San Sebastian Itinerary

San Sebastian Itinerary: How to Spend 2 to 3 Days in the Culinary Capital of the Basque Country

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I’m visiting Spain for 3 weeks and will be spending 3 days in gorgeous San Sebastian to attend Tbex, a blogging conference. As a food and travel writer, and photographer I couldn’t be more thrilled to explore this world-renowned culinary destination tucked away in Northern Spain’s stunning Basque Country.

With its beautiful beaches, narrow cobblestone streets lined with pintxo bars, and more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere else on Earth, San Sebastian deserves a spot at the top of any food lover’s travel bucket list.

In this comprehensive San Sebastian itinerary, you’ll discover everything you need to know to plan an epic gourmet getaway in one of Europe’s most charming and delicious cities.

Iglesia De San Sebastian, Canete La Real, Spain

San Sebastian Itinerary: How to Spend 2 to 3 Days in the Culinary Capital of the Basque Country

Here’s what we’ll cover:

So let’s dive right in to all the details you’ll need to plan an unforgettable visit to one of Spain’s top culinary and coastal destinations!

a guide to san sebastian:

San Sebastian Itinerary

Where to Stay in San Sebastian spain

With its compact size and incredibly walkable layout, San Sebastian makes it easy to explore the city’s top neighborhoods no matter where you lay your head at night.

Here are some of my top recommendations for where to stay, from budget hostels to luxury hotels fit for royalty:

Hostels and Budget Hotels in  san sebastían

If you’re traveling on a budget, San Sebastian has some fabulous options that keep accommodation costs low without sacrificing location.

Hostels:

  • Surf House Hostel is a top-rated hostel and surf school located right on Zurriola Beach, the hotspot for surfers in San Sebastian’s hip Gros district. Private rooms start around $50 USD per night.
  • Koba Hostel is another well-located option in Gros, with friendly staff and nightly events like pintxo crawls. Dorm beds start around $25 USD.

Budget Hotels:

  • Pensión San Jerónimo is a no-frills guesthouse in the Old Town, surrounded by pintxo bars. Rooms from $65 USD per night.

Mid-Range Accommodations in San sebastian

For a moderate splurge with more amenities, San Sebastian has lots of charming boutique hotels and guesthouses in prime locations. Expect to spend $100-200 USD per night.

Top picks include:

  • Pensión Aida, a stylish guesthouse in a 19th century building in the Old Town.
  • Hotel Niza, with rooms overlooking La Concha Bay.
  • Silken Amara Plaza, a sleek and modern hotel next to the Kursaal Conference Center and Zurriola Beach.
  • Villa Soro, a chic boutique hotel in a country estate building, close to Gros and the beaches.

Luxury Hotels in San sebastian

If you’re celebrating a special occasion or just like vacationing in the lap of luxury, San Sebastian’s high-end hotels offer sublime seaside settings, Michelin-starred dining, and lavish spa treatments.

Some of the top luxury stays include:

  • Hotel Maria Cristina, the grand dame of San Sebastian hotels, built in 1912. Rooms facing the river start around $300 USD.
  • Villa Magalean, a 5-star boutique hotel in a century-old seaside palace, with stunning bay views. Nightly rates from around $350 USD.

No matter your budget or travel style, San Sebastian truly has an abundance of wonderful places to stay.

Now, let’s dive into the ultimate 2- 3 day San Sebastian itinerary, jam-packed with all my tips for savoring the best of this world-class food destination and seaside retreat!

2 Days in san sebastían Itinerary: san sebastian in 2 days 

Day 1: Old Town, Harbor, Markets, and Pintxos

On your first morning in San Sebastian, begin by exploring the lively Old Town (Parte Vieja) and soaking in centuries of history and culture. Then sample your way through the city’s famous pintxo (tapas) scene for a memorable multi-course lunch.

Old Town San sebastian Highlights

  • Plaza de la Constitucion – Vibrant main square surrounded by vibrant buildings with balconies. Great spot for people watching!
  • Basilica of Saint Mary the Royal – Gothic-style Catholic church built in the early 1500s.
  • Bretxa Market – Indoor food market with rows of stalls selling freshly caught seafood, array of pintxos, local cheeses, hams, and more.
  • San Telmo Museum – Fascinating museum dedicated to Basque culture and history.
  • Funicular to Monte Igueldo

Top Pintxo Bars The Old Town

See my full Pintxo San Sebastian Guide here

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Harbor and Beach Walk in San sebastian

After a satisfying pintxo crawl, walk off your feast with a leisurely stroll along the coastline from the harbor to La Concha beach. Soak in the salty sea air and gorgeous views of the bay dotted with small islands.

Funicular to Monte Igueldo

No trip to San Sebastian is complete without a ride on the funicular railway up Mount Igueldo! This retro funicular has been ferrying passengers up the steep mountainside since 1912 in cute little railway cars.

The views over the coastline and across the bay get better and better as you ascend the 550-foot climb to the top of Monte Igueldo. Up top you’ll find an amusement park, trailheads for scenic walking paths, and jaw-dropping panoramas from designated overlooks.

If possible, aim to ride the funicular in the late afternoon for sunset on top of Monte Igueldo – magical! The funicular runs until 9:30pm in peak season.

San Sebastian Itinerary

Key stops and sights along the way:

  • Harbor/Port area – Attractive maritime scenery with rows of elegant houses looking down from Monte Urgull.
  • Paseo Nuevo Promenade – Scenic walkway hugging the coastline, popular with walkers and runners.
  • Aquarium – Small but entertaining aquarium highlighting marine life of the Cantabrian Sea.
  • La Concha Beach – One of the world’s most beautiful city beaches! Relax on the golden sand or watch surfers at nearby Zurriola beach.
  • Ondarreta Beach – Quieter and more relaxed beach scene than La Concha. Local families and sunbathers.
  • Miramar Palace and Gardens – Summer residence of Spain’s Queen Regent Maria Cristina. Beautiful palace set in lush gardens with fountains and ponds.
  • Funicular to Monte Igueldo – Vintage railway cars from 1912 wind up the mountainside for gorgeous panoramic views at the top! Stick around for drinks and sunset vistas.

Sunset on Mount Ulia After a full day exploring the city, catch a ride, taxi, or city bus up to Mount Ulia to watch the sunset. Perched high over Zurriola Beach, the chic Mirador de Ulia restaurant at the top serves up sweeping sea views along with a seasonal Basque tasting menu for around $100 USD. Toast the end of your first day in San Sebastian!

Day 1  San Sebastian Itinerary summary:

Old Town Food Tour and Pintxo Bar Hop Afternoon: Harbor, Beach, and Sunset Drinks

Day 1 Food Recommendations:

  • Breakfast: Coffee and pastries in the Old Town
  • Lunch: Pintxo hopping through the Parte Vieja
  • Dinner: Basque tasting menu at Mirador de Ulia

Day 2 San Sebastian Itinerary: Coastal Views, Fishing Villages, Txakoli Wine Tour

On your second day, escape the city crowds with a spectacular road trip showcasing some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in Northern Spain.

The route below combines jaw-dropping ocean vistas with delightful fishing villages and txakoli wine country:

Key Stops on day 2 San Sebastian Itinerary:

  • Pasaia Fishing Port
  • Mount Ulia Viewpoints
  • Getaria Village and Fishing Port
  • Zarautz Beach and Surfer’s Paradise
  • Txakoli Vineyard Tour and Tasting at Rezabal

Pasaia Fishing Village Just a short drive east of San Sebastian, the colorful houses of Pasaia tumble down a steep hillside to a protected fishing harbor full of tiny rowboats.

Here you’ll find some of the best-loved seafood restaurants in the region, like legendary Casa Cámara. Try their spider crab salad or grilled turbot!

Mt. Ulia Road and Viewpoints As you drive west from Pasaia, be sure to take the small coastal road snaking up the slopes of Mt. Ulia instead of the highway.

Called the Ulia Mendi road, this incredibly scenic route offers nonstop views over green hills cascading to the sea. Stop at one of the designated lookout points for jaw-dropping panoramas where the hills meet the ocean.

Getaria Fishing Village The postcard-perfect village of Getaria is famous for grilled fish and as the birthplace of Spanish explorer Juan Sebastian Elcano, the first to circumnavigate the globe.

Park along the tiny harbor to see colorful fishing boats unloading the morning catch at Restaurante Kaia, then find a oceanfront terrace to enjoy fresh-grilled sardines or anchovies with a crisp glass of local txakoli wine.

Zarautz Beach Continuing west brings you to Zarautz, home to one of the longest beaches in the Basque region. Backed by hills covered in pine trees, the two-mile sandy beach draws surfers from far and wide.

If you’re not up for riding waves yourself, relax at one of the beachside cafes or stroll along the lively promenade.

Txakoli Wine Tasting On the inland road back towards San Sebastian, be sure to visit a local vineyard specializing in txakoli wine.

The Rezabal Winery offers excellent tours and tastings showcasing how they produce this light, slightly effervescent white wine that pairs perfectly with seafood.

Spend the evening back in the city recounting your coastal adventures over dinner at one of San Sebastian’s famous tapas bars!

Day 2 San Sebastian Itinerary Summary

Scenic coastal road trip Afternoon: Fishing villages, beaches, txakoli wine tasting Evening: Pintxos and drinks in San Sebastian

Day 2 Food Recommendations: Breakfast: Pastries and coffee on the road Lunch: Grilled seafood in Getaria or Zarautz Dinner: Pintxos crawl in San Sebastian

Houses in Row near Ocean San Sebastian Spain

Day 3 San Sebastian Itinerary Afternoon: Michelin Stars and Haute Cuisine, Beach Relaxation

On your last day enjoying San Sebastian’s culinary splendors, go all-out by booking lunch or dinner at one of the city’s many Michelin-starred restaurants – there are more stars per capita here than anywhere else on the planet!

Spend the afternoon walking off your epic meal with more time relaxing on San Sebastian’s world-famous urban beaches or exploring Monte Urgull.

Michelin-Starred Dining With 16 Michelin stars spread over 11 restaurants in 2023, San Sebastian offers unmatched opportunities for fine dining.

If your budget allows, I highly recommending trying at least one special meal at these temples of haute Basque cuisine:

3 Michelin Stars San Sebastian Restaurants:

  • Akelarre – Cutting-edge modernist cuisine with stunning plating
  • Arzak – Pioneering “new Basque cuisine” since the 1970s
  • Martín Berasategui – Refined French-influenced tasting menus

2 Michelin Stars San Sebastian Restaurants:

  • Mugaritz – Avant-garde and eccentric dishes
  • Mirador de Ulia* – Stellar modern Basque cuisine + sweeping sea views

1 Michelin Star San Sebastian Restaurants:

  • Andra Mari at Four Seasons Hotel – Elegant space and refined Basque dishes
  • Amelia by Pablo – Chic bistro focusing on seasonal local flavors
  • Kokotxa – Heaven for seafood lovers right on the harbor
  • Rekondo – Edgy underground spot for inventive tasting menus *I suggest Mirador de Ulia for breathtaking views!

Of course, you’ll be hard-pressed to go wrong eating anywhere is San Sebastian with its incredible culinary pedigree!

Monte Urgull Spend your final afternoon walking off your Michelin-starred feast by exploring the trails, gardens, and majestic views from the Monte Urgull hill on the western edge of San Sebastian’s Old Town.

Must-see highlights San Sebastian Itinerary include:

  • Walkways and trails with panoramic views over the city below
  • La Mota Castle and batteries – original 12th century hilltop castle with cannons
  • Jardines de Ulia – beautiful formal terraced gardens
  • Sculpture Park – outdoor gallery with works by famous Basque sculptors like Chillida and Oteiza
  • Cafes like Urgulleko Polboriña – open-air bars with excellent vistas

Beaches Of course, no visit to San Sebastian is complete without more time enjoying the salty air and golden sands of La Concha beach, ranked consistently among the top urban beaches in Europe and the world!

Other excellent options include:

  • Zurriola Beach – Hip beach by the Kursaal conference center, popular with surfers
  • Ondaretta Beach – Slightly quieter beach scene tucked between residential neighborhoods
  • Gros Neighborhood – Trendy area across the river with Zurriola Beach on one side and hip bars and cafes on the other

However you choose to spend your last afternoon and evening in San Sebastian, get ready for fabulous views, delicious cuisine, and wonderful memories to last a lifetime!

Day 3 Summary Morning: Michelin-starred lunch Afternoon: Monte Urgull, Beaches, neighborhood strolls Evening: Farewell pintxos and cocktails!

Day 3 Food Recommendations: Breakfast: Pastries from a local cafe or your hotel Lunch: Michelin-starred multi-course tasting menu Dinner: Farewell pintxo crawl!

Transportation Tips for Getting Around San Sebastian spain 

The good news when it comes to getting around in San Sebastian is that the city center is very compact and walkable. But when you want a break for your feet, there are easy transportation options:

Buses San Sebastian has an efficient public bus system that can get you across town or to outer neighborhoods. Fares purchased on board are about €1.80 for a single ticket. Or consider getting a multi-trip ticket for convenience. Useful routes include:

  • Number 5 bus connects Zurriola Beach up to Mount Ulia lookout
  • Number 16 bus runs east along the coast to Pasajes port
  • Number 25 bus travels across the river to Ulia mountain and Pasajes

Taxis For short day trips out of town, you may find taxis are comparably priced to renting a car. The train station and some hotels also offer taxi sharing options.

Expect to pay around €60-70 each way from San Sebastian to wine country or coastal villages like Getaria. Consider sharing the cost by booking a larger taxi van!

Bikes and Scooters Thanks to its proliferation of bike lanes, San Sebastian is very easy to navigate on two wheels!

Many hotels offer free guest bikes, or you can rent bikes by the hour from bike rental shops. Scooter rentals are also popular if you want to cover more ground while still enjoying ocean breezes in your hair!

Walking No transport option beats exploring San Sebastian’s atmospheric Old Town and delightful coastal promenades on foot! Just be sure to bring comfy walking shoes.

You’ll easily log over 10,000 steps per day exploring pintxo bars, beaches, markets, and hilltop lookouts across the city’s compact footprint.

Coco Tran — Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/san-sebastian-itinerary/

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