San Sebastian Travel Guide

Spain  #1 in Best Beaches in Spain
Credit

Courtesy of Krzysztof Baranowski

Best Things To Do in San Sebastian

San Sebastian primarily caters to travelers who opt outside. La Concha Beach is the picture-perfect spot for sun-seekers to enjoy while Zurriola Beach serves as the home base for the city's surfing community. Monte Urgull's and Monte Igueldo's placements (on either side of La Concha Bay) afford vantage points so breathtaking they will easily be etched into travelers' minds long after they've left San Sebastian. Come nightfall, do as the locals do and go pintxo barhopping in Parte Vieja, San Sebastian's city center. And if you've got kids in tow, the San Sebastian Aquarium is a favorite among families.    

How we rank Things to Do

Updated May 25, 2017

  • #1
    Parte Vieja
    View all Photos
    #1 in San Sebastian
    Cafes, Entertainment and Nightlife, Shopping, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Cafes, Entertainment and Nightlife, Shopping, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Parte Vieja, also known as the Old Town, is the heart of San Sebastian. Despite its name, it's actually not the oldest part of the city (that honor belongs to Antiguo), but it is the most lively. Parte Vieja's pedestrian-friendly streets are flanked by centuries-old buildings that house a plethora of restaurants, shops and bars. It's considered the best nightlife spot in San Sebastian, as well as the best place to grab pintxos (the local term for light bites, similar to tapas). These two tend to coincide among locals, who begin their nights out pintxos barhopping.  

  • #2
    Pintxos Food Tours
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    #2 in San Sebastian
    Cafes, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Cafes, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    A good chunk of San Sebastian's international foodie fame is credited to its pintxo, so you'll want to put aside some time to explore the city's pintxos bars either on your own or with an organized group. Pintxos (pronounced "peen-chos") are essentially the Basque version of tapas, with a few key differences. Traditional pintxos consist of slices of baguette bread topped with any kind of food, held in place with a toothpick. Another difference lies in presentation. While most other places in Spain serve patrons a plate of tapas with the order of a drink, pintxos are laid out in bulk on the bar, allowing diners to pick what they want.

  • #3
    La Concha Beach
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    #3 in San Sebastian
    Beaches, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    You wouldn't be able to miss this attraction even if you tried. La Concha Beach (named after its seashell shape) is located a stone's throw away from Parte Vieja. Situated southwest of Parte Vieja, the beach stretches about a mile wide and offers spectacular views of Monte Urgull, Monte Igueldo and Santa Clara Island, as well as the beautiful architecture that borders La Concha Promenade. This promenade, famous for its decorative, white wrought iron barrier, is a gateway to other points of interest in the city, including Parte Vieja and Miramar Palace, as well as a few beachside parks. 

  • #4
    Monte Igueldo
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    #4 in San Sebastian
    Amusement Parks, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Amusement Parks, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Located on the western end of La Concha Bay, Monte Igueldo is a hit with travelers for its arresting vistas and attractions at the summit (just a few reasons why visitors preferred Monte Igueldo to Monte Urgull). At the top, you can get an eyeful of La Concha Bay, Monte Urgull (situated directly across from Monte Igueldo) as well as panoramic views of the Bay of Biscay. An amusement park also sits at its peak, offering everything from a sky-high rollercoaster to fun houses to go-carts.

  • #5
    Monte Urgull
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    #5 in San Sebastian
    Churches/Religious Sites, Hiking, Museums, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Hiking, Museums, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Monte Urgull is one of two peaks that bookend La Concha (the other is Monte Igueldo). The lush hill makes for a great hike, with incredible views awaiting visitors at the top. Along with the panoramic vistas at the summiy, hikers will find Castillo de la Motad, which dates back to the 12th century and once served as a fortress to protect the city from invasion. 

  • #6
    Zurriola Beach
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    #6 in San Sebastian
    Beaches, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Swimming/Pools, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Located on the other side of Monte Urgull, Zurriola Beach (or Playa Zurriola) differs from La Concha in that it's an action-packed surfing spot. In fact, the waves are so impressive (swells can reach a foot-and-a-half on a regular day), numerous local and international surfing competitions are held here. The best time for surfing in San Sebastian is during fall and winter. That's because waves are the biggest this time of year, reaching 5 to 6 feet in height. Even if you're not a surfer, you can still enjoy Zurriola Beach. The beach features plenty of space to stretch your legs and is completely safe for swimming. 

  • #7
    San Sebastian Aquarium
    View all Photos
    #7 in San Sebastian
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you've got kids in tow, then a visit to the San Sebastian Aquarium should be at the top of your list. That's because the aquarium, appropriately located right above the ocean's waters, features about 31 different exhibits broken up by region housing more than 200 species. Expect to find aquarium regulars, such as turtles, sharks, sea stars and stingrays, as well as plenty of fish big, small and colorful. There's also a giant skeleton of a North Atlantic right whale that acts as the center piece within the aquarium, as well as a 360-degree underwater tunnel that goes right through one of the aquarium's tanks.

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