A quick guide to the top things to do in San Sebastian—including the best activities, attractions, restaurants, and more.
San Sebastian was such a surprise. When planning for the trip, in no way did I picture we'd be driving through green mountains through torrential downpour in order to arrive at this seaside city.
Luckily, the weather cleared up the next day, and we loved our relaxed three days eating, drinking, and exploring. The city was much more modern and expansive than I'd imagined—and the never-ending pintxo bars delighted the mini-foodie in me. Though quite touristy, the visitors we encountered were pleasant and respectful. If I lived in Europe, I'd happily add it to the rotation for a regular weekend getaway. Below, I'm sharing my favorite things to do from our three day visit.
1. Bask in the sun on La Concha Beach.
Playa La Concha, or La Concha Beach, is the iconic beach of San Sebastian, stretching from the City Hall to Pico del Loro (Parrot's Beak). The promenade is bustling without being feeling too busy.
As someone who tans easily and is generally afraid of the sun, I'm not normally one to lay out on beaches. But the summer temperature here was just right and then sun didn't get too hot. In July, we relaxed by the ocean until almost 8 pm—the sun stayed out until 9:30 pm! Though there are a lot of people on this beach, soft sand, clear water, and respectful beachgoers make for a relaxing afternoon.
If you're looking for a quieter beach, check out Zurriola Beach on the other side of the river.
2. Rent a bike in San Sebastian and see the city on two wheels.
We rented bikes on the day of from Bici Rent in the neighborhood of Gros, opposite opposite Zurriola Beach. Bikes were in great shape, with locks, baskets, and helmets available to rent.
San Sebastian is rather cyclist-friendly, with ample bike paths and very few hills. From Bici Rent in Gros, we crossed the bridge and biked west along the boardwalk until we reached Peine Del Vieno—a modern iron sculpture at the water's edge.
3. Indulge in a fancy meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant.
As of 2018, the city of San Sebastian boasts a total of 17 Michelin stars. We dined at Amelia—a relative newcomer by Argentinian chef Paulo Airaudo that's managed to make its mark in a crowded space as recently as 2017.
The seasonal short menu (100€) plus short wine pairing (62€) for lunch was a steal for the quality and service. Reservations recommended at any of the Michelin-starred restaurants a minimum of a month or two in advance.
4. Go on a pintxo crawl in Old Town.
Didn't make dinner plans? You're never far from good eats in San Sebastian. The best way to spend an evening in the city is hopping from bar to bar, trying small plates like seared foie gras, veal cheeks, grilled mushrooms, burnt cheesecake, and more. 50+ tapas bars are packed into Old Town, each serving their own mouthwatering specialty dish.
5. Grocery shop at the Mercado de San Martin.
We unintentionally stumbled onto Mercado de San Martin, a traditional multi-story market with vendors hawking fresh seasonal finds. All the butchers, bakeries, florists, and fruit stands are a feast for the eyes—everything is beautifully displayed and packaged. This is what grocery shopping should always be like!
Chefs in the city visit San Martin and La Bretxa markets to find the fish and meats they'll serve in their restaurants that evening. We picked up freshly sliced jamon, sausages, fruit, baguettes, yogurt, coffee, and cheese for breakfast at our Airbnb.
Pro tip: Visit in the morning, when more shops are open. But don't go hungry—you might accidentally go too *ham* on shopping like we did...
6. Hike along the coast from San Sebastian to the picturesque fishing town of Pasajes de San Juan.
One of our favorite days was spent hiking the 7 km of lush green terrain that's reminiscent of Kauai. The little slice of Camino de Santiago (Spain's famous pilgrimage hike) takes you along the coast with spectacular views of the water along the way.
7. Walk up to Mt. Urgull for the best views of the bay.
If you're short on time, take a quick hike up to Mt. Urgull via one of four short paths for panoramic views of San Sebastian. We made our way up one morning before the city was awake—it was so peaceful and pretty. The entire trip up and down takes less than 45 minutes.
The green and misty hike up reminded me of coast of Oregon / the Pacific Northwest. Along the way, there are several lookout points for photo opps of the crescent-shaped La Concha bay. The hill is crowned by Castillo De Santa Cruz de la Mota, a historical battle fortress.
For more info on how to do the hike and opening hours, see here.
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