Planning to visit San Sebastian? – Here’s an ultimate guide on spending one day in San Sebastian, with many unique things to see and do in the city in 1 single day.

  • This post contains affiliate links from which I earn a commission (at no extra cost to you). For more info, please read my disclosure. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

An Epic One Day in San Sebastian, The Basque Country

Visiting San Sebastian

My Trips to San Sebastian

My blog readers would already know that San Sebastian is one of my favorite places to visit in Spain.

My first visits to San Sebastian took place back in 2011 when the city had completely stolen my heart. Even though it was in June, during the summer peak season, back then San Sebastian sort of felt like a hidden gem and one of the most underrated Spanish cities. Well, not anymore. A few years ago on a new Basque Country Road Trip, I visited San Sebastian once again to discover that now it has become quite popular for international travelers.

There´s a reason for that: San Sebastian is unapologetically beautiful. I often call it one of the top destinations for Romantic getaways in Spain, but the truth is that I enjoy visiting San Sebastian solo or on a family trip in Spain as well.

San Sebastian is one of the must-stops on any Northern Spain Road Trip.

Where is San Sebastian

San Sebastian is located on the Northern coast of Spain, only 20km away from the French border. It is one of the main cities of The Basque Country (or Pais Vasco in Spanish).

What is San Sebastian known for

San Sebastian has been a popular upper-class destination in Spain. Especially after the Spanish Queen Isabella II visited in on a summer vacation to escape the heat of Madrid.

The most picture-perfect place in San Sebastian, La Concha Beach. The area is full of unique seafront villas showing off the town’s wealthy past. The Spanish royals also used to spend their summers at Palacio de Miramar in San Sebastian.

While The Basque Country is one of the best dining destinations in the world (with 40 Michelin-starred restaurants over only 21,000 square km), the coastal town of San Sebastian is especially known for its pintxo culture. Pintxos are diverse mini-bites laid out in front of you in Spanish bars (especially popular in the Northern regions).

Also, every September the city of San Sebastian houses one of the most important International Film Festivals in Spain – Festival Internacional de Cine de San Sebastián.

San Sebastian is also mentioned in the end of Ernest Hemingway´s novel Fiesta (or The Sun Also Rises in English), when one of the protagonists enjoys a solo trip to San Sebastian after being tired of the festive lifestyle during San Fermin, one of the most iconic Spanish fiestas.

san sebastian travel inspiration
One day in San Sebastian, one of the most beautiful towns in Spain

How to get to San Sebastian

The easiest way to get to San Sebastian is to find a flight to Bilbao (Spain) or Biarritz (France). Additionally, you can reach San Sebastian by car from Madrid (4,5 hours) and Barcelona (6 hours). Another alternative is the train (from any major Spanish city , usually via Madrid).

How long to stay in San Sebastian

One day in San Sebastian is enough to get a first impression of the city, but if you add a few day trips to your sightseeing plan, it´s easy to spend 3-4 days in San Sebastian.

san sebastian travel guide spain
Enjoying the views on a babymoon trip to San Sebastian (in case you thought it was my belly after a local foodie tour lol)

The weather in San Sebastian

Let me warn you that despite the sunny vibe of my pictures, San Sebastian is known as the rainy destination in Spain.

You have a higher chance of catching a sunny day in summer, but it is not granted either. Over the last few years, I have experienced a bit of everything in San Sebastian and always bring with me an umbrella and extra layers.

Where to stay in San Sebastian

San Sebastian is full of unique hotels with beautiful views. One of the most iconic luxury places is Hotel Londres, known for its belle epoque architecture and unmatched seafront location.

Parking in San Sebastian

San Sebastian is known for some of the most expensive parking in Spain.

I often leave my car at Donostiako Geltokiko Parkina, if it´s for a few hours. The only free option in San Sebastian is Doako Aparkalekua (near Donostia Arena), where you can take bus number 28 to the city center. It is a great option for those traveling on a budget (especially since the bus ride is only 20 and it usually arrives every 7 mins). I would not leave my car at Doako Aparkalekua for several days, but I use it often for spending one day in Sebastian.

san sebastian cheap parking
From Doako Aparkalekua follow this road on the left towards the highway, then cross it for the bus stop

San Sebastian Local Tips

If you are planning to turn your one day in San Sebastian into an unforgettable travel experience, hiring a private local guide is the best way to tailor any tour to your needs and tastes. I can recommend Aitor Delgado Tours, whom I have recently met in San Sebastian (check out his reviews on TripAdvisor).

Also, here’s a handy sightseeing map of San Sebastian, curated by the local travel creator @eloisapatat.

Top things to see and do during one day in San Sebastian

1. La Concha Beach of San Sebastian

basque country san sebastian
One day in San Sebastian – La Concha Beach

The Beach of La Concha is one of the most recognized places in Northern Spain, that has been a popular upper-class coastal destination in Spain for centuries.

I am honestly never tired of enjoying a casual walk along La Concha every time I get to visit San Sebastian, even though the beach is usually packed with locals and visitors on sunny summer days.

La Concha Beach is often called one of the most unique beaches in Northern Spain and one of the top urban beaches in the whole of Europe.

At the end of La Concha broadwalk, you can also spot the famous local sculpture of Eduardo Chillida – “The Comb of the Wind” (or “El Peine del Viento” in Spanish).

2. A Foodie Tour to Discover the Best Pintxos in San Sebastian

pintos in the Basque Country
One day in San Sebastian – trying local pintxos
one day in san sebastian pitxos
One of my recent discoveries – a cod with pistachio sauce at La Cerveceria del Antiguo

The foodie experiences in San Sebastian mainly roll around the famous pintxos (diverse mini-bites all laid out in front of you in most of the local bars).

Every year an official competition Euskal Herria Pintxo Championship takes place, where bars and restaurants of San Sebastian pitch themselves against each other to make the yummiest creations. 

I´d recommend you take a pintxo tour or at least research the recent winners to make the most of your foodie experience in San Sebastian. Although it´s almost impossible to choose a bad place to dine since everything everywhere is delicious. You can spend a whole evening pintxo-hopping from bar to bar. Pay attention to the walls, they usually display certificates from past pintxo competitions so you´ll know exactly what to order.

Also, San Sebastian is a great destination for Michelin-star dining in Spain with top-rated restaurants like Kokotxa, Mirador de Ulia, Arzak, and Akelarre.

Eatwith Banner: 1600*250

Top-rated food tours in San Sebastian:

Foodie tours from San Sebastian:

Best places to try Pintxos in San Sebastian:

Here are a few must-visit places to try pintxos in San Sebastian: Atari, Txepetxa, La Cerveceria del Antiguo, Gandarias Jatetxea, La Vina, and Sirimiri. However, I highly recommend joining a pintxos tour, since bars constantly create new gastronomic inventions and local guides will take you to all the best spots in town.

3. The Old Town of San Sebastian

one day in san sebastian travel tips
One day in San Sebastian – Local Architecture

While exploring San Sebastian, make sure not to miss the central square Plaza de Constitucion, which years ago was used as a bullring. Today it houses some of the most important local festivities like tamborrada or Saint Tomas feast. At this main square, you can find the San Telmo Museum dedicated to the history of the Basque Region.

During your one day in San Sebastian, you can also make a stop at the church Basilica of Santa Maria del Coro and the local market Mercado de la Bretxa.

Alternatively, you can book one of the popular walking tours in San Sebastian:

4. A Boat Tour of the Basque Coast

things to see and do in san sebastian
One day in San Sebastian – The boats in La Concha bay
zumaia beach spain north
Zumaia Beach visited during my Basque Country Road Trip

One of the most unique things about the Basque Country is its stunning coast. Therefore, if you get lucky with the weather during your one day in San Sebastian, consider taking a boat tour to enjoy the Atlantic cliffs.

5. Hiking & biking in San Sebastian and its surroundings

If you are visiting Spain in search of active and adventurous activities, San Sebastian is a great place for hiking and bike tours.

6. Best views of San Sebastian

san sebastian basque country travel guide
One day in San Sebastian – The views from Monte Urgull

For the best panoramic views of San Sebastian head to the top of Monte Igeldo (182m), Monte Urgull (123m), or Monte Ulia (234m). The first two are located on the opposite sides of La Concha beach. Monte Igeldo is the easiest option since it has a funicular railway service.

Although my personal favorite is Monte Urgull – walking up for its views is still a must-do for me, despite numerous visits to San Sebastian.

7. San Sebastian Day Trips

Hondarribia basque country
Hondarribia (also called Fuenterrabia) – one of the most colorful villages in Spain

If you are thinking of spending more than one day in San Sebastian, it´s easy to explore the nearest landmarks via day trips:

basque cider house lunch
Visiting Basque cider house & lunch near San Sebastian with EatWith (read the full story)

Pin it:

one day in san sebastian

For more Spain travel tips and itineraries check my Pinterest boards Best of Spain and Spain Travel Collection.

at lifestyle crossroads travel blog resources
  • Accommodation: For short stays, I usually book via Agoda, Booking, and Hotellook
  • Tours&excursions: My favorites for guided tours are GetYourGuide, Viator, and Klook
  • Museums&attractions: Get mobile tickets for attractions via Tiqets (use ATC5 code for a 5% discount via this link)
  • Semi-private & private tours: LivTours is my favorite place for unique & crafted experiences in Europe
  • For Foodies: Eatwith is a unique platform for finding culinary experiences with locals around the world
  • Audio guides: Book audio excursions & tours in 35+ countries via WeGoTrip
  • Flights: Find the best deals with Skyscanner, WayAway, and Kiwi
  • Driving in a new country? – Check out Tripiamo guides (do not miss Tripiamo Driving in Spain Guide)
  • Train&bus tickets: Currently, I book via Trainline, Busbud, and Omio
  • Car rental: To find the best deals, I use Rental Cars and Discover Cars
  • Top E-Sim: GigSky helps me to avoid roaming fees and provides connectivity everywhere (even on a cruise ship)
  • Internet Security on the road: Connect safely to public Wi-Fi and bypass censorship with NordVPN
  • Transfers: For individual transfer services, I like GetTransfer and Kiwitaxi
  • Suitcases&Luggage: Discover where to store your luggage on the go with Radical Storage
  • Travel Insurance: Find the best trip insurance plans via VisitorsCoverage and EKTA
  • Compensation for delayed/canceled flights: Check out AirHelp and Compensair
  • Valencia Tours: Get an extra 5% off any Valencia&Go tour with the code crossroads5
  • Renting Bikes: To find motorcycles, scooters, quads, and bicycles, I use BikesBooking
  • Package Tours: Head to CheapOairExpedia, and Tourhub
  • For Bloggers: To monetize my blog, I work with Travelpayouts and Stay22