Things to Do in San Sebastian: A Quick Guide
Our pick of what to do amid the glitz and romance of this coastal hub
Known for its film festival and glitzy resorts, San Sebastian is like a slice of Cannes in the north-eastern corner of Spain. You’ll bask in the Basque culture, picking up local traditions like souvenirs to show off to your friends back home. Either that, or you’ll spend the whole time sulking about how you don’t get to show off your school Spanish (hint: you actually can, as most people do speak it here - so you will be tested). So, after the film festival and the beaches, what is there left to do in this glamorous hub full of movers and shakers? There are the quaint cobbled lanes that criss-cross through the old-town, which has a mix of rustic edifices and museums. Stop in at some of the phenomenal restaurants to appreciate the Basque cuisine, then relax back at one of our luxury homes in the Bay of Biscay. Look no further than this list for things to do in San Sebastian, because here at Plum Guide, we've undertaken extensive research to ensure that this guide leaves no stone unturned, guaranteeing you a trip to remember.
Work up a tan on the beaches
In the heart of the town, you’ve got La Concha Beach, a sandy bay with views of the town’s beautiful cliffs and boats. Straddling this main sandy strand is the Kontxa Pasealekua boardwalk, a great spot for walking. It joins the bay to the Ondaretta Beach, which has garnered a reputation as the city’s primary family beach (so no more embarrassment if your kids are up to no good - it’s a whole strand of little cretins). Just watch out for the tide, as it tends to swallow up these beaches when you’re not looking.
Visit the impressive Miramar Palace
Between the two beaches stands Miramar Palace, providing excellent views of the water. Admire the enchanting tower that rises from its side, and inspect the intricate timber frames and gabled roofs as you lie back on the grassy hill out front. It dates back to 1893, when it was a summer residence of the Spanish Royal Family, so you know this is a special place.
Take a trip to Santa Clara Island
As you ambled along the promenade and visited the palace, you may have noticed an enticing landmass just off the coast. Take a boat out to the island - which is only open in summer, such is its exclusivity - and relax on the secluded cove. Swim around in La Concha Bay by the islet, which makes for an idyllic afternoon trip for those wanting to get off the mainland (while still being able to see it very clearly). Go for a stroll around the circumference of the island and enjoy the utter serenity. Consider setting up a life here with nothing but a volleyball for a friend. (Or head back to stay at one of our homes and look for other things to do in San Sebastian).
Climb a mountain and tour a castle
You don’t even have to venture far, as the Monte Urgull rises from the centre of the old town district of San Sebastian. Jutting out into the sea a little, the mountainous topography hoists up the impressive Mota Castle, which dates back to the 12th century. Enter the castle for its History House Museum, where you can learn all about the history of San Sebastian (this is also an excuse to catch your breath after the hike). Stroll around the New Promenade, appreciating the spectacular views as you go.
Get stuck into traditional cuisine
We couldn’t do an entire post on things to do in San Sebastian without getting into the flavour of things. The city is known for its wonderful cuisine, with such fine-dining establishments as Arzak, Misura and the Bodegon Alejandro standing out among the finest. To get to the heart of the local gastronomic culture, embark on a pintxos tour, where you’ll find the best in Basque-style tapas and wine.
Go sightseeing around the cathedral
Rummage down the cobbled lanes of the city centre and stop for coffee on a terrace of one of the charming cafés. Admire the impressive gothic tower of the San Sebastian Cathedral, which dates back to the late 1800s and has a neo-gothic design. Head north for a district packed with restaurants, where you’ll also find the San Telmo Museum and the Trinitate Plaza.