San Sebastian, Spain
Also known as Donostia, this pretty little beach town in Basque Country packs a big punch! With 2nd most Michelin stars on earth behind Kyoto, Japan, and some of the top surfing beaches in Europe, San Sebastian should probably be on your Spain itinerary. Let’s Visit San Sebastian!
Visiting San Sebastian? Take a Walk!
It’s hard to believe that so much beauty could be packed into just 23 square miles. Grab your walking shoes and camera, this easy to navigate city offers up some stunning photo opportunities best seen by foot.
Madison County San Sebastian
Crossing the River Urumea? Just pick one the city’s beautiful bridges. Complete with obelisks, art deco lamp posts, and pink railings, these bridges double as art pieces. From north to the south, don’t miss Zurriola Bridge, Santa Catalina Bridge, or Maria Cristina Bridge.
Located in the heart of Old Town, this historic plaza was once used as a bullring. Built in 1723, destroyed by fire in 1813, then rebuilt in 1817, this popular plaza is now home to shops, bars, and city celebrations.
Parque Cristina Enea
This charming park is home to peacocks, swans, and beautiful pathways. Located south of the city center, this park dates back to 1859 and was created by Duke of Mandas in honor of his wife.
Take a leisurely stroll around the peninsula between the two beaches and you’re sure to catch huge waves and fishermen hard at work. From here you’ll see Isla de Santa Clara, the Bay of Biscay, the beaches, and the harbor.
San Vicente Church
Located in Old Town, this is San Sebastian’s oldest church. Dating back to 1507, this is one of the only structures to survive the fires of 1813.
San Sebastian Cathedral
Also known as the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, this gothic style cathedral is located in the city center and soars 246 feet into the sky.
Visiting San Sebastian? Grab a Bite!
Home to an astonishing 16 Michelin stars and the birthplace of the pintxo(pronounced pin-cho), San Sebastian is a foodie’s dream destination. Our advice on where to eat in San Sebastian? “Eat all the things”. You literally cannot go wrong in this town. So what the heck is a pintxo anyway?? A pintxo is a small snack usually served with a toothpick or skewer and enjoyed at a bar with a glass of wine or beer. You can get them hot or cold, either way you’ll surly be pleased.
Visiting San Sebastian? Book a Tour!
Visiting San Sebastian? Relax at the Beach!
Playa La Concha
This beach, once favored by Queen Isabel II, is arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. With nearly a mile of fine white sand, this beach is a photo opp that should not be missed. Note that during high tide the entire beach disappears! Check out our 40-minute long sunrise video from one beautiful morning. (Don’t miss the end!)
Just on the other side of the peninsula is the Cantabrian Sea’s biggest surfing beach. Whether you like to surf or just watch, this is the beach for you. Catch a quick glimpse here with a short time-lapse video we took one afternoon.
We’ve teamed up with GPSmyCity and converted our San Sebastian travel guide into a downloadable application that comes complete with a GPS map of our recommendations and operates offline without any need of data plan or Internet connection. You can check it out here.
Getting to San Sebastian
Buses are not our favorite mode of travel.. The seats are generally cramped, the ride is bumpy, and departure/arrival times can be unpredictable. This said bus travel is generally the least expensive. In particular, the route from Madrid is only $30 for the 5.5-hour trip.
Trains throughout Spain are a great option; you’ll avoid lines at the airport, enjoy beautiful scenery, and they can be very comfortable. If you plan on doing a lot of traveling through Spain make sure you look into the Spain Pass, only available to non-residents. Fares & Schedules
If planned in advance, there are reasonably-priced, direct flights to San Sebastian from Barcelona for just $40. You can also fly into the neighboring city of Bilbao, 62 miles from the San Sebastian city center. Flights to Bilbao from most Spanish cities are less than $40, including Barcelona for just $28 with our favorite flight search site, Skyscanner.
Bilbao Flight Deals
San Sebastian Airport to City Center
You’ll find the taxi stand just outside the airport. A ride to the city center takes about 20 minutes and costs $45.
For roughly $2 you can take a 30 minute bus ride from the airport to the city center.
Take the RENFE for only $2 and arrive in about 20 minutes.
Bilbao Airport to San Sebastian City Center
While technically you could take a taxi, it takes the same time as a bus and costs about $150.
In just over an hour you’ll arrive in San Sebastian for $8 via the ALSA Bus Company.
Getting around in San Sebastian
Public transportation in San Sebastian is very user friendly. Called the “Dbus”, you can get a San Sebastian Card valid for 3 days or 6 journeys for $10. Staying longer? 5 days or 12 journeys is $18.
Walkscore.com gives San Sebastian a score of 100, calling it a walker’s paradise. We also found this to be true. Walking around San Sebastian is highly recommended.
Uber is slowly navigating their way into Spain, although currently only available in Madrid. As for now, San Sebastian does not offer Uber.
Where To Stay in San Sebastian:
San Sebastian offers a wide range of hotels to choose from. High-end hotels like Hotel Maria Cristina San Sebastian or Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra run about $375 a night, while reasonably priced hotels like Pension Donostiarra or Hotel Parma go for about $75 a night. When it comes to hotels, we recommend shopping Agoda.com, the most competitive resource when searching for hotels in San Sebastian.
San Sebastian Hotel Deals
With only 27 hostels in San Sebastian, you should plan in advance to ensure a bed. Prices generally range from $16-$25 a night for a dorm room, while private rooms cost a bit more at about $50-$70 per night. Hostelworld is our recommended resource when searching for hostels in San Sebastian.
San Sebastian Hostel Deals
We love Airbnb! From private rooms to entire homes, there are plenty of choices when visiting San Sebastian. If you’re a first-timer with Airbnb, use this coupon and enjoy $35 off of your stay.
Choosing a neighborhood is an important part of trip planning that should not be overlooked! Here are some areas worth considering when deciding where to stay in San Sebastian.
Located in the eastern part of the city, this young and dynamic neighborhood is full of surf shops and art galleries. Gros is the home of the amazing Zurriola Beach and great live music venues.
Centro and Old Town
This romantic and picturesque neighborhood is where you’ll find the famous La Concha beach, Basilica of Saint Mary, San Vicente church and, the best pintxos bars in town.
This family-friendly neighborhood located west of the city center is under the ominous watch of Mount Igeldo and home to some of the best views of Concha Bay.
San Sebastian Travel Tips:
San Sebastian travel tips: Tipping
A general rule for tipping in Spain is 10%. While tipping in bars is not expected, a common tip is 10% to restaurant servers or taxi drivers for exceptional service.
San Sebastian travel tips: Money
Spain’s national currency is the Euro and is currently exchanging at 0.9EUR to $1USD. Credit cards are accepted at most places and ATM machines are readily available.
San Sebastian travel tips: Insurance
Traveling through San Sebastian is exciting and safe, but you never know when some good travel insurance could come in handy. World Nomads offers the best coverage in the business, is affordable, and is quick to act should something go wrong. For more info, check out our recent World Nomads blog post.