A trip to a city famous for its Michelin-starred restaurants and luxurious hotels by the beach may sound expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.
In fact, it can be quite the opposite and still enjoyable! Here are our tips for exploring San Sebastian on a budget so you can enjoy your trip in this posh city without burning a hole in your wallet.
How to move around
The best thing about San Sebastian is that the city is compact and therefore very walkable. In case of a sudden rain shower (let’s face it, they’re quite common here!) you can always catch a bus. The city is well covered by the bus lines and a single ticket will cost you €1.75.
Another budget-friendly way to move around the city—and get the most out of it—is to rent a bike. The city is well designed for bikers, with plenty of bike lanes and, if you’re up for it, there are some nice green routes outside town, too!
Where to stay
Hotel One Shot Tabakalera House is our top recommendation for design lovers, and proof that you don’t have to sacrifice aesthetic for the sake of your budget. The beautiful building is an old tobacco factory that was turned into an attractive boutique hotel in 2015. Double rooms are available from €60 per night.
Another great option is Koba Hostel, located on a nice pedestrian street in the heart of the hip Gros district. Right next door to many pintxo bars and restaurants, and five minutes away from the beach, this hostel is a perfect budget-friendly choice. Double rooms start at €50 per night.
What to do
If it happens to be a rainy day, your best option is to explore the many museums in San Sebastian. As a bonus for budget travelers, most museums have free entry on certain days of the week.
Stop by Tabakalera for a cozy cup of coffee with a side of culture. The old factory is also a cultural center with changing activities every week. You’ll find everything from art and photography expos to concerts and fine dining. A must for culture enthusiasts!
If it’s a sunny day, take a walk up to Monte Urgull or a funicular to Monte Igueldo. The funicular ticket costs a couple of euros, and from the hill you have breathtaking views around the city—and you can enjoy a caña or a glass of txakoli while enjoying the view!
Insider’s tip: From the top of Monte Igueldo, you get the most Instagrammable pictures of the city!
For sports lovers, we recommend a hike from San Sebastian to the fishing village of Pasaia, the historical port of the town. This two-hour hike serves up some of the most beautiful and typical Basque landscapes, along with a complete disconnection from the busy city streets.
Time your hike so that you arrive to Pasaia at lunchtime, and enjoy a couple of pintxos or a lunch menu in the fishing village. An authentic atmosphere is guaranteed. Thanks to its location outside the touristic city center of San Sebastian, the prices in Pasaia are sometimes lower—a great option for a budget-traveler!
Where to eat
Here in San Sebastian, we have a great concept called pintxo-pote. On a certain day of the week, a variety of bars offer a drink and a pintxo for a fixed price (typically €2–3). Pintxo-pote takes place in different neighborhoods on different days of the week, with the most famous taking place in the Gros area on Thursday nights.
Love seafood? Trying some of the best in San Sebastian doesn’t have to break the bank. La Mejillonera is famous for serving the best mussels and calamari in town, and a portion costs you less than €5.
And if tortilla de patata, the Spanish omelette, is what you’re looking for, head to Bar Zabaleta! A pintxo de tortilla costs just €2, or for a heartier option, get it in sandwich form (the bocata) for €5.20.
Want to have lunch like a local? A Spanish classic, the bocadillo is a sandwich with different fillings, typically cheese and amazing local ham. The best ones in San Sebastian are served by Juantxo Taberna, and great news: you won’t be spending more than €5.
Fine dining on a budget
If you would like to have a small taste of the fine dining culture that San Sebastian is famous for, but don’t want to spend all your savings on it, we have a great insider’s tip for you: the Basque Culinary Center, a university and research center that’s all about gastronomy.
The cafe-restaurant of the university is run by the chefs-in-training, with a lunch menu for €12 and a tasting menu for €25. The delicious bites created by the future super-chefs are extremely popular, so remember to book well before your trip!
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After living years in Madrid and Barcelona, Tita found her home in San Sebastian, not least because of the delicious food. Nothing beats a bottle of sidra and a plate of anchoas after a Sunday hike in the green mountains of Basque Country, she says.