28+ Awesome Things to Do in San Sebastian, Spain (2024 Guide)

written by local expert Becky Rogers

Becky is an avid rock climber and outdoor enthusiast and is now living in France as an expat. When she is not writing about travel gear and various destinations she has visited during her travels, you can find her playing with her two dogs.

Looking for the best things to do in San Sebastian, Spain? In this article, I will walk you through my top tips.

Having spent almost a week wandering around this stunning place, San Sebastian is one of my favorite places in Spain. Known for its gastronomy, it is the 2nd city in the world with the most Michelin-starred restaurants per sq km!

A charming resort town on the Bay of Biscay, San Sebastian is packed full of sights and activities that allure many a traveler which is why I’m excited to share my travel tips.

Nestled in the mountainous Basque Country in Spain, this city scores major points for location, but it also seems to tick every other box too.

One of the world’s greatest dining scenes? Check. Elegant architecture? Check. Amazing surf, rolling hills, and beaches for days? Check, check, and check.

Whatever time of year you come here, there are plenty of activities on offer in San Sebastian and lots of memories to be made. So, whether you’re an avid hiker, surfer dude, or intrepid explorer, you can have an unforgettable trip.

Relaxing on San Sebastian Beach
Anna chilling in San Sebastian – You can’t visit without relaxing on La Concha Beach, especially during the summer months!

San Sebastian Things to Do Highlights

As mentioned, San Sebastian is a foodie town and many restaurants have Michelin stars. Don’t be surprised if the majority of activities revolve around eating and drinking! Here are a couple of our recommended tours around the city.

  • Pintxo and Wine Tour- This top-rated food tour is one of the best things to do in San Sebastian and is considered a MUST for foodies. Discover the best eats in the area with the help of a local guide.
  • Pintxos food crawl– This food crawl takes you through some of the best Pintxos in the entire of San Sebastian with a local resident, plus a trip to a market like Mercado de la Bretxa.
  • Explore the Basque Coast and a Winery– Spend the afternoon with a local driving along the Basque coast while visiting a winery for a few tastings. With an extensive wine list, you’ll be in your element.
  • Electric Bike Small Group Tour– Explore San Sebastian on a guided tour on electric bikes. Trust us, it’s a FUN way to see the city. Talk about unique!
  • Foodie Tour with Discover San Sebastian– Eat your way around San Sebastian on a guided tour with a local. This small group tour ensures amazing food, drinks, and more.
many people cheersing with glasses of red wine
You can also enjoy delicious Spanish wine in San Sebastian

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Best Things to Do in San Sebastian

1. Spend a day at Playa de la Concha

Known as the shell beach, Playa de la Concha is renowned as one of Europe’s most beautiful urban shorelines.

A sandy, shell-shaped beach on the Bay of La Concha, the charming promenade is dotted with great seafood restaurants, lively bars, and a mixture of shops.

Playa de la Concha is very iconic in the city and is a popular attraction in San Sebastian.

Do remember that this beach can get quite crowded so if you want a prime spot near the ocean, aim to get there in the morning.

People at the beach in San Sebastian
You can’t visit San Sebastian without going to at least one of the most beautiful urban beaches

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2. Climb to the Highest Point in San Sebastian (Monte Urgull)

Monte Urgull is the highest point in this Spanish city. If you make it up to its peak, you’ll be rewarded with the view of the impressive 12th-century Mota Castle with sea views that last for miles.

This tree-covered hill has other historic structures such as the 12-meter high sacred heart statue (Cristo de la Mota).

Walk around and imagine how this location was used as a strategic point in San Sebastian’s defense. We recommend visiting early morning or late afternoon to avoid the blazing sun.

Oh, and don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the amazing views.

 Monte Urgull
Monte Urgull is one of the best places to see in San Sebastian as it offers some of the best views in town

3. Admire Miramar Palace (Palacio de Miramar)

A late 19th-century palace located on La Concha Bay, it is as if Miramar Palace was made just for its beauty to be admired.

Once the stately summer home of the Queen of Spain, the palace now hosts University courses in the summer.

Palacio de Miramar or Palacio Miramar is a popular attraction in San Sebastian that you can visit for free. The gardens form a public park where locals come to picnic. It’s a great spot to chill and relax.

4. Gaze at the San Sebastian Cathedral

Dedicated to the Good Shepherd, San Sebastian Cathedral is the most remarkable religious building in the city.

Built in the late-1800s with ornate Gothic-Revival architecture and an impressive 75m central spire, this cathedral is a must-see while in the Basque Country.

Views of the impressive San Sebastian Cathedral
As you visit San Sebastian, admiring the impressive cathedral is a must on your itinerary – it has such a rich history!

5. Devour Everything on a Pintxos Tour

Renowned worldwide for its outstanding cuisine, San Sebastian offers quite an array of dishes to entice even the most experienced foodie.

Consider taking a pintxos tour to help you decide what is best to start eating first. The tours take you to the best places in the city, and you’ll leave with insider tips and knowledge about its history and culinary evolution.

Some tours will also take you to popular markets in San Sebastian like Mercado de La Bretxa, Mercado San Martín, and more.

Insider’s Tip: Want to try your hand at making the famous pintxos instead? Try a pintxos cooking class! Get hands-on instruction from Spanish chefs and make your own. The best part? After class, you’ll get to enjoy what you make, plus a wine pairing. Get details on the pintxos class here.

Pintxos in San Sebastian
Food is a HUGE part of San Sebastian’s Basque culture

6. Eat Local Delicacies at Borda Berri

Pintxos bars are where the best food is, so head to Borda Berri for some local favorites.

If you’re brave enough, try the octopus or duck – these are what the crowds of locals are lining up for! Trust us when we say they are worth the wait. Not sure what else you should try? Then read our guide to Spanish food.

7. Get Lost in Old Town

Although not a big town, it’s possible to get lost (especially if you’re me) in the winding narrow streets that make up La Parte Vieja, the Old Town.

Full of pintxo bars, historic buildings, and cute boutiques, it really isn’t such a bad thing if you do get lost. During our visit, there happened to be random fireworks illuminating the sky in the Old Town as we walked around. It was magical!

A firework display in San Sebastian City
A firework display in the Old Town of San Sebastian in the Basque Country

8. Visit the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus (Santa María del Coro)

Right in the heart of San Sebastian Old Town, you’ll find an 18th-century Baroque church with ornately carved exterior doors and a small basilica. You can definitely see why it’s a popular destination.

Although maybe not the most striking architecture from the outside, Santa María del Coro really shines with its interiors. Full of colorful and interesting artwork, you can spend some time here admiring the works.

If you like churches, Iglesia de San Vicente is another one worth visiting.

9. Visit the Charming Santa Clara Island

If you’re looking to take a break from Playa de la Concha, head on over to the island which is located smack bang in the middle of Concha Bay.

Take a boat over to this magical place and enjoy all that it has to offer: views of the city, a tiny beach, lush greenery, cool waters, a quirky lighthouse, and a great bar with a terrace.

View of Santa Clara Island
This island is one of the top must-do activities in San Sebastian, Northern Spain

10. Walk over the Bridge of Maria Cristina

An iconic bridge in San Sebastian, walk over to see the elaborate statues up close. The bridge itself is an ornate beauty but it’s the views that make it really worth the trip.

Built by Engineer José Eugenio Ribera and architect Julio María Zapata, this bridge stands out with its four obelisks and intricate patterns.

11. Beat the Locals to Bar Nestor

Locals on the street call Bar Nestor the holy trinity. Why? Because they cook three things to perfection: tomato salad, Padrón peppers, and txuleta.

This bar is worth coming to just for one of these dishes alone, but the icing on the cake is the famous house tortilla de patatas. Warning: you have to get there early to get it!

San Sebastian is known for their txuleta or txuleton (steak). If you’re a foodie, ordering this dish at least once while you’re in the city is a must.

Txuleta steak
You can’t experience Basque culture without trying this tasty steak – It’s one of the top things you need to do in San Sebastian

12. Treat Yourself to a Stay at Hotel Villa Soro

Hotel Villa Soro
Hotel Villa Soro, San Sebastian

A stunning Victorian villa surrounded by pristine lawns and trees is the idyllic setting at Hotel Villa Soro.

The elegant furnishings and modern facilities offer a dash of luxury, while the excellent service means you’ll be treated like royalty. The best thing about a stay here is that you get a real sense of being away from it all, when in fact you’re just a stone’s throw away from everything.

This is the place to stay for a relaxing, high-end experience in San Sebastian. You deserve to treat yourself!

13. Check out the Amusement Park at Monte Igueldo

Home to an old-fashioned amusement park accessed via an antique funicular railway, Mount Igueldo is nothing short of quirky. As well as offering this source of entertainment, you’ll also find El Torreón tower here, as well as dazzling views of the city over the water.

14. Discover San Telmo Museum

The biggest museum for Basque history, San Telmo Museum is the perfect place to learn something new and discover their contemporary culture.

Featuring exhibits from prehistoric times all the way to the modern day, the oldest museum in the whole of San Sebastian needs to be on your list (at least to see its amazing blend of architecture if nothing else!).

15. Surf at Zurriola Beach (Playa de la Zurriola)

Surfers everywhere flock to Playa de la Zurriola or Zurriola Beach for sand, surf, and sweet sweet views.

While the waves are the main source of attraction, the beach is also rife with volleyball, football, beach tennis, and other typical beach-like activities. If you’re visiting during the summer, this is the spot to be!

San Sebastian is home to some of the best surf spots in Spain so expect a crowded line-up, especially in the beginners section. We loved watching the surfers in Playa de la Zurriola during our time there – it’s the perfect spot for chilling and people-watching.

People surfing at a beach in Spain
There are many things to do during your time in San Sebastian, including surfing. Plus, the coastal city is known for its beautiful urban beaches!

16. Grab Some Salt Cod Fritters at Bar Haizea

If there is one thing that you eat while in San Sebastian, let it be salt cod as that is what they are famous for.

We recommend getting them fried (because doesn’t frying make everything better?), and enjoying your fritters with amazing service and friendly locals at Bar Haizea.

17. Spend the Day at Ondarreta Beach

The last (but by no means least) beach of the three in San Sebastian is Ondarreta Beach.

A local favorite, Ondarreta is a wide sandy beach that has views of the Igueldo Mount and stretching sparkling waters. What more could you want from a beach?

18. Wander Around Paseo de la Concha

If you want to people-watch while in San Sebastian, we recommend heading towards Paseo de la Concha, San Sebastian’s main boardwalk.

Here, you can walk along the boardwalk, finding many shops, restaurants, and cafes along the way. From Paseo de la Concha, you have a direct view of Playa de la Concha Bay (La Concha Beach).

People watching overlooking the beach in Spain
San Sebastian is located along the Atlantic Ocean and La Concha Beach is a must-visit

19. Appreciate the Ayuntamiento de San Sebastian

An architectural masterpiece, the city hall is probably the most striking building in the whole city.

Constructed in the late 1880s, the historical treasure is also in a prime location between La Concha Beach and the Old City, next to the pristine Alderdi Eder Gardens.

Take an uphill hike from the side of San Sebastian Church and Carmelite Monastery and you’ll find the Castillo de la Mota Fortress. This medieval building is a 12th-century military fortress that is now a cultural space.

San Sebastian City Hall
You need to see the town hall at least once as you visit San Sebastian in the Basque Region

20. Stroll around Castillo de la Mota

With several great vistas along the way, you’ll think you’ve seen it all until you come over the top and stand next to the Jesus statue overlooking the waters.

Visiting Castillo de la Mota is one of the best activities for history buffs in San Sebastian.

21. Drink in the Plaza de Guipuzkoa

An open green space perfect for people watching, escaping the sun, or just relaxing because you feel like it, Plaza de Guipuzkoa is a welcome escape from the bustle of San Sebastian city life.

With lovely manicured gardens and impressive buildings lining the outside, this is a great place to sit back and admire San Sebastian.

San Sebastian Travel Tip: Want an efficient way to explore the best of this charming seaside city? Try a bike tour! Led by a local guide, discover San Sebastian via its extensive network of bike paths. Visit beaches, hidden gems, historic buildings, and the different neighborhoods to learn more about what makes this city tick. Check out details of the bike tour here.

22. Stay at Uba Hostel

Affordable, hip, and just plain awesome, the Uba Hostel is the ideal place to stay if you’re on a tight budget.

Featuring modern rooms, pleasing architecture, more than decent facilities, and a great social atmosphere. It offers an even better location, there’s no question about where to book your budget stay in San Sebastian.

San Sebastian Promenade
Out of the many activities in San Sebastian, this walk is one of the most photogenic

23. Take a Pleasant Walk around Paseo Nuevo

This is a local favorite for walking and running so take their lead and have a stroll at your leisure. A simply stunning and picturesque promenade, you can enjoy the views while walking along piers and boardwalks.

24. Marvel at the Wonders of La Catedral del Buen Pastor

Admire the cathedral’s architecture which has both German and French influences. Marvel at one of the most significant religious buildings in the Basque country. Be in awe of the biggest organ in Europe (it has 10,000 whistles!) and the Cross of Peace sculpture.

25. Hike the Trails of St. James’ Way

St. James’ Way or the Camino de Santiago is a very popular hiking route, favored by many because of the challenging start and the panoramas over San Sebastian that you can admire for a lot of the way.

While the hardest (read: steepest) part of this hike is at the beginning, it actually gets easier afterward. This means that this is a great outdoor activity, even for beginners.

Hiking along clifftop paths, up and down valleys, and through fishing villages, you even have time to stop for some tapas! Check out tour details here.

Walking the Camino de Santiago
Walking the Camino de Santiago is one of the best things to do near San Sebastian for avid hikers

26. Book a Stay at La Galería

If location is a major requirement when choosing your accommodation in San Sebastian, La Galería Hotel has you covered.

Minutes away from the historic center, Ondarreta Beach, and the famous Playa de La Concha, this hotel also offers elegant decor inside and out.

The exterior of La Galería
La Galería is one of the top places to stay in San Sebastian
The entrance hall and reception of La Galería Hotel
The hotel reception area

27. Visit Cristina Enea Park

A favorite escape for locals in San Sebastian, Cristina Enea Park was created by the Duke of Mandas in honor of his wife.

The most formal and attractive park in the city, it’s definitely worth a visit if you’ve got a free afternoon in San Sebastian. Wander the trails and gardens, and take the time to spot wildlife around the pond such as flamingos.

Check out this Spain travel guide for awesome tips on where to stay and what to do in this incredible country!

28. Take a Day Trip from San Sebastian

If you’re in San Sebastian for a week or two, it can be used as a great hub to take day trips.

Popular trips usually take you to Biarritz (a lovely village in the South of France) or Bilbao (the largest city in the Basque Country).

Other popular destinations are Playa de la Zarautz, Zumaia (Game of Thrones Dragonstone was filmed here!), and Getaria.

Sunset in San Sebastian
Although there are a lot of things to see in San Sebastian, there are some great day trip opportunities nearby

Whether you’ve been to San Sebastian before or never have, this list should give you plenty of things to do, see, and eat, to fill your time there.

Looking for a place to rest your head? Check out our guide on where to stay in San Sebastian.

Looking for more on Spain beyond San Sebastian? Check out these articles

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Things to Do in San Sebastian | Planning a trip to the heart of Basque country? Don't miss these awesome things to do in San Sebastian!
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