Hello most gorgeous city and beaches I’ve ever visited! San Sebastian was a DREAM come true! I’ll be going back very soon because I can’t get enough of the city and I totally get why so many Europeans go there for holiday!
San Sebastian boasts everything you’d ever want in a destination spot – shopping, an exceptional culinary scene, PINTXOS, WINE (it’s so close to Rioja and Bourdeaux), craft beer, incredibly clear and blue water, beaches with powdery sand, a walking city, coffee….the list goes on! Did you know San Sebastian has the second highest density of Michelin restaurants in the world? It’s right behind Kyoto! Make your reservations at one or more of the Michelin star restaurants stat!
We stayed in San Sebastian 5 nights and I could easily have extended our stay for longer. It’s by far my favorite city I’ve visited and definitely at the top of my list of beaches. I know you’ll love it as much as we did. I’ve highlighted below many of the restaurants, bars, sights we visited and would love for you to add to the list by commenting below. It’ll come in handy when we visit San Sebastian again very soon.
We hopped on a high-speed train from Barcelona to make our way through the countryside to San Sebastian. The train was super clean, very comfortable, had a separate section to order food and drinks, and was pretty fast. The total trip was 5 hours (the train stops a few minutes at some major stations but it’s faster than the indirect train that could take up to 9 hours of travel time).
Once you’ve arrived, you really don’t need to rent a car. Honestly, San Sebastian is a walking city and we easily walked between the 3 districts to see all three beaches and it was easy peasy. If you want to visit Bilboa or Rioja, then yes, rent a car for that. We caught a taxi from town to go to the airport (EAS) and it was a 20-min ride. Really not all that far.
Where to Eat and Drink
Be prepared to eat all the pintxos. Think of these as beautifully presented, single serving bites of literally everything you can imagine. Check out the map above and click on Gandarias and Bar Martinez for visual examples of what you’re in store for! These pintxos pair perfectly with your beverage of choice. I went in to every pintxo bar and ordered a glass of white wine. I just said “copa de vino blanco por favor” and every single glass of wine was outstanding! The pours you’ll enjoy at the pintxo bar is smaller than usual because you’re going to go pintxo bar hopping and drink tons so take it easy! I’ll highlight some of the places we dined at below but click on the Vessel map up above for a full listing with videos and pictures!
If you wake up early enough to need something to kick start your day, Amelie Coffee was right up the street from our hotel and we loved their donuts, croissants and smoothies! I was craving a smoothie so hard core by the time we got to San Sebastian, and Amelie had a few options that were satisfying and not loaded with sugar!
There are way too many pintxo bars to try and you’ll fill up quickly while eating all the noms during lunch. Head on down to Old Town and 31 de Agosto Kalea and just pintxo hop. I’d suggest getting there early (around 11:30 but definitely before 1pm) if you don’t want to fight the crowds. From 1-2:30 the spots are pretty crowded before everyone heads home for a quick siesta.
Some of our favorites were: Gandarias, A Fuego Negro, Taberna Dakara Bi, and Bar Sport.
You may be surprised to know that San Sebastian has some incredible craft beer and quite the beer scene! My husband enjoys craft beer as much or more than I enjoy wine so I scoped out some beer spots before we went.
Much to our surprise and amazement, we found a few highly coveted beers in San Sebastian at Mala Gissona Beer House – hello Cantillon! They also had a super tasty cheeseburger!
Also, thanks to my friend Kelsey @somuchlifeblog, we stopped in Kanabikana Craft Beer Shop TWICE! Grab a bottle or two to go or do what we did and enjoy a few onsite while chatting with the owner!
We frequented Gross Taberna quite a few times – they’re a local brewery and beer pub with a cool vibe and incredible beers on tap. The bartenders there were fun to talk to and very knowledgeable of the craft beer scene!
Other bars we visited that I’d recommend: Garua (they have food too but we went after dinner!), Etxekalte (we went late night and had gin & tonics and went the next morning for cortados), Akerbeltz (they’ve got incredible sours). Remember to click the Vessel map above for the full visual experience!
Please eat churros con chocolat when you’re there! I repeat, eat churros! I stopped in to Heladeria Arnoldo and had the most amazing churros con chocolat. I even added the remaining chocolate to my cortado because why not! They’ve got so many different gelato flavors too and come on, GELATO TASTES BETTER IN EUROPE!
Visiting Barcelona while you’re in Spain? I’ve got a Travel Guide just for you -> Barcelona Travel Guide
The first night we got into town, we were starving and it was super late and we didn’t know our way around Old Town, so we stopped in to Cai Kebab for a doner plate and it really hit the spot.
Remember that San Sebastian has quite the culinary scene and the second highest density of Michelin restaurants? Well, we had to experience at least one while in San Sebastian, and we were very close to Galerna Jan Edan Jatetxea and decided to stop in (without a reservation). They seated us right away and we had an opportunity to go with a tasting menu or order a la carte. We chose a la carte and were really impressed!
One night we had a few unique pintxos from A Fuego Negro and that was enough for us. Don’t pass up their MacKobe with Txips and the Canned Tuna.
Our fourth night, we needed some major sustenance after hiking to the top of the Castillo de la Mota. Try to go earlier in the day rather than risking getting locked in at sunset (we did and we had to climb out of a gate by prying a couple of wires open 🙁 lol). Anyway, we needed FOOD and decided to check out Casa Senra for an incredible a la plancha steak. It came out sizzling! It was melt-in-your-mouth delish!
Our last night in San Sebastian, we decided to try out Sirimiri which came highly recommended by many friends who had visited previously. We didn’t have a reservation but luckily came in and there was a spot available for an hour (a reservation was coming in at 9:30). We had such a great experience and the service was incredible. The vibes in Sirimiri were hopping and you could feel the energy from everyone there. It was an overall wonderful experience!
Their ceviche was amazing! Not only was it beautifully plated, but I loved the citrus in this dish so much!
What to See
San Sebastian has 3 beaches – each in a different district of San Sebastian – mind you San Sebastian isn’t huge and you can walk from one district to another pretty easily and fast, so don’t think you’re never going to get from one end to the other. Playa la Concha is the most popular beach and is the one closest to Old Town. Ondaretta beach is stunning and is closer to the residential part of town. Zurriola Hondartza was definitely a destination for surfers!
Hike to the top of the Monte Urgull where you’ll be greeted by the Castillo de la Mota. What a sight! I don’t want to tell you much other than plan your hike up there when you have time to enjoy and get back down before 9PM. I’d say the perfect time to go there would be for sunset so start around 6:30 or 7PM. Click on the map above for views from the summit.
If you love wine as much as I do, then a day trip to Rioja should be on your schedule. We didn’t end up doing it, but I will be back very soon and you betcha I’ll drive up to Rioja!
Can’t Wait to Visit Again
I want to go when it’s a bit warmer to truly enjoy the water and the sun! I bet you the wine drinking and vineyards nearby are thriving later in the summer when the grapes are harvested as well. Anyhow, hope you find this travel guide helpful! Please leave comments below with new spots I should add to my list when I return very soon!
Until then, Bon Voyage,