San Sebastián

Travel Guide Europe Spain Basque Country San Sebastián



San Sebastian 2

San Sebastian 2

© Porpol

San Sebastián, or "Donostia" (as it is known by the local Basque population), is a popular coastal city in the north of Spain. A picturesque location along the Bay of Biscay has made it a favourite amongst travellers looking for a relaxed holiday on the beach. Whether you want to surf, swim, or tan, San Sebastián's two main beaches, La Concha and La Zurriola, will indulge you. Of course, the city itself has plenty of places where you can further indulge, especially at the expensive shops in Old Town.



Sights and Activities

Photo not found

  • La Concha
  • La Zurriola



Events and Festivals

Clasica San Sebastian

The Clasica San Sebastian is a cycling event that takes place in August, just after the Tour de France. Since the first race in 1981, the race has been moved around on the cycling calender and for now has landed in August. It is part of the UCI World Cup. As the region is mountainous, the race is suited for climbers and the list of winners has some big names, including Miguel Indurain, Gianni Bugno and Paolo Bettini. More than once the race was decided on climb of the Jaizkibel, which lies about 27 kilometres from the finish line.


Jazzaldia is a 5 day jazz festival that takes place in San Sebastian in the second part of July. The festival takes place at different venues, including the Teater Vitoria Eugenia, the Auditorium of the Kursaal and on the Plaza de la Trinidad, but also in smaller clubs and bars. Besides jazz there is also room for some other genres of music.

Other Events and Festivals




It's location in the central north of Spain means that the weather here is not as warm, sunny and dry compared to places further south in the country. Summers last from June to September when daytime temperatures average between 21 °C and 24 °C degrees Celsius and nights are around 14 °C to 16 °C. Winters last from December to February with mild days of around 12 °C to 14 °C degrees Celsius and nights around 8 °C. San Sebastian is quite rainy, with 15 to 20 days of some rain each month! February and September are the driest months, the only ones with less than 100mm. November is the wettest with 21 rainy days and about 250mm during that month.



Getting There

By Plane

San Sebastian Airport currently only has scheduled flights to and from Madrid and Barcelona.

By Train

From the major cities of Spain (outside the Basque Country), the train is much quicker than a bus, and if booked in advance often the cheapest option too. Twice- or thrice-daily direct intercity connections (Alvia) are maintained by state operator RENFE from Vitoria-Gasteiz, Burgos, Valladolid and Madrid, and from Pamplona, Zaragoza, Tarragona and Barcelona. Both lines utilize semi-high speed train sets that travel on the high-speed tracks where they can. Madrid-San Sebastian journey time is between 4h51m and 5h21m. Barcelona-San Sebastian journey time is 5h39m. RENFE also operates a daily service with conventional coaches (Arco) towards Santiago de Compostela and A Coruña, which is ideal for pilgrims looking to skip a portion of the road.

From France, there is a multitude of TGV and TER (regional trains) to Hendaye. To reach San Sebastian, change here onto an Euskotren train. Connections are frequent, and continue until late. The last train towards San Sebastian departs Hendaye at 22:33. A few trains from France do not end in Hendaye, and go across the border to Irun. At Irun station, the best option to reach San Sebastian is to change there to a RENFE Cercanías train. Direct TGVs from Paris Montparnasse depart at 10:28, 12:28 (to Irun), and 14:28. In addition, there exists a number of possible connections with a change in Bordeaux.

From Portugal, there is a daily Trenhotel overnight train, leaving Lisbon Sta. Appolonia station at 21:18, and arriving San Sebastian at 10:53.

By Car

The A8 highway runs westwards towards Bilbao and France, while the A1 is the main corridor to Madrid.

By Bus

Buses go up to 12 times daily to Madrid (almost 6 hours), via Vitoria (1.5 hours) or Burgos (3.5 hours).
Up to 10 buses to daily to Pamplona (1 hour) and there are half-hourly services to Bilbao (1 hour). Several buses also go to Biarritz and Bayonne in France.

Eurolines has buses to San Sebastian from a number of Spanish and other European cities.



Getting Around

By Car

In the downtown, parking is costly (roughly €20/day); most parking spots are underground, and finding a way to get there can be nerve-wracking. Left turns are more rare than rights (and are unpredictable). Having a driving map is essential. The biggest underground parking lots are in the city center, so the easiest way to find a place without wasting time is to go through the road that goes by the river and follow the signs.

There are some free parking lots in the west of the city: on the tourist maps by SanSebastianTurismo available in some guesthouses, the area is marked with a blue dotted line "Controlled parking zone".

By Public Transport

San Sebastian's bus service provides a proper public service for moving around. Several bus lines connect every corner of the city with each other, and buses are clean & safe. Detailed and updated information about the bus service can be found at DBus. There is an interesting app for smartphones available for free that shows next bus arrival time, for free.

By Bike

The city is very suitable to be visited by bike. Bike lanes are all throughout the city, and more and more are being build on the recent years. And hopefully most of the city is flat. Bike rentals are available in touristic points of the city.




The Basque cuisine is famous within Spain and many believe it is the Basque Country where you can find the best food. Much of this fame comes from San Sebastian and its bars and restaurants. Although tapas were invented in Andalucia they became perfected in San Sebastian and a walk through the old town before lunch time with its many bars shows why. Each bar is bursting with tapas and they look very delicate. Tapas are generally enjoyed together with a glass of wine or a small beer, and the Spanish tradition suggests to have one tapa and a wine in one bar and move on to the next bar. Tapas can be used as a good substitute for a meal - you pay for each one you eat (about €2-4 each) so you can have as many as you want. If you want 'real' food then that is where San Sebastian can be very good. You can find several different cuisines such Chinese, German, Galician, Italian and of course the obvious Basque cuisine. In and around the harbour you can have the freshest seafood and if you don’t enjoy the simple harbour taverns go and enjoy San Sebastian restaurants with Michelin stars if you have some money to spare.

San Sebastian is not a place for vegetarians or vegans, unless you are able to catch the fresh produce markets in the morning and cook for yourself. Pescetarians can get along fine with the abundance of seafood offered on menus.


The way to eat pintxos, (tapas in the Basque Country whether speaking Spanish or Basque) in San Sebastian is quite different from other cities in Spain. There are two kinds of tapas: cold and hot ones.

Don't attempt to eat pintxos if you're starving, you'll treat it like a buffet and prices will easily rack up as everything seems more appealing. Only get a couple of pintxos at a time as sometimes what looks really appealing, has been sitting on the bar the whole day and is past it's use by date. Test the waters. Cold ones are displayed on the bar. Just ask the barman for your drink and pick the pintxos yourself. If you need a plate, just ask. Hot ones must be ordered from the barman and they take a short time to be cooked. There is always a hot tapas menu hanging from the wall.

When you are done eating your tapas and have finished your drink you ask the barman for the bill, and you have to tell him what you have eaten. It is very important to be honest, as it is a long tradition. Locals will be upset if they find people eating and not paying. Normally you don't eat many pintxos at one bar but move from bar to bar, drinking a beer (caña) or wine and eating one or two tapas. Then you move to another bar. Traditionally residents would have one or two pintxos in the early evening to stave off any hunger before a later sit-down meal, rather than making a meal out of a large number of pintxos.

Generally, if the barman asks you to show your plate to them before you start eating, you know the bar markets towards tourists and is sub par and more expensive that it should be. A good bar will ask you what you've eaten as you pay and you should see a chef working out the back.

Most pintxo bars are to be found in the old town, particularly on the streets running parallel to Boulevard. Generally a pintxo will cost €2-3. At some bars the pintxos are all priced the same, at others the price depends on the pintxo. Pintxos (tapas) bars are thick in the Parte Vieja (Old Town), but there are masses of other places nearby in the Gros and Centro areas. Most bars charge by the toothpick or plate from €1-5.

The Jamon Iberico (usually seen hanging from the ceiling in whole leg portions) is ubiquitous, and equally good virtually everywhere. The calamari seems to be the same at every bar, don't order it again at a different pintxo bar if you didn't like it the first time.




The Kalimotxo (pronounced "calimotcho") is a local drink that is made with 50% wine (normally an inexpensive red wine) and 50% Coca-Cola. You will see a very large proportion of young people drink this near the harbour at playa La Concha and later on, in bars or clubs. It is definitely something to try out while you are there.

A purely Guipuzcoan experience, sidrerias dot the countryside and offer all you can drink sidra (a mildly alcoholic apple flavored cider) shooting straight from the barrel. Sidrerias usually offer a traditional set menu of cod omelette, cod with peppers, txuleta (really thick steak), and then for dessert: cheese, walnuts and membrillo (quince paste). The cider house season runs from the end of January to the end of May, but a couple of traditional sidrerias are open all year.




3Bears Aussie HostalCalle de Segundo Izpizua 5Guesthouse-
Adore PlazaConstitucion Square 6Hostel-
Balboas HostalC/ Urbieta 30, 2ºDGuesthouse-
Beti AnayakLegazpi, 8 - 1ºGuesthouse-
Casa BasqueElgoibar 10Guesthouse-
Enjoy San SebastianTreinta y Uno de Agosto 16, 1ºHostel-
EnjoyEU - Urban HouseLolo Urban House Boulevard 26 - 1º izqda.Hostel-
Ernie's HouseEscolta real nº 38 3ºBGuesthouse-
GurtxuSan juan nº11 - 2drechaGuesthouse-
Hospedaje Donosti@ B&BCalle San Marcial, 33 5AGuesthouse-
Hospedaje Ibaic/ 31 de Agosto 16-2Guesthouse-
Hospedaje Ibai 2Zabaleta Nª36, Principal drchaGuesthouse-
Hospedaje KatiC/Fermín Calbetón Nº21 - 5 °CGuesthouse-
Hostal TxindokiPaseo de la Fe Nº 12 -1Guesthouse-
Hotel IbiltzeAntxota 3-4Hotel-
Husa EuropaSan Martin 52Hotel-
Kaixo Backpackers HostelSan Juan 9, 2ºGuesthouse-
Lagunak B&BSan Lorenzo, 2 3º- Dcha.Guesthouse-
Lau BuruMiramar , 5 5º IzGuesthouse-
Lera31 de agosto 24 3 derechaGuesthouse-
Ocean ViewZurriola 22BIS 2º DGuesthouse-
Old City LucaFermin Calbeton nº11- 3ºDGuesthouse-
Olga's PlaceC/ Zabaleta 49 - 4º izqHostel-
Ongi EtorriSan Juan, 8, 3º-izdaGuesthouse-
Pensión AldamarAldamar 2-1ºGuesthouse-
Pension AmalurSan Martin 43 - 2iz 20003Guesthouse-
Pension AriesSan Jeronimo 22-2Guesthouse-
Pension Atxiki SurfZemoría, 9Guesthouse-
Pension AussieSan Jeronimo 23-2º floor,Guesthouse-
Pension BalerdiSan juan 1-2ºGuesthouse-
Pension EasoSan Bartolome 24/ 1ºGuesthouse-
Pension GarateSan Martín 54 - 1º DGuesthouse-
Pension GoikoCalle Puerto 6, 2bGuesthouse-
Pensión Gran Bahía 2Embeltrán 16 2 dcha.izda.Guesthouse-
Pension Gran Bahia BernardoEmbeltran, 16-1º dchaGuesthouse-
Pension JoakinaCamino street, 4-4. rightGuesthouse-
Pension Loinazc/san Lorenzo 17-2ºHostel-
Pension San JeronimoSan Jeronimo 25 - 2cGuesthouse-
Pensión San JuanC/San Juan 13, 3º IzdaGuesthouse-
Pension San TelmoSan Juan 13 1st floor San SebastianGuesthouse-
Residencia Manuel Agud QuerolPaseo de Berio, 3Hostel-
Roger's HouseJuan de Bilbao 13 3ºGuesthouse-
San FerminCalle Fermin Calbeton 23Guesthouse-
SM31 BackpackersSan Marcial 31 4DGuesthouse-
Students GuesthouseAv. de Navarra 46- 2Guesthouse-
Surf BackpackersNarrika, 23 - 2º dchaGuesthouse-
Surf Zurriola ApartmentCalle Zabaleta nº 53Guesthouse-
Umore Ona BiSan Jerónimo, 14 - 2ºGuesthouse-
UzturreBoulevard, 26 Entlo-izGuesthouse-




Keep Connected


Internet is widely available within Spain. Most airports have wifi-zones and in most towns there are internet cafés or shops where you can use internet for a fixed price. Wi-Fi points in bars and cafeterias are available after ordering, and most hotels offer Wi-Fi connection in common areas for their guests.


See also: International Telephone Calls

The international access code for Spain is +34. The emergency number for police, ambulance and the fire brigade is 112.

In cities you can find plenty of public phones, and 'locutorios'. The latter are small shops where you can use the phone and use internet. Most of them also sell prepaid cards for mobile telephones. These shops are used a lot by foreigners to call to their mother country.

The main mobile network operators in Spain are Yoigo, Vodafone, Movistar and Orange, as in most of Europe voice and data coverage is generally good in urban areas however it can be patchy in rural locations. Cheap mobile phones (less than €50) with some pre-paid minutes are sold at FNAC or any phone operator's shop (Vodafone, Movistar, Orange). Topping-up is then done by buying scratch cards from the small stores, supermarkets, vending points (often found in tobacco shops) or kiosks.


If you want to post a card, you can head to the post office (Correos). The Spanish post is not yet as efficient as colleagues in other countries so receiving a card can take a bit longer than the number of days that it should take. On the website of Correos, you can find the locations of nearby post offices.
Post offices are generally open from 8:30am to 2:00pm, although times will vary according to the size of the city/town and the main post offices might be open until the early evening. Most will also open again on Saturday mornings, but in the smaller towns will close as early as 12 noon. When posting a letter, look for a yellow box and, if possible, post at the post office itself where there will also be divisions for local, national and international mail. Be prepared for long queues at the post office. This is why tobacco shops sell stamps and many will also have the facility to weigh packages. Standard letters/postcards of up to 20 grams sent within Spain are €0.34. However, non-standard letters/postcards of up to 20g are €0.39. Letters/postcards of 20 to 50 grams are €0.45. In the case of international shipping, the price is €0.64 to most countries within Europe for standard envelopes (letters/postcards) up to 20g, for a few European countries and outside Europe it is €0.78. If you want to send a package you are probably better off with a private courier company like TNT, DHL or UPS, as they offer quick and reliable services against competitive prices.


Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 43.320725
  • Longitude: -1.984449


as well as dr.pepper (6%), Herr Bert (6%), sptourist (4%), Lavafalls (3%), Sander (1%)

San Sebastián Travel Helpers

We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for San Sebastián

This is version 22. Last edited at 19:43 on Nov 19, 19 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License