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10 Places to Visit in San Sebastian – Donosti

Updated on October 8, 2014

San Sebastian - From A Small Fishing Village to World Know Resort

San Sebastian is a magnificent resort without the normal holiday resort trimmings and makes it ideal beginning to explore the Basque Country. This is the capital of the province of Guipuzcoa the smallest province in Spain. The city offers quiet, natural places just minutes from the city centre and the city is divided into two by the River Urumea.

About the City

Just 21km west of the French border, within the Basque Country (Euskadi) lays Donostia - San Sebastian, the summer capital of Spain. It is located against the Bay of Biscay, surrounded by green mountains. It has about 180,000 inhabitants - typical close-minded, patriotic but very nice and helpful people.

San Sebastian is a magnificent resort without the normal holiday resort trimmings and makes it ideal beginning to explore the Basque Country. This is the capital of the province of Guipuzcoa the smallest province in Spain. The city offers quiet, natural places just minutes from the city centre and the city is divided into two by the River Urumea.

Getting to San Sebastian is relatively easy as it is linked to most of Spain's major cities by bus. The trains from Madrid to the French border at Irun all stop here. Iberia airlines also offer flights from Madrid to San Sebastian airport. You can also use the train transportation of Spain - Renfe, which offers comfortable travel from Barcelona and Madrid as well.

The other way to reach it is using the cheap charters of Ryanair to Biarritz or Vueling to Bilbao. The both cities are 1hour bus driving away.

Donostiatia - San Sebastian was once a small fishing village and the inhabitants lived facing the sea. They were known to have hunted whales and fished for cod. At one point it was a thriving port, importing wines and oil for France and England. Over the centuries the city has undergone many sieges and in 1808 it was occupied by Napoleon's soldiers who stayed here until 1813. The city fell into decline in the 19th century but was lifted in 1845 when Queen Isabel II arrived in the city to spend the summer there., a tradition that continued for decades.

Events in San Sebastian in 2011

The city offers some of the typical Basque – Spanish Fiestas and Celebrations during the whole year. Here you can check the most important events going on every year in this heavenly place!


20th - San Sebastian Day. The patron saints day with parades.

Two cross-country races


Tinkers Parade, prelude to the carnival

Nursemaid's and Shepherd's Day

Carnival, a celebration popular since 1978


Domingo de Piñata

Horse racing season starts


second fortnight is the book fair

Music festival and festival of Andalucian folklore


Dia de las Casas Regionales - different regions of Spain on display


23rd-24th San Juan night with bonfires to mark the start of summer


Festival of Jazz

Theatre fair


Semana Grande - Day of the Virgin

International fireworks competition

Fiesta del 31 de Agosto - marking the fire of 1813


Rural sports and folklore fair

International Film festival


Fantasy and Horror Film Festival




21st - Feria de Santo Tomás

Arts and crafts market

31st - San Silvestre footrace



San Sebastian’s Kursaal Congress Centreis an amazing architectural work by Rafael Moneo facing the Bay of Biscay, the epicenter of the city’s cultural and congress activity, gathering more than 300 events and 600,000 people every year.

Get deeper into these two translucent glass cubes and be surprised at the poly-valence of their spaces, from the auditorium, with capacity for 1,806 people, to the meeting rooms and the exhibition areas.

You will realize that this singular setting is perfect for celebrating all kind of congresses, conventions, conferences, fairs, concerts or shows. Kursaal is, moreover, the first congress center in Spain awarded with the Global Accessibility Certification.

Different and singular offer is the restaurant service. The team is led by the chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, a guarantee of success due to the experience and creativity of a cooker with two Michelin stars.It has capacity from 10 to 575 people.

Kursaal Palace 3D View

Parte Vieja

All About Nightlife

For Parte Vieja they say that it is the place with the tinniest streets in Europe and with the most bars per sqm. There are plenty of small bars with "pinxos" and typical Spanish drinks. Jamon and Bocadillos will satisfy your hunger for something really delicious and worthy. The 3 restaurants situated in the Port will offer you magical Sea food. Enjoy the view of the Atlantic eating the best seafood and drinking amazing wine in the northern Sapin. When the work day is over and you need to wind down, San Sebastian bars and night clubs have everything you need to relax. If your primary desire is a place to nurse a drink and enjoy some friendly conversation, take advantage of the city's many bars, like Tas Tas, Zibibo, Ezpala or Mendaur. As the night wears on, consider catching a few sets of live music to get a feel for San Sebastian's local talent. The Caledorian is one of the best places to do that, and you can always count on an array of terrific performances. Really want to let loose? Nothing beats dancing to high-energy rhythms, and you'll find those regularly at Bataplan or Rotonda. The music pumps, the clientele are stylish and fun, and you are practically guaranteed to have a great time. When it comes to nightlife, there are plenty of things to do in San Sebastian!

Buen Pastor/Chueches - The Good Shepherd Catedral

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Buen Pastor Ubicada Cathedral in the city center of San Sebastian. The architect is Manuel de Echave. The church covers an area of 1,915 square meters and was inaugurated in 1897 and is surrounded by beautiful trees.

In 1887 the City Council gave a plot-marsh-bound yet to build a church that would serve the new Widening of San Sebastian. In 1888 the project of architect Manuel Echave was chosen among the others with Echave himself becoming the director of the building process. The cathedral was finished at 1953.

Good Pastorel Cathedral temple is inspired by German gothic cathedrals model. It has three naves (five near the sanctuary) to cruise, but do not have ambulatory. The length of the nave is 64 m., and its height of 25 m. The bell tower, located on the front porch, is shaped like a needle that rises 75 m. high. It was completed in 1899 under the direction of Ramon Cortazar.

The windows were designed and painted by Juan Bautista Lázaro. Seven of them represent the twelve apostles and the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Nowadays the cathedral is one if the most important touristic attractions in San Sebastian. Still used for organizing Great Weddings.

Hours: Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 12.30 pm and from 17.00 to 20.00 h. Saturdays and Sundays, hours of worship.

Entry fee: Free

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cheap hotels spain

Monte Urgull

This is a a hill by the ocean sitting at the heart of San Sebastian. The hill (123 m at its highest point) shapes along with Monte Urgull and Igeldo the city's coastline relief, standing at the northern end of a peninsula formerly linked to mainland by a spit of sand between the river Urumea and the Bay of La Concha (nowadays a built-up area making up the city center).

The hill became a defence point since the early ages of the city foundation in the 12th century, but the walls and the military structure were reinforced especially after the modern state boundaries took shape in the 16th century. The hill is topped by a stronghold (headquarters, barracks and sheds), the Mota Castle, but it had a chapel and a conspicuous 12 meter-long sculpture of Jesus Christ added in 1950, now towering over the bay. The hill (as well as the city) was a hotspot for military operations. The hill lost its military interest on account of the city's newly acquired tourist resort status and was sold to the city council in 1924.

Urgull shows nowadays a tree-covered surface for the most part, picturesque military structures reminiscent of other times and pleasant promenades with outstanding views over the bay and the city.

Mount Opening: Summer from May 1 to September 30 from 8:00 to 21:00; Winter from October 1 to April 31 from 08:00 to 19:00.

Zurriola /La Concha/Ondaretta

The Beaches

San Sebastian has three beaches: the Playa de la Concha, Ondaretta and the Playa de Gros. La Concha is probably the prettiest, with a wide crescent of sand stretching around the bay, but it's also the most crowded. Ondaretta is less packed and almost as pretty, and most consider Ondaretta to be the best beach for swimming. The atmosphere here is calmer than La Concha's bikini party atmosphere. Zurriola is the beach where all the young people are gathering to have sun , chat play some beach sports – basketball, volleyball or to do surf or bodysurfing .there are several bases where you can get a personal instructor and to get into the adventure to discover the water world and the huge waves.

Though this beach is not as popular for swimming because it is considered less safe, it is still popular for a stroll or for sunbathing. Moneo, a famous Spanish architect, built the well-known Kursaal building looking out over this hotel-lined beach.

La Concha is the place where the most of the tourists which are there to relax prefere to go. The waves are way calmer, but the only bad thing is the tide - the water is slowly moving and shrinking the sands area little by little when at the end of the day you find yourself almost stuffed one to another next to the wall.

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Santa Clara

The picturesque island of Santa Clara is situated closely offshore in the center of the La Concha Bay and can be accessed from the pier located on the eastern side of the isle. It is home to one of the areas prettiest beaches in the area, although due to the tides it can only be used for part of the day. The island can be accessed by boat or why not join some of the locals and swim across!

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Located on the port, this aquarium has a great view overlooking the water. It features a 360-degree underwater tunnel that provides a first-hand look at marine life in action. The facility also has a 46-feet long whale skeleton on display, as well as sea fossils and shells that date back 700 years. There are even reproductions of old boats. The aquarium is built along the waterfront, so when a wave crashes into the building's side, guests experience a touch of the sea's movement. This is fun and educational excursion which is for every taste and age, one of the funniest places which you can visit if you are on a trip with your kids.

Museo Chillida Leku opened in 2000 and celebrates the artistic work of San Sebastián native Eduardo Chillida. Renowned for open space monuments like Lugar de Encuentros that hangs from a Madrid bridge, Chillida is a sculptor whose work spans the 20th century. The museum is located on 12 acres of farmland where artwork is displayed in fields. A renovated farmhouse serves as a gallery space. BUS: Calle Oquendo on the half-hour from San Sebastián

Museo Naval – this museum is situated in Parte Vieja where all the bars and nice cathedrals are situated in san Sebastian! The Museum can give you special knowledge about the trade economy and boat construction. This place can offer you a real 3 D construction of a ship! The museum is really interesting and is definitely worthy to be visited.

Monte Igueldo - Heaven

As some of the visitors including me name this place "Heaven" I want to give it the same nickname here in the article.

It is not just because of the amazing hotel situated there (Hotel Mercure Igueldo is located in the Monte Idelgo, 170m above the sea level. The hotel allows the visitors to enjoy the amazing view of the whole San Sebastian and the most popular sightseeing), nether the old amusement park including rides for kids and lift from the city to the mountain. It is all about the view that this place can offer you. You can fully indulge the nature and the ocean! Of course, climb up the mountain by foot which is really nice. Seeing all the nature surrounding this place and breathing the fresh air of the woods around!

There is no better place to drink a glass of champagne and to memorize the moment with your beloved or group of friends!

Monte Urgulo on Camera

Video of San Sebastian

San Sebastian is one of the most incredible places and capital of the European culture for 2016! This city fully deserves this title. The culture in this place and all the surroundings can give to the traveller the peace of the nature, the craziness of the Spanish nightlife and fulfil your senses of pleasure even just walking through the streets or along the river!

Do You Like San Sebastian?

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      San Sebastian has a lot of rich history, for sure. I think the churches come from the strong Catholic influence.

    • mihgasper profile image

      Miha Gasper 

      6 years ago from Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU

      Astonishing place, still unspoiled by commercial tourism. hope it stays this way...

    • Frank Edens profile image

      Frank Edens 

      6 years ago

      One of the most unknown places in Spain. Just an amazing place....! Next year we will visit this place again...

    • TeacherSerenia profile image


      7 years ago

      Very nice lens and LOTS of lovely photos. Blessed by an Angel.


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