Is San Sebastian Worth Visiting? 10 Unusual Things To Do In San Sebastian


Last Updated on 07/11/2021 by Alfred

Is San Sebastian Worth Visiting? San Sebastian is worth visiting without any doubt. Amazing history, markets, mountains, museums are the top attractions in San Sebastian. But what it is really famous for? For its incredible cuisine. A trip to the San Sebastian area will be worth the money.

This list of the must-see places to see in San Sebastian will help you organize a getaway to one of the most charming and romantic cities in Europe.

Located in a privileged natural environment, on the coast of the Bay of Biscay and surrounded by mountains, San Sebastian (in Basque Donostia) is a perfect city for pleasant walks, either through the narrow streets of the historic center or along the bay of La Concha, its most famous beach.

The Basque cuisine based on the famous pintxos is another of the city’s major attractions.

In San Sebastian, as in all of the Basque Country, the best time to visit is from May to October. This is when the weather is more pleasant, and there is less chance of rain. However, any time is great to visit this part of Spain.

The most comfortable way to get to the city is by plane if you do not live nearby. Landing at the airport of San Sebastian or Bilbao, located 100 kilometers away. Once at the airport you can take a bus that will take you to the city center in less than half an hour.

Is San Sebastian Worth Visiting? 10 Unusual Things To Do In San Sebastian

1. La Concha

One of the best things to do in San Sebastian is to stroll along the promenade of La Concha, the most beautiful urban beach in Europe and one of the best beaches in the Basque Country.

The elegant modernist promenade of more than a kilometer, ending at the Palacio de Mirar, stands out for its white railing and more than a hundred large lampposts. 

It also has several buildings of the Belle Époque, a time when the Spanish royal family and the high European aristocracy summered in Donosti, as the Balneario de La Perla, perfect for a treat overlooking the sea, and the City Hall, located in an old casino.

During the tour, you will have views of the small island of Santa Clara, located in the middle of the bay of La Concha, and can be reached by boat in a few minutes. This island has several steep paths, a small beach, and a lighthouse. 

During summer or if you aren’t afraid of the cold waters of the Bay of Biscay, you can’t leave the city without taking a cane beach trip to La Concha.

2. Cathedral of the Good Shepherd

The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, built at the end of the 19th century, is the largest and most important religious temple to see in San Sebastian.

Located south of the Old Town, this neo-Gothic style cathedral with a tower of 75 meters is inspired by the cathedral of Cologne. It inside highlights the furnishings of the main chapel, the crypt, the massive organ, and the beautiful stained glass windows.

After visiting the cathedral, you can stroll through this neighborhood, known as the romantic center for its Parisian style of the late nineteenth century, until you reach the beautiful Plaza Gipuzkoa, chaired by the imposing building of the Provincial Council and with a beautiful garden area.

Visiting hours: Every day from 8:30 am to 8 pm.

3. Old Quarter of Donostia

The Old Part of the city, located at the foot of Mount Urgull and full of cobblestone streets, is the most charming neighborhood to see in San Sebastian.

Based on our experience, we recommend beginning your tour with the Calong Theagusia), which will lead you to Santa Maria del Coro’s Basilica, which has a beautiful baroque facade. 

Near this church is the Plaza de la Constitución, another magical place to visit in Donosti, which preserves the numbering of the balconies when it was a bullring.

Another exciting church in the old town is San Vicente, one of the oldest and has inside a beautiful altarpiece of San Vicente from 1586.

After completing the visit to all these points of interest, you can go to the Calle 31 de Agosto or the Calle Mayor to start a route through the best pintxos bars.

The best way to learn more about the city’s history and not miss any important information in this neighborhood is to book a free tour, considered one of the best free tours in San Sebastian.

4. Pintxos Tour

One of the essential things to do in San Sebastian is a tour of the best pintxo bars in the old town.

These little tapas have become so popular recently that many of these places offer tasting menus that allow you to try a wide selection of their best pintxos or simply order your favorites. 

Another tradition is to opt for the pintxo-pote, which includes a pintxo and a drink at a fixed price. Among the most famous pintxos, you can’t miss the potato omelet, crab, anchovy, txistorra, and cod, among many others.

Among the most traditional bars to try delicious pintxos are Mendaur, Txepetxa, La Espiga, Iturrioz, La Cuchara de San Telmo, Sport, Néstor, the tortilla del Juantxo and the cheesecake of La Viña.

Suppose your budget is higher and you have already completed several rounds of pintxos. In that case, you can go to some of the 9 restaurants with several Michelin stars located in Donosti and surroundings such as Arzak, Akelarre, or Martín Berasategui.

5. Paseo Nuevo

The Paseo Nuevo, which surrounds the whole of Mount Urgull, bordering the Cantabrian Sea, is another of the must-see places in San Sebastian.

The walk of less than an hour begins at the beautiful port and continues through the mouth of the Urumea until you reach the Zurriola Bridge, decorated with Art Deco lampposts.

Next to this bridge is the Kursaal Conference Center and Auditorium. This is another of the main buildings to visit in San Sebastian and is famous for being the main venue of the renowned Film Festival. Also, Zurriola Beach is a few meters away, ideal for surfers because of its sound waves.

Although it is a pleasant walk, keep in mind that if the sea is very rough, the waves can jump to the promenade and produce risky situations, which should be avoided.

If you still feel energetic, you can walk up Mount Urgull, which in addition to fantastic views of the city, has the magnificent Castillo de la Mota and a sculpture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus 12 meters high.

6. Climbing Mount Igueldo

Another of the things to do in San Sebastian is to ride the funicular or drive to Mount Igueldo to get the best views of the city and surrounding areas.

The 1912 Igueldo funicular, the oldest in the Basque Country and the third oldest in Spain, will take you in a few minutes to the top located 180 meters above sea level and where you will find the Mercure Hotel, a Tower of the eighteenth century and an Amusement Park full of charm.

If you just want to enjoy the views of the Bay of La Concha and much of the coast of Guipuzcoa, the best time to go up is at sunset, as you will see the sunset and how the city is illuminated.

To put the cherry on top of the visit, you can eat excellent fresh fish on the terrace of the Torreon overlooking the Bay, one of the best restaurants to eat in San Sebastian.

7. The Wind Comb

The Wind Comb, located at the end of Ondarreta Beach, is a magnificent work by Eduardo Chillida and another of the most emblematic places to see in San Sebastian or Donosti.

This group of 3 rusted steel sculptures located on several rocks owes its name to the force with which the waves enter this area. 

You can not only photograph the sculptures with the rough sea, but you can also hear the force of the waves and the wind thanks to a system of pipes under the promenade and some holes that let water jets out.

8. Miramar Palace

Between the beaches of La Concha and Ondarreta stands on a green mound, the Miramar Palace, another of the most beautiful buildings to visit in San Sebastian.

This mansion, surrounded by a garden, was built in the late nineteenth century by Queen Regent Maria Cristina as a summer residence for the Spanish monarchy.

Although the English-style palace is not open to the public, it is worth visiting to relax in its gardens while enjoying excellent views of Ondarreta beach, La Concha, and Santa Clara Island.

Other monuments related to the era of royalty and aristocracy are the luxurious Hotel Maria Cristina, where most Hollywood stars stay when they come to the San Sebastian Film Festival, and the Maria Cristina Bridge, which has four monumental obelisks located at its ends.

It is recommended that you book a free tour with a bilingual guide to get a comprehensive overview of the Belle Époque period and its significant buildings.

9. Bretxa Market

Another thing to do in San Sebastian is to visit the Bretxa Market to see the fresh produce from the Basque orchards and the Cantabrian Sea.

In this neoclassical style market, built-in 1870, you will find inside more than 40 stalls selling fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, seafood, and canned food, while outside you will find the stalls known as “las caseras,” where they sell vegetables such as the delicious asparagus and various types of local cheese, including Idiazábal cheese.

Visiting hours: Monday to Saturday from 8 am to 9 pm.

10. San Telmo Museum

For rainy days, which are not few in this city, you can enter the San Telmo Museum, the most important museum to see in San Sebastian (Donosti).

Located at the foot of Mount Urgull, this museum was a Gothic convent of the sixteenth century. It showed through ethnography and art pieces the evolution throughout the history of Basque society.

The most important works are Sorolla, El Greco, or Rubens, and others on loan from the Prado Museum and the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid.

Visiting hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 8 pm.

So, what’s your opinion of this place? Is San Sebastian worth visiting?

Alfred

Alfred is the author behind the Travelvibe travel blog and is always searching for the quieter, less-visited corners of the world.

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