San Sebastian Travel Guide

San Sebastian is a stylish city located on the Basque coast of northern Spain just 20km from the French border. It has long been an attractive resort for the wealthy who escape the overpowering heat of the interior during the summer months and as a result property prices in San Sebastian remain amongst the highest in the country.

San Sebastian Beaches

The city spreads around the famous La Concha beach which is packed in July and August with a huge number of visitors. The other beaches of Playa de Ondarreta to the west and Playa de la Zurriola to the east are also popular and attract a lot of surfers looking to ride the Atlantic waves. Inland are the beautiful green mountain landscapes of Guipúzcoa of which San Sebastian is the provincial capital. The city is a great base from which to discover the whole of País Vasco (the Basque Country).

Eating & Drinking in San Sebastian

You’ll find more Michelin star restaurants in San Sebastian than in any other city in Spain. You can also sample some excellent tapas in the many bars of the old quarter (La Parte Vieja) where you simply take a plate from the barman and select whatever you fancy from the vast selection of freshly prepared dishes which are laid out on the bar. If you fancy a drink with the locals just wander around the tiny streets of the old quarter and you’ll find the biggest concentration of bars in the whole country.

San Sebastian Accommodation

As a resort San Sebastian has been particularly fashionable since 1912 when the Queen opened a grand hotel here in her name. Today the Hotel Maria Cristina is a member of the leading hotels of the world group. There is a small selection of other fine hotels here but not sufficient to cater for the summer influx of visitors so be sure to make advance reservations. There’s a good selection of hostels in San Sebastian scattered around the old quarter which are ideal for the budget traveller.

Festivals in San Sebastian

There are some important festivals in San Sebastian during the summer months such as the annual International Jazz Festival which takes place in mid-July. The biggest annual event is Aste Nagusia which is a full week of partying in mid-August which includes traditional Basque music and dance as well as gastronomic and sporting events (plus drinking and fireworks of course). Dates vary so check plans for this year at the San Sebastian Tourist Information Website. September is another popular time for tourists when the San Sebastián International Film Festival takes place.

Getting to San Sebastian

By Plane: San Sebastian Airport is not actually in the city of San Sebastian, it lies 22km northeast next to the town of Hondarribia on the border between Spain and France. There are no international flights to San Sebastian where the only arrivals are domestic ones. As an alternative, visitors can fly to Bilbao or Santander then travel overland to San Sebastian or take a flight to Madrid or Barcelona then take a domestic flight to San Sebastian. There is also the option of flying to Bordeaux or Biarritz in France then driving to San Sebastian. There’s a regular bus service operating from the airport to Plaza Gipuzkoa in the centre of San Sebastian as well as plenty taxis. The journey time is around 30 minutes.

By Train: San Sebastian can be reached by train from Paris via Hendaye and from Barcelona. For timetables and prices check the RENFE website. This is available in English.

By Bus: The national bus network links San Sebastian with most of Spain’s major cities. Try the website for details.