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23 incredible Things to do in san Sebastian

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Perched on the glistening Bay of Biscay in Spain’s Basque Country, San sebastían Spain (or Donostia san Sebastian in Basque) is a captivating coastal gem that effortlessly blends timeless elegance with a pulsating modern spirit. I had the chance to visit this culinary capital of Spain on a recent press trip with the Basque Tourism board and I’m here to give you an insider guide on all the incredible things to do in San Sebastian.

This city is famous for its golden crescent beaches, world-class cuisine boasting more Michelin stars per capita than nearly anywhere else, and its enchanting Old Town brimming with history and lively pintxos bars.

Without further ado, let’s dive into everything San Sebastian has to offer!

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23 incredible Things to do in san Sebastian

No time to read it all? Here are the highlights:

  • Indulge in San Sebastian’s world-renowned pintxos bars and San Sebastian Michelin-starred restaurants
  • Explore the historic Parte Vieja (Old Town) with its charming streets and lively pintxos bars and go on a Pintxos food tour
  • Relax on the stunning crescent-shaped La Concha Beach, considered one of Europe’s most beautiful
  • Hike up Mount Urgull or take the funicular up Mount Igueldo for breathtaking views of the city and bay
  • Visit top cultural attractions like the San Telmo Museum, Tabakalera contemporary culture center, and the elegant Victoria Eugenia Theatre
  • Visit the renowned artist and sculptors ––Edward Chillida museum

Whether you’re a foodie seeking culinary nirvana, a history buff eager to delve into the city’s rich past, or simply yearning for a relaxing seaside escape, San Sebastian promises an unforgettable experience. Join me as we uncover the many charms of this Basque haven.

where to stay in san sebastian

Where to stay in San Sebastian Spain: Top San Sebastian Hotels

HotelLocationAmenitiesPriceBooking Link
Hotel Maria CristinaBelle Époque landmark hotel overlooking the Urumea RiverElegant rooms, restaurants by renowned chefs, spaLuxury (€350+/night)Book Here
Lasala Plaza HotelWaterfront hotel on La Concha Bay in the Old TownChic rooms, pintxos bar, stunning bay viewsUpscale (€200-€300/night)Book Here
Pensión AmaiurCharming guesthouse in a prime Old Town spotSimply furnished rooms, some w/ balconies and city viewsBudget (€60-100/night)Book Here

Top 20 Things To Do in San Sebastian Spain

Pintxos Crawl Through san sebastian Old Town

No visit to San Sebastian is complete without going on a pintxo crawl through the historic Parte Vieja. Pintxos, the Basque version of tapas, are intricate bite-sized creations combining fresh ingredients into delectable flavor explosions. Take a guided Pintxos tour with Devour tour. I had an incredible experience–– so much I went on two food tours–– I would highly recommend you experience it for yourself. Check prices and availability here.

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Helpful Tip:Do as the locals do and sample just one or two pintxos with a drink at each spot before moving on to the next.

Must-visit bars include: Gandarias, La Cuchara de San Telmo, Bar Nestor, A Fuego Negro, and Borda Berri. see my full posts on the best Pinxos San Sebastian has

explore in San Sebastian’s charming Parte Vieja (Old Town)

Here are some of the can’t miss highlights in the old town of San Sebastian. You should book a private guided walking tour to see all the highlights so you can hear about all the incredible and interesting history of the old town. Check availability and pricing of the highlights tour here.

  • Plaza de la Constitución: This grand square, surrounded by numbered balconies (remnants of its past as a bullring), is the Old Town’s bustling central hub. Sip a coffee at an outdoor café, people-watch, and soak up the lively atmosphere.
Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/things-to-do-in-san-sebastian/
  • Basilica of Santa Maria del Coro: This stunning 18th-century Baroque church boasts an ornate façade and interior. Climb the steps for a closer look at the intricate architectural details and a lovely view over the Old Town.
Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/things-to-do-in-san-sebastian/
  • San Vicente Church: Dating back to the 16th century, this Gothic church is the oldest in San Sebastian. Step inside to admire the soaring vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, and an altarpiece by Baroque artist Ambrosio de Bengoechea.

Ready to book a private San Sebastian Highlights tour?

Book this convenient tour highlights tour–– convenient and comfortable experience with a near-perfect 5 Star rating.

  • La Bretxa Market: Browse the stalls of this lively market, where locals shop for fresh produce, seafood, cheeses, and gourmet goods. It’s a great spot to pick up picnic supplies or Basque culinary souvenirs.
  • Old Town Ramparts: Stroll along the Paseo de la Muralla, a walkway atop the remnants of the Old Town’s ancient defensive walls. Pause at scenic viewpoints to admire the Bay of La Concha and Monte Urgull.
  • Basilica of San Ignacio de Loyola: Dedicated to the founder of the Jesuit order, this 17th-century Baroque church boasts a stunning altarpiece and ornate interiors. The square in front is a popular gathering spot.

san Sebastian things to do

Learn to Cook Basque Cuisine

Delve into the secrets of Basque gastronomy with an authentic cooking class in the heart of San Sebastian’s Old Town. Under the guidance of a professional chef, learn to prepare classic dishes like Spanish tortilla, cod in pil pil sauce, and the famous burnt Basque cheesecake. Enjoy your creations paired with local cider and wine.

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what to do in san sebastian

Relax at La Concha Beach

Consistently ranked as one of Europe’s most stunning city beaches, the crescent-shaped La Concha is the jewel of San Sebastian. With its fine golden sand, calm turquoise waters, and postcard-worthy backdrop of green hills, it’s the perfect spot to soak up the sun and relax.

Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/things-to-do-in-san-sebastian/

Helpful Tip:Rent a beach lounger and umbrella for the ultimate comfort and relaxation.

things to do in San Sebastian when it rains

Visit San Telmo Museum

Housed in a 16th-century former Dominican convent, the San Telmo Museum offers a fascinating journey through Basque history, art and culture. With exhibits spanning from prehistoric times to the present, it’s a must for understanding the region’s unique identity.

  • Admission is about $7 for adults and about $4 for students.
  • Tuesday admission is free for everyone.
  • The museum is wheelchair accessible.
  • Audio-guides are in Basque, Spanish, English and French.

san Sebastian what to see

Set Sail on a Private Boat Tour Experience

the Basque coastline from a new perspective on a private sailing excursion. Glide along the Bay of La Concha, soaking up unobstructed views of San Sebastian’s iconic beaches and lush hillsides. Dive into turquoise waters for a refreshing swim and unwind with drinks and snacks on deck.

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Get Cultured at Tabakalera

Tabakalera, a former tobacco factory turned cutting-edge cultural center, is a hub of creativity hosting contemporary art exhibitions, film screenings, concerts and more. Its striking industrial architecture seamlessly blends the old and new.

visit Basque Cider House in San Sebastian

Basque cider is a regional specialty and you should definitely experience visiting a cider house if you are a fan of Cider. The cider’s are crips and sour in the best possible way. Take a Tour to a Cider House here

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things to see in san sebastian

Catch a Show at the Victoria Eugenia Theatre

For a dose of Belle Époque grandeur, attend a performance at the ornate Victoria Eugenia Theatre. Built in 1912, this elegant venue showcases an array of plays, musicals, dance and concerts.

attractions in san sebastian

Ride the Funicular to Monte Igueldo

Hop aboard the vintage funicular railway for a scenic ride up Monte Igueldo. At the summit, take in sweeping vistas of La Concha Bay and explore the charming old-fashioned amusement park complete with a wooden roller coaster from the 1920s.

Ready to book a private Sighseeing & pintxos tour?

Book this private sightseeing and Pintxos tour— includes mount Igueldo! a convenient and comfortable experience with a near-perfect 5 Star rating.

what to do in san Sebastian for a day

Hike Up Monte Urgull

For more breathtaking views, hike up Monte Urgull to the 12th-century Castillo de la Mota. The summit is crowned by a towering statue of Christ and offers bird’s-eye perspectives over the coastline. The shady trails also make for a pleasant escape from the bustle of the city.

Coco Tran — Curated Aesthetic Travel Blog By Film Photographer Coco Tran https://cocotran.com/things-to-do-in-san-sebastian/

Wander Through Cristina Enea Park

Stroll through the lush gardens and forested paths of Cristina Enea Park for a refreshing nature break in the heart of the city. Pack a picnic and while away a tranquil afternoon admiring its elegant fountains, peacocks and centenarian trees.

Useful Tip: Some spectacular views are from this side, add this to your Mount Igueldo day to make the most efficient use of your time!

Visit the Fascinating Edward chillida museum

and see his open-air sculptures and learn about his very interesting life and art. He has large iron sculptures all over Spain and worldwide. Get tickets in advance here.

See The beauitiful Kursaal

The Kursaal, a futuristic glass “cube” perched over the Urumea River, is an architectural icon and the symbol of modern San Sebastian. It houses an auditorium, exhibition halls and is a striking landmark to behold, especially illuminated at night. This is where the travel conference I attended was held. It’s right on the beach and is one of the most beautiful conference halls I’ve seen.

Taste txakoli

Txakoli, a lightly sparkling dry white wine, is a regional specialty and the perfect accompaniment to pintxos. Seek out a bar that expertly pours the wine from a dramatic height, both for theatrics and to enhance its effervescence.

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things to do in Donostia san sebastian

Explore the Rioja Wine Region

Venture on a full-day trip to discover the world-renowned wines of La Rioja. Visit a winery, stroll through picturesque vineyards, and learn about the winemaking process from vine to glass. Savor a traditional lunch paired with a tasting of the region’s finest vintages.

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Escape to Isla Santa Clara

Take a quick boat ride to the tiny Isla Santa Clara in the middle of La Concha Bay. With a picturesque lighthouse, peaceful walking trails and a petite beach, it’s an idyllic escape steps from the city. Pack a picnic and your swimsuit to while away a few tranquil hours. Book your tickets in advance here.

Discover French Basque Gems: Bayonne, Biarritz & Saint Jean de Luz Venture

across the border to explore the captivating French Basque towns of Bayonne, Biarritz, and Saint Jean de Luz. Marvel at Bayonne’s medieval charm and indulge in its renowned chocolate. Bask in the glamour of Biarritz, with its royal history and stunning beaches. Wander the quaint streets of Saint Jean de Luz, a historic fishing village.

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unusual things to do in san sebastian

Hike a Stretch of the Camino de Santiago


Walk in the footsteps of pilgrims on a guided hike along a scenic section of the famed St. James’ Way (Camino de Santiago). Beginning in San Sebastian, the route traces the clifftops and lush valleys before reaching the charming fishing village of San Pedro. Refuel with well-earned tapas and drinks.

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See Art & Architecture in Bilbao

Dedicate a day to exploring the vibrant city of Bilbao, just an hour’s drive from San Sebastian. The undisputed highlight is the gleaming Guggenheim Museum, an architectural marvel housing world-class modern art. Stroll along the revitalized waterfront, sample pintxos in the colorful Casco Viejo, and marvel at the Gothic Basilica of Begoña.

Ready to book a private tour to bilbao & Guggenheim museum?

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Uncover Vitoria-Gasteiz, Capital of the Basque Country

Take a day trip to Vitoria-Gasteiz, the official capital of the Spanish Basque Country. This often-overlooked gem boasts a beautiful Medieval Old Town, the 13th-century Cathedral of Santa María, and the dazzling Artium Museum of contemporary art. Wander the picturesque streets, sample tasty pintxos, and soak up the authentic Basque atmosphere.

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Seek Out a “Game of Thrones” Filming Location

“Game of Thrones” fans can visit a spectacular real-world Dragonstone in the form of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a rocky islet topped by a hermitage, connected to the mainland by a winding stone bridge. While a visit requires a full-day trip, the dramatic scenery is well worth the journey.

Ready to book a tour to Drogonstone?

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Capture San Sebastian’s Magic with a Photo Shoot

 Memorialize your time in this picturesque city with a professional photo session. A local photographer can guide you to San Sebastian’s most photogenic spots, from the golden sands of La Concha to the cobblestone lanes of the Old Town, and capture beautiful images to treasure long after your visit ends. Check rates and book here

Helpful Tip:

  • Browse the Mercado de la Bretxa To truly appreciate San Sebastian’s obsession with fresh, quality ingredients, head to the Mercado de la Bretxa in the Old Town. This lively market brims with colorful produce, artisanal cheeses, fresh-caught seafood and gourmet products. It’s a feast for the eyes and taste buds. Helpful Tip:
  • Go in the morning for the best selection and lively atmosphere as locals shop for the day ahead.

FAQs on When To Visit & Where To Stay

Q: When is the best time of year to visit San Sebastian? A: While summer offers the best beach weather, the crowds can be intense. For a slower pace and pleasing temperatures, the shoulder months of May, early June, September and October are ideal. But San Sebastian shines year-round, with quieter winter months great for food-focused trips.

Q: What’s the best area to stay in San Sebastian? A: For first-time visitors, the Old Town is the most atmospheric, central and convenient base. With its quaint lanes brimming with pintxos bars and attractions like the San Telmo Museum steps away, you’ll be in the heart of the action.

As the sun sets in a vivid swirl over La Concha Bay and the last pintxos crumbs are savored, I hope you find yourself utterly bewitched by San Sebastian’s many charms. Welcoming you with open arms, this city is poised to romance you with its natural beauty, Old World magic and epicurean delights.

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