Nicole Tj
February 9, 2023

The Ultimate Guide to San Sebastian Travel

What it’s all about

San Sebastian, also called Donostia, is on the Bay of Biscay in Spain, 20 km (12 miles) from the border with France. You’ll find a collection of gorgeous neighborhoods, from the heart of the city referred to as ‘old town’, to the beach village Gros, the cultural hub of Egia and the hills of Aiete.  

What draws people to San Sebastian?

Chances are if you’re heading to San Sebastian, you’re going there for the food. There’s a serious overrepresentation of Michelin-starred restaurants, adorable cobblestone streets with bars stacked with pintxos and on top of that, traditional cider houses. 


But the food is just the beginning. Surfing, hiking, beaches, a roller coaster and even an island adventure await.

Photo by Vincent Soleil on Unsplash

Things to do

Wander around La Parte Vieja

La Parte Vieja, known as Old Town is packed with gorgeous mid-19th century buildings, including the stunning church you see in every Instagrammer’s opening San Sebastian pic. We highly recommend getting lost, snacking, shopping, and getting lost again. 

Go to the beach

There are plenty of beaches to choose from. Take a dip at the pasty-tourist-laden beaches closer to Old Town where the water is calmer. Grab a board and see if there’s surf at Zurriola Beach (also called Zurri or Gros beach). 

Ride a roller coaster

Head to the Monte Igueldo amusement park and take the seaside roller coaster for one of the most stunning (and terrifying) views of your life. Ride the dodgems and play carnival games.  Wheeeee.

Visit an Island

Santa Clara island isn’t far off the mainland. In fact you can even swim there. Depending on the time of year, it can be a glorious respite, or teaming with party people. Time your trip – when the tide’s up, the beach can almost disappear! 

Get a taste of hiking the Camino de Santiago  

Take a hike to the fishing village of San Pedro from San Sebastian - it’s a half-day hike one way, and you can either hike back, or book a guided hike with a return transfer.  

Take in the history

Visit Albaola museum and learn about 16th century whaling ships. They’re even building one.

Photo by Jochem Raat on Unsplash

Where to stay

Hotels and hostels

If you’re splashing out and love sustainability and luxury, Arima Hotel and Spa is for you. 

For a room with a view, check out Catolonia Donosti. High on a hill, this refurbished 18th century convent has glorious views. A couple of minutes from the cathedral, it’s an excellent base for exploring.  

If you’re pinching pennies for pintxos, Koba hostel is a solid option.

San Sebastian holiday homes

Glorious views. Swoon-worthy pools. And wandering distance to some of the best food in the world. San Sebastian holiday homes deliver. Here are a few of our faves.

Although not strictly a holiday home, there are two mind-blowing suites at Akelarre. Enjoy the restaurant and retire to your suite. Bliss.  

Photo by Iñigo De la Maza on Unsplash

What to eat

Pintxos. Pintxos. Pintxos. Take a seat, order at the bar, sit, eat, then pay. That’s the system (most places). But don’t spend all your time inhaling small perfectly-formed snacks and amazing wine. Expand your horizons. 

A famous tortilla 

What do you have to do to try the best tortilla in San Sebastian? Well, it’s easy. Just get to Bar Nestor (Pescadería, 11 - Parte Vieja Old Town) reserve ahead in person on the day (midday for a lunch tortilla, 7pm for a dinner tortilla) and if you make the reservation list for the day, be there to collect your tortilla goodness. 

Basque gastronomy

Take a trip to Casa Cámara. This 17th century mansion is bursting with lovingly prepared crustaceans. Fancy. 

Shining Michelin stars

San Sebastian has an epic concentration of renowned restaurants. Get yourself some of that Michelin star action at Akelaŕe, Arzak, Einstein, Mirador de Ulía or any number of other establishments recommended by the Michelin guide.


Txakoli is the wine white wine of the region. Unsurprisingly, it is excellent with seafood. For the full experience, match it with anchovies. Delicious. 

Cider house steak

At the end of a day of walking, swimming and surfing, there’s nothing like a good steak, and the steaks at cider houses are some of the best. Not to mention the fun of catching cider spurting from barrels. Delicious. A couple of our favourites are Alorreana and Astarbe

Tips on planning before you go

There’s a lot of ground to cover in San Sebastian, so make sure you pack your walking shoes. If you’re there to eat at the renowned restaurants, make a booking well in advance. There’s really no way to go wrong, but it doesn’t hurt to do your homework before you land, so you don’t miss out on anything. Speaking of…

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