irun) motorways and the A-15 highway (Pamplona-San Sebastián). Another comfortable way to get in San Sebastian is parking your car in ...

  23. Rick Steves Raves About San Sebastián's La Concha Beach in Spain

    It's no secret that Europe has some of the most spectacular beaches in the world. If you need a hand in choosing the best beach vacation destination on the continent, European travel expert and TV host Rick Steves has a suggestion: San Sebastián.Located in Northern Spain, San Sebastián is famous for its striking beaches like Ondarreta Beach and Zurriola Beach.

  24. How to get around

    And if you travel to the city by car, San Sebastian has over 6,000 parking spaces. We recommend parking in one of the car parks and using public transport to get around, particularly during peak tourist periods. On foot. By bike. On public transport. Tourist cards (rides on public transport and discounts)

  25. This foodie paradise has been crowned Spain's best coastal spot

    An overall score was calculated based on general satisfaction and likeliness to recommend from from more than 1,200 travellers, . San Sebastián ranks as Spain's best seaside town, with visitors ...

  26. Spain and Italy

    4 nights in San Sebastian, or Madrid (incl. day trip to Toledo) 5 nights in Sevilla (incl. day trip to Cordoba) 4 nights in Granada; 6 nights in Barcelona (timed with La Mercé, incl. day trip to ...

  27. At These Restaurants, Staff Meal Comes First

    She grew up in the Philippines, worked as a banker in Dubai and decided at age 26 to move to San Sebastián in Spain to train at the celebrated restaurant Mugaritz. As at most high-end European ...

  28. Guide to Visiting Seville, Spain

    The new Nobu Seville brings its signature sense of Japanese minimalism to Plaza San Francisco. While loyalists will find all the Nobu classics — black cod, rock shrimp tempura, and toro tartare ...

  29. Cheap flights from San Sebastian to Aberdeen

    Check the best flight offers San Sebastian-Aberdeen and book your plane ticket with the Iberia guarantee. USA - EN ... Identification of passengers from Spain; Choose how you want to travel; Choose how you want to travel. Choose how you want to travel; ... Check our FAQs on travel documents: ...