Some cities were made to be savored slowly, and San Sebastian is one of them.
And no, we’re not just talking about the food, although there will certainly be plenty of that during your 10 days in San Sebastian. However, establishing a solid home base here for a longer trip will immerse you in the local culture in ways that a quick getaway never could. Soon, you’ll be feeling like a local faster than you can say txakoli. Here’s how to make each day count.
Day 1: Settle in & food tour
Welcome to San Sebastian! The stunning Basque city makes the ideal spot for a long getaway, with its pristine beaches and rugged mountain landscapes standing in perfect contrast to the elegant architecture in the city itself. After you arrive, take some time to simply explore your neighborhood and get the lay of the land. Whether you’re staying in the classic Old Town, laid-back Gros, or getting off the beaten path in Amara, it’s important to get to know your home base. Observe where the locals are shopping and eating, and scope out any pretty parks or otherwise relaxing spots. Soon it will start to feel like home for you, too!
In the evening, it’s time to get a taste for the local cuisine San Sebastian is so famous for. Join our Ultimate Pintxos & Wine Tour to get a crash course in eating like a local over the course of your 10 days in San Sebastian. The invaluable local tips you pick up will serve you well throughout the rest of your time here. Plus, you’ll start to learn which places in town have the best bites (and devour them for yourself, of course!).
Day 2: San Telmo Museum & Old Town
Start the second of your 10 days in San Sebastian with a visit to one of the city’s must-visit museums: the Museo de San Telmo (Plaza Zuloaga, 1). As you may have noticed, the omnipresent Basque culture here in San Sebastian is quite different than the image you may have had of Spain before coming. The San Telmo Museum will put that into context, walking you through the rich history and heritage of the Basque people. After your visit, you’ll have a greater understanding of local culture and traditions.
When you’re finished exploring the museum, it’s time to discover San Sebastian’s most iconic neighborhood: the Old Town. Despite its name, it is not actually the oldest neighborhood in the city (that honor goes to Antiguo), but it still serves as an excellent starting point for getting to know San Sebastian. Spend some time people-watching in Plaza de la Constitución, and step into one of the several gorgeous churches in the neighborhood, like the Basilica of St. Mary of the Chorus (Calle 31 de Agosto, 46) or the Church of St. Vincent (Calle San Juan, 15).
Day 3: Mount Urgull, Casa de la Historia, Aquarium & Naval Museum
It’s the third of your 10 days in San Sebastian! Start things off with a relaxing hike up Mount Urgull, a towering mass of natural beauty that separates the Old Town from Gros. The walk is peaceful and tranquil, offering several lookout points along the way where you can get that perfectly Instagrammable shot of the city and La Concha Bay down below.
Once you get up to the top, stop for a moment to take in the best views of all before heading to Mota Castle, a historic military fortress which now houses the Casa de la Historia. This offshoot of the San Telmo Museum focuses specifically on San Sebastian’s own rich history—more than 800 years of it, to be exact!
Due to its strategic location right on La Concha Bay, San Sebastian boasts a proud maritime heritage. Cap off your day by visiting two fascinating sites that will teach you all about an integral part of local culture. The world-class aquarium (Plaza de Carlos Blasco Imaz, 1) and interesting Naval Museum (Del Muelle Ibilbidea, 24) are located side-by-side at the foot of Mount Urgull and make for a fun and informative combined visit.
Day 4: Day trip to Bilbao
10 days in San Sebastian allows for enough time to see more than just the city itself. Get out of town for a day and head to nearby Bilbao. At just over an hour away by car, this bustling Basque city complements San Sebastian in all the right ways. From the iconic Guggenheim Museum to its one-of-a-kind pintxos scene, modern and industrial-chic Bilbao is a must-see while you’re in the area.
How to get there from San Sebastian: If you don’t have access to a car, no worries. Regular buses depart San Sebastian for Bilbao multiple times a day. You can buy tickets online or in person at the station.
Day 5: Mercado de la Bretxa, Alderdi Eder Park, La Concha & shopping
Can you believe your 10 days in San Sebastian are halfway up? Time flies! Start things off with a relaxing, leisurely stroll through Mercado de la Bretxa (Boulevard Zumardia, 3). As one of the city’s two major fresh food markets as well as the oldest of its kind here in San Sebastian, the market retains a distinctly traditional feel but has kept up well with modern times. Shop amongst locals and Michelin-starred chefs alike as you sample fresh, local products from the dozens of family-run stalls.
Spend your afternoon exploring natural beauty at Alderdi Eder Park right beside the beach. Spread out in front of the stately ayuntamiento (city hall), these beautifully manicured gardens offer one of the most famous views of the city. If the weather is nice enough, you can even venture out to La Concha Beach itself and enjoy some well-deserved R&R on the shore or among the waves! We think you’ll understand why it’s been consistently considered one of Europe’s top urban beaches after experiencing its jaw-dropping beauty for yourself.
In the late afternoon, make your way back into town for some retail therapy. The beach provides great access to the city center and its plethora of shops and boutiques. Treat yourself to a unique souvenir that you’ll treasure forever before setting out on an evening pintxos crawl!
Day 6: Cristina Enea Park, Mercado San Martín, Cathedral, Convent Garden
San Sebastian is full of gorgeous natural beauty all over the city, and Cristina Enea Park is just one such example. Spend your morning taking a relaxing walk through the park (and maybe even saying hello to the colorful peacocks, should one cross your path!) and enjoying the peace and quiet.
Head back across the bridge into the city center and grab lunch at Mercado San Martín (Urbieta Kalea, 9). Then, head to the city’s grandiose and glorious cathedral (Urdaneta Kalea, 12) not far away. Dating back to the 19th century, San Sebastian’s cathedral may not be the oldest in Spain, but it retains a timeless classic look and will certainly take your breath away. Plus, it was made with slate and stone from nearby Monte Igueldo, giving it a uniquely local touch.
End the sixth of your 10 days in San Sebastian with drinks at one of our favorite terraces in the city: Convent Garden (Manterola Kalea, 15), a true oasis right in the heart of the busy city. The picturesque social space is buzzing with good vibes and great music, and is the perfect place to wrap up your day on a high note!
Day 7: Gros neighborhood
Time flies—you’ve already been in San Sebastian for a week! Spend today getting off the beaten path and exploring Gros, the lesser-known barrio across the Zurriola bridge. This laid-back surfers’ neighborhood offers a completely different vibe than the main part of town. Spend the day exploring the backstreets of the neighborhood, popping in and out of the small, locally owned shops that line the streets. If you’re feeling brave, head down to Zurriola Beach to catch some waves—it’s one of the best beaches in Europe for surfers, and there are plenty of nearby surf schools where you can learn the basics. (Even if you’re not quite ready to step out of your comfort zone, the beach is still a fun place to spend a few hours.) In the evening, check out what’s happening at Kursaal (Zurríola Hiribidea, 1,) or Tabakalera (Andre Zigarrogileak Plaza, 1)—these cultural centers always have something unique and interesting going on!
Day 8: Mount Ulía
If there’s one thing locals love to do in San Sebastian, it’s get out and about in nature. And who could blame them, when the city is surrounded on all sides by stunning natural beauty? Enjoy a hike without leaving the city by making your way up Mount Ulía. Located on the eastern edge of Gros and Zurriola Beach, this large hill may look intimidating, but actually makes for a peaceful and pleasant walk. Make a day of it by hiking along the hill to the nearby village of Pasajes (Pasaia in Basque). This walk is a popular weekend activity among locals and will transport you a world away from the busy city.
Day 9: Miramar Palace, Peine del Viento, Ondarreta Beach
As your 10 days in San Sebastian wind down, it’s a perfect time to start getting even more off the beaten path. Here, that usually means west of the city center, out towards Mount Igueldo (more on that in a bit) and Ondarreta Beach. The beach itself is calm and peaceful, with many locals opting to spend their time here rather than at the more popular La Concha. It’s also close to one of the city’s most unique sights: the Peine del Viento (“Comb of the Wind”) sculpture, which defies nature by sticking straight out of the natural rock formations along the shore.
While you’re here, be sure to visit Miramar Palace, a stately home that wouldn’t look out of place in the English countryside. In fact, it was the Spanish royal family’s summer residence of choice for years, and even served as a boarding school for the former king, Juan Carlos, when he was a boy.
Day 10: Mount Igueldo
Your 10 days in San Sebastian are up, but the fun hasn’t stopped yet. There’s no better place to end your stay than Mount Igueldo. Located at the western edge of the city, it’s the perfect blend of fun for all ages, natural beauty, and old-world charm. Walk or take the cable car up to the top of the mountain, where you’ll find the eponymous amusement park full of fun rides and vintage flair. Not your thing? No worries—the gorgeous hillside is still worth your time, featuring beautiful lookout points and, of course, the iconic lighthouse.
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Life is too short to speak one language and stay in one place. In 2015, this philosophy took her from familiar Ohio to sunny southern Spain. Usually drinking tinto de verano, reading Lorca, or attempting to dance flamenco (not all at once). Follow her blog, Viatic Couture, for more.