Donostia-San Sebastián (Basque: Donostia; Spanish: San Sebastián) is in the Basque Country in Spain.
The city is quite small and cozy, featuring many seafood restaurants, several beaches, tons of pintxos bars and a choice of designer clothes shops.
Orientation: The city is divided into Old Town (Parte Vieja), Gros and Centro.
phone: +34 943481166A modern and well-staffed info and booking desk.
By trainInternational trains from France mainly arrive at Hendaye and Irun stations, whence it is possible to take a local train to San Sebastian. Take care when booking from France, as a town named Saint Sébastien exists there as well.
San Sebastian has two main train stations: the RENFE station for national and local Cercanías trains (located at the east end of Puente de Maria Cristina), and the Euskotren Amara station for its local network (located at the Plaza Easo).
From France, there is a multitude of TGV and TER (regional trains) to Hendaye. To reach San Sebastian, change here onto an Euskotren train. Connections are frequent, and continue until late. The last train towards San Sebastian departs Hendaye at 22:33. A few trains from France do not end in Hendaye, and go across the border to Irun. At Irun station, the best option to reach San Sebastian is to change there to a RENFE Cercanías train. Direct TGVs from Paris Montparnasse depart at 10:28, 12:28 (to Irun), and 14:28. In addition, there exists a number of possible connections with a change in Bordeaux.
From Portugal, there is a daily Trenhotel overnight train, leaving Lisbon Sta. Appolonia station at 21:18, and arriving San Sebastian at 10:53.
From the major cities of Spain (outside the Basque Country), the train is much quicker than a bus, and if booked in advance often the cheapest option too. Twice- or thrice-daily direct intercity connections (Alvia) are maintained by state operator RENFE from Vitoria-Gasteiz, Burgos, Valladolid and Madrid, and from Pamplona, Zaragoza, Tarragona and Barcelona. Both lines utilize semi-high speed train sets that travel on the high-speed tracks where they can. Madrid-San Sebastian journey time is between 4h51m and 5h21m. Barcelona-San Sebastian journey time is 5h39m. RENFE also operates a daily service with conventional coaches (Arco) towards Santiago de Compostela and A Coruña, which is ideal for pilgrims looking to skip a portion of the road.
From within the Basque Country (except for Hendaye and Irun), the bus is usually quicker. There are however some scenic train routes operated by Euskotren from the surrounding area, and from Bilbao, with onwards connections by FEVE from Santander (Cantabria), and León (Castilla y Leon). The routes offer a leisurely alternative to travellers who have time to spare.
By planeSan Sebastian is well served by airports:
- Bus to the airport: i2 (€2.65) departs from Plaza Gipuzkoa nearly once a hour takes 30min, making a maximum of 4 stops (typically less).
- Cafes in the departures area are limited to a single cafe on the ground floor, plus posh restaurant on the 2nd floor.
- Shopping in departures area is limited to a single souvenir small shop; no duty free shops available.
- Electronic check-in is available only for Iberia and Spanair. It doesn't work for Iberia e-tickets printed from an e-mail, however.
- Wi-Fi network is not available.
By busThe Basque Country is generally easier to get around by bus than by train. Buses arrive and depart at the San Sebastian bus station, at Plaza de Pio XII in Amara Nuevo. A number of bus companies operate services to San Sebastian, including:
Buses are the only way to get to some areas of the Basque region, and often run more often (and cheaper!) than trains. Vitoria-Gasteiz, capital of the Basque Country, is a 2-hour ride away. Bilbao, the travel hub and biggest city in the region (1-hour ride), and Pamplona (1-hour ride) are other popular destinations, but longer-range buses do overnights to Madrid, Barcelona and even Milan.
Bilbao's bus station is accessibly via the San Mamés metro station. Buy a ticket for the next bus to San Sebastian at the Pesa window for 17 €. They leave from stop 2, 3, or 4 every 30 minutes or hour.
By carIn the downtown, parking is costly (roughly €20/day); most parking spots are underground, and finding a way to get there can be nerve-wracking. Left turns are more rare than rights (and are unpredictable). Having a driving map is essential. The biggest underground parking lots are in the city center, so the easiest way to find a place without wasting time is to go through the road that goes by the river and follow the signs.
There are some free parking lots in the west of the city: on the tourist maps by SanSebastianTurismo available in some guesthouses, the area is marked with a blue dotted line "Controlled parking zone".
Bicycle lanes are all around the downtown, and in the summer bicycles can be hired (at certain times they are free) from strategically placed locations around the city.
Apart from private hiring companies, the town hall has a bike-service all over the city, which is also open to tourists. Tourists should get a bike-card at the Tourist Information Center in Boulevard, 8 (€20 deposit, €15 for 1 day, €20 for 4 days, €25 per week). This card should be given back the day after it is purchased so as to recover the €20 deposit. This way you can use any of the multiple bikes around the city, for a maximum of 4h non-stop (Leaving 30 minutes between use allows you to cycle for a further 4h non-stop), from 10:00 to 21:00. There are several bike-service spots around the city, and bikes can be picked up and dropped off at different points.
D-Bus has a number of routes across the city. Single journeys to any destination on its network cost a flat rate of €1.75. However, for residents staying for longer periods, they may wish to buy the 'Kutxa chip' card available from Kutxa Bank's main office at C/ Garibay 15, close to the Parte Vieja, for €5.50. After the initial purchase, the card can be topped up on ATM's all over the city and instead of paying the flat rate of €1.45, holders merely swipe their card and pay €0.73 for each journey. There is a local app for smartphones (both iPhone and Android) that tells you bus arrival time for each bus stop, selectable on a map.
It's also possible to buy and top up a tourist card, valid for 10 days, at some newsagents. The card costs €2.60 after which each journey is €0.75. The card can be used to pay for up to five people. Touch it against the electronic card reader as you get on the bus, once per passenger.
- From top of Mount Igueldo at the West end of La Concha bay, enjoy great view of the town
- Visit the Miramar palace and its park over El pico del Loro; enjoy sitting on a lawn there
- Beach - there are two main beaches, one on either side of the river.
- La Concha, on the west side is the larger, is protected from the sea and has an island and boats in the bay. Ondarreta is in the same bay as La Concha, but split by El pico del Loro (a rocky outcropping). La Concha and Ondarreta has umbrellas, tents and lounge chairs for €15 per day; free WC, showers and changing rooms. A team of fully-equipped life-guards are there during the daytime.
La Zurriola to the east of the old town and river is a surf beach, clearly better if you want waves or beach sports.
- The Zurriola Surf Eskola (founded in 2012) offers surf lessons for both beginners and advanced with excellent trainers. They also rent board and wetsuits.
- The longtime Puka Surf Eskola offers surf lessons (around €65 per person for five one-hour lessons in a small group) and has a surf shop too.
- For a short easy hike visit the statue of Christ on top of the mountain between the beaches. It takes around an hour to walk up at a leisurely pace. There's a bar on the way up if you need to stop for refreshments or admire the view. To reach the bar: find a library; from there find directions upstairs to a Castle; follow the stairs along green hedge. The park officially closes at 9PM in summer (in reality, gates close bit later), and the bar closes before sunset in summer time—and definitely before park is closed.
- For a longer hike, head up the hill from Zurriola by taking Zemoria St up from the east end of the Zurriola, and following the long stairway at the end of Zemoria St up to the hiking path which is toward the left. From there, follow the trail marked by the red & white markings to Pasaia/San Pedro. Initially, the trail is marked by red, white, and green stripes, but the green trail diverts halfway in. The full hike from San Sebastian to Pasaia/San Pedro is approximately 5.5 miles one-way and should take around 2.5 hours. Once you get there, you can take a local bus back (for €1.35).
Clothes and shoesSan Sebastian is known as a stylish city and an image-conscious one, so it is stuffed with high-end shops. Peruse La Parte Vieja (the old part of town) for cool boutiques filled with quirky designer gear. There are fantastic shoe stores—I remember one in particular whose rainbow of amazing women's shoes in the window changed daily—and sources for that inimitable bold Spanish fashion. Designer clothes for men are much more difficult to find than for women.
Most shops are freestanding, but there is an enclosed shopping mall (La Brexta) that has the cineplex (as well as the city's lone McDonald's) as well as a collection of high street shops in the modern Nuevo Mercardo San Martin complex.
Some of the shops worthwhile visiting are:
phone: +34 943 432-056address: Garibai 8Try for gorgeous, one-of-a-kind women's shoes and accessories (bags and jewelry). Its tiny shop, and its displays are stunning, with walls lined in delicate shoes and silk scarves arranged by color.
phone: +34 943 42 56 34address: Txurruka, 6Women-only wear.
Nice-day, Nice-thingsphone: +34 943 425 403address: C/ Fuenterrabia, 14
Darlingtonphone: +34 943 465064address: C/Reyes Catolicos,10Original Spanish designer accessories at affordable prices.
address: C/ Usandizaga 7 and C/ Fermin Calbeton 44
Kukuxumusuphone: +34 943 421 184address: Mayor Kalea, 15See Buy section in Spain
phone: +34 943 428 996address: Calle San Bartolome, 12, San SebastianThe shop has the major surf brands plus helpful stuff that surf themself with passion. One finds surf boards, wet suits or swim and beach clothing.
San Sebastian is not a place for vegetarians or vegans, unless you are able to catch the fresh produce markets in the morning and cook for yourself. Pescetarians can get along fine with the abundance of seafood offered on menus.
Lo Mejor de la Gastronomia holds annual conference and competition in November, including nominations for pintxos bars and for restaurants.
BreakfastsHealthy breakfast (even omelet) is hard to find in cafes: typically sandwiches or breakfast variety of pintxos are offered.
Garagarphone: +34 943 42 28 40address: Alameda del Boulevard, 22Quite touristy place. Terrace has a surcharge, indoor is stifling and too dark for a breakfast.
phone: +34 943 424 169address: 20 Hondarribia KaleaNot evident from outside, this lounge-style cafe is popular place for breakfast among locals. Selection of potato-based pies, croissants with variety of meats. Good selection of infusion teas which are hard to find elsewhere in the city.
Lunch and dining
Along the waterfront one can find many cafes and bakeries.
phone: +34 943-422852address: C/Euskal Herria 6Great and inexpensive steak house.
phone: +34 943420180address: Calle Puerto 14, Old Town
phone: +34 943 42 16 52address: Muelle 26-27 bajoFish restaurant with Basque flavour. Perfectly-trained waiters with excellent English. Grilled rape is particularly good. Try cider, take a specialty cider pouring cork with you.
La Zurriphone: +34 943 29-3886address: Calle de Zabaleta 10Simple Basque dishes which are cooked delicately. Go downstairs. Popular with locals. For lunch, arrive before 3PM to catch full range of options. The daily menu includes a glass of wine. Flan is rare case when it has taste in every layer.
address: Plaza de la Trinidad 2, Parte ViejaExcellent, reasonably priced renditions of Basque specialties Txangurro, Chipirones en su tinta, y sopa de pescado.
address: Calle Fermin Calbeton 20, Old Town
phone: +34943311209address: Paseo Padre Orcolaga, 56, 20008 San Sebastián
phone: +34 943308220address: Paseo de Mikeletegi, 53, 20009 Donostia-San SebastianOwned by famous cook Hilario Arbelaitz. For adventurous it features a 10 course gastronomic menu for 100 EUR.
phone: +34 943 278 465 - 943 285 593address: Avda. Alcalde Jose Elosegui 273Three Michelin stars restaurant. All credit cards accepted. About €150 per head by the time you've added the wine etc., but well worth it!
phone: +34 943 36 64 71address: Calle Loidi 4, Lasarte-Oria (Guipúzcoa)A 3 Michelin star restaurant close to San Sebastian with other outlets at Kursaal and in Bilbao at the Guggenheim.
phone: +34 943 323 310address: Calzada Vieja de Ategorrieta 3Calzada Vieja de Ategorrieta, 3, 943 323 310. Just outside Gros in a residential street this family run restaurant has a mainly seafood menu. It's specialty is Spider Crab - it's baked variety is worth the 10 minute walk from the old town!
phone: +34 943 49 12 28address: Araneder Bidea, Barrio Iturriotz 20180 OIARTZUN, GipuzkoaA farmhouse transformed by cook Hilario Arbelaitz.
Don't attempt to eat pintxos if you're starving, you'll treat it like a buffet and prices will easily rack up as everything seems more appealing. Only get a couple of pintxos at a time as sometimes what looks really appealing, has been sitting on the bar the whole day and is past it's use by date. Test the waters. Cold ones are displayed on the bar. Just ask the barman for your drink and pick the pintxos yourself. If you need a plate, just ask.
Hot ones must be ordered from the barman and they take a short time to be cooked. There is always a hot tapas menu hanging from the wall.
When you are done eating your tapas and have finished your drink you ask the barman for the bill, and you have to tell him what you have eaten. It is very important to be honest, as it is a long tradition. Locals will be upset if they find people eating and not paying. Normally you don't eat many pintxos at one bar but move from bar to bar, drinking a beer (caña) or wine and eating one or two tapas. Then you move to another bar. Traditionally residents would have one or two pintxos in the early evening to stave off any hunger before a later sit-down meal, rather than making a meal out of a large number of pintxos.
Generally, if the barman asks you to show your plate to them before you start eating, you know the bar markets towards tourists and is sub par and more expensive that it should be. A good bar will ask you what you've eaten as you pay and you should see a chef working out the back.
Most pintxo bars are to be found in the old town, particularly on the streets running parallel to Boulevard. Generally a pintxo will cost €2-3. At some bars the pintxos are all priced the same, at others the price depends on the pintxo. Pintxos (tapas) bars are thick in the Parte Vieja (Old Town), but there are masses of other places nearby in the Gros and Centro areas. Most bars charge by the toothpick or plate from €1-5.
The Jamon Iberico (usually seen hanging from the ceiling in whole leg portions) is ubiquitous, and equally good virtually everywhere. The calamari seems to be the same at every bar, don't order it again at a different pintxo bar if you didn't like it the first time.
Old Town (Parte Vieja)
- Rojo Y Negro, Calle San Marcial 52, +34 94 343 1861. A little bit out of old town you'll find huge portions of tasty pintxos without breaking the bank. If you want to meet locals or see how this whole pintxos thing is done, this is the place to do it without being obnoxious or tacky. Minimal tourist flow and friendly, professional staff that speak enough English to understand you. Try the marinated octopus and meatballs in tomato sauce, although these are slightly expensive at €6, it's a full meal in itself and comes with bread. You can't go wrong with the even cheaper bread-based pintxos at €1.5 to €2.5 which range from interesting flavour combinations to the ol' steady, jamon on bread. Beer and wine is cheap and they won't turn up their noses if you ask for tap water.
- Bernardo Etxea is clean and pleasant, with excellently prepared pintxos. Calle Puerto, Parte Vieja
- Tamboril in the corner of the main square in the Old Town
- Goiz Argi Fermín Calbetón, Parte Vieja. Pintxos bar with the delicious brocheta de gambas (fried prawns with a special vinaigrette), bola de carne (meat ball with red pepper) and a lot of cold pintxos with anchovies, mushrooms, cod, salmon, etc. Any of wine by glasses is good.
- Ganbara Parte Vieja
- Casa Gandarias Parte Vieja. Try Solo Mio (a piece of sirloin steak) with a glass of Belondrade Y Lurton white wine.
Casa Vergaraphone: +34 943 43-10-73address: Parte Vieja, Mayor 15Pintxos bar, quite spacious. Not overcrowded in the evenings during the weekdays.
- Martinez Parte Vieja
- La Cepa Parte Vieja
- Borda Berri Parte Vieja. C/Fermin Calbeton. Excellent pintxos with a changing menu. Try the 'Taco de Bacalao' (Tempura fried cod with a romesco sauce)
- Juantxo Parte Vieja. C/Enbeltran. Best, cheapest 'bocadillo de tortilla de patatas' in Parte Vieja. About €2,70 for a huge sandwich.
- Hidalgo 56 Gros
- Bergara Gros
- Casa Senra Gros
- Iturrioz Centro.
- Bar Alex Centro
- Bar Alustiza Centro
- Bar Zazpi Centro
Cook-by-order pintxosSome slightly pricier pintxo bars that don't have pre-cooked pintxos and only cook them on order (correspondingly, their pintxo are of higher quality) are:
phone: +34 943 435 446address: Plaza Valle Lersundi, C/31 de Agosto 28Don't judge their food by their interior. Jamon Iberico is cited as particularly good.
phone: +34 650 135 373address: Calle 31 de AgostoTrendy interior, good-looking people. Really tasty tapas.
Borda Berriphone: +34 943 425 638address: Calle 12 Fermín CalbetónThe menu is on a chalk board and everything is excellent.
- The Kalimotxo (pronounced "calimotcho") is a local drink that is made with 50% wine (normally an inexpensive red wine) and 50% Coca-Cola. You will see a very large proportion of young people drink this near the harbour at playa La Concha and later on, in bars or clubs. It is definitely something to try out while you are there.
CafesCoffee is espresso, not brewed, even in the on-the-beach cafes.
Bideluzephone: +34 943-460219address: Plaza de Guipuzcoa 14Great place for coffee; Cafe Con Leche - that is, coffee with milk - is particularly good.
phone: +34 943 24 66 81address: Bermingham Kalea, 1 20002 Donostia-San SebastiánGreat place that newly opened in 2012 for breakfast with big toast named "tostadon", coffee and orange juice with free Wi-Fi. For lunch or dinner the burger are very popular. The owner of course surfs himself.
Cider and SidreriaA purely Guipuzcoan experience, sidrerias dot the countryside and offer all you can drink sidra (a mildly alcoholic apple flavored cider) shooting straight from the barrel. Sidrerias usually offer a traditional set menu of cod omelette, cod with peppers, txuleta (really thick steak), and then for dessert: cheese, walnuts and membrillo (quince paste). The cider house season runs from the end of January to the end of May, but a couple of traditional sidrerias that are open all year (you'll need to get a car, bus or taxi from town) are:
Aginagaphone: +34 943 36 67 10address: Aginaga
phone: +34 943 45 71 88address: Astigarraga
- Bataplán is definitely the hottest club in San Sebastian. Be careful not to arrive too early; usually there is no party before 1AM. People normally start arriving at 2AM, and the club closes around 6 or 7AM. The entry fee is normally €15 (including one drink) but you can get in for free before 3AM if you ask for a VIP pass at a bar beforehand (Bar Tas Tas is a good place for that). This club has an amazing terrace out back to relax after you've had one drink too many (drinks cost around €8 a pop, by the way, €5 for a beer). All year round, the club is filled with local people, tourists and exchange students.
phone: +34 943 457 117address: De Uba Bidea,43 20014 Donostia-San SebastianBackpacker Hostels Nest in Donostia-San Sebastián.
phone: +34 943-280490address: Paseo Padre Orkolaga 69, Igeldo (San Sebastián)Open all year. You must book at peak times or be lucky. It is very international with free Wi-Fi covering the full campground, lockers (but no fridges), some places with power plugs, a bar, a minor shop and a couple of restaurants nearby, and a bus directly to the beach and centre. It has a beautiful view to the green foothills of the Pyrenees.
phone: +34 943-428154address: Alameda del Boulevard 26One of the popular hostels in town
phone: +34 943-327800address: 9 Iztueta st1º floor,("Gros" Quarter),
Olga´s Placephone: +34 943-326725address: 38 Zabaleta st.An international hostel 1 minute walk from the beach. Clean rooms, free internet. Friendly staff.
phone: +34 943 431 114Calle Puerto 6 (Parte Vieja-Centro), €30-55.
Hotel Anoetaphone: +34 943-451499address: 60 Anoeta Avenue(Amara). €80-100.
Hotel Avenidaphone: +34 943-21202255 Road to Igeldo (Igeldo). Prices from €78-125.
phone: +34 943 423-773address: C/Puerto 13, 1st and 2nd floorsRooms are all in the same design, but vary in size (#5 Donostia is much smaller than #4 Kursaal or #1). Some rooms have no view (e.g. #5). Shared bathroom, unoccupied most of the time even in high season. No breakfasts; no shared guestroom to spend time with fellow travelers. Helpful staff. The whole pension is less than 10 rooms.
Hotel Europaphone: +34 943-470880address: 55 San Martín st
Pension Ira Flor13 San Jeronimo (Old town), Phone/. €25-50 depending on season and room size. Very clean and friendly.
phone: +34 943-426345C/San Juan nº 13 - 3 floor -. It´s located in the Old Town. Double and group rooms (15€ - €65).
Hospedaje Irunephone: +34 943425743-626625110San Jerónimo 17-1º Derecha (Old town). Rooms with en-suite bathroom €25-47 depending on season. Clean and friendly.
Hotel Nizaphone: +34 943-426663address: 56 Zubieta st.
phone: +34 94 3219077address: Vitoria-Gasteiz, 1Next to the Ondarreta beach
Pension La Perlaphone: +34 943-428123address: Calle Loiola 10-1Clean and friendly. Her sister runs the nearby Urkia. Rooms with en-suite bathroom.
Pension Urkiaphone: +34 943-424436address: Calle Urbieta 12-3Clean and friendly. Her sister runs the nearby La Perla. Rooms with en-suite bathroom
Hotel Mercure Monte Igueldophone: +34 943-210211Pº del Faro 134(Igeldo), Prices range from 96-130 Euros. The Hotel sits on top of Mountain Igeldo and has scenic view over San Sebastian and the best beach in San Sebastian "La Concha"
phone: +34 943 437 600address: Paseo Republica Argentina, 4a Luxury Collection Hotel. A luxury belle epoque hotel, it is the choice of many actors during the world-famous cinema festival. Renovated in May 2013, this hotel combines the best of modern luxury with old world charm. Don't miss the hotel bar, the underground gym (complete with full shower facilities), and internet/computer library.
InternetWiFi zones can be seen in a cafe on the Ondarreta beach; in many bars in the Old City. It's unclear whether they are paid or free of charge.
- Splash, C/Sanchez Toca, 7. In the Centro neighborhood, right behind the Buen Pastor Cathedral. Offers free Wi-Fi with purchase of food, drink, etc.
- Kite, C/Ijentea, 4. In Parte Vieja, towards the end of the Boulevard, going towards the Kontxa. Offers free Wi-Fi with the purchase of food, drink, etc.
There are many WiFi points throughout the city and indicated by a white WiFi symbol on street-posts. These are free to access.