Beautiful, sophisticated San Sebastian is the perfect place to escape for a week.
It features a European, cosmopolitan vibe coupled nicely with the slow, laid-back pace of life so many visitors to Spain love. The city has plenty to see and do without being overwhelming. It’s the perfect place to spend a week visiting at your own pace. Here’s how to spend an unforgettable 7 days in San Sebastian, from tourist must-sees to hidden gems that are off the beaten path.
Day 1: Monte Igueldo, Peine del Viento, food tour
Don’t jump into sightseeing right away—start your 7 days in San Sebastian off on a more relaxed note. Just west of the city lies Monte Igueldo, one of the two major lookout points along the coast. Take the cable car up to the top and enjoy the journey back in time (the car itself is over 100 years old!).
Once you’re there, spend some time visiting the attractions atop the mountain! The amusement park is a favorite among guests, combining an old-world feel with modern fun and excitement. Be sure to check out the stunning views from the mirador and climb the centuries-old lighthouse tower in the center of the park.
When you’ve finished your day of fun at Monte Igueldo, take a relaxing walk back down the mountain to the Peine del Viento sculpture directly below. This group of large sculptures mounted directly into the rocks along the shore is a testament to the power of nature over manmade objects. Over nearly 40 years, the wind and water have rusted the sculptures, but they still stand strong along the coast.
Finally, head into town to end the first of your 7 days in San Sebastian with a fascinating food tour! Our Ultimate Pintxos & Wine Tour is the perfect way to get a taste (literally and figuratively) of the city. In addition to enjoying some of the city’s best bites, you’ll also pick up valuable information about how to eat like a local during the rest of your stay.
Day 2: San Telmo Museum, Monte Urgull & Old Town
Start the second of your 7 days in San Sebastian with a visit to one of its many fascinating museums. Out of all of these great museums, the San Telmo Museum (Plaza Zuloaga, 1) is your best bet for a first stop. It will give you invaluable insight into Basque history and culture. You’ll walk away with a deeper appreciation for this unique region. Additionally, you’ll have a better understanding of what makes it so different from the rest of Spain.
From the museum, you’re at the perfect point to begin a hike up the second of San Sebastian’s famous mountains, Monte Urgull. Don’t let the word “hike” scare you! It’s not too steep and offers incredible views along the way, making for quite a pleasant walk. Just like Monte Igueldo, its summit is full of fascinating things to see and do. Continue your exploration of Basque history at Casa de la Historia, an offshoot of the San Telmo Museum located in historic Mota Castle atop the hill. The castle itself is a military fortress dating back to the 12th century, whose walls hold centuries of fascinating history.
Take the path along the western side of the mountain to come back down. You’ll find yourself in the Old Town, San Sebastian’s most popular neighborhood among locals and visitors alike. Take some time to wander the streets and check out some of this vibrant barrio‘s must-see sights. From the stately city hall building (Ijentea Kalea, 1)—once a casino!—along the waterfront to the peaceful greenery of Plaza Gipuzkoa, it’s the perfect place to simply get lost.
Day 3: La Concha Beach, Aquarium & pintxos crawl
Start the third of your 7 days in San Sebastian with a trip to the beach! This isn’t just any city beach, however. La Concha Beach has consistently earned high honors as the best urban beach in Europe as well as one of the best in the world. As you might imagine, that makes it quite popular. For this reason, we recommend going in the morning before the crowds arrive.
After the beach, continue your exploration of San Sebastian’s sea life with a visit to the city’s famous Aquarium (Plaza de Carlos Blasco Imaz, 1). As Spain’s first natural science museum, it is one of Europe’s best aquariums. It features a 360-degree shark tank, a “petting zoo” and exhibits on local seafaring history.
To finish the third of your 7 days in San Sebastian, use the knowledge from your food tour to take a self-guided pintxos crawl through the Old Town! As San Sebastian’s most exciting and historic neighborhood, it’s also home to some of the city’s best cuisine. Do as the locals do and eat a pintxo or two at each bar before moving on. It’s the best way to sample the city’s best food one bite at a time!
Day 4: Day trip
Now that your 7 days in San Sebastian are about halfway up, take today to get out of the busy city. There are several lovely cities, towns and villages that are just a stone’s throw away from San Sebastian, making for a perfect day trip. Here are some of our top picks.
- Bilbao: As the capital of the Basque Country, there’s so much to see and do in Bilbao that you might not get to it all in one day. However, if a different urban scene is what you’re after, this vibrant city takes less than 2 hours by bus to reach from San Sebastian. If you only go to one place in Bilbao, make it the world-famous Guggenheim Museum (Abandoibarra Etorb., 2).
- Getaria: Looking for a more low-key trip? The picturesque fishing village of Getaria is a half hour’s drive or less than one hour on the train from San Sebastian. Iconic fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga hails from Getaria, and today it’s home to a fascinating museum dedicated to him and his work (Aldamar Parkea Parkea, 6). Even if you’re not into fashion, we guarantee you’ll have a great time in Getaria sipping on crisp, local txakoli wine and eating some of the freshest seafood in the region.
- Hondarribia: This charming town just across the border from France is home to some of the best gastronomy in the area. That’s saying a lot, considering San Sebastian is world famous for its fabulous food! Walking through the Old Town feels like you’ve stepped into a fairy tale. Additonally, its stunning beach is one of Spain’s best-kept secrets. And at less than 30 kilometers from San Sebastian, it’s a quick, easy and stress-free day trip.
Day 5: Zurriola Beach, Parque Cristina Enea & Tabakalera
Spend the fifth of your 7 days in San Sebastian getting off the beaten path in the Gros neighborhood! This laid-back, residential area is great for experiencing the city like a local. Start your day at Zurriola Beach, a surfers’ paradise that feels much more laid back than more popular La Concha. If you’re feeling brave, sign up for surfing lessons from a local school like Pukas Surf Eskola (Zurríola Hiribidea, 24) or Zurriola Surf Eskola (Calle Usandizaga 14, bajo)!
Once you’ve had enough of the beach, head to peaceful Parque Cristina Enea (Mandasko Dukearen Pasealekua, 66) for some relaxation. This beautiful green space in Gros is a great place to spend an afternoon wandering the wooded paths. Keep an eye out for some of the unique local wildlife, including peacocks!
End your day by checking out what’s happening at Tabakalera (Andre Zigarrogileak Plaza, 1). This onetime tobacco factory reopened in 2015 to become San Sebastian’s essential contemporary culture center. It’s home to art exhibitions, concerts, film screenings, workshops and more. Spend an evening here and get inspired!
Day 6: Shopping
Sleek, cosmopolitan shops, bohemian boutiques, and everything in between: you’ll find it all when shopping in San Sebastian! Now that your 7 days in San Sebastian are drawing to a close, it’s the perfect day to pick up some unique souvenirs and mementos from your trip. Shop like a local at Mercado La Bretxa (Alameda del Bourlevard, 3) or Mercado San Martín (Calle Urbieta, 9). Pick up some delicious gourmet food gifts there, then hit the streets in the Old Town or the city center to find more unique souvenirs!
Day 7: La Perla Spa & Santa Clara Island
Your 7 days in San Sebastian are up! Spend the last of them relaxing at one of Europe’s most luxurious spas: La Perla Centro Talaso-Sport (Edificio La Perla, Kontxa Pasealekua, s/n). From their privileged location overlooking La Concha Bay, you’ll be transported to another world. Their unique thalassotherapy approach—using seawater in all rituals—will be an experience unlike any other. After a successful 7 days in San Sebastian, you deserve to treat yourself!
Once you feel relaxed and refreshed, take a boat out to Santa Clara Island in the middle of the bay. That’s right—one of Spain’s most sophisticated cities has its very own island just a stone’s throw away! This peaceful, tranquil island is the perfect place to bring your 7 days in San Sebastian to a close. Take a stroll up to the lighthouse or relax on the island’s small, calm beach with lovely views of the city.
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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.