San Sebastian in Winter: Weather, Festivals, Food and More!

From cozy comfort food to fun-filled Basque holiday traditions, a visit to San Sebastian in winter is full of pleasant surprises.

While many residents of southern and central Spain flock to San Sebastian in the summer to escape the infernal heat, we here at Devour San Sebastian think it’s the perfect place to spend the winter holidays! From familiar festivals like Christmas to unique Basque celebrations, the festive atmosphere is almost tangible throughout the city streets. Here’s exactly what to expect on your visit to San Sebastian in winter so you can make the absolute most of your trip!

San Sebastian in winter is full of fantastic food and whimsical traditions. Here's what to expect on your visit!

Photo Credit: caccamo, Text Overlay: Devour San Sebastian Food Tours

Bundle up!

Located where the majestic Pyrenees meet the Atlantic Ocean, San Sebastian’s stunning geography provides a unique climate. Temperatures in San Sebastian in winter tend to hover around 9 degrees Celsius and can even get up to a pleasant 12 degrees during the day. At night, expect lows around 4 or 5 degrees, so bundle up before heading out for pintxos!

Visiting San Sebastian in winter? You can still visit the coast!
San Sebastian’s stunning coastline is worth a visit even in winter! Photo credit: Shane Fallon

San Sebastian’s coastal location doesn’t allow for much (if any) snow. If you want to experience a white Christmas, a day or weekend trip to the Pyrenees is a quick and easy way to make that happen. However, rainfall is quite high during the winter months. Be sure to pack an umbrella!

Enjoy the festivities

San Sebastian in winter is full of magic and unique traditions. The festivities begin on December 21, also known as the winter solstice or St. Thomas’ Day. On this day, the whole city transforms into a beautiful market, with stalls selling fresh food and beautifully handcrafted gifts. Be sure to try some delicious local txistorra sausage!

Buy some txistorra sausage from the market stalls on St. Thomas' Day for an essential experience in San Sebastian in winter!
We’re crazy for the local meats in San Sebastian, especially sausages like txistorra!

While children still wake up on Christmas morning to beautifully wrapped presents, Santa Claus takes a backseat to Olentzero, a jolly Christmas character typically depicted as a Basque peasant. Each year on December 24, children in San Sebastian visit Olentzero and his wife Mari Domingi in the city center and tell them what they want for Christmas. That night, they try to sleep through their excitement while Olentzero visits their houses and leaves gifts.

Forget Santa Claus - you'll be seeing a lot of Olentzero in San Sebastian in winter!
Children dressed in traditional Basque clothing carry an Olentzero figure through the streets. Photo credit: Ordiziako Jakintza Ikastola

About a month later, the entire city enters into celebration mode once again for San Sebastian’s Day on January 20. This massive festival kicks off at midnight, with the raising of the city flag in Plaza de la Constitución. Throughout the day, be prepared to encounter tamborradas (drum parades) marching through the city. More than 125 marching bands take to the streets as a part of this favorite tradition! If you happen to be in town on this special day, you’ll experience one of the most important traditions in San Sebastian in winter.

Eat, drink and be merry

San Sebastian is one of the best cities in the world for foodies. Winter is one of the best times of the year to enjoy the city’s best flavors along with yummy seasonal products like artichokes and baby eels.

Visiting San Sebastian in winter is the perfect opportunity to try some delicious local cider and pintxos!
Winter is the perfect time to head into a cozy cider house and enjoy some pintxos!

Locals in San Sebastian in winter will crowd into cider houses to escape the cold and enjoy delicious pintxos in good company. Straight-from-the-barrel cider pairs wonderfully with delicious Basque specialties like tortilla de bacalao (salt cod omelette) and txuleta steak. The bar may be full, but brave the crowds and feel like a local!

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