Fast Facts

  • Location: Capital of the Gipuzkoa province in Basque County, Spain
  • Attraction Type: Beach resort, City
  • Significance: Beach, surfing, lifestyle, heritage, relaxation, beach strolls
  • Best Time to visit: Between Jun and September (Summer)
  • How to Reach: You can arrive at the San Sebastian that is located about 20 km from the town center. There are plenty of buses that ply at regular intervals between the airport and the city center. You can also take a train from many parts of Spain, France, and Portugal. There are regular trains from Paris and Lisbon. Buses, however, are more convenient to get around in. It is a two hours ride from Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of Basque County, and is close to Bilbao and Pamplona as well. There are long bus rides from Madrid, Milan and even from Barcelona.
  • Nearest Airport: San Sebastian Airport

San Sebastian, or Donostia in Catalan, is to the Spanish royalty what Biarritz was to the French. Come summer, and this beautiful coastal paradise of the Basque region towards the southern part of the Bay of Biscay would become a haven for tourists, government officials and members of the novelty. With the passage of time, its popularity has only increased. The small, compact and picturesque town become an absolute hub of tourist activities as soon as the month of June arrives. Between July and September, be prepared to wade yourself away through bustling traffic.

San Sebastian Overview

One of the biggest reasons behind such unsurpassed popularity of San Sebastian is its wonderful profile as an inland beach. A few places in the world, can you swim while still in sight of the major churches and palaces of the town? Moreover, San Sebastian is a favorite for all kinds of visitors. Its popularity among surfers is well known, playing host to one of the most prestigious surfing meets in Europe. It is also great for hikers and swimmers. However, it is equally attractive for the more leisurely type of visitors. Sitting by the beach, and walking through the town watching major landmarks and architectural wonders are equally attractive propositions.

San Sebastian Beaches

The Beaches of San Sebastian are one of the biggest attractions. The most popular beach has to be the Playa dee la Concha. An absolute paradise for surfing, it is also great for another kind of water sports like canoeing, sail boating and kayaking. The beauty of the beach is mind-blowing, particularly at night when white lights from the lamps lining the pavement get reflected against the seawater, creating an unearthly aura.

Playa de Onderrata is a small extension of the Playa de la Concha, which is great for relaxing and spending a quiet time away from hectic watersport activities at the de la Concha. The other popular beach in San Sebastian is the posh Playa de la Zurriola. It is where most hotels and accommodation establishments are located. This beach is also great for strolling and relaxing. Moneo’s modern masterpiece, Kursaal, overlooks this beach just as the monumental statue of Christ overlooks Playa de la Concha.

Popular Landmarks in San Sebastian

Apart from spectacular beaches, there are a number of historical palaces and architectural wonders that grace San Sebastian. There are quite a few churches in this small town, and they are all of spectacular beauty. Iglesia Parroquial San Salvador, a historic 15th-century structure where the Brotherhood of the General Councils pact was signed is one of the major attractions. Another church of impressive dimensions that date back to the 16th century is Santa Maria del Junkal.

However, churches and religious buildings are not the only attractions of San Sebastian. There are quite a few excellent palaces and secular buildings as well or individual and commercial value. Palacio de Miramar or the Royal Miramar Country House of yore, that was built and lived in by Queen Maria Cristina is a must-visit. You must also not miss a chance to see the historic bridge of Puente de la Zurriola. Muralla del Puerto, remnants of the wall that was built across the city for defense by the city’s inhabitants is one of the most noted historical structures of the city. The Town Hall, which was originally built as a casino, is another historic and spectacular building of the city.

Even amusement parks in San Sebastian are touched with a dash of quaintness to them. There is one at the top of Mount Igeldo, at the west end of La Concha bay. You can visit it for some exciting rides as well as a great view of the town.

Things to do in San Sebastian

San Sebastian is an ideal place for active tourists. The range of activities you can indulge in during your visit here is truly exhilarating. Surfing in San Sebastian is one of the most endearing attractions in the city. Surfers and water-sport enthusiasts arrive from all across Europe and other parts of the world to bask in the wonderful surfing experience of the city. September is the best time to enjoy surfing, and Zurriola is the best place to do it. It is also the time when the famous surfing competition is held in the city.

Other activities that you can indulge in include hiking to the statue of Christ on the mountain top between the beaches. You can also undertake the more rigorous hiking tour of about two and a half hours to nearby San Pedro. Kayaking in Ondaretta beach is another activity you can opt for. There are infrastructures for tennis and squash as well.

When you want a break from the hectic activities, take a trip around the Old Part of San Sebastian, you will be thrilled by the quaint feel of the region. A number of historic landmarks of the city are located in this region.

Pintxo Bars in San Sebastian

Tapas or Pintxo is one of the specialties in San Sebastian. Legend places the origin of this delicacy in Seville, Andalucia. However, it is in San Sebastian that the dish reached perfection. There are plenty of tapa bars in San Sebastian, lining the beachfront. The ideal way to taste them is to go from one bar to another, and picking on tapas as you go, along with a drink of wine or beer. Some of the popular Tapas bars include Agustin, Alex, Cachon, Dana, and Beti Boga. However, these are only a few of the numerous pintxo bars that are found all over the city. Basque cuisine is famous worldwide, and much of the formidable reputation of Spanish cooking resides in the excellence of Basque culinary culture. So, make sure to get the most of it before you leave San Sebastian. Garage and Regatta are excellent places to have breakfast, whereas Aldanondo, Juanito Kojua, and La Rampa are great for lunch.

Accommodation in San Sebastian

There are plenty of places to stay in San Sebastian. However, the destination being a little on the high-end of the budget scale, most of them belong to the mid-range and luxury range categories. Hotel Mercure Monte Igueldo, with its scenic La Concha view, is one of the best luxury hotels in the city. For mid-range accommodations, go for Hotel Niza, Pension Urkia, NH Aranzazy, Hospedaje Iruna, Pension Edorta, and Hotel Europa. Camping Igeldo is one of the most popular budget accommodations.

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