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What Responsible Tourism in San Sebastian Looks Like

Solo travel in San Sebastian means you can spend as much time on the beach as you want.
Each beach in San Sebastian is unique in its own way. Which will be your favorite?

If you haven’t been to San Sebastian yet, we bet it’s on your radar.

And you aren’t alone: the number of visitors to this city in northern Spain increased 10% last year.

San Sebastian's La Concha beach is one thing that draws visitors to the city
San Sebastian’s La Concha beach being named best in Europe may be one thing drawing visitors to the city.

Overtourism in San Sebastian?

“San Sebastian has many beautiful neighborhoods but tourism concentrates mostly in its Old Town,” said Ania, our Operations Manager in San Sebastian. “It’s not surprising as this part of the city is pedestrian-only and also has the highest concentration of bars in the region (if not in all of Spain!). The only problem? The Old Town is tiny—only 500 square meters!”

And there are only so many people that can fit into 500 square meters before it gets too crowded. A too-packed Old Town negatively affects everyone, from other tourists to the locals who have been visiting the neighborhood’s bars for years before they became popular tourist hot spots.

Read more: How to be a good tourist in San Sebastian

San Sebastian's 31 de agosto Kalea is one of the most popular pintxos streets in the old town

Here’s the thing:

Some of those people in the streets of the Old Town every evening? That’s us.

Our original pintxos tour in San Sebastian visits our favorite bars in this part of town, and we love doing it. But watching those streets fill up more and more around us every night, we knew we needed to make a change.

How we made our tours in San Sebastian more responsible

“When we noticed the rising number of people in this historic part of town we decided to take action and help our city to grow in a sustainable way,” said Ania.

The first step? We lowered the number of guests on each of our tours from a max of 10 to 8.

“This makes the experience more intimate for our guests but also respects the bars that are our tour partners and their regular customers,” said Ania.

Steak pintxos, a bite of steak on top of bread, from a bar in the Old Town of San Sebastian
These steak pintxos are one bite you can’t miss in the Old Town.

That was just the beginning!

Since it’s after dark that the Old Town really gets crowded, we also developed a lunchtime tour. Visiting this neighborhood during the day is a great way for responsible travelers to experience the bars that have made it famous, supporting them with more business during slower hours without contributing to the crowded evening scene.

Outside tables at a pintxos bar in San Sebastian's Old Town
A lunchtime visit to the Old Town means more space for everyone.

Did we stop there?

Nope!

To really support responsible tourism in San Sebastian, we had to look beyond the Old Town altogether, which is just what our new Pintxos Like A Local: Centro Neighborhood Pintxo Tour does! In this tour, we leave the tourist crowds behind to devour the off-the-beaten-path Centro neighborhood.

A locals' bar in San Sebastian's Centro neighborhood
Looking for the locals? You’ll find us in San Sebastian’s Centro neighborhood.

“19th-century architecture, eclectic style and a great mix between traditional and modern bars make this neighborhood—and food tour!—remarkable,” said Ania.

As San Sebastian’s popularity continues to grow, we’ll be right there with Ania, making sure that our tours in the city do just what our mission says: help the local culture thrive.

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8 Responses

  1. Hi Ashley, Your plan makes a lot of sense. Good work.
    I have booked the Ultimate San Sebastian Pintxos & Wine tour for Oct 31, 2019. Will your new plans modify our tour in anyway?
    Thanks,
    Fran S

    1. Hi Fran! Thanks for your booking; we’re excited to welcome you to San Sebastian! You can expect a group of no more than 8 people for a more intimate and positive experience for everyone involved, including the bars we visit and their staff and regular patrons. There are 4 of you total signed up so far. See you soon!

  2. The addition of the lunchtime tour is excellent. Punters can return to their favourites in the evening.
    I’ll be looking you guys up for that next spring. 😊

  3. San Sebastian is on my radar – almost went end of June but ended up in France instead.
    When is a good time to experience San Sebastian when the weather is good but the tourists are less? Is October still warm there? Thanks!

  4. What a great a great idea. I loved my tour back in October 2018… and ended up wandering all over San Sebastian to try places out of old town. It’s the best of both worlds. I hope to make it back soon.

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