We had heard a lot of great things about San Sebastian in all of our research for northern Spain. We saved it for the end of our trip and made sure we gave ourselves several days to wander the city and take it all in. We would highly recommend staying at least 3 days in San Sebastian as a part of any northern Spain trip but you could easily stay longer. There are plenty of great spots along the Basque coast to explore as well if you are basing yourself in the city and planning on day trips out further. Here are our recommendations for what to see and do while you are in the city. There is definitely more to see and do that what we are listing here. For us we spend a lot of time on the beaches, eating some amazing food and just wandering the streets soaking up our last days in Spain.
Take a food Tour- Food is a big deal in San Sebastian. It is known for amazing pintxos and a significant number of Michelin star restaurants to choose from. We booked a food tour the first evening we were in the city and we were so glad we did! We booked through air B and B and ended up with a small group of 9 plus our guide. We got some general information about the city as we walked from place to place and the most important part, we had some truly amazing food! Food tours are a bit pricy but all your food and drinks are included. We are typically do it ourselves kind of travelers so we were a bit nervous we wouldn’t get our money’s worth. We were pleasantly surprised by the experience! We learned a lot and had several dishes we would not have even known to order if it weren’t for our guide. For more information on ordering pintxos and specific pintxo bars to eat at check out our blog post here: Ordering Pintxos in Basque Country
Walk around old town (Parte Vieja)– This is where you will find the best pintxo bars! The streets are lined with places to stop in for a pintxo. We recommend wandering around and finding the places that are crowded as those are the places that will have the best food. Old town is a beautiful part of the city with cobblestone streets and old churches. We would recommend staying in or near old town so that you will be close to everything you want to see and do in the city.
La Concha Beach- This beach is the closest to old town. It is the iconic beach you see in pictures everywhere. La Isla de Santa Clara is in the center and you can see Mont Urgull and Mont Igueldo on either side. There are plenty of boats mooring out in the bay as well. It’s a beautiful beach to spend the afternoon.
Zurriola Beach- This is the surfing beach in the city. On good wave days there will be surfers of all levels out all day. We actually enjoyed this beach more than la concha since it is a bit further from the main part of the city and the beach is bigger. When you sit on this beach you don’t feel as much like you’re in the city. The surfing offers endless entertainment whether your out in the waves or just watching. There are several shops around the area to rent surfboards if you want to give it a try. It is good to know that if the red flags are flying at the beach the surf shops are not supposed to rent you a board. You can surf on those days if you have your own board.
Hike up Mont Urgull – There are multiple paths you can follow that wind up the hill. There are multiple small park areas, a small café and lots of places to stop and get a view of the city and the sea as you walk up. At the very top there is a free museum with artifacts from the city’s history. Most of the museum is in Basque and Spanish only. As you walk through the museum you can get right up to the Sagrado Corazon (sacred heart) statue (also known as the Cristo de la Mota) at the top of the hill and get some great views of the city. You can also wander through parts of the Castillo de la Mota fortress that was built in the 12th century and was used to defend the city.
Funicular up Mont Igueldo– This is where you will get the amazing view of the city and they bay, the one you have probably seen on every blog post or travel site for San Sebastian. It is a must do while you are in the city! There is a restaurant at the top of the hill with outdoor seating so you enjoy the view while you have a drink or a snack (reasonably priced considering the monopoly). The funicular leaves every 15 minutes.
Free Parking – One good thing to know if you are driving (which we were as we did this as part of a larger road trip) is that parking in the city is pretty pricy. The last night we were there we parked in a parking garage in old town, close to our air b and b so that we could more quickly and easily get to the airport. We paid 24 euro for overnight parking. The first several nights we stayed in the city we parked in a free lot in Loiola. This was about 20-25 minutes walking to old town. There is also a bus stop nearby so you could park and take the bus into the city. The buses were running on schedule and were easy to navigate. Below is a map of the free parking lot!
We absolutely loved it in San Sebastian! It’s a wonderful sit to eat, relax and just soak it all in! It was a great way for us to end our trip through northern Spain and we would love to go back again!