A list of places in San Sebastián that you should not miss out on!
San Sebastián is a small, but charming and enchanting city. Dating back to the nineteenth century, it has always been a place that attracts many visitors, especially wealthy people of the upper class circles who look for sun and heat. This is why Queen Maria Cristina established her summer residence in this beautiful city, as even at that time it was one of the most visited tourist destinations in Spain. The result of this luxurious past still remains in the streets, buildings and monuments of the city today, which is why San Sebastián will always have that touch of glamour, class and style.
For this reason, we're going to show you the best things to do in San Sebastián, revealing a list of essential places you must see while visiting the city!
First things first, you should know that in Donostia-San Sebastián it's very easy to get around by foot. Considering its reputation, it's not too overcrowded... in fact, it's quite the opposite. Exploring the city by foot is the best way to fully appreciate the architecture and to be dazzled by the incredible landscapes.
What to do in San Sebastián?
Considering it has been listed as one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, it's not very difficult to answer this question. Let's start with the old town, with its ancient walls making it one of the most visited tourist areas in the city for obvious reasons. Restaurants, monuments and shops, we're not surprised that this area is lively at any time of the year.
San Sebastián old town, credits: @ion_gorriti
In the old part of the city we can find two very important religious temples (the Basilica of Santa Maria del Coro and the San Vincente Church). Then there is also the San Telmo Museum, perfect if you want to unravel the secrets of Basque culture, as well as the main square which boasts many city celebrations and the ancient bullring. It's ideal to start your tour of San Sebastián from here.
- Bretxa Market
If you want fresh, high-quality produce, then this market is definitely one for you!
Bretxa Market, credits: @sansebastianlovers
Open every morning, located within the ancient walls, it has more than 40 stalls with fruit shops, butchers, florists and more... the best seafood and fish from the Cantabrian can be bought here, and we also recommend trying the local cheese!
But, what's the best thing you can do in the old town of San Sebastián? Without a doubt, the answer is obvious...
- Taste the famous pintxos!
If you still don't know what this is, then we'll explain it to you: a pintxo is a portion of food on a slice of bread held together with a 'palillo' (skewer), very similar to tapas.
Pintxos bar in San Sebastián, credits: @pintxos_donostia
Well, here comes the best news, San Sebastián has a large variety of the best pintxos for every type of tastebud! It's not surprising, as after all we're talking about a city which has the highest number of Michelin stars per square meter (behind Kyoto, Japan). The pintxos are a favourite of both locals and tourists alike, and there are many places to go if you want to experience this type of cuisine. In our opinion, pintxos are really just an excuse to meet people and not stop eating! Let yourself lose the way between the alleyways of the old town, exploring every corner you come across, savouring the city bite by bite!
- La Concha beach
This one is essential if you're taking a trip to San Sebastián. La Concha beach is considered one of the best urban beaches in Europe, and for good reason. Shell-shaped (hence the name), it's a large area surrounded by mountains, with a bay ideal for swimming and sunbathing. It also has an area dedicated to sports, as well as umbrellas and hammocks with their characteristic blue and white colours.
After the beach, if you want to rest a bit before continuing the tour around this beautiful city, have a look at our selection of the best places to sleep for low-cost in San Sebastián!
La Concha bay from above, credits: @javi_beldeta
Within the bay of Concha, we also find the promenade, with its elegant railings and great streetlamps, sights which San Sebastián owes its grand reputation to. The viewpoints along the entire parade offer the best sunsets you've ever seen...
Along this walk you'll find la Perla, the famous San Sebastián resort, with views of the Cantabrian and Miramar Palace in the distance, with its beautiful gardens to walk around and explore. So now we end up on a small rocky hill called 'parrot peak', where if the tide is low you can cross the shore over to Ondarreta beach. And here, at the end of this beach, we find another place of interest which is essential to visit in San Sebastián:
- The Comb of the Wind (Piene Del Viento)
We're talking about a collection of three sculptures created by the sculptor Eduardo Chillida, located at the foot of Mount Igueldo. One of his best works, these pieces of steel, clinging onto the rocks, resist the continuous raging of the sea.
The collection blends into the surroundings, with each of the sculptures giving the impression that they're emerging from the rocks, with the wind rushing in between its steel. Undoubtedly, the Comb of the Wind is one of the most magical sights in San Sebastián, because combining the energy of the Cantabrian Sea with such an impressive work of art is pure poetry.
If you're lucky enough to see it with a stormy sea, you'll really be in for a treat because through a system of tubes, the air driven by the waves comes to the surface, emitting a very peculiar sound as if it were a geyser!
Waves in the Comb of the Wind, credits: @sistersandthecity
Climb Mount Igueldo
If you want to be fascinated by the best view of the city from above, this is undoubtedly the place to do so. You can climb by car or bus, but if you really want to take a trip back in time we recommend the funicular. It's very close to the Comb of the Wind and still maintains the same charm since its construction in 1912.
You can experience how they travelled in the old days inside these wooden cars, while ascending leaving the city at your feet.
Funicular of Monte Igueldo, credits: @lurigoroFu
The surprises don't finish here, as now you'll come across a vintage theme park, which becomes more difficult to find every year! Composed of 20 attractions, don't expect adrenaline here, as this park is much more low-key, with roundabouts, boats and fair booths. Let yourself be immersed by the magic of the old and transport yourself into a black and white film.
After the park, you'll be able to see a panorama that's out-of-this-world from the Mount Igueldo viewpoint. It's the favourite for all Donostiarras and a place not to miss... sit on one of its terraces or capture the best moments of the sunset while admiring San Sebastián from above.
- Surf on Zurriola beach
Of the three beaches San Sebastián has, this is the best option for surfing as it's more open and the waves are stronger. With many surf schools, both professionals and beginners come here throughout the year, as it's one of the best surfing beaches in northern Spain.
Surf in Zurriola beach, credits: @artolachipi
In addition, San Sebastián is part of the World Cities Network, a network that brings together the main cities in the world where surfing is a generator of wealth and promoter of the local economy. Also, on the beach of Zurriola nudism is allowed, one of the few urban beaches in Spain where this is the case.
- Visit the Kursaal of San Sebastián
This avant-garde building, facing the Cantabrian Sea, is the Kursaal, the work of the architect Rafael Moneo, which has become the main cultural centre of the city.
Jazz festival in Kursaal, credits: @ion_gorriti
It hosts the famous San Sebastián Film Festival, as well as operas, plays, concerts, lyric recitals, rock and pop concerts, dance shows, ballet and other artistic events. The Kursaal hosts more than 200 events a year, so don't forget to visit it!
- Experience the "Semana Grande" of San Sebastián
This is the main party of San Sebastián, taking place every year in the week of August 15. The entire city is filled with people and activities, from horse races and the legendary international fireworks competition, to carnival characters and giants strolling the streets. If you really want to be impressed, don't miss the shows of herrik-kirola (Basque rural sport), where different participants test their strength and stamina skills by cutting logs, lifting stones or carrying sacks on their backs! Have fun at the fair, dance along to live bands and enjoy the numerous concerts taking place.
Now that you know all there is to know about the best places to go in San Sebastián, what are you waiting for? Pack those bags and get going!
We hope this article has inspired you to travel to San Sebastián and discover the best of this amazing city! Leave us your comments and tell us more places you think we might have missed off the list!
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