Embraced by lush green hillsides and golden sandy beaches on the Bay of Biscay in the hilly Basque Country, San Sebastián is a picturesque resort town that is known for its beautiful bayfront, quaint cobblestoned old town, and world-renowned restaurants. Also known as Donostia, the alluring seaside town boasts elegant art nouveau buildings, exquisitely manicured parks, and plazas, stunning beaches like Playa de Ondarreta and Playa de la Concha, and a charming old town (Parte Vieja) with colorful boutiques, award-winning restaurants and buzzing pintxos bars.
1.Museo de San Telmo
© Museo de San Telmo
The Museo de San Telmo is devoted to the cultural heritage of the Basque country and the largest museum documenting Basque history in the country. Nestled at the foot of the Urgull Hill in the heart of Parte Vieja (Old Town), the original section of the museum consists of a 16th-century Dominican convent, which boasts a fascinating mix of architectural styles from Gothic to Renaissance. The museum houses a collection of more than 26,000 historical artifacts that highlight Basque culture, which is presented in different departments, including archaeology, fine arts, ethnology, and history. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday and offers free admission on Tuesdays.
1 Plaza Zuloaga, Donostia, Euskadi, 20003, Spain, Phone: +349-43-48-15-80
Located at the end of La Concha Bay, Monte Igueldo is a 603-foot mountain standing sentry over San Sebastian that offers breathtaking panoramic views over the city, Concha Bay, and the Basque countryside from its summit. Travel to the top of the mountain on an antique 1912 funicular railway, which stops at the Parque de Atracciones, a vintage amusement park at the top of the hill that captures the essence of Belle Epoque. The park features quaint rides and the El Torreón tower, dating back to the 16th century and offering a historical exhibition and dazzling views across the bay from the top.
La Concha Bay, San Sebastián, Gipuzkoa, Spain
3.La Catedral del Buen Pastor (The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd)
© Lux Blue/stock.adobe.com
La Catedral del Buen Pastor (The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd) is a beautifully preserved church dating back to 1887 and is one of the most significant religious buildings in the Basque country. Built out of sandstone from the Monte Igueldo, the cathedral’s neo-Gothic design was influenced by the style of medieval French and German churches and houses one of the largest organs in Europe with over 10,000 whistles. Today, the church is home to the diocese of San Sebastian and boasts beautiful stained-glass windows designed by Juan Bautista Lázaro and a magnificent 250-foot-high tower that stands as an essential landmark of the city.
Urdaneta Kalea, 12, 20006 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain, Phone: +349-43-46-45-16
4.Playa de la Concha
Playa de la Concha or La Concha Beach is a beautiful white sandy crescent-shaped beach that fringes the Bay of La Concha. Hailed as one of the best beaches in Europe, Playa de la Concha, also known as ‘cone shell beach,’ is lined with a promenade and elegant 19th-century seaside resorts with a vibrant, buzzing atmosphere in the summer, drawing a mixed crowd of locals and visitors alike. Declared ‘the summer capital of Europe’ by Queen Regent Maria Cristina, the stunning beach offers safe swimming and is full of bronzed bodies in the warmer months.
San Sebastián, Gipuzkoa, Spain
5.Palacio Miramar (Miramar Palace)
© AK Media/stock.adobe.com
Palacio Miramar (Miramar Palace) is a stately castle that was built in 1893 to serve as a summer vacation residence for the Royal Family. Designed by British architect Seldon Wornum in an English Cottage style, the Tudor palace is surrounded by exquisitely manicured gardens that boast breathtaking panoramic views of the sea and lead down to an elegant seafront promenade along the Bahía de la Concha. The palace has three floors, two of which were for the Royal family and the third for the servants. Today, the castle hosts university courses and is open for the public to explore.
48 Paseo Miraconcha, 20007 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain, Phone: +349-43-21-90-22
Standing sentry over San Sebastián, Urgull Mountain is home to some of the most significant historical heritages of the city. Castillo de la Mota was built in the 12th century as a strategic point, the ruins of which are still visible today and home to the History House Museum, which offers an insight into San Sebastian’s rich history. A grand 40-foot high statue of Christ (Cristo de la Mota) was sculptured by Frederico Coullaut in 1950 and looks out over the city, and the landmarks can be reached by a pathway from Plaza de Zuloaga. The shady parkland on the way up the mountain offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the city below.
San Sebastián, Gipuzkoa, Spain
© Ekaterina Pokrovsky/stock.adobe.com
World-renowned for its outstanding cuisine, San Sebastián is a leader on the culinary scene and home to an array of award-winning restaurants and buzzing pintxos bars serving traditional Basque dishes and wines. One of the best ways to experience the delectable cuisine of the Basque region is to do a Pintxos Tour, which visits some of the best tapas bars in the city and provide insight into the city’s history and culinary evolution. Stroll through the Old Town and the Gros district, popping into tucked-away little places that serve an array of mouthwatering tapas and local drinks like kalimotxo (red wine and cola) and glasses of beer called zuritos or cañas.
Old Town and the Gros District, Gipuzkoa, Spain, Phone: +346-76-87-67-04
8.Isla de Santa Clara (Santa Clara Island)
Set in the middle of Concha Bay, Isla de Santa Clara (Santa Clara Island) is a tiny island with a beautiful beach, a charming white lighthouse cottage, and a chiringuito bar with a terrace. Once used as a 'quarantine zone' for people suffering from the plague in the late 16th century, today, no trace of this horrific history remains, and the island has been declared a Historical National Interest Site. The little 30-meter-wide island is nestled between Monte Igueldo and Urgull Mountain and offers a secluded and tranquil escape from the crowds in the busy summer months. During the season between June and August, the island can be reached via ferry and has a lifeguard on duty for safe swimming.
Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
9.La Parte Vieja (Old Town)
© Ekaterina Pokrovsky/stock.adobe.com
Ancient tradition and contemporary style seamlessly blend in San Sebastián’s Parte Vieja (Old Town), which boasts cobblestone streets and the enticing aromas of pintxos emanating from buzzing bars on every corner. Located between the port and the Urumea River, the Old Quarter is home to beautifully preserved historic buildings, elegant boutiques, and a plethora of vibrant pintxo bars that serve sharing plates of tapas, zuritos or cañas, and kalimotxo. One of the most significant cultural regions of the country, the Parte Vieja, is also home to the impressive Santa Maria and San Vincente Churches, and visitors can wander through the scenic Spanish streets, soak up the area’s history and savor regional specialties on guided tours.
La Parte Vieja (Old Town), San Sebastián, Gipuzkoa, Spain
, Michigan beaches
© La Madame
La Madame is a unique dining concept that combines an elegant restaurant, a café, and a cocktail bar offering traditional Basque cuisine and handcrafted cocktails in a stylish space. The restaurant features a sophisticated, yet relaxed dining room with interesting details such as a mural painted by a famous Basque graffiti artist, Igor Rezola. A creative menu offers an original take on the Basque cuisine such as Iberico Pork Blade Steak, Tostadas, Rock Shrimp Tempura and Lobster Roll, along with an innovative cocktail program, fine wines from Spain and around the world, and locally-brewed beer from the Basqueland Brewing Project, which was released last month. Monday nights offer a specially themed menu, and the restaurant is open for dinner every night except Tuesday and lunch on the weekends.
San Bartolome Kalea, 35, 20007 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain, Phone: +349-43-44-42-69
Located close to the city’s main square, Bideluze is a charming and relaxed restaurant with a laid-back ambiance that serves an excellent range of breakfast tapas, fantastic Spanish coffees, and a variety of libations from the full-service bar. The restaurant serves comfort food like breakfast plates of scrambled eggs, Iberico ham, and grilled goat’s cheese, as well as gourmet sandwiches, burgers, sliders, fresh seafood, and freshly baked pastries, cakes and other desserts. A full-service bar offers a variety of libations from globally-inspired wines from around the world, craft and draft beers, creative cocktails made with high-end spirits, coffee, and Spanish hot chocolate. Bideluze is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, daily, and Sunday brunch.
Gipuzkoa Plaza, 14, 20004 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain, Phone: +349-43-42-28-80
Located within walking distance of the Almeda del Boulevard, Pasteleria Oiartzun is an enchanting bakery that is renowned for its decadent pastries, custom-made cakes, and cupcakes, homemade ice cream, fresh bread, and handcrafted desserts. Opened in 1972, the family-owned and operated bakery features a comfortable indoor space rich with mouthwatering aromas of baking bread, and a charming outdoor terrace overlooking the Boulevard where visitors can sip single-origin craft coffee and savor delicious sweet treats while watching the world go by. Pasteleria Oiartzun is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, daily.
Ijentea Kalea, 2, BAJO, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain, Phone: +349-43-42-62-09
13.Kata4 Oyster Bar
© Kata4 Oyster Bar
KATA4 Oyster Bar is a stylish and sophisticated bar that combines the old and the new offering traditional Basque cuisine and contemporary dishes of Mediterranean fare. Boasting bare stone walls, colorful tilework, a large bar, and dimmed lights, the trendy dining spot has both indoor and outdoor seating and offers a wide variety of delectable cuisine from fresh seafood, including oysters on the half-shell, fresh salads, chicken and beef entrées, several vegetarian options and mouthwatering desserts. A full-service bar offers a variety of libations from globally-inspired wines from around the world, craft and draft beers, and creative cocktails made with high-end spirits. KATA4 Oyster Bar is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Monday through Saturday.
Santa Catalina Plazatxoa, 4, 20004 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain, Phone: +349-43-42-32-43
© Kafe Botanika
Kafe Botanika is a cozy, charming little vegetarian café with a hip, eclectic style that serves healthy, plant-based cuisine in a beautiful setting. Located on the Urumea River, Kafe Botanika is famous for its gorgeous garden, which filled with lush Mediterranean plants, trees, ferns, and flowering blooms, where guests can sit and while the day away over fantastic coffee, craft beers, and handcrafted cocktails. While the café calls itself a vegetarian eatery, there are meat options on the menu, which features fresh salads, risotto dishes, fresh fish, pasta plates, and more. Kafe Botanika is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, daily.
Gernikako Arbola Pasealekua, 8, 20006 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain, Phone: +349-43-44-34-75
15.Churreria Santa Lucia
Churrería Santa Lucia is renowned for serving the best churros in San Sebastián. Established over 60 years ago, the charming bakery boasts an inviting vintage-style interior into which visitors are drawn by the enticing aroma of freshly baked churros. In addition to offering the best churros con chocolate in town, the bakery and café also serves a selection of breakfast dishes such as toasts, omelets, and scrambled eggs with bacon along with a variety of coffee and specialty coffee drinks, tea and fresh fruit juices. The café uses only the highest quality, fresh, and locally sourced ingredients and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, daily.
Portu Kalea, 6, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain, Phone: +349-43-42-50-19
15 Best Things to Do in San Sebastián, Spain
- Museo de San Telmo, Photo: Museo de San Telmo
- Monte Igueldo, Photo: Josemad/stock.adobe.com
- La Catedral del Buen Pastor (The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd), Photo: Lux Blue/stock.adobe.com
- Playa de la Concha, Photo: nomadkate/stock.adobe.com
- Palacio Miramar (Miramar Palace), Photo: AK Media/stock.adobe.com
- Monte Urgull, Photo: mikeosphoto/stock.adobe.com
- Pintxos Tour, Photo: Ekaterina Pokrovsky/stock.adobe.com
- Isla de Santa Clara (Santa Clara Island), Photo: PhotoFires/stock.adobe.com
- La Parte Vieja (Old Town), Photo: Ekaterina Pokrovsky/stock.adobe.com
- La Madame, Photo: La Madame
- Bideluze, Photo: Stock.adobe.com
- Pasteleria Oiartzun, Photo: Laiotz/stock.adobe.com
- Kata4 Oyster Bar, Photo: Kata4 Oyster Bar
- Kafe Botanika, Photo: Kafe Botanika
- Churreria Santa Lucia, Photo: beats_/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Horváth Botond/stock.adobe.com