What to do in San Sebastián, SPAIN
San Sebastián is the capital of Gipuzkoa, a sophisticated city of 190.000 inhabitants located just 20 km from the french border. Together with nearby Bilbao is a center of Basque nationalism.
The city sits in an idyllic position built around the shell-shaped Bahía de la Concha. The natural setting – crystalline waters, a flawless beach, green hills on all sides – is captivating. It is quite unusual feeling that you can sunbathe and swim right next to major historical buildings and churches. Whether you are into sightseeing, nightlife or lazing around on the beach this city has something to offer to people of all ages.
The city is quite small and cozy and is best explored by foot with the major sights are located within easy reach. Another cool way to move around is to rent a bicycle from one of the many rental places scattered around the city.
We recommend starting your day visiting the buzzing Parte Vieja (Old Quarter), the most popular yet authentic and charming area of San Sebastián where you can spend hours exploring its narrow streets, each packed with many lively bars offering delicious pintxos, the Basque version of Tapas, accompanied by local wines. This is perfect place to sit down, relax and enjoy a copa. Being a very touristic place you would be surprised to know that prices are very affordable, you can expect to pay around 2€ - 3€ for a pinxto and 1,50 € for a nice cup of Txakoli white wine.
Standing right in the middle of Parte Vieja is Plaza de la Constitución, considered to be the very center of San Sebastián, this former bullring is now one of nicest and cleanest squares in Spain where big parties and celebrations often take place.
Just a step from the Old Quarter, the Monte Urgull preserves in its summit the Castillo de la Mota, a trace of the city's military character with its remaining fortification walls and cannons. You can easily hike to the top of the mountain from downtown walking along the beautiful promenade and enjoy a splendid view of all three beaches (La Concha, Ondarreta and Zurriola Beach) from the top.
Located at the foot of Monte Urgull, The Museo de San Telmo, first inaugurated in 1902 is the oldest museum in the Basque Country where you can learn about for Basque history and culture from prehistoric times to modernity. It is set in a splendid former monastery and the price of 6,00 € x adult makes it a worthwhile stop.
A trip to the top of Monte Igueldo, just west of the city should be on every visitor agenda, from there you can enjoy great views of the city, the ocean, harbor and lighthouse. You can take the affordable funicular up (€3.75 return). You will also find a fascinating vintage amusement park Parque de Atracciones Monte Igueldo that has 20 different attractions ( some of them offer a breathtaking view over the whole bay ) where you can spend a nice family day.
For a city of its size, San Sebastian has a impressive calendar of festivals and cultural events. The International Film Festival, which happens in September, brings European and Hollywood stars to town, while the Semana Grande in August features a week of street parties and parades. There’s also music festivals, culinary fairs and folk fests that celebrate Basque culture in all its forms. Big events aside, there’s always something happening in San Sebastian, with performances at the cutting-edge Kursaal, the belle époque Teatro Victoria Eugenia or the Tabakalera, the city’s newest arts space.
Summer is obviously the best and most popular time to visit, the city gets crowded with people from all Europe that come here to enjoy the spectacular beaches and party till dawn, if you consider a holiday in July-August make sure you book your accommodation well ahead as affordable hotels tend to get full already months in advance.
Playa de La Concha is the largest and most popular beach and recently ranked in the top 15 beaches in Europe according to Tripadvisor. It's long and wide with golden soft sand and many facilities including a great choice of places to get food and refreshments, it's large size means you Won't have a problem to keep social distance even in the peak summer season. Flanked by two green hills with Santa Clara Island sitting in the middle of the bay, there aren’t many beaches that can boast such spectacular views !
Relaxing under the sun with a cocktail in one hand and a book in the other is my idea of a good time... but those looking for a more active holiday should head to Zurriola, the city's second largest beach which is popular with a young and hippie crowd, and is the ideal place for practising outdoor sports or taking your dog out for a long walk. It is considered the surfing capital of Spain for a good reason and you can find many surfing schools competing against each other. Whether you are an experienced surfer or just a beginner this beach will hit the mark.
The city has also developed into a worldwide renowned cuisine travel destination, since there are more Michelin starred restaurants per square meter than in any other place in the world, and is the birth place of the Basque cuisine revival via its “Nouvelle Basque Cuisine”.
Because of its cuisine, culture, beauty and excellence as a tourist destination, with a wide variety of quality lodging and tourism resources, San Sebastian continues to be one of Spain’s main tourist destinations, receiving more than 500,000 visitors a year.
The easiest way to get to San Sebastian by air is by flying to nearby Bilbao some 100 km away, the airport has many international flights and is served by low cost carriers such as Easyjet, Vueling & Volotea. There is an hourly bus from the airport to the downtown San Sebastian which takes approximately 75 min and costs 17,10 €
Recommended lenght of stay: 3 days ( off peak ) 4-7 days ( summer )
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