A charming resort town on the Bay of Biscay, San Sebastián is packed full of sights and activities that allure many a traveler. 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 activities to be done and memories to be made. So, whether you’re an avid hiker, surfer dude, or intrepid explorer, here are our favorite things to do in San Sebastián to make your trip unforgettable.
- 1 Become a Beach Bum at Playa de la Concha
- 2 Climb to the Highest Point in San Sebastián
- 3 Admire Miramar Palace
- 4 Gaze at the Towering San Sebastián Cathedral
- 5 Devour Everything on a Pintxos Tour
- 6 Eat Local Delicacies at Borda Berri
- 7 Get Lost in the Old Town
- 8 Be Awed by the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus
- 9 Visit the Charming Santa Clara Island
- 10 Walk over the Bridge of Maria Cristina
- 11 Beat the Locals to Bar Nestor
- 12 Treat Yourself to a Stay at Hotel Villa Soro
- 13 Check out the Amusement Park at Monte Igueldo
- 14 Learn Something New at Museo de San Telmo
- 15 Hike the Camino de Santiago
- 16 Surf at Zurriola Beach
- 17 Grab Some Salt Cod Fritters at Bar Haizea
- 18 Spend the Day at Ondarreta Beach
- 19 Appreciate the Ayuntamiento de San Sebastián
- 20 Wander around Castillo de la Mota
- 21 Drink in the Plaza de Guipuzkoa
- 22 Get the Best Bang for Your Buck at Green Nest Hostel
- 23 Take a Pleasant Stroll around Paseo Nuevo
- 24 Marvel at the Wonders of La Catedral del Buen Pastor
- 25 Hike the Trails of St. James’ Way
- 26 Book a Stay at La Galería
- 27 Be Charmed by Cristina Enea Park
- 28 Discover an Underwater World at the Aquarium
- 29 Take a Day Trip from San Sebastián
Become a Beach Bum 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.
Climb to the Highest Point in San Sebastián
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 around.
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 Sebastián’s defence.
Admire Miramar Palace
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 actually now hosts University courses in the summer.
Gaze at the Towering San Sebastián Cathedral
Dedicated to the good Sheppard, San Sebastián 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.
Devour Everything on a Pintxos Tour
Renowned worldwide for its outstanding cuisine, San Sebastián offers quite the 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 the city’s history and culinary evolution.
Eat Local Delicacies at Borda Berri
Pintxos bars are where the best food is at, 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.
Get Lost in the 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.
Be Awed by the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus
Right in the heart of San Sebastián, you’ll find an 18th-century Baroque church with ornately carved exterior doors and a small basilica.
Although maybe not the most striking architecture from the outside, the church really shines with its interiors. Full of colorful and interesting artwork, you can spend some time here admiring the works.
Visit the Charming Santa Clara Island
Smack bang in the middle of Concha Bay is Santa Clara Island.
Take a boat over to this magical place and enjoy all that it has to offer: views of the city, a tiny beach, cool waters, a quirky lighthouse, and a great bar with a terrace.
Walk over the Bridge of Maria Cristina
An iconic bridge in San Sebastián, walk over to see the elaborate statues up close. The bridge itself is an ornate beauty but it is the views that it provides that make it really worth the trip.
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 word on the street is that the absolute icing on the cake is the famous house tortilla de patatas. Warning: you have to get there early to get it!
Treat Yourself to a Stay at Hotel Villa Soro
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 Sebastián!
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.
Learn Something New at Museo de San Telmo
The biggest museum for Basque history is the perfect place to learn something new!
Featuring history from prehistoric times all the way to modern day, the oldest museum in the whole of San Sebastián needs to be on your list (at least to see its amazing blend of architecture if nothing else!).
Hike the Camino de Santiago
Need some time outdoors? Hike part of the route of the famous Camino de Santiago.
Take a half day tour and trek along scenic paths of the Ulia Mountain to the village of Pasaia. If you have the time and you’re looking for a challenging adventure, try the whole thing!
Surf at Zurriola Beach
Surfers everywhere flock to 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!
Grab Some Salt Cod Fritters at Bar Haizea
If there is one thing that you eat while in San Sebastián, 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.
Spend the Day at Ondarreta Beach
The last (but by no means least) beach of the three in San Sebastián 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?
Appreciate the Ayuntamiento de San Sebastián
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.
Wander around Castillo de la Mota
Take an uphill hike from the side of San Sebastián Church and Carmelite Monastery and you’ll find the Mota Fortress.
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.
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 the city.
With lovely manicured gardens and impressive buildings lining the outside, this is a great place to sit back and admire San Sebastián.
Get the Best Bang for Your Buck at Green Nest Hostel
Affordable, hip, and just plain awesome, the Green Nest Hostel is the place to stay if you’re on a tight budget.
Featuring modern rooms, pleasing architecture, more than decent facilities, a great social atmosphere, and an even better location, there’s no question where to book your budget stay in San Sebastián .
Take a Pleasant Stroll 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.
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 by the biggest organ in Europe (it has 10,000 whistles!) and the Cross of Peace sculpture.
Hike the Trails of St. James’ Way
St. James’ Way is a very popular hiking route, favored by many because of the challenging start and the panoramas over San Sebastián 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 afterwards. 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!
Book a Stay at La Galería
If location is a major requirement when choosing your accommodation in San Sebastián, La Galería Hotel has you covered.
Minutes away from the historic center, Ondarreta Beach, and the famous La Concha, this hotel also offers elegant decor inside and out.
Be Charmed by Cristina Enea Park
A favorite escape for locals, 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. Wander the trails and gardens, and take the time to spot local wildlife around the pond such as flamingos.
Discover an Underwater World at the Aquarium
Aquariums are always magical! It’s wonderful to watch exotic fish and mammals in their habitats swimming right up next to your face when you walk through the glass tunnel.
What makes this place unique is that they have model ships and art exhibits here as well.
Check out this Spain travel guide for awesome tips on where to stay and what to do!
Take a Day Trip from San Sebastián
If you’re in San Sebastián 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).
Whether you’ve been to San Sebastián before or never have, this list should give you plenty of things to do, see, and eat, to fill your time there.
Trying to figure out where to stay in San Sebastián? Check out our accommodation guide!
Looking for more on Spain? Check out these articles
- Spain Bucket List: Ultimate Guide on the Best Things to Do
- Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Dream Trip to Spain
- What to Eat in Spain: Ultimate Guide to Spanish Food
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