Set on the sweeping crescent of La Concha Bay on Spain's north coast, for centuries San Sebastian was little more than a fishing village. Now, the city has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in Spain, and seafood plays a big part in the local cuisine.
San Sebastian is divided into 3 main areas; the characterful Old Town (Parte Vieja), the liveliest place to be when the sun goes down; the Centro Romantíc, where the best shops can be found behind handsome Art Nouveau façades; and Gros, a laidback area with the popular surfing beach of Zurriola.Things to do in San Sebastian
San Sebastian events
San Sebastian pensions and hostals
Getting around San Sebastian
Around San Sebastian
- • Playa de la Concha: Playa de La Concha is San Sebastian's main beach; extending into Playa de la Ondarreta at its western end, the beach is over 1km of golden sand edging clear blue water. A boat runs every half hour to the tiny Isla de Santa Clara, about 700m offshore. The island has a lighthouse and a small beach with facilities and a bar.
- • Playa de la Zurriola: Across the river from Playa de la Concha is Playa de la Zurriola, less crowded and a popular spot for surfing and swimming.
- • Museums: San Sebastian's main museums are the Museo Naval, an interesting exploration of the Basque Country's maritime history, and the Museo San Telmo, a 16th-century monastery with an impressive art collection dating back to the Renaissance and focusing on Basque painters. Children will also enjoy a trip to the city's aquarium.
- • Monte Urgull: A walk to the top of Monte Urgull at the eastern end of Playa de la Concha will reward you with beautiful views over the city and the bay.
- • Monte Igueldo: On the opposite end of the bay to Monte Urgull, Monte Igueldo offers even better views, taking in the mountains of Guipuzcoa. A funicular railway brings you to the summit and to an amusement park which will keep the kids entertained.
- • La Tamborrada (19th-20th January)
- • Carnaval (February)
- • Heineken International Jazz Festival (July)
- • San Sebastian International Film Festival (August)
With friendly staff and modern, stylish rooms, Pension Aia is located in Gros, just moments away from the popular Playa de la Zurriola.
The pension has a range of single, double and twin rooms, all well appointed with flat-screen TVs and free WiFi. There is also a fully equipped kitchen for guests looking for self-catering accommodation in San Sebastian.Pension Gran Bahia Bernardo
Set at the heart of the Parte Vieja, minutes from Monte Urgull and La Concha Beach, Pension Gran Bahia Bernardo is ideally located for discovering everything San Sebastian has to offer.
Guestrooms are spacious and light, and are all equipped with en-suite bathrooms, air conditioning, TV, telephones and WiFi. Breakfast is also available.Agroturismo Caseri o Larrabide
If you're looking for something a little bit different, Agroturismo Caseri o Larrabide is a traditional farmhouse B&B where guests can discover life in rural Spain, even helping out with milking the cows!
Set on the Camino de Santiago, the beautiful countryside surrounding the agroturismo is perfect for hiking or mountain biking, and there are numerous vineyards nearby producing Txakoli (Basque wine) and cider.
San Sebastian Airport is located approximately 20km away with a bus service to the city centre, but destinations are limited. Bilbao also has an airport, with more international flights.
Buses are available to travel within the city centre, as well as to other cities in Spain and the Basque Country, such as Bilbao, Madrid and Vitoria, or Biarritz and Bayonne in France. San Sebastian's train station is on the line between Madrid and Paris.
Cycling is a good way to get around the city, and can be rented from a number of outlets. Those with cars may find San Sebastian awkward to drive around, and parking can be expensive.
- • Hondarribia (also Fuenterrabia in Spanish): An attractive town with a relaxed atmosphere, a well-preserved medieval old quarter and an array of charming, brightly coloured fishing houses lining the marina.
- • Museo Chillida Leku: About 7km south of San Sebastian, this open-air museum is dedicated to the work of Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida. Forty granite and iron sculptures are scattered among oak, beech and magnolia trees, while many more works can be seen in the 16th-century farmhouse.
- • Bilbao: Those who don't mind venturing a little further afield can head to Bilbao, the Basque Country's largest city, located about an hour's drive along the coast from San Sebastian. Vibrant, creative and sophisticated, Bilbao's main attractions are the Museo Guggenheim, the Museum of Basque Archaeology, Ethnography & History and the lively Casco Viejo, or Old Town.
• Guernica: If you want to get to the heart of the Basque people, make time for a trip to Guernica. Quiet and unassuming, the town has been the symbol of Basque independence and democracy since medieval times, when a parliament used to gather under the branches of an oak tree. In 1937, Guernica was destroyed and 1600 civilians killed in an attack by Nazi and Italian planes, ordered by Spanish dictator Franco as a threat to the Basques and facilitated by Hitler as a 'practice run' for later bombings. Guernica's tragedy was made famous in a painting by Picasso of the same name.
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By Eleanor Brown