San Sebastian is an excellent destination to spend a few days in; with delicious food, marvellous beaches and that laid-back culture Spain is famous for. With the surfing culture and relaxed mindset, there is even an old air raid siren at midday to signal stop working. Enjoy some lunch and have a siesta before shops reopen and work resumes around 3pm.
Where to Stay
I stayed in a small AirBnB apartment only a couple of minutes from the beach for $46AUD a night. If traveling with one or more companions, small apartments might be your best bet with regard to comfort and affordability. However, there are also many hostels around town. One thing to be aware of is price inflations around the peak summer months. If you you’re looking for affordable prices yet still pleasant weather, aim for the late spring and early autumn periods.
What to Do
- Monte Urgull has expansive panoramas overlooking the town, bay and coastline from the low castle walls built on the peak of the hill. Allow an hour or two to fully enjoy the views, exploring this sight is also free.
- Relax and read a book, bask in the sun or swim along one of San Sebastian’s sheltered beaches (such as La Concha or Ondarreta beach). These are the centrepiece of San Sebastian and perfect for leisure activities.
- Rent a board from a small rental shop along Zurriola Beach. This beach is less sheltered and hence why there are often waves to test your board riding skills.
- Monte Igueldo is another excellent lookout over San Sebastian. There is a small theme park and Funicular/tram that takes you to the top. These do cost a few euros so if you’re looking for a free alternative visit Monte Urgull instead.
- During the evening time or after your pintxos feast (see Where to Eat), local culture is to go for a walk (dar un paseo) along the main promenade running next to the beach. At the end of the promenade opposite to the old town there is a free art installation called Combs of the Winds. These are large iron sculptures where waves often crash over. This pleasant 30-minute walk is a great way to enjoy the evening ambience.
Where to Eat
- San Sebastian is famous for its small tapas called pintxos. This is for a good reason because they are delicious! There are many small pintxos bars all around the old town and my favourite was Bar Sport. Pintxos cost only a couple of euros and they are rich and dense, so three or four is usually enough to fill you up.
- The house wine is also often cheap (€1-2) and perfectly accompanies your eating adventure.
- Most waiters and waitresses do speak some English, however knowing the basic please (por favour) and thank you (gracias) in Spanish go a long way.
Nightlife in San Sebastian is based around informal wining and dining. Local dinnertime here occurs much later, around 9pm and is almost always accompanied with a glass of wine or beer. Hopping from one eatery to the next to sample different pinxtos each bar specialises in is a common practice. While there are seldom any nightclubs running early into the morning, dinner and evening drinks regularly continue until midnight.
San Sebastian is well connected with Spanish bus and train networks. However when catching trains from France they often stop in the neighbouring border town of Irun/Hendaye. On arrival here simply walk out of the main high-speed train station and find the local train platform. If you’re struggling to find the separate platform simply ask one of the locals and they will point you in the right direction.
As for getting around San Sebastian itself, most attractions are within easy walking distance and there are bike lanes if you wish to cycle. If you catch taxis you must either head to a taxi rank or call to be picked up. It’s forbidden for taxi drivers to pick up customers who are not at taxi stops or have not booked by phone.