Nestled on the Basque Country’s gorgeous shoreline in Spain, San Sebastian is not only a foodie haven but also totally beautiful too! There are so many incredible and best things to do in San Sebastian that you’ll be spoilt for choice. Especially with all the Pintxos. Yum!
So, to help you organise your trip to Gipuzkoa and specifically San Sebastian, I’m sharing some of the best things to do in San Sebastian that we totally loved.
Just make sure to arrive hungry! You won’t stop eating the Pintxos and trying Kalimotxos (red wine and coca cola; it’s a thing here).
1.) Old Town (Parte Vieja)
Nestled between Alameda del Boulevard and Monte Urgull’s base, San Sebastian’s Old Town is home to an assortment of gorgeous Basque architecture, yummy restaurants for Pintxos, and plenty of little alleys and plazas to explore.
My motto is, eat as you stroll; which works perfectly in the foodie city of San Sebastian. You can stop at each little pintxos bar and just have a chilled day exploring.
Not only that, it’s one of the best things to do in San Sebastian if you’re planning to walk stroll the city. You see, you’ll be able to explore cobblestone streets much easier than by car (or anything else for that matter).
As you wander through the Old Town, you will see so much to see and do. Make sure to head inside the Pescaderia or Fish Market, the Plaza de la Constitucion, and the municipal library with its neoclassical architecture. The latter is just stunning.
Oh, also, just a few strides away from the Plaza de la Constitucion, you can see the Iglesia de San Vicente, the oldest church in San Sebastian.
Constructed way back in the 16th century, Iglesia de San Vicente has a stunning Gothic charm and a meticulously carved retablo that has been there since the late 1500s. It’s well worth popping inside to see.
2.) Buen Pastor Cathedral
Known as the largest church in all of San Sebastian, Buen Pastor Cathedral is a towering icon and a famous landmark of the city. Its 75-meter-high tower is just huge!
Constructed out of sandstone from the nearby Monte Igueldo, it features Gothic Revival architecture designed by Manuel de Echave, a notable Basque architect.
Now, in my opinion, the interior is a little simpler compared to its sister churches. That being said, it’s still one of the best things to do in San Sebastian for a historical feel of the city.
Don’t forget to see the stained-glass windows, too. Not only that, the organ housed there is one of the largest in Europe with thousands of whistles.
3.) Isla de Santa Clara
Isla de Santa Clara is just a tiny dot off the coast of San Sebastian but it is the perfect getaway if you’re looking for a peaceful little visit.
To get here with ease, book this San Sebastian boat tour that will take you right to Santa Clara. It’s so special and a great way to explore the island. Just make sure to book these tickets in advance; the boats can fill up in the peak months.
Once here, you’ll get to see how gorgeous Isla de Santa Clara is; and why it’s been classified as a site of Historical National Interest Site.
There are hidden pools that will cool you on a warm summer day, while the string of picnic areas, restaurants, and cafes offer a delightful escape from the busier parts of the city.
You can also take a short scenic stroll to the island’s lighthouse. It’s one of the best things to do in San Sebastion on a warm summer’s day.
It’s a spot you can’t miss when you travel to San Sebastian.
4.) La Concha Beach
considered the Summer Capital of Europe by Queen Regent Maria Cristina, La Concha Beach is regarded throughout the land as one of the continent’s most breathtaking shorelines.
Aptly named after its shell-shaped bay, La Concha Beach is flocked by tourists and locals alike.
Nestled between Mount Igueldo and Mount Urgull, La Concha Beach is well-protected from the harsh waves and currents of the Atlantic Ocean.
It makes it the perfect place to chill in the summer. You see, there’s so much to do, from; kayaking, swimming, and stopping by the nearby cafes.
Afterwards, you can also stroll along the promenade for a lovely day of sightseeing. For me, it’s best at sunset.
5.) Plaza de la Constitución
Plaza de la Constitucion, situated in the Old Town, is one of the liveliest parts of San Sebastian and a great spot to visit from 5pm onwards.
Known as the heart of the city, it is where most of the city’s events, holidays, and feast days are held all year round.
One of the most popular happenings in the Plaza is the flag-raising ceremony every 21st of January and drawing a flock of locals and visitors alike.
That being said, Plaza de la Constitucion attracts crowds regardless of timings. It’s filled with bars serving pintxos and some of the tastiest Basque wines.
It has been at the heart of San Sebastian since the 1800s and is a spot you should definitely arrive hungry and thirsty.
6.) Museo de San Telmo
Located at the base of Monte Urgull, Museo de San Telmo is Basque Country’s oldest museum and also one of the larger museums in the area.
It’s one of the best things to do in San Sebastian that’s totally dedicated to the history of the Basque Country, and well worth a visit.
You see, Museo de San Telmo was originally a 16th-century Dominican convent but with a recent addition of a new building.
Inside, there are well over 20,000 artefacts housed inside. It’s so worth a visit.
7.) Miramar Royal Palace
Featuring English Tudor-style architecture, Miramar Royal Palace was built by renowned English architect Selden Wornum.
Over the years, the Miramar Royal Palace has been the summer residence of many Spanish Royal Families and became a firm favourite to visit.
Now, the palace itself doesn’t provide guided tours and isn’t open to the public. However, you can still stroll along its well-manicured gardens and have a picnic in a tranquil spot.
Afterwards, make sure to pop back into the historic centre of San Sebastion and grab a well-earned glass of wine and pintxos.
It’s the best way to end a day in San Sebastian.
8.) Monte Urgull
Over the years Monte Urgull has served to be a permanent backdrop of San Sebastian’s skyline. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that it defines the landscape of the city.
When you visit, you can hike to the top towards the 12th-century Mota Castle. It’s a quaint history museum, with a 39-foot tall statue of the Sacred Heart built in the 1950s. Well worth seeing.
To get there, you may start from the Old Town and choose either the Plaza de Zutoaga or the aquarium as a starting point. It can be a leisurely walk up to the top, with most parts of the pathway shaded and well looked after.
Aside from the structures sitting atop Monte Urgull, the Polbariña is a homely cafe near the Mota Castle which has some tasty ice creams, too.
9.) Ondarreta Beach (Playa de Ondarreta)
Just a stone’s throw away from the Miramar Royal Palace, visiting Ondarreta Beach is one of the best things to do in San Sebastian for a nice chilled day.
Best of all, it’s perfect to chill on the sand during the summer season.
With Monte Igueldo bordering the shore, Ondarreta Beach has a totally impressive vista that you can’t miss. Truth be told, even in winter, this beach is perfect for a little stroll.
Oh, and don’t forget about stopping by Zurriola Beach, too. It’s a great place to chill out on the shoreline.
10.) Basilica de Santa Maria del Coro
Located at the heart of the Old Town, Basilica de Santa Maria del Coro is a splendid church with an 18th-century Baroque architectural style. It reminded me so much of the churches in Sicily, especially in Noto. They are gorgeous.
Honesty, its exterior has the most epic Churrigueresco facade. Plus, once you head inside you will see the huge Gothic vaults that make this church so special.
11.) Monte Igueldo
Located west of San Sebastian, Monte Igueldo is a must-visit natural attraction you can’t miss in the city.
Now, it is famous for a lot of things, but the vintage funicular is a total gem. You see, the funicular, built in 1912 and operating since then, is the most exciting way to get to the top of Monte Igueldo.
As you ride the funicular, you’ll have a stunning 360-degree vista of the entire San Sebastian and the coastlines across the Basque Country.
Best of all, you will find an old-fashioned amusement park right at the tip. There are rides that you can try, such as carousels and a wooden roller coaster that is so kitsch.
Not only that, you can also visit the El Torreon Tower near the park and stay at the famous Hotel Mercure San Sebastian Monte Igueldo. We loved it.
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