San Sebastian

San Sebastian is located in the Basque Country. It is a coastal city in the Bay of Biskay, near to the border with France. San Sebastian is a picturesque town and popular beach resort. Special about San Sebastian is that the city beach is also one of its prettiest beaches, and it has remained an unspoiled and authentic feeling being situated next to some of San Sebastian’s historical buildings.

There are three beaches in the city. The Ondaretta and La Concha beaches are in the bay, protected from the open ocean. These beaches are ideal for swimming, relaxing and sun bathing. You can also hire kayaks here and go kayaking around the bay. La Zurriola beach is good for surfing and water sports. There are many surf shops from where you can rent boards and wetsuits, or take classes.

Things to do and see in San Sebastian

Go hiking!

The surroundings of San Sebastian are also popular for hiking. The city is surrounded by lush green hills. There are two popular trails, one that goes to the Statue of Christ and another that goes to the Pasaia/San Pedro. The statue of Christ you will find on top of the Monte Urgull. The Mount Urgell is the mountain in the middle of the City, the old town lies at its foot. It used to be home to a military fortress, going back to the 12th century. There are also some spectacular views to be had from Monte Igeldo, which you can reach with the Igeldo Funicular Railway. And, Mount Ulía next to the la Zurriola beach is now a national park and used to be the main lookout point for whale spotting.

Visit Santa Clara Island

A nice place to visit while staying in the town is Santa Clara Island in the bay. During the summer months you can take a boat to the Santa Clara Island and spend the day on the beach, or walking around the small green island. There are many ideal places to have a picnic with your family. In summer you will find that the island is lively with bars, restaurants and lifeguards watching over the swimmers.

Explore Old Town!

In the Old Town you will come across a great selection of nice restaurants and bars. The Old Town is famous for its nightlife. The typical thing to do here is to enjoy pintxos (small tapas) and small glasses of wine of Txakolí wine, called ‘txikiteros’. At night this neighbourhood turns into a vibrant nightlife area of bars and clubs. Other areas in San Sebastian for good nightlife are Calle Reyes Católicos and the district of Gros. In the historical centre of the Old Town there are many interesting sights. You can visit the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus; an 18th century church built in baroque style. The San Vincente church is the oldest church of San Sebastian. It was built in the 16th century. Here you will also find the San Telmo museum. The building used to be a Dominican convent, built in the 16th century. San Sebastian is also home to the Lourdes Txiki; a replica of the Lourdes cave. Each year a celebration for Our Lady of Lourdes takes place on the 11th of February. If you feel like a romantic stroll go to the Palacio Miramar. This used to be the summer residence for the Royal Family. Nowadays it is used for events and used by San Sebastian’s educational institutions. Beautiful gardens surround the palace and look out over the sea. In the town itself you can go to the Gipuzkoa Plaza. This park is full of plants, flowers, trees, and a pond, and was designed to resemble a charming English park.

Admire local architecture

The architecture and history of San Sebastian is highly influenced by the Belle Époque era of the late 19th and early 20th century. It was during this period that the city flourished. The French influences can still be seen in some of its architecture, for example the old casino, which is now used as the City Hall.

Spoil yourself in the spa centre

San Sebastian’s spa resort Perla Spa was built in the late 19th century, in the Belle Epoque era, for the royal family who were supposed to spend their summers in San Sebastian. It is the ideal location to take your partner on a romantic and relaxing. You can stay in San Sebastian’s Belle Epoque hotel, the Hotel María Cristina and visit the city’s famous spa centre during the day. And, in the evening stroll along the boulevard and through the Old Town.

Learn more about Basque culture

While you’re in San Sebastian you will undoubtedly become acquainted with some aspects of Basque culture. Most of its culture you can see at the Basque Week festival at the beginning of September. This festival is organised to celebrate traditional Basque culture. During the week you can enjoy Basque traditions like improvised poetry orations, the Basque pelota games, stone lifting contests, oxen wagers, dance exhibitions, and the cider tasting festival. At the centre of the activities is the rowing boat competition.

Visit local villages!

The northern coast and regions of Spain have many more interesting towns, villages and sights hidden for you. San Sebastian is great centre from where you can explore the region. Here you will find historic places, high mountains, and picturesque villages. Visit the nearby towns of Segura, Pasai Donibane, Lezo, and many more. If you are travelling with your family the San Sebastian Aquarium and the science museum Eureka! Zientzia Museoa are recommended.

Best time to visit

Tourists visit San Sebastian from May to October

You can visit San Sebastian throughout the year. The climate is generally soft and humid. Summers are pleasant and winters can be cold. Rainfall is common during the whole year.

Getting there and around

To get around the town you can either rent a bike or go by foot. There are also several guided tours available which will make you acquainted with the city in a short time. Rent a car if you would like to explore the region. To get there by plane you can fly on San Sebastian itself, or go to the nearby cities of Biarritz, Santander, and Bilbao. You can also reach San Sebastian by bus, or car. By train is possible as well, although the train network in the Basque Country is not that good.

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