The Best Things to Do in San Sebastián Spain

Drive To San Sebastián

Yes, you heard that correctly. The way you choose to arrive in San Sebastián could make all of the difference and greatly add to your experience visiting the city.

Given that San Sebastián lies within beautiful Basque Country, on the north coast of Spain along the Bay of Biscay, it’s an experience in and of itself to enjoy the views on your way to the city. You’ll have the opportunity to drive through beautiful countryside, small romantic towns, and ultimately along the northern coast prior to your arrival. It’s truly a soothing experience if you’re traveling in a rental car.

Things to do in San Sebastián Spain | Map of the route from Zaragoza to San Sebastián |

How To Do It:

Driving to San Sebastián is a relatively painless experience, but how you go about it depends on your origination. During our most recent visit,  our team chose to take a high-speed train from Sevilla to Zaragoza.

Zaragoza is a convenient location to pick up a rental car if you want to explore Basque Country. It’s approximately a 2-hour and 30-minute drive that will allow you to explore both the Basque countryside and ultimately Spain’s north coast. Take a look at some of the best rental car deals in Spain via Kayak.

An added bonus — it’s not too far from some of Spain’s more famed wine regions which are also worth a stop. The train station in Zaragoza is huge and accommodates Avis and EuroCar satellite offices. Pick up a rental car with a GPS and begin your trek north to San Sebastian!

Of course, if you’d rather fly into San Sebastián, you can fly directly into San Sebastián Airport from several of the major Spanish cities, including Madrid and Barcelona. You can check current flight prices here.

Once you’re in the city, and if it’s your first time visiting, we highly recommend hopping on a guided Electric Bike tour to really understand the city as a whole. 

Where To Stay in San Sebastián

There are a number of beautiful hotels to stay at in San Sebastián. There have been a number of fantastic deals across the city of late, but our favorite hotel we keep coming back to is hands down the Hotel Maria Cristina, a Luxury Collection Hotel.

Visit La Concha Beach (Playa de La Concha)

Quite possibly one of the best examples in the world of city and beach life integrated, La Concha Beach offers locals and tourists a picturesque setting to relax, swim, run, walk, or even fish. It’s a relatively large (over 1,500 meters) naturally shaped horse-shoe style beach with Isla Santa Clara perfectly placed in the middle.

The paved promenade that spans the majority of the beach itself is also dotted with small eateries, pintxos bars, and benches where travelers can rest, drink and or just enjoy the view.

Not only is this beach ranked as one of the best beaches to visit in ALL of Europe, but Isla Santa Clara also has its own little beach that people are allowed to swim out to.

Things to do in San Sebastián Spain | Eating Seafood Pintxos
A plate of seafood-based pintxos doused in a special sauce found while exploring downtown San Sebastián. Pintxos are basically the Basque version of tapas, and different styles of meat, seafood, egg, cheeses, and other foods are often placed on crisp pieces of bread. At this particular bar, you could eat as many of these as you like as long as you order a drink and hang out!

Try Pintxos in San Sebastián

Pintxos (pronounced peen-chos), are a Basque style of tapa served throughout the region, but most notably within San Sebastián. The city is world-famous for the gastronomic experience offered to travelers. It’s the home of world-famous food festivals, and San Sebastián holds more Michelin Star restaurants per square meter than any other city in the world.

What’s wonderful about many pintxos bars in San Sebastián is the fact that many are almost free to eat at. As long as you enter a bar and order a drink or plate of food, any pintxos plates resting on top of the bar are up for grabs. Grab a few bites while you sip on fine Catalunyan wine.

RELATED: Learn About Wines and Wine Regions in Catalonia Spain

Of particular note are the seafood-based versions. These can be made up of shrimp, squid, cod, anchovies, or any number of other local varieties. The best part? Everything is super fresh! How pintxos are done up depends entirely on who the chef is. It’s also worth trying the local Jamon Serrano (Spanish cured ham, with which there are varying degrees of quality dependent on price) and la hoguera pintxos.

Not sure which pintxos bars, restaurants, and wine bars to visit? Definitely schedule a walking food tour with our friends over at Basque Guides. Our guide Iker took us to spots that the locals frequent, and honestly, it made our experience more special than we could have imagined. The tour is also customizable to your tastes. In case the Basque Guides tour is full for your travel dates, Eskerne with Discover San Sebastián also offers a fantastic evening pintxos tour that our readers frequently rave about.

View of La Concha Bay from Monte Igueldo in San Sebastian, Spain | Best Things to do in San Sebastian Spain and Tips for Visiting San Sebastian |
The view of La Concha bay from Monte Igueldo with Isla Santa Clara in the middle.

Take the Funicular Up Monte Igueldo & Eat at Asador Alaia

While you could certainly make the relatively steep climb on foot, we highly recommend taking the funicular up to the top of Monte Igueldo to see the epic view of La Concha Bay, simply because it’s a unique experience.

For just a few euros, ride the funicular up to the top of the small mountain and witness one of the most iconic views in all of Europe. You literally have the city and waves beneath you, and there’s a relaxing, not very crowded promenade that circles around the top of Monte Igueldo.

Adding even more value to this experience is the Asador Alaia restaurant. Grab a glass of your favorite Spanish wine or beer, eat lunch or an early dinner and take in the brisk, Basque, salty air while you take in the views hundreds of feet above the city.

Tips for Visiting San Sebastián in Spain's Basque Country
One of the more beautiful parks in San Sebastián is located very close to the city center on the coastal end. The gardens here are meticulously put together and kept clean. A great place to sit down and read a book!

Explore the City of San Sebastián

San Sebastián offers more than just a great coastal view. In the downtown area, within what is dubbed “Parte Vieja” — essentially the city’s Old Town — you can walk the streets and indulge in a rich shopping experience. Browse everything from high-end retailers to old-fashioned, privately owned unique silver jewelry shops.

As you walk and shop, keep your eyes peeled for the hidden nautical accents dotted throughout the architecture of Parte Vieja. Just across the street, you’ll be able to find a wide variety of some of the finest pintxos bars in Basque Country has to offer. Be sure to sample some of the local wine, Txakoli!

Also, keep an eye out for some of the beautiful garden parks placed sporadically along the promenade of the urban center. Bring a book in your pack and just relax amongst the ocean breeze.

Once you’ve had your fill of shopping and food, wander on back towards the La Concha promenade and consider hiking Monte Urgull. Monte Urgell is almost directly across the bay from Monte Igueldo and offers a different perspective of both the city and La Concha Bay. There are several pathways that lead up the hill to the top, some of which are paved with easy to moderate inclines.

Walking to the top of Monte Urgell is a great way to get some fresh air following an urban walk through Parte Vieja. It’s clean and the natural aspects of the walk are soothing to the soul, as is the view at the top.

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San Sebastián day trip, food tours in San Sebastián: outdoorsy food and wine experiences

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