San Sebastian Travel Guide

Spain  #1 in Best Beaches in Spain
Credit

Courtesy of Krzysztof Baranowski/Getty Images

Free Things To Do in San Sebastian

If you have extra time, Monte Urgull is worthwhile.
  • #1
    Things to do in San Sebastian
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    #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.  

    If you're not a night owl, you can still find things to do in Parte Vieja. Pintxos are served all day and there are a few architectural gems that warrant further exploration. The San Vicente church, located next to the San Telmo Museoa, is the oldest in the city, dating back to the 16th century. Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus, found at the base of Monte Urgull along the bustling Calle Mayor, is also located in this neighborhood. Meanwhile, Plaza de la Constitución is an excellent place to rest your feet and watch the world go by. Keep in mind, though, that the plaza's restaurants may be pricier than other parts of the city due to their central location.

  • #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. 

    Travelers and experts agree that La Concha Beach is incredible and shouldn't be missed. Even if you're visiting during the cooler months, a stroll along the picture-perfect shoreline is a must. Visitors also appreciated how well-maintained the beach was: Travelers say the sands were clean and the water crystal clear. And considering the beach experiences fewer waves than the nearby Zurriola Beach, the setting makes La Concha a great option for families. Keep in mind, though, that during the warmer months, the shoreline becomes quite crowded, so make sure to get there early if you want to claim a stretch of sand. 

  • #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. 

    It's also home to the nearly 40-foot Cristo de la Mota, or Sacred Heart, statue (visible from the bottom of the hill). Relics, including canons, are strewn throughout, but if you're interested in learning more about Monte Urgull's long, storied role in defending San Sebastian, stop by the Casa de la Historia museum, also located at the top.

  • #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. 

    Travelers who came to relax on Zurriola's sands or ride its waves reported a good time. Surfers compliment the conditions and recommend renting a board at one of the many nearby surf shops. Just remember: because so many flock here to surf, it's best to arrive early in the day to avoid crowded waters (though, reviewers say there are far fewer beachgoers here than La Concha). Some swimmers did complain that because there are so many surfers, the area of the beach dedicated to swimming can feel small compared to La Concha. 

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