Things to do in: San Sebastián

Things to do in: San Sebastián

How do beautiful white sand beaches, amazing architecture and fantastic food sound to you? If that stellar combination piques your interest, San Sebastián should be on your radar. Known as Spain’s culinary capital, the small seaside city packs a lot of punch for its size. Expect a wide array of festivals and cultural events, streets lined with pintxos bars, and locals ready to share their love and knowledge of the region with visitors eager to know more. When you’re ready to go, our local San Sebastián tour guides have shared their top picks for what to see and do in the city.

Shop and hit the spa

The city centre is known for its fantastic variety of local boutiques and well-known luxury brands. If you want to visit San Sebastián without sparing any expense, we suggest doing some shopping on Avenida de la Libertad and diving into the local fashion trends, which are undoubtedly influenced by our French neighbours.  You may also try relaxing and unwinding in La Perla, a Belle Époque spa originally used by Queen Maria Cristina, and later on refurbished to please the high society. It is still considered one of San Sebastián’s most symbolic buildings as well as one of the best and biggest thalassotherapy centres in Europe. Thalassotherapy is the therapeutic use of the seawater and marine products (mud, algae) to promote health and wellness.

Experience La Concha Bay

La Concha San Sebastian

Exploring La Concha Bay | Photo via Pixabay

The first thing we suggest doing when visiting San Sebastián for the first time is undoubtedly walking along La Concha Bay and photographing its iconic railing. This is an activity all locals recommend, since they love doing it themselves every day. Biking, jogging or simply walking in the sand will bring you the peace you’re looking for, and if you’re travelling with your pet, this is every dog’s favourite place for a run. Whether you just want to exercise or have a walk with your loved ones, the views are simply worth it. Stop by Café de La Concha, located right in the middle of La Concha Beach, for a vermouth or a coffee before or after you check out the bay.

Cheer on the local football team with the locals

True, our local team Real Sociedad might not be as brilliant as we remember, but they’re well-known all over Europe. Also, Basques are very loyal, and locals in San Sebastián will support their team until the end.  When there’s a match, the Amara neighbourhood is a lovely place to socialise and have some refreshments (because there’s nothing better than combining entertainment with even more food).

Every time there’s a match, the atmosphere changes and people are generally a lot happier. The elders take it very seriously and you might see them carrying huge white and blue flags around the city, especially when there’s a Real Sociedad versus Athletic de Bilbao derby. You don’t need to pay for a ticket; watching the match from a bar is as exciting as being in Anoeta Stadium.

Fill up on pintxos and bar hop like a local

Pintxos San Sebastian

Eating all the pintxos | Photo by San Sebastian Urban Adventures

We know eating pintxos is a mandatory plan for foodies and travellers in San Sebastián, and that’s why we encourage you to join our pintxo tour! Pintxos are probably the most fascinating part of Basque cuisine, and San Sebastián has become the leader of this culinary tradition. The best places to sample your way through the city’s tapas scene are the Old Town and the Gros district. You’ll have your pick in both areas, so the most important part of the plan here is simply to bring your appetite.

READ: Nightlife in San Sebastian – Partying the Basque Way

If you just feel like going for some drinks, bars in the Basque Country are open most of the time, and Basques, even in the coldest days of winter, love going out for some zuritos or cañas (small and big glasses of beer) and some kalimotxo (a regional drink that combines red wine and cola). Don’t be surprised about the massive amount of people always drinking out in the streets or sitting on a terrace even on the coldest days. Basque people love being outside despite the low temperatures since it rains very frequently here.

See the views from Mount Igueldo

Located at the end of La Concha Bay, Monte Igueldo sits 184 metres above the sea and offers panoramic views over San Sebastian, Concha Bay and the Basque countryside. The best way to get there is via a ride on the 1912 funicular railway to the Parque de Atracciones, an old-fashioned theme park at the top of the hill. While rides here aren’t exactly thrill-a-minute, it’s fun to look around. There’s also an observatory with an outlook towers for more incredible views further out into the bay.

San Sebastian Tours | Urban Adventures

Discover the oh-so-local way of life in Basque country on a San Sebastian tour, with a local guide. With our tours you can take to the hills and discover the gorgeous coastline of the St. James Way, or get to know Basque food by tucking into some delicious pintxos. When it comes to San Sebastian travel, we’ve got you covered!

About author

Tomasz Kolinski

Owner and tour guide @ San Sebastian Urban Adventures. Tour leader @ Intrepid Travel. Love the Basque Country, gastronomy, pintxos, and San Sebastian.

Comments
  • Alberto C.#1

    February 5, 2017

    Great post, Tomasz! San Sebastián is clearly one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, and the food is just fantastic! I didn’t get to try all these activities you’ve recommended, but hopefully for the next time!

    I got the chance to visit for the first time not too long ago and absolutely loved it there. I actually wrote a post about my stay on my own blog if you’d like to check it out. Let me know what you think! 🙂

    https://www.arwtravels.com/blog/san-sebastian-spain-two-days-pearl-cantabrian-sea

    Reply
    • Tomasz#2

      February 9, 2017

      Hi Alberto,
      Thank you for having a look at our blog posts and finding them interesting. I am glad you like them and you consider coming back to San Sebastian.
      I have just read your post about our city and I can say you organised your stay very well and covered a lot during those three days. Zumaia is well worth visiting and it really makies me happy you went there.
      P.S. Just in case you are interested in knowing how we celebrate those two big holidays of the city you can find them below:
      Santo Tomás day we celebrate on 21st December
      http://www.urbanadventures.com/blog/st-thomas-day-san-sebastian.html
      and San Sebastián day on 20th of January
      http://www.urbanadventures.com/blog/san-sebastian-day.html

      I hope to see you soon in San Sebastian again.

      Reply
  • Leslie Nelson Inman#3

    July 5, 2017

    Things San Sebastian, Spain does well:
    #1 A lot of beautiful architecture
    #2 Shut down a lot of streets to cars. Walkability!
    #3 Great parks and squares
    #4 Outdoor cafes abound
    #5 Excellent Coffee. Good food.
    #6 Adorable, unique shopping
    Things San Sebastian, Spain needs to improve:
    #1 Too many super polluting diesel engines
    #2 Too many super polluting LOUD mopeds
    #3 Too many people smoking
    I try to be very healthy, so as not to be a burden on my family or society,,, but with all the second hand smoke a engine exhaust I breathed in on this visit to San Sebastian… I hope my lungs can recover.

    Reply

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