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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Diaz

The Ultimate Travel Guide to San Sebastian, Spain

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San Sebastian's allure is irresistible. It boasts an energetic crowd, nostalgic grandeur, and unparalleled food culture. Once a summer destination for Spain's royalty, this city - known as Donostia in the Basque language - remains a popular travel destination. With its gorgeous belle époque architecture, rich culture, and miles of sandy beach, San Sebastian knows how to captivate its visitors. While the city is best explored over 3 to 4 days, its essence can still be experienced in just 2 days. In this ultimate guide, I will guide you through the must-see sights, taste the best local cuisine, and give you tips to make the most out of your two-day visit to this charming city. Whether you are looking to immerse yourself in its history, culture, or just relax on the beach, San Sebastian has something for everyone. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready for an unforgettable experience in this stunning city by the sea.


Getting to San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian's airport is relatively small, so if you're traveling from the United States, it might be necessary to take a connecting flight in Madrid or Barcelona. The primary airlines that serve the airport are Iberia and Vueling. Alternatively, you can consider flying into Bilbao, the nearest international airport, which is only a 1.5-hour bus ride away. In my personal experience, I opted to rent a car and drive from Bilbao to San Sebastian.


This allowed me the freedom to explore the surrounding areas and visit nearby attractions. The drive from Bilbao to San Sebastian offers breathtaking views of charming villages and rolling hills. It's worth noting that in Spain, vehicles drive on the right side of the road, and a valid driver's license is required. If you don't feel confident driving in a foreign country, there are also various bus and train options available. Regardless of whether you choose to rent a car or use public transportation, getting from Bilbao to San Sebastian is convenient and easily accessible.


Getting Around in San Sebastian, Spain

Exploring San Sebastian is a breeze, as the city is small and its main sights are within walking distance. However, if you need a break from walking, you can hop on a bus, which is clean and user-friendly. Another option is to rent a bicycle and see the city from two wheels, which not only offers a unique perspective but also makes for a fun and healthy activity after indulging in the delicious pastries and pintxos. Biking is also a cost-effective way to get around and see more of the city. Whether on foot, bus, or bike, you'll be able to easily explore the best that San Sebastian has to offer.


Bus fare:

Standard fare: €1.70 ($1.85) | Night fare: €2.10 ($2.29)


Bike rental:


Things to Do in San Sebastian, Spain


Parte Vieja

The Parte Vieja, also known as the old town, is one of the most popular areas in San Sebastian. Located at the foot of Mount Urgull, it is a hub of historical charm and should not be missed during your visit. The narrow, cobbled streets of Parte Vieja invite you to spend an entire day exploring and taking in its rich history. While in this area, make sure to visit the following must-see places.


Mercado La Bretxa

Begin your day at Mercado La Bretxa, where you can interact with locals, including perhaps some Michelin-star chefs, as they purchase fresh and locally sourced produce. Don't miss the opportunity to sample the famous local cheese, Idiazabal, and try the Mausitxa brand, which is highly recommended by locals. After you've browsed all the stalls, head to the underground market for a treat for your taste buds - delectable sweets and Jamón are waiting for you!


Plaza de La Consituticion

Plaza de La Consituticion, also known as Constitution Square, previously a bullring known as Plaza de Toros, is now a historic square filled with bars and shops. It's the perfect place to relax and enjoy a drink or two.


Fermin St. + Mayor St

Don't worry if you thought Mercado La Bretxa was the only culinary highlight in San Sebastian. Head to the gastronomic center of the city on Fermin Calbetón St. and Mayor St. You'll find an abundance of bars serving a wide selection of delicious pintxos and sidra. These streets are also home to souvenir shops and local boutiques that are worth checking out. On Mayor St., you'll see the grand Baroque Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus at the end of the street.


El Ayuntamiento

El Ayuntamiento, once a casino during San Sebastian's heyday, was transformed into the city hall after gambling was banned in 1924. The building, now serving an administrative purpose, provides a stunning backdrop for Plaza Gipuzkoa.


Puente de Maria Cristina (Maria Cristina Bridge)

Take in the breathtaking views from one of Spain's most picturesque bridges, the Maria Cristina Bridge. Although it's located just outside the old town, it's easily accessible on foot and a must-visit. With its sophistication, the Maria Cristina Bridge stands out among all the bridges in San Sebastian. Its stunning features include four 18-meter obelisks at each corner, each crowned with unique sculptures, making it a unique gem.


Playa de la Concha

Take in the breathtaking sunsets from Playa de la Concha. Known for their stunning colors of cotton candy pink and lavender, sunsets in the Basque country are not to be missed. Among the beautiful urban beaches in Europe, La Concha stands out as the most famous and world-class. Located in the city center, La Concha Bay stretches from the town hall to the rocky Pico del Loro, surrounded by Mount Urgull and Mount Igueldo. The 1.5 km beach of yellow sand is a perfect spot for sunbathing or swimming in the summer. Although in my case, since I went in the winter, I didn't get to enjoy the beach, but the view from the boardwalk was still spectacular. Despite the cooler weather, I was able to admire the unique design of the Concha railings and the beautiful lamp posts at the entrance of the beach.


Concha Promenade

Stroll along the gorgeous Concha Promenade, a main attraction in San Sebastian that showcases the stunning beauty of the beach. Take a leisurely walk along the avenue while witnessing the waves hitting the seawall.


Mirador del Baluarte

Mirador del Baluarte is a viewpoint in San Sebastian, offering panoramic views of the city and its surroundings. It is a great place to visit to appreciate the beauty of the city from a different perspective. The viewpoint is located on the top of Mount Urgull, providing a sweeping vista of the beach, La Concha Bay, and the surrounding mountains. Visitors can take in the views, take photos, and enjoy the fresh air and tranquility of the area. The Mirador del Baluarte is an ideal spot to visit at sunrise or sunset when the colors of the sky are particularly vibrant. Whether you are a resident or a tourist, the viewpoint is a must-visit to fully appreciate the beauty of San Sebastian.


Where to Eat in San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian is a food lover's paradise, with more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere else in the world, countless pintxos bars, and the unique culinary event, Comida de Cine (Film Food Festival). It truly is a heaven for food enthusiasts. On my first night, I had the opportunity to sample the classic pintxos by simply grabbing a plate and choosing my favorites. However, don't settle for just one bar, as the trick is to hop from bar to bar as each offers its unique and distinct creations. And don't forget to save room for dessert! San Sebastian is famous for its Pastel de Queso, a mouthwatering cheesecake that has been highly recommended by the locals. On my second day, I visited several bars for lunch and was able to order from their daily menu or set menu. This is where the culinary expertise of the locals truly shines. Aside from the famous pintxos, it's important to remember that San Sebastian is a gastronomic hub and there are plenty of other local restaurants and bakeries worth trying in the city.


Restaurante Ubarretxena

Located in the heart of the city, Restaurante Ubarretxena offers a cozy atmosphere and specializes in Basque cuisine. Their menu features a variety of traditional dishes prepared with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.


Address: Kale Nagusia, 16 20003 Donostia-San Sebastián Gipuzkoa, Spain


Alderdi-Zahar

Situated in the charming Old Town, Alderdi-Zahar is known for its traditional Basque pintxos. This lively bar offers a wide selection of bite-sized culinary delights, ranging from classic favorites to innovative creations.


Address: Fermín Calbetón Kalea, 9 20003 Donostia-San Sebastián Gipuzkoa, Spain


Bar Antonio

Another fantastic pintxos bar in San Sebastian, Bar Antonio is revered for its delectable and beautifully presented pintxos. The bar has a lively atmosphere and is particularly popular during peak hours. Be sure to try their mouthwatering seafood and meat options.


Address: Bergara Kalea, 3 20005 Donostia-San Sebastián Gipuzkoa, Spain


Casa Alcalde

If you're seeking a taste of authentic Basque cuisine, Casa Alcalde is a must-visit. With a focus on fresh seafood and seasonal ingredients, this restaurant showcases traditional flavors in both classic and inventive dishes.


Address: Kale Nagusia, 19 20003 Donostia-San Sebastián Gipuzkoa, Spain


La Viña

La Viña is renowned for its exceptional desserts, particularly the famous "burnt cheesecake" (tarta de queso). This indulgent treat has a creamy interior and a caramelized top, making it a favorite among locals and tourists alike.


Address: Abuztuaren 31 Kalea, 3 20003 Donostia-San Sebastián Gipuzkoa, Spain


Casa Urola

Situated in the lively Parte Vieja neighborhood, Casa Urola offers a delightful dining experience with its contemporary Basque cuisine. Their menu reflects a blend of traditional and modern influences, featuring dishes prepared with precision and creativity.


Address: Fermín Calbetón Kalea, 20 20003 Donostia-San Sebastián Gipuzkoa, Spain


Cafes + Bakeries in San Sebastian, Spain


Cristina Oria

Cristina Oria is a popular cafe and bakery that offers a wide range of delicious pastries, cakes, and artisanal bread. Their menu includes both traditional Spanish treats and innovative creations, all made with high-quality ingredients.


Address: Askatasunaren Hiribidea, 16 20004 Donostia-San Sebastián

Gipuzkoa, Spain


Amelie Coffee

Amelie Coffee is a charming cafe known for its specialty coffee and cozy atmosphere. They source their coffee beans from around the world and provide a variety of brewing methods to cater to different tastes. Additionally, they offer a selection of pastries and light snacks.


Address: Legazpi Kalea, 12 20004 Donostia-San Sebastián Gipuzkoa, Spain


Lurka Chocolate

If you're a chocolate lover, Lurra Chocolate is a must-visit spot. They specialize in artisanal chocolates, crafted with care and using high-quality cocoa beans. From rich truffles to flavored chocolate bars, Lurra Chocolate offers a delectable range of options.


Address: Bengoetxea Kalea, 1 20004 Donostia-San Sebastián

Gipuzkoa, Spain


Koh Tao

Koh Tao is a delightful bakery and cafe that focuses on artisanal bread and pastries. They take pride in their sourdough bread, croissants, and other baked goods, all made with traditional methods and top-notch ingredients. It's an ideal place to enjoy a leisurely breakfast or a midday snack.


Address: Bengoetxea Kalea, 2 20004 Donostia-San Sebastián

Gipuzkoa, Spain


Where to Stay in San Sebastian, Spain

I decided to book an Airbnb in the heart of the city, in the Parte Vieja. This put me in the center of all the action, surrounded by bars, restaurants, and shops. If you're looking for more value for your money, you can also consider staying in Gros, just over the bridge. For a more tranquil and authentic experience, consider staying in the Zona Antigua, where you can immerse yourself in the local culture and lifestyle.


Here's a list of popular hotels in San Sebastian, Spain:

Best Time to Visit San Sebastian, Spain

The summer season is the peak period in San Sebastian, with the city vibrant and lively. The warm sun shines down, creating a lively atmosphere. If you're looking to avoid the intense heat, consider visiting in March when temperatures are mild. On the other hand, the fall and winter months are characterized by rain, so be sure to pack appropriately if you plan to visit during these seasons. In my case, I went in December and while it was a bit rainy, the city still had a charming atmosphere. The rain added to the moody and romantic vibe of the city and made it feel cozy. I found that many indoor activities, such as visiting museums, tasting local cuisine, or exploring the markets, were even more enjoyable on a rainy day. And when the rain cleared, the city looked even more stunning with the glistening streets and buildings. Visiting San Sebastian in December allowed me to experience a unique and memorable side of the city.

San Sebastian is a beautiful and culturally rich city with a lot to offer to its visitors. Whether it's the stunning beaches, the delicious cuisine, the rich history or the vibrant nightlife, there's something for everyone in San Sebastian. With a wide range of accommodation options available, from high-end hotels to budget-friendly Airbnbs, visitors can easily find a place to stay that suits their needs. If you're looking for a picturesque location to spend your vacation, San Sebastian is definitely worth considering.


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I'm Samantha! A photographer and I believe that every picture has a story. As a blogger, I share my travel stories with everyone. I think it's important to document my travels and share my experiences with others. I've been to some amazing places and I've seen some incredible things. I want to share my stories and photos with the world.

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