Rolling hills and a stunning coastline make San Sebastián one of Spain’s most fashionable destinations. In recent years, the city’s become a hotspot for foodies who clamor for reservations at one of the many Michelin-starred restaurants in the region.
When To Visit San Sebastián And How Long To Stay
Avoid peak tourist season in summer and come just before or after, in May and June or September and October. Note, however, that San Sebastián hosts a film festival in September, so avoid the month if you’d like to skirt the crowds.
Two to three days is enough for most visitors; if you’re combining your trip with Bilbao, four days between the two cities is sufficient.
Transportation To And Within San Sebastián
Travelers arriving in San Sebastián may do so at the San Sebastián Airport, about 20 kilometers from the city center, or at the Bilbao Airport, 105 kilometers away. Airport shuttle buses operate regularly: from San Sebastián Airport, Bus E21 costs 2.45 euros per ticket, while from Bilbao Airport, the bus costs 17 euros and takes 75 minutes.
Within the city, the local bus service is highly efficient. A single ticket costs 1.70 euros, and buses run from 7.30 a.m. to 10.30 p.m., so it’s a good idea to have small change on hand. I’s also quite easy to getting around the city by walking.
San Sebastián’s Must-See Sights
This nineteenth-century palace, designed in a purely English style, was formerly the summer home of the Queen of Spain. Nowadays, it hosts summer courses run by the Basque Country University, as well as parties and events throughout the year. Combine your visit with a dip in the water at adjacent La Concha, a popular beach.
San Telmo Museoa
The Basque are fiercely proud of their culture and heritage, and few places are better for getting a glimpse of both than the San Telmo Museoa. The museum includes both art and archaeological pieces and also serves as a gathering place for discussing contemporary Basque arts and culture.
San Sebastián Cathedral
A nineteenth-century Gothic Revival cathedral designed by the architect Manuel de Echave, the San Sebastián Cathedral is the most prominent religious building in the city.
Playa De La Zurriola
Interested in surfing? The picturesque Playa de la Zurriola is the perfect spot to hit up. Visitors and residents alike regularly crowd the beach to play in the sand and sun. Slightly less polished than San Sebastián’s many gleaming attractions, the Playa de la Zurriola is a good place to experience local vibes.
San Sebastián's Must-Eat Food And Drink
Everyone who visits San Sebastián needs to stop at La Viña for the famous cheesecake, which melts in your mouth from the very first bite. You'll also find a counter covered with platters of boquerones, tortilla, and octopus salad, but the dessert is the must-have.
There aren’t any menus at Bar Nestor, but rest assured: the restaurant’s been packed with locals and international epicures for over thirty years. The only items that are served are steak, an amazing tomato salad, peppers, tortilla, and the original pintxo (peppers, olives, and anchovies). Premium dry-aged steaks can run up your bill, so be sure to inquire about the price first. Pro tip: stop by in the afternoon, when the restaurant is still closed, to reserve a tortilla before Bar Nestor opens for dinner service at 8 p.m.
The food here is nothing to scoff about, but what Rekondo’s most famous for is its wine cellar of over 125,000 bottles, some of which date back centuries. The restaurant has been in service for over 50 years, and the owner has been collecting wine since it opened. One of the most impressive holdings is a complete vertical collection of Mouton Rothschild dating back to 1945.
Located in Getaria, a fishing village on the Bay of Biscay, Elkano is a famed seafood restaurant known for its turbot, grilled whole over open-air charcoal grills. Though the restaurant is an hour away from San Sebastián, It’s a must-visit when in the area.
San Sebastián’s Must-Visit Neighborhoods
The name is actually a misnomer, since the neighborhood of Antiguo predates it, but San Sebastián’s Old Town is unquestionably its most popular. Sitting at the base of Mount Urgull, the quarter is flanked by the sea on one side and the River Urumea on the other. Well-known attractions, including the Plaza de la Constitución and the San Vicente Church, can be found here.
San Sebastián’s oldest neighborhood ironically has some of its newest buildings—the combination makes Antiguo one of the best locations in the city for a stroll. Take the funicular to Mount Igeldo for spectacular views of the bay. You’ll also find the Miramar Palace, a must-visit destination, here. After dining at one of the area’s many top-notch restaurants, head to the beach for a splash in the water.