Is San Sebastian worth visiting?

Is San Sebastian worth visiting

I recently spent a week in the Basque Country and wanted to find out ‘Is San Sebastian worth visiting?’ If you’ve already been, you will know that this almost sounds like a stupid question! That’s because San Sebastian is well known as a world class destination. It has beautiful old town architecture, an outstanding gastronomical scene and one of the best Urban beaches in the world. I had an amazing time in San Sebastian and would totally go back for more. Maybe a year or more haha!

But which San Sebastian are we talking about here?!

Let me be clear here – we are talking about Donostia San-Sebastian in the North of Spain. This distinguishes it from the two other Spanish San Sebastians (La Gomera and Madrid) and the other San Sebastians around the world (including Puerta Rico!).

Town Hall San Sebastian
Town Hall San Sebastian

How to get to San Sebastian

Donostia-San Sebastian is easy to get to as it is served by an airport and extensive bus links. Donostia-San Sebastian airport is relatively small and local, and so many people fly into Madrid or Bilbao as an alternative. Bilabo is served by many of the low cost European airlines such as Easyjet. It is easy to travel to San Sebastian by bus from the main cities using Flixbus and also from nearby coastal towns such as Santander (with Alsa) and Bilbao with Book online in advance if you can.

Is San Sebastian Worth visiting?

San Sebastian is absolutely worth visiting. It was honestly one of the most surprisingly beautiful Urban destinations I have ever seen! San Sebastian has a gorgeous beach (La Concha) and a stunning old town with some gorgeous Churches and museums to visit (you know that I love a good Church!) It also has a great surf beach and surrounding mountains and islands all waiting to be explored. One of the things that San Sebastian is most famous for, though, is the culinary delights including pintxos and cod fish (Basque Cod a Pil Pil). There is a total of 19 michelin style restaurants and San Sebastian features in an episode of Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain.

So, what did I get up to in San Sebastian? I attended a TBEX conference at the Kursaal centre, watched a game of Jai Alai, caught cider from a barrel, visited some amazing Churches and stuffed myself silly with pintxos. I was lucky enough to have some of the best guides and advisors including Aitor Delgado, Eloisa Patat and Ainhoa Álvarez. If you need recommendations for any of these guides, drop me a message on Instagram.

San Sebastian Harbour

What is the best time of year to visit San Sebastian?

The best time of year to visit San Sebastian is from May through to September when the weather is mild to pleasant. In the height of the summer (June, July and August) the weather will be good enough for several beach days.

Pros of San Sebastian

There are oh so many pros to visiting San Sebastian I don’t know where to start! Expect gorgeous Churches, amazing beaches and food that’s to die for!

Beautiful Churches

I was thrilled to discover some amazing Churches in San Sebastian, as it’s mainly promoted based on food. But there are several Gothic and Romanesque Churches that are well worth a visit. Don’t miss…

  • Basílica de Santa Maria del Coro
  • Buen Pastor Cathedral
  • Iglesia de San Vicente
  • San Telmo Museoa (Church and Convent)
Basílica de Santa Maria del Coro Donostia San Sebastian
Basílica de Santa Maria del Coro -Donostia-San Sebastian

Amazing Architecture

As well as the gorgeous Church architecture, there are several other notable buildings in San Sebastian. It used to be nicknamed ‘Little Paris’ because there were so many French influences. Make sure that you check out De Oquendo Plaza (Hotel Cristina and the Victoria Eugenia theatre) and Gipuzkoa Plaza (Diputación Foral de Guipúzcoa – the provincial council).

Gipuzkoa Plaza San Sebastian
Gipuzkoa Plaza – San Sebastian

You can also head over to the other side of town to visit Miramar Palace (built in 1893).

Four Fantastic Bridges

San Sebastian has four fantastic bridges that will help you to cross the river Urumea. SOme of the most beautiful are the Zurriola Bridge and the Maria Cristina Bridge.

Maria Cristina Bridge San Sebastian Spain
Maria Cristina Bridge San Sebastian Spain

San Sebastian has Amazing Beaches

There are some great beaches in San Sebastian and so if you go in the summer it makes for a great urban-beach combination holiday. Most people love to visit and relax on La Concha which is a great place to swim as it’s a bay. There is a sand artist who is on the beach daily creating gorgeous sand art.

If you want to watch the surfers or even go surfing yourself then the place to be is Zurriola beach on the other side of the river next to the Kursaal centre in the Gros neighbourhood. You will need to wear a wetsuit for safety and also prolonged exposure to the cold water. Lessons are available with many of the surf schools along the front.

2 days in San Sebastian
La Concha beach San Sebastian

Great for adventure sports

I’ve already mentioned how popular San Sebastian is with surfers – kids in San Sebastian even have surf lessons with their schools! But, did you know that there are many other popular sports in San Sebastian including hiking, sailing and cycling? There is a nice and easy hike up to Mount Urgull to see the castle and get a great view of San Sebastian – this takes about one hour. There is even zip lining in Mount Igueldo and scuba diving in the aquaruim!

If you can spare a few extra days in San Sebastian you might like to look at exploring some of the surrounding areas and keeping fit.

Amazing food scene

San Sebastian is a foodie heaven – make sure that you book yourself onto a food tour. I ate some amazing new foods that I had never tried before including squid pintxos and bacalau pil pil. The best pintxo bars are the ones in the old town – the streets that come off from the Basilica. I highly recommend Atari Gastroleku, xepetxa Taberna, Bar Martinez and Gandarias. The duck pintxos and jamon croquetas in Gandarias are gorgeous!

Cool Street Art

I found some really cool street art in San Sebastian, particularly when walking up to my Air BnB in Intxaurrondo. Check out this amazing frog….

San Sebastian Street Art

Accessible and disabled friendly

A final point to make about San Sebastian is that it is extremely accessible and disabled friendly. The whole city centre is on flat ground with linear streets and dips in the curbs for wheelchairs. There are even certain specifications for buildings in the city regarding ramps and wide doorways. If you have a medical condition or disability, you will find San Sebastian a very accessible place either to travel to or to live. This could be why so many retirees choose San Sebastian over other Spanish cities to spend their golden years.

San Sebastian is a Green city

In addition to being accessible, San Sebastian is a very green city. There are many bike routes around town encouraging people to cycle. You will also see numerous recycling bins around town. Glorious food, beaches, architecture AND eco-friendly and accessible? It doesn’t get much better than this!

Cons of San Sebastian

I had to think long and hard about the cons of San Sebastian. At first, I thought, there genuinely aren’t any! But after much contemplation I came across two main downsides to this fabulous city – the changeable weather and cost of living.

Is San Sebastian is expensive?

Is San Sebastian expensive? Relatively, yes! San Sebastian is rather pricey compared some of the other Spanish towns. Accommodation and hotels are expensive here and food is not as cheap as some other Northern destinations. Yet, the city is still worth it despite the slightly higher costs.

Changeable weather

As it is in the North of Spain and has a climate dependent on the sea, you will find the weather very changeable in San Sebastian. It’s a good idea to have a rain jacket and an umbrella to hand just in case.

Overall View – Is San Sebastian worth Visiting?

I hope that I have made it clear that San Sebastian is totally worth a visit. I absolutely love this city and feel that it has something to offer for everyone. Whether you are into sports, gastronomy or architecture and history, San Sebastian will certainly be worth it for you. Hell, it’s even worth coming here just for a few days on La Concha beach. I hope that you will choose to visit very soon!

Further Reading on travel in Spain

If you enjoyed my blog on ‘Is San Sebastian worth visiting?’ then you might also be interested to read the following articles on travel in Spain…