San Sebastian (Donostia or Donosti in Euskera) is one of the most visited cities in the north of Spain. At only 20 kms from the French border, it is famous for its three beaches, its three mounts and its three bridges. Worth it to visit in spring or in summer to avoid the raining.
Although the south of Spain is generally speaking more popular among tourists, visiting the north is also a great option. One of the most popular and cute cities is San Sebastian (that’s the correct way to spell it in Spanish, instead of San Sebastien). During my travels in New Zealand and my stays in Australia, I met people who really enjoyed that city and its famous pintxos.
I’ve been there a couple of times visiting the city and I really enjoyed the atmosphere. I would recommend you to spend 3 days there, I think that’s enough for getting and overview of San Sebastian and time to relax during those days.
What to visit in San Sebastian? A complete and interesting itinerary
San Sebastian is a city facing the Cantabric Sea, that’s why one of its main attractions is the beach. Although as I said, there are 3 beaches in Donostia, the most famous is La Playa de La Concha. Once you’ll be standing there, facing the sea, you’ll got at your left the Monte Igueldo, at your front the Monte Santa Clara and at your right the Monte Urgull. I would recommend you to walk along the Playa de La Concha. At the end of this walk, you’ll see the Peine de los Vientos (which means something like “the comb of the wind). The sculptor was Eduardo Chillida and he wanted to represent the join of the earth, wind and water with this sculpture.
Go up to the mount Igeldo (walking or caching the Funicular) to enjoy one of the best panoramic views of San Sebastian. Take few good
photos there, and while going back to the beach, stop at the Palacio de Miramar and have a rest on its gardens facing the beach and the sea. There is not to much to see inside the palace, so stay there for a while and keep walking until you’ll get to la Plaza de Cervantes, where you’ll find the Hotel Londres. A good idea is to get into the hotel and have a tea in the cafeteria with good views to the beach.
Once you’ll get to the end of the beach, you’ll find the Ayuntamiento (city hall) next to la Plaza Cervantes. I was told that it used to be a casino at the beginning of the 19th century. From there keep walking to the Parte Vieja (the old town) de San Sebastian. In that part you’ll find the most important 2 churches of the city: San Vicente, Santa Maria del Coro and also the museum San Telmo (it is also a museum, good to know it in case it rains).
But what I really like about La Parte Vieja, is to go to la Calle del Campanario during the afternoon and see how people get out of their jobs and go to have a break and take a wine (txikito), sidra or beer (zurito) with their friends.
Get into any of those tascas and enjoy some pintxos with sidra. It’s a very authentic and genuine experience.
Another nice place to visit in San Sebastian is the market La Bretxa. It was remodelated a couple of years ago, and now you’ll find a building with nice stores, cafés and cinemas, but in the basement there is still the nice market where locals buy meat, fish and vegetables. It is a good idea to go there during the morning when you’ll be able to buy local products like cheese, honey… in the area of the casheras.
Ok, since now I’ve maybe talked about the most popular things to visit in San Sebastian. Other things are:
Cross the Zurriola bridge and walk around the modern building the Kursaal of San Sebastian. Inside there is an Auditorium and the Palacio de Concresos y Exposiciones. It is normaly the place where big events and festivals in the city occur. Like the Cinema Festival or the Jazz Festival of San Sebastian.
If you want to get something different for lunch or dinner instead of pintxos, get into the Kursaal and go to one of the most famous chefs from Spain Martin Berasategi’s restaurant.
One of the things that happened to me when I visited San Sebastian was that I firstly enjoyed the pintxos bar atmospheres, but after 2-3 meals eating those, I just felt like having something different. There are other good options than Berasategui’s restaurant. I would recommend to go to any of the restaurants in the Parte Vieja. Generally speaking, San Sebastian and all the Basc Country is well known for its chefs and good restaurants, and it is true, you can enjoy good meals in San Sebastian restaurants.
Another great place where to have a nice meal is in any of the small restaurants at El Muelle (the Mall). Go back to the old town and get into that area facing the sea. Good for sitting down and enjoy a nice good price meal.
Where to stay in San Sebastien?
San Sebastian is an expensive city according to accomodation. Here two suggestions for every pocket:
Hotel Niza: Facing the sea, you’ll get beautiful views of la Playa de la Concha. Good price-quality hotel. Hotel Niza San Sebastien
Olga’s place: very friendly little hostel. This guys don’t even have a website. You’ll find them through Tripadvisor or Worldhostels. Here their Google+ profile: Olga’s place San Sebastian
And get more ideas on travelling around San Sebastian at Lonely Planet site.
Hope you’ll enjoy your visit to San Sebastian!
As always, I’ll be happy if you want to leave any comment. If you need some help for planning a trip to Spain, maybe you’ll find the answer on my blog about travelling around Spain or you could also contact me and I will try to do my best for helping you.