12 Cool Things to Do in San Sebastian On Your Spain Adventure

Culture, cuisine, and coastal charm converge in the picturesque seaside town of San Sebastian. From indulging in world-class pintxos in the historic Parte Vieja to lounging on the golden shores of La Concha beach, this Basque gem promises an unforgettable experience. Let the lively atmosphere, Michelin-starred cuisine, and breathtaking coastal scenery captivate you as you explore all the best things to do in San Sebastian, Spain, with this complete guide!

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Playa de la Concha

Embracing the Bay of La Concha, Playa de la Concha is the brightest jewel in San Sebastian’s crown. Stretching for a mile in front of Santa Clara Island, the crescent-shaped beach is world-renowned for its rich history and spectacular beauty.

Framed by the striking backdrop of Mount Urgull and Mount Igueldo, Playa de la Concha is a sunbather’s paradise, and its crystal-clear, calm waters are perfect for swimming. The iconic Paseo de la Concha, a charming promenade, runs parallel to the shore, providing breathtaking bay views.

Playa de la Concha

Explore the western end of the beach, known for its tranquil atmosphere and a collection of sculptures, including the renowned Peine del Viento by sculptor Eduardo Chillida. This artistic installation combines natural elements with human-made structures, creating a harmonious blend of art and nature.

Playa de la Concha is a hub of activity, with various water sports like swimming and paddleboarding to enjoy. Charming cafés and seaside restaurants are ideally located for savoring delicious Basque cuisine while enjoying panoramic views of the bay. The area is also one of the most popular places to stay in San Sebastian, with a wide selection of great hotels not far from the shoreline.

INSIDER TIP: Venture a bit further from the main promenade to discover local snack hotspots. Seek out the charming pintxos bars and food stalls tucked away in the nearby streets. You’ll find delectable bites enjoyed by locals, providing an authentic taste of San Sebastian.

Old Town (Parte Vieja)

Explore San Sebastian’s rich cultural heritage in the historic Old Town (Parte Vieja), where every cobblestone street tells a tale. Located in the heart of the city, this charming district dates back to the 12th century, taking you on a journey through time.

As you wander through the narrow streets, admire a fusion of medieval and Baroque architecture. Constitution Plaza stands at the heart, a lively square surrounded by vibrant pintxos bars – perfect for indulging in local delicacies.

While enjoying pintxos in Constitution Plaza, step into Atari Gastroleku. This modern eatery cleverly preserves the historic exterior of the building, creating a harmonious blend of traditional and contemporary vibes. It’s a culinary time warp worth experiencing.

Old Town

Take a short stroll to the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. Visit in the late afternoon when the sunlight bathes the cathedral’s façade for a breathtaking spectacle. Take a moment to appreciate the whimsical gargoyles adorning the facade. Some tell tales of local folklore, adding a touch of mystery to the Gothic beauty.

Head to the San Telmo Museum to discover some Basque history and art. Look for the discreet bas-relief on the exterior of the museum. This inconspicuous artwork, often overlooked, depicts a historical scene with intricate details.

Venture to the Good Shepherd of San Sebastian Cathedral, an iconic landmark. Head to the cathedral’s rooftop for panoramic views of the Old Town and the Bay of La Concha – a breathtaking sight, especially at sunset.

INSIDER TIP: Unearth the secrets of Old Town by exploring its underground tunnels. Once used for various purposes, including defense, these hidden passages are not widely known. Join a guided tour to delve into this lesser-known aspect of the district’s history.

Good Shepherd of San Sebastian Cathedral

Marvel at the architectural splendor of the Good Shepherd of San Sebastian Cathedral. Overlooking San Sebastian’s Old Town, this neo-Gothic masterpiece boasts an intricate facade adorned with sculptures and a peaceful interior that exudes a sense of tranquility.

Completed in 1897, the Good Shepherd of San Sebastián Cathedral boasts a harmonious blend of Gothic and Renaissance elements. Marvel at the detailed craftsmanship of the facade, where sculptures narrate biblical stories.

Good Shepherd of San Sebastian Cathedral

Ascend the narrow spiral staircase to the cathedral’s tower for panoramic views of the Old Town and La Concha Bay. Enjoy a unique perspective, capturing the essence of San Sebastián’s captivating blend of history and natural beauty.

INSIDER TIP: To truly appreciate the cathedral’s serene atmosphere, attend one of the daily mass services and witness its spiritual heart.

Monte Urgull

Discover historical tales and panoramic views at the top of Monte Urgull. Once a military fortress protecting the city, remnants of defensive structures, cannons, and a captivating maritime museum, Castillo de la Mota, dot the hill.

Monte Urgull is a haven for nature lovers. Shaded trails wind through lush greenery, offering a serene escape from the bustle below. The hill is a botanical delight adorned with diverse flora and fauna.

Ascending the hill, you’ll encounter breathtaking panoramic views of San Sebastián, La Concha Bay, and the surrounding landscapes. The summit, crowned by the towering sculpture of Jesus Christ, is a perfect vantage point for capturing the city’s beauty.

Monte Urgull

Explore Ondartxo, a tucked-away enclave with historical significance. Once a military prison during the Spanish Civil War, its preserved ruins add an intriguing layer to Monte Urgull’s narrative.

The hill takes on a magical aura in the evening. As the sun sets, the city lights below twinkle, creating a picturesque scene. A twilight visit transforms Monte Urgull into a romantic and intimate setting. It’s the perfect spot for ending a day in San Sebastian!

INSIDER TIP: Beneath Monte Urgull lies a network of secret tunnels dating back to the 18th century. These tunnels served as hidden passages for soldiers during times of conflict. While some are inaccessible, guided tours occasionally grant access to a few, unveiling an invisible layer of the hill’s history.

Motako Gaztelua

Uncover the layers of San Sebastián’s past while enjoying the region’s natural beauty at the Motako Gaztelua. Perched on the eastern edge of Monte Urgull, this historic fortress served as a strategic defensive point for centuries.

Motako Gaztelua, or the Castle of La Mota, dates back to the 12th century. Originally a medieval fortress, it witnessed battles, changes of power, and the passage of different historical eras. Despite its small size, the castle offers a unique glimpse into San Sebastián’s tumultuous past.

As you climb the slopes, Motako Gaztelua emerges, revealing its stone walls and compact structure. The panoramic views from the castle are breathtaking, showcasing the Bay of Biscay, the city, and the surrounding mountains.

Motako Gaztelua

The castle’s compactness invites you to explore its nooks and crannies, each corner whispering stories of bygone times. Look for hidden passages and tunnels within its stone walls that were once used for strategic maneuvers.

One of Motako Gaztelua’s distinctive features is its entrance arch crafted from whale jawbones. This unusual architectural detail pays homage to San Sebastián’s historical connection with whaling, adding a unique touch to the castle’s entrance.

INSIDER TIP: Pack a picnic and enjoy a meal within the castle’s courtyard. It’s a perfect spot to relax with breathtaking views.

Cristina Enea Park

Escape the urban bustle at Cristina Enea Park. Originally the private garden of the Duchess of Montpensier, Cristina Enea, this botanical wonderland seamlessly blends history and nature.

Spanning over eight acres, Cristina Enea Park provides a peaceful oasis away from the city. Wander through its meticulously landscaped gardens, adorned with exotic plants and century-old trees, creating a perfect setting for a gentle stroll or a peaceful picnic.

Cristina Enea Park

Winding paths lead to charming corners, including a picturesque pond with graceful swans and ducks. As you explore, you’ll encounter hidden artistic treasures, from sculptures to architectural elements scattered throughout the park.

For a more secluded experience, venture away from the main paths. The park’s vastness allows you to find quieter spots. They’re perfect for reading, meditation, or simply enjoying the sounds of nature undisturbed as you explore Spain to its fullest.

INSIDER TIP: Cristina Enea Park transforms with the seasons, offering a changing tapestry of colors and scents. Visit during spring to witness the blooming flowers or in autumn for a spectacular display of foliage. Each season brings its own unique magic!

Aquarium San Sebastian

Dive into the mysteries of the ocean at the Aquarium San Sebastian. Situated on the picturesque La Concha Bay, this aquatic haven promises a captivating marine adventure for all ages.

Established in 1928, Aquarium San Sebastian is home to many marine marvels. You’ll find an impressive variety of exhibits, ranging from the Bay of Biscay’s local species to exotic creatures from around the globe.

San Sebastian Aquarium

Wander through underwater tunnels surrounded by sharks and rays, offering a 360-degree view of their graceful movements. Marvel at the vibrant colors of tropical fish in meticulously recreated coral environments. Watch one of the engaging feeding sessions and watch skilled divers hand-feed sharks and rays.

For the ultimate insider experience, book a behind-the-scenes tour. You’ll gain access to areas not typically seen by the public and engage with marine experts to learn about the intricacies of aquarium maintenance, animal care, and ongoing research.

INSIDER TIP: Aquarium San Sebastian occasionally hosts underwater concerts, where musicians perform for both aquatic inhabitants and human spectators. The acoustics underwater create a truly unique auditory experience!

Bretxako Azoka (La Bretxa Market)

Discover the region’s rich food traditions at Bretxako Azoka (La Bretxa Market). More affectionately known as La Bretxa Market, this gastronomic haven is not just a marketplace; it’s a celebration of Basque culinary heritage.

Just steps away from the iconic Playa de la Concha, La Bretxa beckons with an enticing blend of aromas, colors, and the lively banter of local vendors. The market is a treasure trove of fresh produce, seafood, cured meats, artisan cheeses, and local specialties.

Bretxako Azoka (La Bretxa Market)

A visit in the morning unveils La Bretxa at its most bustling, with products at their peak freshness. Venture through the stalls and engage with friendly vendors, learning about Basque ingredients and traditional recipes. Don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in pintxos—bite-sized culinary treasures that showcase the region’s gastronomic finesse and are among the best street food in Europe!

INSIDER TIP: While many visitors are captivated by La Bretxa’s vibrant stalls, few know the market’s secret rooftop terrace. Head to the top floor for an exclusive escape, where you can enjoy panoramic views of San Sebastian and the Bay of La Concha while relishing your market finds in a tranquil setting.


Discover the essence of Basque cuisine at one of the most popular spots in town: Gandarias. Tucked in the heart of the historic Old Town, this family-run gem is a cornerstone of San Sebastian’s culinary scene.

Established in 1939, Gandarias is most well-known for serving exceptional pintxos and hearty Basque fare. The restaurant’s interior seamlessly blends old-world charm with a modern aesthetic. Exposed brick walls and wooden accents create a warm, inviting ambiance. Grab a seat at the bar to witness the artistry behind each pintxo creation, or opt for a cozy table for a more intimate setting.

The menu showcases the best of Basque cuisine, with the ‘Txuleta’ T-bone steak standing out as a must-try. An extensive wine list complements the culinary offerings, ensuring a harmonious pairing for every palate.

Visit during the early evening to secure a coveted spot with a view of the lively Old Town streets. It’s the perfect vantage point for soaking in the vibrant atmosphere and observing the ebb and flow of local life.

INSIDER TIP: Venture beyond the commonly explored pintxos and ask about the ‘off-the-menu’ selections. Gandarias often surprises patrons with hidden gems not found on the regular menu, revealing a world of culinary wonders.

Gipuzkoa Plaza

Head into the heart of San Sebastian to explore Gipuzkoa Plaza, a picturesque square that exudes timeless charm. Surrounded by elegant buildings and punctuated by a central fountain, the plaza captures the essence of Basque life.

Gipuzkoa Plaza has been a witness to centuries of the city’s history. It has served various purposes, from hosting markets and celebrations to being a central meeting point for locals. Exploring the square is like stepping back in time, with each cobblestone echoing tales of the past.

The square’s architecture is a captivating blend of styles, reflecting different periods of San Sebastián’s evolution. Notable buildings flank the square, adorned with intricate details, creating a harmonious backdrop for the local gatherings and events that often unfold here.

Gipuzkoa Plaza

Surrounded by cafés and shops, Gipuzkoa Plaza is a vibrant hub of cultural activity. Locals and visitors gather here to enjoy a coffee, engage in conversations, or simply savor the ambiance. It’s an excellent spot for leisurely people-watching!

If your visit coincides with a local market day, you’re in for a treat. The square transforms into a bustling marketplace where vendors showcase fresh produce, handmade crafts, and regional delights.

INSIDER TIP: As you admire the intricate façades surrounding Gipuzkoa Plaza, look for hidden symbols and engravings on the buildings. Some hold historical significance, revealing stories of the families who once inhabited these structures.

Alderdi Eder Parkea

If you’re looking for a serene haven surrounded by beauty and history, look no further than Alderdi Eder Parkea (Parque Alderdi Eder). Located just steps from the glistening Playa de la Concha, this lush urban park is a delightful escape from the city’s vibrant buzz.

Originally designed as San Sebastian’s main square in the 19th century, Alderdi Eder Parkea echoes with echoes of the past. While wandering its paths, you’ll stumble upon remnants of an ancient fortress, offering a glimpse into San Sebastián’s past.

Alderdi Eder Parkea

Stroll through manicured lawns and vibrant flower beds framed by the breathtaking panorama of La Concha Bay. Alderdi Eder, translating to ‘beautiful square’ in Basque, lives up to its name, offering an idyllic setting for leisure and relaxation.

Alderdi Eder Parkea is home to the iconic Wind Comb sculpture, designed by Eduardo Chillida. Find a bench near the statue during sunset when the sculpture frames Concha Bay in a breathtaking display of hues.

INSIDER TIP: Locals know the central lawn isn’t the only picnic spot. Look for the quieter corners near the park’s edges to find a tranquil spot with picturesque views.

Zurriola Beach

Surf’s up, and the best spot for riding the waves is Zurriola Beach. Tucked between the iconic Kursaal Congress Centre and the Urgull Mountain, this stretch of sand beckons with its vibrant energy and unique charm.

Renowned for its consistent waves, Zurriola has earned its reputation as the go-to spot for surf enthusiasts. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a curious beginner, the beach offers surf schools catering to all skill levels, making it the ideal place to ride the Basque waves.

Zurriola Beach

Expect a lively atmosphere with beach volleyball matches, sunbathers soaking up the Spanish rays, and beachside cafés serving refreshing drinks. The younger crowd gravitates here for its spirited ambiance, creating a dynamic contrast to the more serene La Concha.

Wander towards the western end of the beach for a more secluded experience. Here, you’ll discover a tucked-away cove with smaller waves, perfect for those seeking a quieter spot to relax or dip into the ocean. 

INSIDER TIP: Embrace the local lifestyle by joining a beach yoga session during the early morning or at sunset.

Mia Russell

Mia Russell is a freelance writer based in South Africa with a passion for travel. She’s travelled to 35 countries and counting, and when she is not in the water swimming, freediving, or snorkeling in beautiful places around the world, she is writing about her experiences. Before becoming a freelance travel writer, Mia worked as Chief Copy Editor for Glamor magazine and Managing Editor for One Small Seed Magazine. She's a regular contributor to travel websites like Go City, Bookmundi, The Maldives Expert, and Heritage Safaris.

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