San Sebastián Travel Guide

Plan your trip to San Sebastián with our comprehensive travel guide. Discover the best attractions, food and drink scene, accommodations, and more!

San Sebastián, also known as Donostia, is a beautiful coastal city located in Spain’s Basque Country. With its stunning scenery, lively culture, and delicious culinary scene, it is a must-visit destination for any traveler. In this comprehensive travel guide, we will take you on an in-depth tour of San Sebastián, covering everything from top attractions and activities to where to stay and local customs.

Introduction to San Sebastián

San Sebastián is a city known for its picturesque beaches, cobblestone streets, and rich history. It was once a popular resort for European royalty, and today, it continues to be a favorite spot for travelers seeking a mix of relaxation and adventure.

The city is located on the Bay of Biscay and has three main beaches: Zurriola, Ondarreta, and La Concha. Each beach offers its own unique vibe, but all are known for their clean, crystal-clear water and stunning views.

List of Places to Visit in San Sebastián

San Sebastián has a wide range of attractions to explore, from historically significant landmarks to natural wonders. Here are some of the top places to visit in San Sebastián:

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • San Telmo Museum: This museum is dedicated to Basque history and culture, featuring exhibits on traditional Basque crafts, art, and music.
  • Miramar Palace: Built in the late 19th century, this palace was once the summer residence of the Spanish royal family.
  • Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus: This magnificent church was built in the 18th century and is known for its stunning Baroque architecture and beautiful altar.

Natural Attractions of San Sebastián: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Monte Urgull: This hill offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city and the sea. It is also home to a fortress that dates back to the 12th century.
  • Paseo Nuevo: This coastal walkway provides stunning views of the sea and is a popular spot for jogging and taking in the sunset.
  • Santa Clara Island: This small island is located just off the coast of San Sebastián and is accessible by boat. It is a great spot for snorkeling and swimming.

Hiking/Biking Routes of San Sebastián

If you are looking to explore the natural beauty of San Sebastián, there are a number of hiking and biking routes to choose from. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • The Coastal Trail: This trail runs along the coast from San Sebastián to the neighboring town of Zarautz. It offers stunning ocean views and passes through quaint fishing villages.
  • Mount Igueldo Trail: This trail takes you to the top of Mount Igueldo, where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the city and the sea.
  • Green Route: This route runs along the former railway line that connected San Sebastián to Lasarte-Oria. It is a popular spot for hiking and cycling.

Best Things to Do in San Sebastián: Activities and Tours

San Sebastián offers a wide range of activities and tours for travelers of all interests. Here are a few of our top recommendations:

  • Pintxo Tour: San Sebastián is known for its delicious pintxos, which are small, bite-sized snacks that are typically served in bars. Taking a pintxo tour is a great way to experience the local food culture.
  • Surfing: San Sebastián is one of the best surfing destinations in Europe, with great waves and a lively surf culture. There are many surf schools and rental shops in the city.
  • Shopping: San Sebastián has a great shopping scene, with a mix of high-end boutiques and local markets. Some of the top shopping areas include the Old Town and the Gros neighborhood.

Week-Long Itinerary for San Sebastián

If you have a week to spend in San Sebastián, here is a suggested itinerary:

  • Day 1: Explore the Old Town and take a pintxo tour.
  • Day 2: Visit the San Telmo Museum and explore the surrounding area.
  • Day 3: Hike the coastal trail to Zarautz and spend the day at the beach.
  • Day 4: Take a surfing lesson or rent a surfboard and hit the waves.
  • Day 5: Visit the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus and the Miramar Palace.
  • Day 6: Take a day trip to the nearby town of Hondarribia.
  • Day 7: Relax at one of San Sebastián’s beautiful beaches.

Food and Drink Scene of San Sebastián

San Sebastián is known for its incredible food and drink scene, with some of the best restaurants and pintxo bars in the world. Here are a few of the must-try dishes and local beverages:

Must-Try Dishes

  • Pintxos: As mentioned earlier, pintxos are small snacks that are typically served in bars. Some of the most popular pintxos include tortilla de bacalao (cod omelet), gilda (olives, anchovies, and peppers), and txangurro (stuffed crab).
  • Marmitako: This is a traditional Basque fish stew that is made with tuna, potatoes, and peppers.
  • Txuleton: This is a thick, juicy steak that is grilled over charcoal and served with roasted peppers.

Local Beverages

  • Txakoli: This is a dry, sparkling wine that is produced in the Basque Country and is perfect for pairing with pintxos.
  • Cider: The Basque Country is also known for its cider, which is made from locally grown apples.

Where to Stay in San Sebastián: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

San Sebastián has a wide range of accommodations to choose from, including luxury hotels, budget-friendly hostels, and cozy guesthouses. Here are a few of our top recommendations:

  • Hotel Maria Cristina: This luxurious hotel is located in the heart of the city and is known for its elegant decor and exceptional service.
  • Pension Urkia: This charming guesthouse is located near the beach and offers comfortable rooms at an affordable price.
  • Green Nest Hostel Uba Aterpetxea: This eco-friendly hostel is located on the outskirts of the city and is a great option for budget-conscious travelers.

What to Buy in San Sebastián: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

If you are looking for souvenirs to bring home from San Sebastián, here are a few ideas:

  • Basque beret: These traditional hats are a symbol of Basque culture and make a great gift.
  • Txakoli: As mentioned earlier, this sparkling wine is a local specialty and is a great gift for wine lovers.
  • Artisanal cheese: The Basque Country is also known for its artisanal cheese, which makes a great gift for foodies.

Local Culture and Customs of San Sebastián

The people of San Sebastián are proud of their Basque heritage and culture. Here are a few customs and traditions to keep in mind:

  • Speak Basque: While most people in San Sebastián speak Spanish, the native language of the Basque Country is Basque. Learning a few basic phrases can help you connect with locals.
  • Respect the pintxo bar culture: When visiting a pintxo bar, it is important to follow the local customs. Typically, you will choose your pintxos from a display and pay for them at the end of the meal.
  • Dress appropriately: San Sebastián is a stylish city, and locals tend to dress up when going out to eat or to socialize.

Best Time to Visit San Sebastián

The best time to visit San Sebastián is from June to September, when the weather is warm and sunny. However, this is also the peak tourist season, so expect crowds and higher prices. If you are looking for a quieter, more affordable trip, consider visiting in the shoulder season (May or October).

Do’s and Don’ts of San Sebastián

As with any destination, there are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when visiting San Sebastián:


  • Do try the local cuisine, especially the pintxos.
  • Do respect the local customs and traditions.
  • Do take advantage of San Sebastián’s outdoor activities and natural beauty.


  • Don’t expect everyone to speak English. Try to learn a few basic phrases in Spanish or Basque.
  • Don’t be loud or disruptive in public spaces.
  • Don’t forget to tip at restaurants and bars (about 10%).

Safety and Health

San Sebastián is a safe destination for travelers, with low levels of crime and a welcoming atmosphere. However, as with any city, it is important to take precautions and be aware of your surroundings. Here are a few tips for staying safe in San Sebastián:

Safety in San Sebastián

  • Be aware of pickpockets in tourist areas and crowded spaces.
  • Avoid walking alone at night in areas that are not well-lit or populated.
  • Follow local customs and respect the culture and traditions of the Basque Country.

Health in San Sebastián

  • San Sebastián has a good healthcare system, but it is important to have travel insurance in case of emergency.
  • Be cautious when swimming in the ocean, as strong currents and undertows can be dangerous.
  • Use sunscreen and stay hydrated during the hot summer months.

Getting to San Sebastián: Transportation Options and Logistics

San Sebastián is easily accessible by plane, train, and bus. Here are a few transportation options to consider:

Airports Near San Sebastián

  • San Sebastián Airport (EAS): Located about 20 minutes from the city center, this airport offers flights to and from several European destinations.
  • Bilbao Airport (BIO): This larger airport is located about an hour and a half from San Sebastián and offers flights to a wider range of destinations.

Bus Stations Near San Sebastián

  • San Sebastián Bus Station: This bus station is located in the city center and offers buses to and from several Spanish destinations.
  • Bilbao Bus Station: This larger bus station is located in Bilbao and offers buses to and from several European destinations.

Other Options

  • Train: San Sebastián has a train station that offers service to several Spanish destinations, including Madrid and Barcelona.
  • Car rental: If you prefer to drive, there are several car rental options in San Sebastián.

How to Get Around in San Sebastián

San Sebastián is a small city and is easily walkable. However, if you need transportation, there are several options:

  • Bus: San Sebastián has an extensive bus system that serves the city and surrounding areas.
  • Bike: There are several bike rental shops in the city, and biking is a popular way to get around.
  • Taxi: Taxis are widely available in San Sebastián and are a convenient way to travel longer distances.

Where to Go Next from San Sebastián: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

San Sebastián is located in a beautiful region of Spain and offers easy access to several nearby destinations and excursions. Here are a few ideas for where to go next:

  • Bilbao: This vibrant city is located about an hour and a half from San Sebastián and is known for its modernist architecture and the famous Guggenheim Museum.
  • Hondarribia: This charming coastal town is located just a short drive from San Sebastián and is known for its picturesque waterfront and lively social scene.
  • French Basque Country: Just a short drive across the border, the French Basque Country offers stunning coastal scenery and charming villages.


San Sebastián is a truly special city, full of stunning natural beauty, rich culture, and delicious food and drink. With its beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, and friendly locals, it is a destination that is sure to capture your heart. We hope this comprehensive travel guide has provided you with all the information you need to plan the perfect trip to San Sebastián.