One day in San Sebastian itinerary

San Sebastian is without a doubt one of the nicest cities in Spain to visit. San Sebastian is a bustling city where you can enjoy the typical Spanish culture and great nature with the mountains and beaches within walking distance.

In this article, you’ll find the best tips for getting the most out of your stay in one day in San Sebastian. San Sebastian will impress you with all the great things you can do here. Find out in this article: one day in San Sebastian itinerary.

Sightseen in San Sebastian
Catedral San Sebastian

What to do in one day in San Sebastian?

San Sebastian is a small city where you can do many fun things. Read below our San Sebastian itinerary if you just have one day.

Tip: use the below map to see where all the best things in San Sebastian are located. Click on the right top corner to view the map bigger.

#1 Historical center

Parta Vieja is the historic center of San Sebastian. Here you will find small cozy streets with many shops, restaurants, and historic buildings. Very nice to stroll through and enjoy the cozy atmosphere. The absolute highlight is Plaza de la Constitucion, which is the town square of San Sebastian. In the past, this square is used to be an arena where bullfights were held. On top of the windows, you can still see the numbers of the stands.

Historical center San Sebastian

#2 Kayaking

There is nothing more fun than doing something active on the water. You can do this by renting a kayak or a paddleboard. A fun activity is to visit the island of Santa Clara or simply take a boat trip in the bay. You can rent a kayak from Darwin Rentals in the port of San Sebastian or from AloKayak which is located at Ondarreta Beach.

Tip: do this activity in the morning or afternoon because of the heat. Renting a kayak costs €8 per hour.

Kayaking

#3 San Sebastian City Hall

On the La Concha promenade is the beautiful town hall of San Sebastian, which dates back to the 19th century. The casino used to be located here and has been the town hall of San Sebastian since 1945. An impressive building to see, nice to walk around. Pay special attention to the details of the building, for example, you can still see the bullet holes in the walls from the time of the Spanish Civil War.

Tip: order an ice cream on the boulevard behind the town hall and take a seat on one of the benches in the park (Alderdi Eder parkea) in front of the town hall. This is a relaxing way to enjoy this impressive building.

City hall

#4 Walk the La Concha promenade

For sure that you will walk the La Concha promenade of San Sebastian during your visit to San Sebastian. The best part of the promenade is from the historic center to Monte Igueldo, this will take +/- 30 minutes. During this walk, you will pass the beaches of La Concha and Ondarreata. You can enjoy the view of the bay and the historic buildings built along the promenade.

City hall San Sebastian

#5 Monte Igueldo

Monte Igueldo is the highest mountain on the west side of San Sebastian. You need to visit it because from the top you have a beautiful view of the city. Walk via the La Concha promenade to Monte Igueldo. At the foot of the mountain, you can take a funicular (cable car). At the ticket office of the funicular, you need to buy tickets for the funicular (€3.75 p.p.) and the theme park (€2.30 p.p.). The theme park is mainly for children but it is also worth buying a ticket for travelers without children. The best experience of this theme park is the view. If you only buy a ticket for the funicular, you can’t see a lot on top of the mountain.

Monte Igueldo

#6 Castillo de la Mota

North of the historic center is Monte Urgull, on top of this mountain you can visit Castillo de la Mota. This fortress was built in the 12th century and was used to protect the city. Even though it was struck by lightning in 1575 and part of it burned down, it is beautiful to see the old walls and buildings. A 12.5 more high statue of Jesus was placed on top of the mountain in 1950, which is today one of the main attractions of San Sebastian.

To reach the fortress Castillo de la Mota you have to climb 130 meters up the mountain. It is worth climbing to the top because the view is beautiful. It is recommended to wear good shoes.

Tip: visit Polboriña which is close to Castillo de la Mota. Here you can enjoy a snack and a drink with a beautiful view. An additional advantage is that the prices are very low considering the prime location. For example, a beer costs €1.50.

Castillo de la Mota

#7 Enjoy the beaches

The best thing about San Sebastian is that is located between mountains and beaches. It’s nice to be active during the day and relax on the beach in the afternoon.

San Sebastian has three beaches, namely Bahia de la Concha, Playa de Zurriola and Playa de Ondarreta. La Concha is located in the center and is named after the shell shape. La Concha is the most popular beach with a view of mountains and the island Santa Clara.

Playa de Zurriola is located in the north of San Sebastian and is beautiful. This beach is better for surfing because of the waves, the beach is also wider compared to the other two. The big advantage is that this beach is less touristy and is mainly visited by locals, making the atmosphere very cozy.

Playa de Ondarreta is located in the west next to La Concha and runs till Monte Igueldo. The beach is similar to La Concha, the only difference is that it is quieter than La Concha.

Tip: visit all three beaches and see for yourself which one you like best!

La Concha

#8 Neighborhood Gros

The historic center is the most beautiful area for many travelers to discover in San Sebastian, however, if you cross the river east at the Puente de Sta. Catalina, you enter the working-class neighborhood Gros. During the day this looks like a normal neighborhood, however, in the afternoon all the locals come here to enjoy their evening. In this district, you see fewer tourists, even though it is only a 15-minute walk from the historic center.

Very nice to walk through the Gros neighborhood in the evening because it is the best way to experience the culture of San Sebastian. It is recommended to have diner here. An additional advantage is that this area is cheaper compared to the historic center. We enjoyed our best Pintxos in this area, you can read more about this in the next point #9.

#9 Taste the best Pintxos

Pintxos is a typical food from the north of Spain. Pintxos are similar to tapas, the difference is that tapas are small versions of a main course and pintxos are small dishes, often with a skewer on a bun. Pintxos are mainly eaten on social occasions. Pintxos are delicious because, like tapas, they are very diverse. It is also very nice when you have eaten a menu of the day (Menu del dia) in the afternoon, you don’t have to eat much in the evening, you can eat a few pintxos and then you have had enough.

The best thing is to walk into a bar and order a drink with pintxos. Our favorite place in San Sebastian to eat pintxos is Bodega Donostiarra because the food is truly delicious. It is not expensive, you can sit comfortably, there is a cozy atmosphere and the service is more than fine. The big advantage is that they only serve traditional Basque dishes. You can see from everything that this restaurant has been welcoming people since 1928, the quality is perfect!

We have tried several pintxos and can tell you that they are all delicious. However, the ones below were our personal favorites:

  • Fuet iberian sausage
  • Gilda
  • Grilled black pudding with peppers
  • Grilled chorizo
  • Pulled beef with a tomato sauce

In chapter ‘best places to eat’ you read our other recommended places to eat in San Sebastian.

Bodega Donostiarria

#10 Other activities

There are plenty of things to do in San Sebastian if you have one day you can’t see everything. There may be activities in the list above that you might want to swap with one of the activities below. It is also possible to add one of the activities to your schedule, but be careful not to add too many things.

If you are short on time and you want to see as much of San Sebastian as possible, a bike tour is recommended. During the bike tour of +/- 4 hours, you will visit most activities from this list with a local. Tickets can be bought here book, costs for this are 43 per person.

#10.1 Zuloaga Plaza

The Zuloaga Square is one of the most important squares in San Sebastian because museum San Telmo and Iglesia de San Vicente Mártir are located at this square. In the San Telmo Museum, you can learn everything about Basque history. The museum is located in a monastery from the 16th century where they have historical artifacts to contemporary art.

Iglesia de San Vicente Mártir is a church that was rebuilt in 1574 after a fire in 1489. This church is very impressive to see because of the size, antiquity, and condition of the building. If you pay close attention, the church was never finished. You can notice this on the north wall.

Iglesia de San Vicente Mártir

#10.2 Boat tour

Do you like to do an activity on the water but in a relaxed way, then a boat tour is something for you. During this boat tour, you will sail through the bay of San Sebastian and you can enjoy the many views. Tickets can be bought here, costs are €12 per person.

boat tour

#10.3 Catedral de Buen Pastor

The Catedral de Buen Pastor is the most beautiful ecclesiastical building in San Sebastian. The cathedral is a little bit away from the other sights of San Sebastian however it is 100% worth a visit. Upon arrival, it is immediately apparent that the cathedral has an imposing tower that towers high above everything. Inside the cathedral, you can see a beautiful interior. You can visit the cathedral for free every day between 8 am – 2 pm & 5 pm – 8 pm.

Tip: walk from the boulevard via Gipuzkoa Plaza to the cathedral, this is a nice walk through the shopping street of San Sebastian.

Catedral de Buen Pastor

#10.4 Gipuzkoa Plaza

Not far from the boulevard you can find Gipuzkoa Plaza, a typical Spanish square that is not visited at all by tourists. Very nice to visit because there is a garden with a pond where various animals come. Also in this square, you can see several sculptures, a small meteorological pergola, and the headquarters of the Regional Council of the Basque Country. Sit on a bench and watch the locals enjoy their free time.

Gipuzkoa Plaza

#10.5 Santa Clara Isla

In the Bay of San Sebastian is a small island called Santa Clara. You can visit this small island with a ferry that leaves every 30 minutes from the harbor. Costs are €4 per person. You can also rent a kayak or paddleboard to sail to the island independently, read more about this at activity number 2 from this list.

Santa Clara is a small island about 400 meters wide that is worth visiting for its cliffs and the view from the island. On this island, you will find a small beach, a bar, and an old lighthouse. The only thing can you do on this island is relax.

Santa Clara Isla

#10.6 Miramar royal palace

Between La Concha Beach and Ondarreta is the Royal Palace Miramar. This building was built in the 19th century and used to be a summer home for the Spanish royal family. It was sold to San Sebastian in 1972 and has been used by the University of the Basque Country ever since. Courses are given here in the summer. If you want to get an idea of ​​how the Spanish Royal family enjoyed their summers you can visit the gardens of the palace. It is also possible to visit part of the palace, this is only possible by following a guided tour.

#10.7 Haizearen Orrazia

On the west side of La Concha bay, you can see three works of art by Eduardo Chillida. These three works of art resemble anchors embedded in the rocks. It is a great place to view the ocean because the waves of the sea hit the rocks hard at this place. It is also fun to take a photo because you can play with your composition through the artwork.

#10.8 Day Trips from San Sebastian

If you have more time it is worth visiting more things in the Basque Country. If you don’t have a car, a day tour to Hondarribia, San Pedro, and San Juan is recommended. These are charming fishing villages on the Basque coast. You can buy a ticket here.

If you have access to a car, visiting San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (Bermeo), Zumaia & Ermita de San Telmo, and Bilbao are highly recommended.

Zumaia & Ermita de San Telmo are close to San Sebastian and are some of the most beautiful places to visit in the Basque Country. Zumaia is known for its special rock formations, very impressive to see. On top of one of the rocks is Ermita de San Telmo located, a chapel from which you have a magnificent view. Park your car at the village of Zumaia and walk to Ermita de San Telmo, then go to the beach for a good view of the rocky coast of Zumaia.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in Bermeo is a must to see. Here you can visit a church built on a peninsula. The hike, environment, and nature at this place are very impressive, for nature lovers this is a great activity. The reason it has become so popular in recent years is because it was a filming location on Game of Thrones. It is important that reserve your ticket upfront, it is not possible to do this at the entrance. Be on time with your booking because tickets run out quickly!

The biggest city in the Basque Country is Bilbao, a beautiful city with the main attraction of the province: the Guggenheim Museum. Read everything about Bilbao here.

Ermita de San Telmo

Where to stay in San Sebastian?

There are many accommodations to choose from. It’s hard to find one with a good price-quality ratio. In addition, your options are often limited because many accommodations are fully booked quickly. This is because San Sebastian is very popular among the Spanish population. If you know when you will be staying in San Sebastian it is strongly recommended to book the accommodation directly. When you use the links below you can change your reservation 24 hours in advance, so you retain your flexibility.

If you travel by car and are looking for a good place to stay, Green Nest Hostel Uba Aterpetxea (€43 double room) is highly recommended. We stayed in this hostel and recommend it because you have access to a free car parking space, the rooms are really good, and the hostel is located in the middle of a park so it is really quiet. Within 20 minutes you are in the center by bus. The benefit is the price of this hostel if you consider that if you want to stay in the center it quickly cost €25 per day to just park your car.

If you want to stay in the center, La Galería (€53 double room) is recommended. This stylish hotel is located on Ondarreta Beach. The building dates from the 19th century, making the atmosphere unique. Due to its location, building, and all facilities, this hotel is highly valued among travelers. If La Galería is fully booked, you can move to Hotel Arrizul Congress, a neat hotel located in the neighborhood of Gros.

Where to eat in San Sebastian?

Like we mentioned at #9 Bodega Donostiarra is the best place to eat. This place is awesome because the food is truly delicious. It is not expensive, you can sit comfortably, there is a cozy atmosphere and the service is more than fine. The big advantage is that they only serve traditional Basque dishes. You can see from everything that this restaurant has been welcoming people since 1928, the quality is perfect!

Another nice place to eat is Itxaso bar, here you can order pintxos and other dishes. We enjoyed a burger menu here, for €10 you have a burger with a drink. A must is to try the beer 1870, very tasty.

Bar Gorriti is also recommended because here you can choose different pintxos at the bar. Very easy, because you can immediately see what you like. There is also a cozy atmosphere and it is not such a hip bar as some others. It is really still very traditional which only enriches the experience!

Cafe-Bar Koh Tao in San Sebastian is a cafe/bar, as the name suggests, where you can try the cuisine of Thailand. A nice place if you want something different. We have muesli with fruit here in the morning with a cappuccino, highly recommended!

In addition to the above recommendations, you can also easily find a place by walking through the historic center and visiting a place that you come across. In the historic center, there are a lot of restaurants and bars to eat, you will probably find something without too many problems.

Pintxos in San Sebastian

How to get to San Sebastian?

San Sebastian is best reached by plane, car, or train. San Sebastian has a national airport, but if you fly internationally you must first fly to Bilbao. San Sebastian is close to the French border, making it an acceptable distance by car from different places in Europe. If you are in a city in Spain you can easily travel by train to San Sebastian, train tickets can be bought here. It isn’t recommended to travel by train from cities outside Spain to San Sebastian due to the long travel time.

What is the best time to visit San Sebastian?

The best time to visit San Sebastian is during the spring and summer period from April to September. Although this is the high season, these months are the best because of the pleasant temperatures. Due to the maritime climate, it can be very cold in the autumn and winter.

Want to see more of Spain?

Following our itinerary through Northern Spain? If you follow our itinerary, Bilbao is your next destination. Read all what you can do in one day in Bilbao here.

In addition to Bilbao, you can also travel from San Sebastian to Santander, Picos de Europa, the wine region of La Rioja or Zaragoza.

If you are interesting to travel to Andalusia Malaga is one of the best cities to discover.

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