Pack Your Bags: Top Day Trips from San Sebastian

This blog post was originally posted on June 12, 2018 and was updated on July 12, 2019.

With rugged mountain landscapes and stunning sea views, it’s easy to fall in love with San Sebastian and the surrounding region.

We might be biased, but we like to think San Sebastian—or the Basque Country in general—is one of the most beautiful parts of Spain. Plus, the city’s great location along Spain’s northern coast makes it easy to get to other equally stunning smaller towns and villages. You can even go to France for a day—yes, it’s close enough! Here are our favorite day trips from San Sebastian for when you’re in the mood to seek fresh surroundings.

These fabulous day trips from San Sebastian are well worth planning.

1. Pasajes: San Pedro & San Juan

One of the most fascinating day trips from San Sebastian will take you to not one, but two charming villages. Located on either side of a small inlet of water, the towns of San Pedro and San Juan make up Pasajes, the beautiful regional port area.

How to get there: There are two ways to get to Pasajes from San Sebastian.

  • Hike: The route makes for quite a pleasant walk. If it’s a nice day and you have time, this is a perfect option.
  • Take bus E09: The stop is in the city center directly in front of the María Cristina hotel. Tickets cost €1.80 each way and can be bought from the driver in cash on the bus.

You’ll first reach the village of San Pedro, and from there you can take a boat to get to San Juan. To make the return trip, just do the same thing in reverse.

Foodie tips: Check out Falcon Crest in San Pedro for their famous pintxo of whitefin tuna, anchovy and pickled pepper. San Juan teems with fabulous seafood restaurants, but Casa Camara is a particular standout (booking ahead recommended). If you don’t mind a bit of a walk, Alabortza Puntetako Kantina is another great option for fabulous grilled sardines and gorgeous scenery.

The gorgeous natural landscapes of Pasajes, one of our favorite day trips from San Sebastian.
The stunning natural beauty of Pasajes will take your breath away. Photo credit: manuelcincuenta

2. Bilbao

As one of the Basque Country’s most thriving and happening cities, one visit to Bilbao will make it clear why this city was named 2018’s European City of the Year. Art, food, architecture and more make it one of our all-time favorite day trips from San Sebastian. A trip to the world-famous Guggenheim Museum is essential, even if you don’t fancy yourself much of an art buff. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the incredible quality of the works found here, as well as by the jaw-dropping architecture of the building itself! Be sure to sample some of the city’s fabulous cuisine as well. Whether you’re hungry for simple, traditional pintxos or innovative cuisine at one of Bilbao’s several Michelin-starred restaurants, you’re sure to find a delicious meal.

How to get there: Bilbao-bound buses depart San Sebastian’s bus station quite frequently. The trip costs less than seven euros and lasts about an hour and a half.

Regional capital Bilbao is number one on our list of the best day trips from San Sebastian!
Bilbao is a big city, but has a charming old town and lovely laid-back feel. Photo credit: Matt Kieffer

3. Hondarribia

Looking for a calmer, more tranquil destination? Hondarribia may be calling your name. This charming coastal village is becoming one of the more popular day trips from San Sebastian. However, it manages to retain its old-world charm and traditional Basque soul. Wander along the picturesque cobblestone streets admiring the unique local architecture and check out the only fortified town wall remaining in the province of Guipuzkoa. This is also a great city for foodies, with many exquisite bars and restaurants lining the streets of the charming Marina neighborhood.

How to get there: Buses from San Sebastian take 25 minutes and cost five euros. Hondarribia is a stop along the way to Hendaye (France). Keep in mind that it may be listed under its Spanish name, Fuenterrabía.

Hondarribia is one of the most beautiful day trips from San Sebastian!
Gorgeous painted balconies in Hondarribia! Photo credit: Miguel Ángel García

4. Getaria

A humble medieval fishing village surrounded by lush green vineyards, Getaria makes for another excellent option when it comes to day trips from San Sebastian for foodies. The seafood here is some of the best in the region, and it’s also home to many of the finest bodegas producing txakoli wine. Take a vineyard tour to try it straight from the source!

The town is also the birthplace of fashion icon Cristóbal Balenciaga, and today is home to a museum showcasing some of his best designs as well as information about his life. Another famous resident was Juan Sebastián Elkano, the first man to circumnavigate the world.

Foodie tips: After visiting everything from the Balenciaga Museum to the stunning Iglesia de San Salvador, you’ll probably be hungry. Try the region’s famous seafood dishes, including grilled turbot, in Asador Mayflower, Kaia, El Astillero, or Michelin-starred Elkano (their sister restaurant, Elkano Txiki, is a more budget-friendly option that’s still excellent). Take home a foodie souvenir from Maisor, a gourmet shop in the port area specializing in canned anchovies.

How to get there: Take Lurraldebus line UK10 (direction Zumaia) from Askatasuna Hiribidea, 24. The bus stop is in front of La Caixa bank. The journey lasts about 40 minutes on the highway and 1 hour on buses that make stops in towns along the way.

Getaria is a lovely option when considering day trips from San Sebastian!
The quaint, beautiful architecture in Getaria will transport you to a simpler time. Photo credit: Thierry Ben Abed

5. Biarritz, France

It’s fascinating how two cities can be so close, yet each retains its own unique feel that makes it unlike anywhere else. It won’t take long at all to reach Biarritz from San Sebastian, yet this charming French resort town just across the border feels like another world. Take a seaside stroll and admire the postcard-like views. Pop in and out of gorgeous old churches and modern art galleries. Treat yourself to something from one of the many designer shops (or simply window shop!). When you get hungry, you have no shortage of food choices, from classic tapas and pintxos to exquisite French fare. It’s no wonder why this gorgeous seaside town makes for one of the best day trips from San Sebastian.

How to get there: The bus from San Sebastian takes 40 minutes to one hour and costs just five to seven euros.

Biarritz is one of our favorite day trips from San Sebastian. This charming French town feels like a whole different world!
Biarritz retains a distinctly French feel. Photo credit: Fred Romero

6. Orio

With a perfect location right at the junction of the sea, mountains and Oria river delta, it’s easy to see why Orio remains one of the Basque Country’s most charming destinations.

Let yourself get lost in its 12th-century historic quarter, then stop at Bodega Katxiña for lunch. Charcoal-grilled sea bream is the local specialty, and this place does it exceptionally well. Just don’t forget to ask for a bottle of their award-winning house txakoli to wash it down.

How to get there: Take bus UK09 or UK11 from Liberdad 34. The trip to Orio takes around 25 minutes.

7. Zarautz

As home to the longest beach in the Basque Country, it’s easy to see why Zarautz is so popular among surfers. But you don’t have to be one yourself in order to enjoy this charming coastal destination. There’s just something about it that will make you never want to leave.

Ever since the 19th century when Queen Isabella II chose it as her summer home, Spaniards have taken to the beaches of Zarautz en masse once the weather gets nice. The small but happening town offers a laid-back vibe, plenty of great drinking and dining options, and even its fair share of surf schools if you decide you want to try your hand at riding the waves.

How to get there: The town is on the same bus line as Orio, just a bit further out. Take UK09 or UK11 from Libertad 34 and settle in for a comfortable 40-minute ride.

The seaside town of Zarautz is one of the best day trips from San Sebastian.
Zarautz is just 3.5 kilometers (a little over 2 miles) downshore from Getaria. If you’re feeling up to it, you can easily walk from one to the other! Photo credit: Oleg Sidorenko

8. Zumaia

“Game of Thrones” fans, this one’s for you. Zumaia is worth visiting for its beautiful beach and serene little church on the top of the cliff, but fans of the hit HBO show will probably recognize it as the filming location for Dragonstone. Make sure to come during low tide to check out the awe-inspiring natural flysch formations.

How to get there: Take bus line E1 from the Amara-Donostia station to get there in about 40 minutes.

9. San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Another location that was used as Dragonstone on “Game of Thrones,” San Juan de Gaztelugatxe may not be the easiest place to pronounce. But this little islet will take your breath away with its gorgeous natural beauty. Hike up to the small hermitage and take a moment to just drink in all the stunning nature that surrounds you.

How to get there: This one is a bit harder to access from San Sebastian and involves changing buses a few times, but is well worth it if you have the time. Check out the route here.

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