22 FUN AND UNIQUE THINGS TO DO IN SAN SEBASTIÁN, SPAIN

0
70
SAN SEBASTIÁN
SAN SEBASTIÁN

PLANNING A TRIP TO SAN SEBASTIÁN AND NO IDEA WHERE TO START?

There are plenty of things to do in San Sebastián. Whether you’re staying for a few days or a whole week you won’t be bored easily. San Sebastián or Donostia combines all the perks of a city with incredible nature and stunning beaches right at your doorstep. While setting up your itinerary can seem overwhelming we made it easy for you by coming up with this complete list of must-do things in San Sebastián, Spain. It includes sightseeing, photo opportunities, food tips and of course all the fun and unique things you won’t find in any other city. To help you plan your trip we included a handy interactive map that you can refer to so you can make sure you don’t miss out on any attractions.

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT SAN SEBASTIÁN

Did you know that San Sebastián actually has two names? You might be confused when you arrive but a large number of people actually call San Sebastián Donostia in the local Bask language Euskara. Donostia translates exactly to San Sebastián and both names can be used interchangeably.

San Sebastián is an incredible city in the north of Spain. It has some of the best city beaches around with opportunities for surfing and swimming. The waters are crystal clear and there are plenty of things to do. San Sebastián is known for its exceptional cuisine which focuses mostly on seafood dishes. Food lovers absolutely need to have dinner at one of the famous Michelin Star Restaurants when they visit San Sebastián.

The city does not only have beautiful beaches, but it is also built between two hills which frame San Sebastián and give it its recognisable layout. It may remind you of Rio de Janeiro and has a very different feel than the rest of Spain.

HOW TO GET AROUND IN SAN SEBASTIÁN

San Sebastián’s population is less than 200,000 people so it’s by no means a large city. Most of the things to do in San Sebastián are close together and within walking distance of each other. If you don’t feel like walking long distances you can always hop on a bus which will take you around the city to all the important sightseeing spots. Buses in San Sebastián are affordable and reliable which makes them a great choice for getting around.

It can be tricky to find parking in the city centre so driving is not the best option to see the city. You won’t need a car anyway since all the things you’ll want to see and do will be quite close together. Taxis are an option, however, they will be expensive.

22 BEST THINGS TO DO IN SAN SEBASTIÁN

SAN SEBASTIÁN

Here are our 22 favourite unique things to do in San Sebastián. This includes a great mixture of sightseeing, beaches, nature and culture. Use the interactive map below to help you plan your trip. You can add it to your own Google Maps on your phone by clicking the symbol on the top right corner. That way the map will always be with you and you won’t miss out on any attractions.

1. PARTE VIEJA

The Parte Vieja is the old town of San Sebastián. This is the perfect place to wander around, shop for souvenirs and have tapas (or pintxos) in one of the many little restaurants. In the old town, you’ll find the famous small side-streets with narrow alleyways as well as some of the best architecture in all of San Sebastián. A good number of the other attractions on this list are located in or close to the Parte Vieja so you’ll most likely walk through here anyway.

Opening Hours: All day
Price: 
Free
Best time to go: 
From noon to evening
Attractions close by: 
Tapas/pintxos, Iglesia de San Vicente, Plaza de la Constitución, San Sebastián City Hall, Basílica de Santa María del Coro
Must-know:
 Having tapas in this area is highly recommended
How long should you stay: At least 1-2 hours to see all the attractions


2. KAYAKING IN THE BAHÍA DE LA CONCHA

The Bahía de la Concha is the bay of San Sebastián. The water here is usually calm and great for swimming in the summer. A unique way to see the city is by renting a kayak or stand-up-paddle and going out on the water. If you’re up for it you can even paddle all the way to Santa Clara Island. Just make sure you wear sunscreen and drink lots of water. You can rent kayaks from the harbour or close to the Playa de Ondarreta.

Opening Hours: Approximately 10:00 am to 20:00 pm (hours may differ in winter)
Price: 
Around 8€ per hour, 20€ for three hours
Best time to go: 
In the mornings or in the late afternoon to avoid the heat
Attractions close by: 
San Sebastián Harbour, Santa Clara Island, Playa de Ondarreta
Must-know:
 Don’t take anything you wouldn’t want getting wet, drybags may be available for rent
How long should you stay: 1-2 hours


3. PLAYA DE LA CONCHA

The Playa de la Concha gets its name from its curved shape which resembles a seashell. This is one of San Sebastián’s three beaches and probably the most popular. It lies right at the La Concha Promenade which makes it the perfect city beach. Come here for a quick swim in the crystal clear waters or to escape the busy city. With views of both mountain peaks and stunning white sand, you’ll love this beach in the heart of San Sebastián.

Opening Hours: All day
Price: 
Free
Best time to go: Mornings to avoid the crowds, evenings for a beautiful sunset
Attractions close by: 
San Sebastián Harbour, La Concha Promenade, San Sebastián City Hall
Must-know:
 Bring sunscreen, there is no shade at this beach
How long should you stay: 30 minutes to 1 hour

4. SANTA CLARA ISLAND

A trip to Santa Clara Island is one of our favourite things to do in San Sebastián. This tiny island is only around 400 metres long with steep cliffs. A small ferry leaves from the harbour every 30 minutes to take tourists to the island. The ride is quick and only takes around 10 minutes. Tickets cost 4€ per person for a round-trip and there are scenic tours available that will take you around the bay first. You can also hire a kayak or paddleboard and paddle to the island yourself.

Santa Clara doesn’t have much on it except for a small beach, a kiosk and bar, picnic benches and an old lighthouse. It’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon while enjoying some of the best views of the bay and simply relaxing. Taking a picnic is highly recommended.

Opening Hours: Boats run from 10:00 am to 20:00 pm (hours may differ according to the season)
Price: 
4€ for a return boat ticket, the island is free to visit
Best time to go: All day
Attractions close by: 
San Sebastián Harbour
Must-know:
 The island is very small so there is not much to do but enjoy the beautiful scenery
How long should you stay: Around 1 hour with a picnic or a swim, factor in when the next boat back is available

5. SAN SEBASTIÁN CITY HALL

The city hall of San Sebastián is an impressive 19th-century building right on the La Concha Beach Promenade. It used to be a casino and later a tourism centre until it became the city hall in 1945. It is well worth a visit for its beautiful exterior and incredible history. In many parts of the building, you can still see bullet holes in the walls from when nationalists and republicans fought in the Spanish Civil War.

Opening Hours: The main attraction is the exterior of the building but if you wish to go inside the council is open from 9:00 am to 14:00 pm every day except Sundays.
Price: 
Free
Best time to go: All day
Attractions close by: 
Tapas/pintxos, Iglesia de San Vicente, Plaza de la Constitución, San Sebastián Harbour, Basílica de Santa María del Coro
Must-know:
 Look for the bullet holes on the exterior walls of the building
How long should you stay: 15 minutes

6. CASTILLO DE LA MOTA

The Castillo de la Mota sits on top of Monte Urgull and is one of San Sebastián’s main attractions. It lies at 130 metres above sea level and has served as a protective fortress for the city of San Sebastián over the years. It was constructed in the 12th century by King Sancho VII from Navarre. In 1575 the Castillo de la Mota was struck by lightning which caused it to partly burn down. At its highest point, the Monumento al Sagrado Corazón de Jesús (sometimes called Christo de la Mota) was built in 1950 by the sculptor Federico Coullaut-Valera. This 12,5-metre tall statue of Jesus is one of the most famous landmarks of San Sebastián

Keep in mind that you will have to hike to the Castillo de la Mota which can be tiring. The view is well worth it though. Check out number 8 on this list for more details about the different hikes up Monte Urgull and number 22 for a top tip about spending time at the Castillo.

Opening Hours: 8:00 am to 20:00 pm
Price: 
Free
Best time to go: Avoid going at noon if you’re visiting in the summer, it will be very hot
Attractions close by: 
Bar with a view, Baluarte del Mirador, Paseo Nuevo, Hiking in the city
Must-know:
 Wear comfortable shoes and bring water
How long should you stay: Around 2 hours factoring in the hike, exploring some of the viewpoints and a drink at the top

7. FUNICULAR UP TO MONTE IGUELDO

San Sebastián’s highest mountain and arguably the best lookout point is Monte Igueldo. While you can drive to the top a convenient and fun way of getting there without a car is the Funicular. This slanted elevator/tram hybrid costs 3€ for a round-trip and takes you directly to the top every 15 minutes. There you’ll find a small amusement park as well as a very large hotel. The park costs 2,30€ per person to enter (this includes the lookout points), parking is free if you pay this entrance fee. While the amusement park is a fun activity for children the main attraction are the beautiful views of the city and its many beaches. It’s worth paying the 2,30€ fee to get the best experience even if you do not care about visiting the amusement park. Without paying, you won’t see much, unfortunately.

Opening Hours: 10:00 am to 19:00 pm for the lookout (hours differ according to the season and may be different for the amusement park)
Price: 
2,30€ per person for the amusement park and lookout point, 3€ for the funicular (round trip)
Best time to go: All day, avoid weekends for fewer people
Attractions close by: 
Playa de Ondarreta
Must-know:
 You will have to pay the entrance fee to see the lookout, there is no way around it even if you’re driving to the top
How long should you stay: 1 hour

8. HIKE IN THE CITY

San Sebastián is a city close to nature and provides many options for walks and hiking. Some of the best are located on Monte Urgull and will lead you to several other locations on this list like the Castillo de Mota or the Baluarte del Mirador. There are four distinct paths that will lead you from the city up to the top of the mountain. One starts from the Basílica de Santa María (Number 17 on this list), one from the San Telmo Museum, one from close to the Aquarium and one from the Paseo Nuevo (Number 13 on this list).

One of our favourites is the Basílica de Santa María walk as it also takes you past the Baluarte del Mirador. Most of the paths cross and intertwine so you can pick your own route. We highly recommend choosing two different ones for the walk up and down.

Opening Hours: All day
Price: 
Free
Best time to go: Mornings or in the afternoon to avoid the heat
Attractions close by: 
Castillo de la Mota, Baluarte del Mirador, Bar with a view
Must-know:
 Bring comfortable shoes. The hike is not difficult but can be tiring in the heat
How long should you stay: The hike takes between 15 and 30 minutes depending on how often you stop

9. PLAZA DE LA CONSTITUCIÓN

The Plaza de la Constitución is a popular town square located in the heart of the Parte Vieja (old town). If you’re exploring this area chances are you’ll stumble across the square sooner or later. This is the perfect place for a small lunch or a coffee which you can enjoy in one of the little cafes. The square was constructed in 1817 and used to serve as a bullfighting arena. You can still see the numbers above each window surrounding the square where spectators could watch the fights.

Opening Hours: All day
Price: 
Free
Best time to go: All day
Attractions close by: 
Tapas/pintxos, Iglesia de San Vicente, Parte Vieja, San Sebastián Harbour, Basílica de Santa María del Coro, San Sebastián City Hall
Must-know:
 Most cafes in the square won’t open until around noon
How long should you stay: 30 minutes


10. PLAYA DE ONDARRETA

The Playa de Ondarreta lies adjacent to the Playa de la Concha. It stretches all the way to Monte Igueldo and has some of the best views of Santa Clara Island. In the winter people often surf here although waters are usually calm in the summer months. Grab a sun lounger and enjoy a beautiful day by the beach in San Sebastián.

Opening Hours: All day
Price: 
Free
Best time to go: All day
Attractions close by: 
Funicular up to Monte Igueldo, Rent a kayak, Miramar Royal Palace
Must-know:
 This beach gets very busy on weekends, come early to get a good spot
How long should you stay: However long you like


11. LA CONCHA PROMENADE

The La Concha Promenade is a long stretch of boardwalk along the length of the La Concha Beach. If you’re exploring the attractions on this “Things to do in San Sebastián post” then you will most likely be walking along this promenade at some point. Stop at one of the little beach bars or cafes and enjoy a sunny afternoon here.

Opening Hours: All day
Price: 
Free
Best time to go: All day
Attractions close by: 
Playa de La Concha, San Sebastián City Hall
Must-know:
 The promenade is around 2 kilometres long so don’t pressure yourself to walk it all
How long should you stay: 30 minutes – 1 hour


12. MIRAMAR ROYAL PALACE

The Miramar Royal Palace can be spotted from most lookout points in San Sebastián. This 19th century building used to be a popular summer home for the Spanish royal family who would enjoy the favourable climate of San Sebastián and its beautiful scenery. In 1972 it was sold to the San Sebastián city council and now houses summer courses for the University of the Basque Country. The gardens of the palace are open to the public and some of the interior can be seen via guided tour. Don’t miss out on the Pico Del Loro, a popular viewpoint close by.

Opening Hours: 7:00 am to 21:00 pm
Price: 
Free (enquire for guided tours on arrival)
Best time to go: All day
Attractions close by: 
Playa de Ondarreta, Playa de la Concha, Kayak rental
Must-know:
 This is a great spot for a picnic
How long should you stay: 1 hour


13. PASEO NUEVO

The Paseo Nuevo is a great walking path that circles around Monte Urgull. While you can drive most of it by car we highly recommend walking at least a bit to get the best experience. This area is known for its impressive waves and beautiful ocean views. Its most recognisable part is the large sculpture by Jorge Oteiza which lies close to the Aquarium.

Opening Hours: All day
Price: 
Free
Best time to go: All day
Attractions close by: 
Castillo de la Mota, Hiking in the city, San Sebastián Harbour
Must-know:
 You cannot drive all the way around Monte Urgull. The road ends at the statue.
How long should you stay: 1,5 hours

14. CATEDRAL DEL BUEN PASTOR

The Catedral del Buen Pastor might be a little out of the way from the other main attractions in San Sebastián but it’s definitely worth a visit and should be high on your must-see list. It is the largest church in San Sebastián and boasts some incredible architecture with a beautiful interior and exterior. Construction was completed in 1897 and tourists can visit the interior of the church.

Opening Hours: 8:30 am to 20:00 pm
Price: 
Free
Best time to go: All day
Attractions close by: 
La Concha Promenade
Must-know:
 The sandstone used to construct the church came from Monte Igueldo
How long should you stay: 30 minutes

15. BALUARTE DEL MIRADOR

San Sebastián is a city of lookout points and the Baluarte del Mirador is probably one of our favourites. It lies in the forest of Monte Urgull not too far from the Castillo de la Mota. The Baluarte del Mirador is part of an old fortress and served as an access gate to Monte Urgull. The viewing platform which tourists can visit today was constructed in 1567. this viewpoint is usually quieter than the Castillo de la Mota and has fantastic views of the Playa de la Zurriola which most others don’t have.

Opening Hours: All day
Price: 
Free
Best time to go: All day
Attractions close by: 
Castillo de la Mota, Hiking in the city, Bar with a view
Must-know:
 Absolutely visit the Castillo de la Mota if you are visiting the Baluarte del Mirador
How long should you stay: 30 minutes

16. PLAYA DE LA ZURRIOLA

While San Sebastián’s other beaches lie next to each other in the Bahía de la Concha the Playa de la Zurriola is situated on the other side of the Urumea River. This beach is popular amongst watersports enthusiasts and a great surfing location. Come here to play beach volleyball, bodyboard or to enjoy the beautiful promenade.

Opening Hours: All day
Price: 
Free
Best time to go: All day
Attractions close by: 
/
Must-know:
 This beach usually has fewer sunbathers than the Playa de la Concha and the Playa de Ondarreta
How long should you stay: However long you like

17. BASÍLICA DE SANTA MARÍA DEL CORO

The Basílica de Santa María is one of San Sebastián’s most famous churches and a very popular tourist destination. If you’re exploring the Parte Vieja you’ll come across this church at some point since its exterior is so impressive and easily recognisable. Construction works for this church can be dated back as far as 1743 but there is evidence that a church existed in its place long before that. Don’t miss out on the stunning interior.

Opening Hours: 10:15 am to 13:15 pm and from 16:45 pm to 19:45 pm.
Price: 
Free
Best time to go: All day, early morning for fewer other tourists
Attractions close by: 
Tapas/pintxos,, Iglesia de San Vicente, Parte Vieja, San Sebastián Harbour, San Sebastián City Hall, Hiking in the city
Must-know:
 Keep an eye out for the modern sculpture on the side of the church
How long should you stay: 45 minutes

18. SAN SEBASTIÁN HARBOUR

This is another attraction you’ll probably come across during your days in San Sebastián. The harbour is a nice little area with a boardwalk and some restaurants and cafes. Come here to catch the boat to Santa Clara Island or on your way up to Monte Igueldo. This is a great spot to watch the boats or take photos of the bay.

Opening Hours: All day
Price: 
Free
Best time to go: All day
Attractions close by: 
Santa Clara Island, Kayak rental, Basílica de Santa María del Coro
Must-know:
 You can rent kayaks and Stand-up-paddles here
How long should you stay: 30 minutes

19. TRY THE BEST PINTXOS

San Sebastián is world-famous for its incredible cuisine and Michelin Star Restaurants. If you’re not quite sure yet whether you want to splurge on an expensive dinner why not give the famous pintxos a try first? This is the Basque word for Spanish tapas, small dishes served as a snack or lunch. Head to the Parte Vieja for the best selection of pintxos which are usually sea-food or meat-based but do come as a vegetarian option sometimes.

Opening Hours: From noon until the late evening
Price: 
expect to pay 2-5€ depending on the size of the tapa
Best time to go: In the afternoon or evening
Attractions close by: 
Iglesia de San Vicente, Parte Vieja, San Sebastián Harbour, Basílica de Santa María del Coro, San Sebastián City Hall
Must-know:
 Try different places to find the best pintxos in town
How long should you stay: 1 hour

20. IGLESIA DE SAN VICENTE

The Iglesia de San Vicente may not be as flashy as the Basílica de Santa María del Coro or the Catedral del Buen Pastor but you shouldn’t skip it on your trip to San Sebastián. This is thought to be the oldest building in the city with its foundations dating all the way back to the 12 century. It’s stunningly beautiful from both the inside and outside and should be on your list when you’re walking through the Parte Vieja.

Opening Hours: Not set opening hours, usually around 9:00 am to 20:00 pm
Price: 
Free
Best time to go: All day
Attractions close by: 
Tapas/pintxos, Parte Vieja, San Sebastián Harbour, Basílica de Santa María del Coro, San Sebastián City Hall
Must-know:
 Always be respectful when visiting places of worship
How long should you stay: 30 minutes


21. GIPUZKOA PLAZA

Close to the old town you’ll find the Gipuzkoa Plaza, a beautiful little city garden with ponds and flowers. Keep an eye out for the giant clock integrated into the landscaping and admire the beauty of the historic buildings surrounding the park. This is a great place to come to escape the busy city and enjoy nature.

Opening Hours: All day
Price: 
Free
Best time to go: All day
Attractions close by: 
Parte Vieja
Must-know:
 Sometimes fairs, small markets or other attractions are held in this park
How long should you stay: 30 minutes

22. HAVE A DRINK WITH THE BEST VIEW IN THE CITY (POLBORIÑA)

One of the worst-kept secrets of the city is the little bar on top of Monte Urgull close to the Castillo de la Mota. The views here are unreal and you might expect a place with such a prime location to be expensive. However, the bar is very rustic and incredibly affordable for San Sebastián’s standards. You can enjoy a small beer for only 1,50€ (regular for 2,30€) and they offer a variety of pintxos and snacks. Once you sit down here you won’t feel like leaving again. There is no better way to relax after a hike up the mountain than with a cold drink.

Opening Hours: 11:00 am to 20.45 pm
Price: 
See price list below
Best time to go: All day
Attractions close by: 
Castillo de la Mota, Baluarte del Mirador, Hiking in the city
Must-know:
 This is a fairly basic little bar, not too fancy which makes it affordable
How long should you stay: 45 minutes