Is it possible for anyone not to fall head-over-heels in love with San Sebastián, aka Donosti, the pride of Basque Country?
San Sebastián has got world-renowned food, lush mountain views and one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Spain. Those are just a few reasons why Donosti is forever a beloved destination for Spaniards and travelers from around the world. This small but mighty city offers plenty of unique experiences for everyone and here are a few of our favorite must-do’s in San Sebastián.
@jetsettimes Beautiful beaches and sunny things to do in #nerja #spain Captured by our very own @International Women of Mystery 👙🇪🇸 #travel #traveltips #traveltok #travellife #traveltiktok #spain #spain🇪🇸 #europe #summer #summervibes #summertime #beach #beachvibes #andalusian #spanish ♬ Daydream – Carly Pearl
Spend a Beach Day at La Concha
La Concha really is one of the most beautiful beaches you’ll ever see. Located right in the city center, the Bay of La Concha is a perfect crescent-shaped beach whose curves stretch from one end of the city to the other. The smooth surface of glistening cerulean waters against the lush green hills and San Sebastián’s own Sacred Heart Jesus statue on Mount Urgull never ceases to astound and amaze. It’s the iconic view which attracts thousands of travelers to Donosti each year.
If you get a chance to check out La Concha in the warmer months, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more ideal beach. The sand on the beach is powdery soft and stretches on for a mile so there’s plenty of beach to go around for lots of groups, big and small. The bay is shallow which means the water is deliciously temperate and perfect for swimming on warm sunny days.
Walk Along the Promenade to La Ondarreta
Kontxa Pasealekua, 20007 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
San Sebastián truly has one of the most beautiful beachfront walks in all of Europe. The pretty promenade which curves along with La Concha, leads from the main beach to Ondarreta beach on the other side. On the way, you’ll see a lot of the landscape of San Sebastián and the different styles of elegant buildings that populate the urban center. You’ll also get to see the entire stretch of La Concha and the islands and hills along the way. At the very end, you’ll be greeted by the lush green hills and glassy waters of Ondarreta beach.
Ondarreta is quieter than La Concha, but with beach chairs and striped umbrellas for rent. You can tell it’s the classier beach hangout for the city’s more fabulous inhabitants and is definitely worth spending some time in after a scenic walk down the promenade.
Ride the Historic Funicular up to Monte Igueldo
Once you reach La Ondarreta Beach at the end of the promenade and continue to go straight, you’ll reach the historic funicular, aka cable car, which will take you all the way up Monte Igueldo for just 3 euros. Monte Igueldo’s cable car has been running since 1912 and still runs in fabulous shape, as in it’s less scary than riding a cable car up and down a hill in San Francisco. The best part is the views that you get as you ride up the verdant green hill. At the very top, you’ll be greeted by views of where La Concha meets the Cantabrian Sea, as well as the sprawling urban center of all of San Sebastián. Nowhere else in the city will you ge these sweet views, so be sure to ride the historic cable car at least once to see Donosti at its finest.
Ride the Rollercoaster at Monte Igueldo Amusement Park (Parque de Atracciones Monte Igueldo)
De Igeldo Ibilbidea, 187, 20008 Donostia-San Sebastian, Gipuzkoa, Spain
When the funicular drops you off at the top of Monte Igueldo, just a few steps away is the historic Monte Igueldo Amusement Park. The amusement park is even older than the cable car, as the park was inaugurated in 1911, one year before the funicular opened. The amusement park is quite tiny, with just a few rides and carnival games, but it still retains its retro charm.
Riding the vintage rollercoaster is an absolute must. For just three euros, you can take a fun rollercoaster ride around the mountain and catch jaw dropping views of the Cantabrian Sea while you’re at it. You can also ride the vintage bumper cars, carousel and there’s even a boat ride that you can drive around a mini moat. The whimsical, old-fashioned charm of Monte Igueldo Amusement Park makes for some wholesome fun and is especially cute as an idea for a date.
Surf and Chill at La Zurriola Beach
La Concha might get all the shine but there’s another beach on the other side of the bridge, La Zurriola, and its surrounding area, which happens to be the up-and-coming part of San Sebastián. What distinguishes Zurriola Beach from La Concha is that there are waves at La Zurriola, and it’s the primary spot where people can surf right in the city. There are surfboard rentals and surf schools along the beach for those who want to get in the waves.
Zurriola Beach is awesome with long flat stretches of sand and a generally chiller, younger vibe than La Concha. Although, beachgoers are warned not to go in the water when there are big waves, so it’s not as safe for swimming all the time. But even when it’s not advised to swim, Zurriola Beach is still great for just hanging out on the shore and watching more experienced surfers catching waves.
Stuff Your Face with Pintxos in Parte Vieja
San Sebastián’s magnificent gastronomy is a big draw for most travelers, specifically the pintxos, which are tasty little snacks you can order to go with your drink at the bar. Rain or shine, there’s no shortage of delectable pintxos in the multitude of bars packed inside Parte Vieja—aka the city’s Old Town. If you pop into any bar within Parte Vieja, most of them will have some snacks and pintxos that you can order with your drinks. The fun ones will have various pintxos on display which you can directly pick and choose from.
Some of our favorite pintxo bars include Tamboril for their fried shrimp pipas and cod tortilla (tortilla de bacalao). As well as Borda Berri for the tender pork ribs and roast duck magret. Our favorite bar with pintxos on display is Bodega Donostiarra, where everything looks delicious and mouthwatering, making it impossible to choose which pintxos to try.
Also, make sure you order and drink plenty of txakoli, a deliciously dry and fruity white wine produced with grapes from the Basque Country, while you’re at it!
Eat up San Sebastián’s World-Renowned Fine Dining Scene
It’s no secret that San Sebastián is home to many world-renowned restaurants with multiple spots having three Michelin stars under their belts. The legendary three Michelin star restaurants include the likes of Arzak and Akelarre, which have perfected the art of blending traditional and innovative Basque cuisine. There are also stellar restaurants with two Michelin stars like Amelia by Paulo Airaudo and Mugaritz that push the boundaries of creative, avant-garde gastronomy.
There are also plenty of renowned restaurants outside of the Michelin-star lineup, such as Rekondo, which has been serving high-end Basque cuisine since 1964. Rekondo serves top-notch ingredients that are beautifully prepared with colorful accoutrements that make every bite unique. The restaurant also boasts one of the top bodegas in the world and a scenic location at the foothills of Mount Igueldo.
With a star-studded restaurant scene and a seemingly never-ending list of local culinary talent, there’s lots of action (and far in-advance reservations) for serious foodies to get in on during any trip to San Sebastián!
Try the World-Famous Cheesecake at Bar La Viña
31 de Agosto Kalea, 3, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Is it any surprise that the most famous cheesecake in the world is made in San Sebastián? Of course, not, considering Basque cheesecake is an entire category of baked goods of its own that’s worth obsessing over. Bar La Viña is the name on everyone’s lips when it comes to the best cheesecake in town. La Viña’s creamy cheesecake with the burnt brown edges has been featured on countless TikToks and food blogs, as well as a nod from the New York Times as the “Flavor of the Year” in 2021.