San Sebastián or Donostia as Basques call it, a charming city located in the Basque Country region is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Spain. And there are more than one reasons why – its unforgettably beautiful beaches La Concha, Zurriola, Ondarreta and the small island beach of Santa Clara, alluring architecture, taste buds spoiling tapas (or pintxos as they call them in Basque country), relaxing restaurants in old city and many other things.

Even though the city is quite small and cozy, events such as the San Sebastián International Film Festival, attended by many celebrities, have given it an international recognition. San Sebastián, along with Wrocław, Poland, has been chosen as the European Capital of Culture in 2016.

If you are thinking of visiting this beautiful city and get to know more about Basque culture you should check out these top 5 things to do in San Sebastián.

San Sebastián or Donostia as Basques call it, a charming city located in the Basque Country region is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Spain. And there are more than one reasons why – its unforgettably beautiful beaches La Concha, Zurriola, Ondarreta and the small island beach of Santa Clara, alluring architecture, taste buds spoiling tapas (or pintxos as they call them in Basque country), relaxing restaurants in old city and many other things.

Even though the city is quite small and cozy, events such as the San Sebastián International Film Festival, attended by many celebrities, have given it an international recognition. San Sebastián, along with Wrocław, Poland, has been chosen as the European Capital of Culture in 2016.

If you are thinking of visiting this beautiful city and get to know more about Basque culture you should check out these top 5 things to do in San Sebastián.

Have a relaxing beach day in La Concha or surf in Zurriola

La Concha Beach
Photo: Tomás Fano / Flickr

Without a doubt one of the most enjoyable experiences of San Sebastián is soaking up the sun at La Concha beach which belong to one of the most famous urban beaches in Europe. Its name means shell, which is the shape of the beach. It has a fine, white sand that is perfectly soft and comfortable to lay on – ideal for a lazy nap in the sun. With its bright blue water, white sand, beautiful buildings and green trees behind the beach it is definitely one of the most delightful beaches you could ever imagine. La Concha is 1,5 km long and just a few minutes away from old town. However due to its good location, breathtaking scenery, warm water in the summer, soft, rolling waves and plenty of places to eat nearby it gets really busy in July and August. Still even in these busy summer months you can enjoy its magic beauty avoiding the crowds if you are an early bird and schedule the beach time in the morning – it is totally worth it! But if you prefer surfing than a lazy beach day the best match for you is La Zurriola beach – the surfing paradise of San Sebastián. It is full of young people practising surfing and other sport activities. Even several major surf competitions are organised here throughout the year. La Zurriola is also one the most popular locations of concerts during the The San Sebastian Jazz Festival (official name: Heineken Jazzaldia), held every year during the third week of July.

Rent a bicycle and ride along the city

Bicycles
Photo: Kamio_ / Flickr

San Sebastián is a place of dreams for urban cycling. There are several places to rent bikes for an hour, half day, day or multi-day use and bicycle lanes are all around the downtown so you can have a slow, relaxing ride along the city enjoying the remarkable architecture and street views. With more than 30 km of cycle lanes and so many cycling adherents San Sebastián is considered to be one of the most eco-friendly cities in Europe. Exploring the city, fresh air and healthy activities all in the same time is undoubtedly the best, easiest and most healthy way to get to know San Sebastián.

Watch the sunrise at Monte Igueldo

Monte Igueldo
Photo: Jordi Garcia Castillón / Flickr

Going up Monte Igueldo is a must do! As cliché as it is taking a picture of La Concha beach from up there it is still definitely worth seeing the stunning view. But if you want to be unique and add some adventure to it, I recommend to go there early in the morning to see the sunrise. Not everybody is determined enough to wake up so early and that is why there are just a few pictures online of the famous view in sunrise. The sun comes up between the mountains behind the beach – that makes the sunrise from this spot unbelievably beautiful! A fair reward for the early birds. You can go up by car, bike or do some hiking. There is also a funicular but it is not open early enough to see the sunrise, so you can use it in other times of the day. When the funicular is opened the ones looking for some childhood memories – you can also try some good old attractions of the old-fashioned amusement park which is opened since 1912.

Taste pintxos at old town restaurants

Pintxos
Photo: srgpicker / Flickr

Undoubtedly one of the highlights of Basque country is food and particularly pintxos – one or two-bites sized appetizers which show the huge variety of tastes and creativity that belongs to the cuisine of Basque country region. The best approach is to roam around the small streets of old town (Parte Vieja) admiring the architecture and from time to time drop in some small bar or restaurant and have one or two pintxos with a “chato” (a small glass of wine) at each bar. That way you will not only manage to do 2 in 1 – taste the incredibly delicious food of Basque country and explore the old town of San Sebastián, but also rest your taste buds and prepare for the next enjoyment of unique bouquet of flavours provided by each pintxo – a taste beyond your imagination!

The variety of restaurants and bars is wide, so everyone can find the best match. Some of the most famous and highly recommended ones are La Viña, Bar Zeruko, Goiz Argi, Txepetxa, Borda Berri, Gandarias, Gambara, La Cuchara de San Telmo and A Fuego Negro.

Go to the Aquarium on a rainy day

Aquarium
Photo: Misko / Flickr

What to do in San Sebastián if it happens to be a windy, rainy day which is actually not so uncommon occasion? The visit of the Aquarium de San Sebastián is the best choice. It offers not only a great selection of fish and other sea creatures but has an educational exhibits of the history of San Sebastián port and some models of ships and maps of the area. One of the highlights is the underwater tunnel where you can see the beautiful fish swimming around you.

The aquarium is quite small and it can bee seen within an hour but it is still a great educational and historical experience and one of the the best activities for family especially on a rainy day.

Have you visited San Sebastián? Use the comment section to share your insights on the best things to do in San Sebastián.

Categories: San Sebastian

5 Comments

Top 5 Things to Do in San Sebastian

  1. I\’ve been to many cities in Spain but unfortunately haven\’t travelled to the Basque country yet. San Sebastian looks like a great city, to enjoy food and have some action too. A friend of mine lived there for a while and loved it. So I hope to visit this region too one day.

    1. You should definitely visit Basque country Stef!, especially if you love mountains, fresh air and delicious food! It is a lot cooler there than in the south, the views are stunning though. And San Sebastian is gorgeous! Best tapas (pintxos) I have ever tried! The view from Monte Igueldo is even more beautiful when you see it with your own eyes, especially during the sunrise.

  2. I\’m with you on this one Simon! I want to go back to San Sebastian to experience that marvelous taste of their pintxos again, I have been dreaming about ever since I went there.

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