San Sebastian City Guide



The best travel guide to San Sebastian with recommendations on where to stay and eat, top sights and insider tips

Located less than 20 miles from the French border, San Sebastian is in the Spanish Basque Country.  is an elegant city with one of the most beautiful city beaches in the world and boasts more Michelin stars per square mile than any other place on the planet.

Discover in this San Sebastian city guide why eating is an art for locals and is taken seriously. Green hills surround San Sebastian and the contrast of blue sea and greenery offers the perfect frame for the ancient buildings of the Old Quarter, or for the grand architecture that remains from the Belle Epoque and memories of the seasons when the Royal Family spent their vacations here.  

San Sebastián City Guide - Contents



Our 3 top accomodations in San Sebastián

5 Top Reasons To Visit San Sebastián

La Concha Beach 

An icon for San Sebastian, La Concha is one of the Spain´s most famous beaches.

Pintxo Hunting

Despite pintxo bars in the old quarter having become too tourist, most still offer great quality, Best value for money is however to be found in the newer areas of the city. Many pintxo tours run on a daily basis and combine stories of San Sebastian with food and txakoli wine. Find out more about how to plan your pintxo tour in San Sebastian in our complete guide. 

Michelin Star Restaurants 

It was Arzak who initiated in 1976 a deep revolution in Basque and Spanish gastronomy. A round table with local chefs was organised and French chef star Paul Bocuse was invited. His words at that time echoed in the minds of local young chefs. Local produce became king and a local passion for gastronomy developed into an identity. If you visit San Sebastian you may want to enjoy a Michelin star restaurant besides pintxos. Enjoying life is about contrasting experiences!

2 Countries in a Day

The proximity of France makes it easy to enjoy both Spain and France on the same day. Hondarribia, the last town on the Spanish border is worth a visit, and on the French side, you may venture yourself to San Jean de Luz by the amazing road of La Corniche or higher north to the elegant, surfers-paradise city of Biarritz.

The Semana Grande

The Great Week in San Sebastian takes place during the second half of September. Lots of cultural events take place during this week, along with food, fireworks, and lots of fun!

Weather In San Sebastián

Temperatures in San Sebastian are moderate and the coldest months of the year are from November till February with high averages between 55 and 58 F and low averages between 42 and 47F. You can expect rain all year round but your chances vary a lot from summer (between 15%-20% chances of having a rainy day) and from November till March when chances climb to 35%.

Best Time To Visit San Sebastián

Our favorite months to visit San Sebastian are May, June, and July. August is too busy, specially during the Semana Grande which is however the best week to visit if you want to have fun and enjoy a local festival (we would prefer quieter weeks of the year though!) The first weeks of September are excellent but then prices rocket at the time of the Flim Festival, when you will be able to meet Hollywood streets at restaurants and near the Kursal exhibition center.  

October is also a very good time to visit San Sebastian and, if you do not mind the rain, from November to late March you will San Sebastian without tourists…

Things to do in San Sebastián

San Sebastian is located in the Basque Country in northern Spain, close to the French border.

San Sebastian was developed as a tourist resort for the rich and famous of Spain more than a century ago. Since those days, many things happened, including war and terror in the streets of the old district of the city. 

But the city rediscovered peace and reinvented itself with a new vibe that has in food and cinema its main components. The city is tucked away in a magical natural setting.

To get the most out of your trip to San Sebastián, our local contributors have put together a list of the best things to enjoy in San Sebastian, no matter what type of traveler you are. Plan your perfect San Sebastián experience. 

You can also have a look at our San Sebastián visitors guide or a more visual and interactive look at the fully interactive San Sebastián tourist map

Take a dip at Playa de la Concha

La Concha is one of the two souls of the city (the second one is the old district or Casco Viejo). La Concha is one of the most beautiful urban beaches in the world, and probably the most elegant one. But we are in Northern Spain and it si the Cantabrian sea, and not the Mediterranean, that bathes the beach.  In case you are not too keen on the rather cold waters at La Concha today, you should at least enjoy a walk along its beautiful promenade.

Discover the Golden age and the Belle Epoque of San Sebastian

We could easily claim that San Sebastian lives a new Golden age today. But for the sake of architecture and nostalgia, we recommend you take a walk to discover some of the highlights from the “previous” Golden Age of San Sebastian.
Next to La Concha you will discover the impressive building of La Perla Spa. This Spa was built in the early 20th century, at a time when San Sebastian was a favorite destination amongst part of the European aristocracy. But competition was tough (Cannes, Biarritz, Royan, Bath in the United Kingdom…) La Perla aimed at being no less than the largest and most modern spa center in the world!
If the Spa building is impressive, the Hotel that hosted the majority of the “rich and famous” needs also special attention: The María Cristina hotel was inaugurated in 1912. Although it is already more than a century old, its charm remains intact. Imagine if those walls were to speak one day!

Take a pintxo route

San Sebastián is a perfect place to fall in love with pintxo or tapas eating. Relax and get ready to enjoy bar hopping! You can eat wonderfully well by visiting different bars that specialize in one or more pintxos. The city has the reputation of hosting some of the best pintxo bars in Spain. You can opt for the bars in the Casco Viejo or old district, although if you want to be more adventurous you can also go to the Gros neighborhood, on the other side of the Urumea river, where less traditional and more fashionable bars have emerged in recent years

Enjoy the Michelin experience

If you prefer fine dining to pintxos, you are not too keen on the idea of eating standing up, or simply enjoy both and do not want to miss the opportunity to enjoy one of the top restaurants in Spain, you are in good luck: in San Sebastián and its surrounding area there are some 10 superb Michelin starred restaurants that compete in search for the ultimate dining experience. Names like these ones make all foodies dream!  Martín Berasategui, Akelarre, Arzak or Mugarit

Make your children smile

San Sebastian offers two fantastic activities for children: the Monte Igueldo theme park and the aquarium of San Sebastian. The Monte Igueldo theme park brings you back in time. The rides are not may be impressive, but there is lots of charm in this small park and to get there you will take the funicular which offers the best views of the city! If the day is wet and you need to look for an indoor activity, don´t think it twice and visit the San Sebastian Aquarium. It is not as impressive as other larger aquariums in Barcelona or Valencia, but it is for sure worth visiting.

San Sebastian Aquarium

The Donosti Aquarium or San Sebastián Aquarium is located in one of the most emblematic areas of in the city of San sebastian: the harbor, right next to San Sebastián’s old quarter, and just a few minutes from the city center. The Aquarium is one of the city’s most popular attractions, attracting over 300,000 visitors annually. There are other larger and more famous aquariums in Spain, whether it be L’Oceanogràfic of Valencia or the Barcelona Aquarium, but it is well worth a visit.

The aquarium is housed within a beautiful and emblematic building that dates back to 1928. It features two floors dedicated to the maritime and marine heritage of Gipuzkoa. The institution is simultaneously an aquarium and a museum that chronicles the history and relationship between the people of San Sebastián and the sea.

One of the aquarium’s main highlights is the northern right whale skeleton that is suspended within. The aquarium has several enclosures as well dedicated exclusively to the Bay of Biscay, which is home to more than 200 species, an amazing 360º tunnel, and a variety of tropical species.

How much do tickets to the aquarium cost?

The San Sebastián Aquarium is a very affordable activity you can enjoy in the city. Ticket prices are as follows:

  • Adult: 13 €
  • Children (4-12): 6,50 €
  • Seniors, People with Disabilities, Students and unemployed: 9 €
  • Group discounts are available as well

When is the San Sebastián open? 

The aquarium opens all year round except December 25, January 1, and January 20.

  • In winter opening hours are:
    • Weekdays: from 10:00 to 19:00 
    • Weekends and holidays from 10:00 to 20:00
  • And during the summer months (1st of July – 31st of August): Open every day from 10:00 to 21:00

Pro Tip: the aquarium’s divers feed the sharks and other species on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 12:00 if you are interested in watching live.

Get ready for your visit

The aquarium is divided into three areas. We believe you should estimate two to three hours to visit the aquarium. The first area is the huge pool of the Oceanario. This area was totally refurbished in the 1990s and the newest technologies introduced. The pool is 30 meters long and 16 meters wide and it can hold 1,8 million liters of water. There are over 40 species and our favorite feature in the aquarium: a tunnel to travel through the Oceanario. This is a great feeling and children love it! You will walk next to some of the impressive sharks that populated the Oceanario. The Oceanario focuses on local species that can be found in the Cantabric sea and the Atlantic. As you may have well hinted, the real stars of this area are the sharks. The largest in the Ocenario are the impressive and frightening bull sharks.

Individual aquariums: there are a number of aquariums that focus on different species. Panels explains their origin, location, and other interesting facts. You will find lots of different tropical species.
Tactile aquariums. This is an area dedicated to education (the San Sebastian aquarium receives a good number of school visits from students from all over the Basque country) The tactile aquariums let us get closer to the fauna and live in the sea. You will be able to touch starfishes or urchins. A great experience!

How to get to the San Sebastián aquarium and where to park

The first piece of advice would be to ditch the car for this outing. The best option for getting there is to rent one of the thousands of free bikes available across the city.

If you want to take you car, the nearest parking lot is Txofres parking located right in front of Zurriola beach. 


Brief History of San Sebastián

The Northern coasts of Spain where San Sebastian stands gave birth to famous sailors. Whale fishing was a main duty for sailors from Bermeo in Vizcaya, all the way to Getaria or San Sebastian. For many centuries a fishing village well-protected by its huge bay, San Sebastian turned into a fashionable tourist destination for the royalty and rich during the XIX century, a time in which Biarritz also developed. Art nouveau buildings remain today as the beautiful legacy of those belle Epoque days. 

During those days there was a sharp contrast between the industrial, grey nature of Bilbao and the beauty and elegance of the beachfront in San Sebastian. 

But the best days of San Sebastian vanished and for most of the second half of the XXth century, the city suffered brutal acts of terrorism that refrained the arrival of visitors. The last decades have however brought new light to San Sebastian and it has regained its lost reputation as a top tourist destination. The development of the city as a culinary hub has contributed to its current status and some of Spain´s most expensive flats are to be found in the seafront of San Sebastian

Video Tour of San Sebastián

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