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Exploring Spain’s Spectacular San Sebastian

Things to do in San Sebastian updated 03.01.2018

As most travelers know, no matter how much you travel or how much you see the world, there are certain places that really and truly capture your heart. For me, that place is Spain’s San Sebastian. Located in the gorgeous Basque region, this little beach town is straight out of a movie, one that you could see over and over and still not grow tired of. Thankfully, this little gem is relatively small, easy to explore, and full of active travel options. Today, our guest contributor, Frankie Spontelli from Meet You There, is here to tell us about things to do in San Sebastian.

Of course, we all know that Madrid and Barcelona are two of Spain’s most popular hot spots. However, it’s time to add a new destination to the all-too-common Spanish itinerary: San Sebastian in the Basque Country. Located on Spain’s northern coastline, the town boasts impressive beaches, a thriving gastronomic culture and breathtaking Spanish architecture.

Rocks edge the blue water of a San Sebastian, Spain, beach scene.

San Sebastian’s famed La Concha beach is a must-see for any beach lover.

Playa de la Concha is one of the most picturesque beaches I have ever visited in Europe, filled with surfers and enjoyed by families walking their four legged friends. This beach is a great place for a stroll after an evening of tasting the areas finest pintxos bars. Another popular beach in San Sebastian is Ondarreta which stretches over a third of a mile and is an excellent place to soak up the warm Spanish sun, toss a frisbee or watch the local surfers catching a wave or two.

Planning a trip to this lovely part of Spain? Start your search for hotels in San Sebastian with us!

A man walks along the promenade at the beach in San Sebastian, Spain

Ondarreta Beach is just as breath-taking as its neighbor, La Concha

Food is part of the adventure on a visit to San Sebastian

There are countless reasons why San Sebastian should be a part of your next European adventure. For one, the food is outstanding. Known world wide as tapas but locally called “pintxos”, these savory Spanish appetizers sold at virtually every restaurant and café in town provide you good reason to explore different places each night.

Pintxos and wine in a San Sebastian bar.

San Sebastian is known as a very serious culinary town so be sure to try everything you can!

Many of these venues offer nightly dinner specials: enjoy an evening out on a Wednesday (a lively time for locals) to be rewarded with a pintxos and a small beer for €2 (about $2.45). Some of my favorite pintxos bars in San Sebastian are: Bar Sport, A Fuego Negro, Zeruko, Borda Berri and Atari. And my favorite small bites include Spanish meatballs, fried prawn, jamón ibérico (Spanish ham on ciabatta), seared foie gras and Spanish frittata (egg and potatoes).

If you’re after the best mussels in San Sebastian, La Mejillonera, famous for it’s seafood, is the place to visit. La Mejillonera’s freshly caught seafood from the ocean regions surrounding San Sebastian will remind you how amazing shellfish can taste. Find yourself a cozy spot near the mussel bar and prepare your tastebuds for a divine flavor experience.

Spanish cheesecake sits on a table in San Sebastian, Spain.

La Viña cheesecake is simply devine.

Stomach full from eating at all the different tapas bars? Enjoy a scenic evening stroll or a peaceful sunset on a San Sebastian coastal walk to the beaches of Ordarreta or Playa de la Concha. After walking off dinner, be sure to make room for Spain’s famous cheesecake, delightfully paired with a glass of red wine at La Viña. I’ve sampled desserts from all over the world, but, this is, without a doubt, one of the most impressive cheesecakes ever. At first glance, the top appeared burnt but, trust me, the flavors were out of this world. Do not skip the desserts at La Viña—their cheesecake will have you coming back another night!

Are you inspired to plan a Spanish adventure? Check out our Spain Travel Planner to get started!

Admire the architecture on your trip to San Sebastian

What else is there to see in San Sebastian? Architecture, for starters. San Sebastian offers outstanding and iconic architecture that will take an entire day, or two, to explore and photograph. Walking the streets of Parte Vieja (Old Town), you will stroll past the Pescadería which held the fish market during San Sebastian’s earlier days.

It is nearly impossible to miss the Basilica de Santa Maria del Coro, the Spanish architecture and beautiful design of this church will captivate even the most seasoned travelers. Another piece of historic architecture in San Sebastian is the cathedral del Buen Pastor (the cathedral of the good shepherd). Visitors to this cathedral will be pleasantly surprised with its immense interior and towering stain-glass windows designed in the late 1800s by Juan Bautista Lázaro.

Looking at the city view from Monte Urgull in San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian views from Monte Urgull

If you are searching for an exciting European hike with an impressive view of the landscape, head up one of the San Sebastian hiking trails. The cobblestone road to climb Monte Urgull offers a rewarding vista. Ready your camera for spectacular 360-degree panoramic views of both shores of Playa de la Concha, Ondarreta and the beautiful blue bays of San Sebastian. An ideal spot for a picnic, enjoy a packed lunch as you take in the amazing lookout that Monte Urgull has to offer. If you’re interested in exploring more, there’s also a museum located atop Monte Urgull which highlights the history of San Sebastian and the surrounding area.

As you can see, a visit to San Sebastian in Spain’s Basque Country is diverse in flavors, rich in historic architecture, and boasts fascinating beaches and picturesque coastlines—be sure to include this destination on your list of places to visit in Spain.

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Text on photos: Things to do in San Sebastian, Spain. Photo: Rocks, beach, buildings and hill overlooking the ocean.
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