Discover San Sebastian
San Sebastian is more than just a pretty face. The city has plenty to offer. No matter what you are after, you are sure to find here in the city. With its unique mix of both the Spanish and Basque culture, San Sebastian’s distinctive character will make you feel right at home from the very first day. It's no wonder that people say that San Sebastian is one of the nicest cities in all of Europe!
San Sebastian (or Donostia as the locals call it!) has three urban beaches: La Concha, Ondaretta and Zurriola. Each beach has its own distinct personality so whether you’re looking for a beach that is internationally renowned, family friendly or a sports hot spot, there’s something for everyone!
- La Concha has been voted as one of the 15 best beaches in Europe and is considered to be one of the prettiest urban beaches in the world.
- Ondaretta Beach is located at the foot of Monte Igueldo, nestled between beautiful villas and picturesque gardens, and is a great spot for families and water sports such as surf, kayaking or stand up paddle boarding.
- Zurriola Beach, next to the Kursaal Convention Centre, is a true surfer's paradise and a heaven for beach volleyball.
The city has a proud heritage of promoting cultural and social cohesion. San Sebastian is famed for its international festivals that celebrate film, jazz, arts and more. Few cities can offer so much in such a liveable space!
San Sebastian has over 12 museums located in and around the city. The famous San Telmo Museum is a must-see if you are interested in taking a closer look at the turbulent history of The Basque Country. San Sebastian’s Aquarium is one of the best in Europe and is well worth visiting. Just 20 minutes from San Sebastian you’ll find Albaola, an innovative factory museum that shows you the Noa San Juan being reconstructed, using traditional building methods. For fashionistas, a visit to the Cristobal Balenciaga Museum in Getaria is a must!
Located just next door to the school is the newly opened Tabakalera, a center for contemporary culture. The center has two purposes: to be a place of production and to offer a program of public activities. This program includes opportunities for contemporary artistic practices, mediation, digital culture laboratories and the Tabakalera's own creation library.
In each of the 12 neighbourhoods in San Sebastian you’ll also find cultural centres which run a variety of social and cultural activities, host theatre and dance performances, screen films, lend out books and much more.
2016 European Capital of Culture
Being the 2016 European Capital of Culture is an enormous opportunity for the city to build a bridge towards improved coexistence between San Sebastian, Spain and Europe. It will also foster innovation in the cultural sector at a local level. The 2016 program is designed to leave a legacy for future generations: a local community with greater freedom, humanism and respect towards human rights, a more participatory society that learns to solve its conflicts through culture and the arts. For more information visit: www.dss2016.eu
Events & festivals
Throughout the year, a variety of different festivals take place with the three most popular being the Jazzaldia Jazz Festival (July), San Sebastian’s Semana Grande (August) and the Zinemaldia International Film Festival (September). During winter there is the spectacular San Sebastian Day with its impressive drumming parade in January as well as Carnival celebrations.
As the Basque culture celebrates tradition, folklore and heritage, festivals and fairs for local patron saints are common. It’s not uncommon to see farmers markets, artisan stalls, traditional Basque sports competitions and charangas (travelling marching bands) throughout the city during these celebrations. Saint Thomas Day on December 21st and Euskal Jaiak in early September are two particularly important festivities.
The culture of food and gastronomy is deeply rooted in the Basque tradition. You can find delicious evidence of this in the city and across the Basque Country from the bit-sized snacks of the pintxo bars to the tempting daily menus to the exquisite dishes of some of Europe’s master chefs.
As one of the most famous cities in the gastronomic and haute cuisine world, San Sebastian understandably has the highest number of Michelin stars per square meter globally. In San Sebastian there are 16 Michelin stars shared among nine restaurants including Akelarre, Arzak, Martín Berasategui, Mugaritz, Alameda, Elkano, Kokotxa, Mirador de Ulia and Zuberoa.
The pintxo is also unique to the Basque Country and San Sebastian takes pride in being the hometown of the “Gilda" – a spicy mix of ab anchovy, olive and green pickled pepper served with lashings of olive oil. Going out for pintxos is a way to get to know the Basque culture and its love of food. La Parte Vieja, Gros and the City Centre all have their own delicious pintxo route.
For a more economic option try out Pintxo+Pote! It’s a particular favorite for students as you can get a drink and a tasty snack for around 2€. Head to Amara on Wednesday, Gros on Thursdays or Egia on Fridays. It’s a great way to start the night and to meet the locals.
The Basque cider houses are also a great way to interact with the locals. The cider is famous for is tart flavor and easy to drink. When visiting a cider house you’ll enjoy a traditional set menu with unlimited cider poured directly from the barrel to your glass. The menu usually consists of salted cod omelet, fired cod with green peppers, charcoal-grilled beef rib chop (normally weighing in at around 2 kgs!) and a dessert of sheep’s cheese, quince jelly and walnuts. The cider houses are located in and just outside of San Sebastian and you get can to them by bus or taxi.
The great outdoors
The city combines a seaside experience with spectacular mountain scenery. The sheer quantity of national parks and nature reserves provides ample opportunities for enjoying the outdoors.
For mountain treks, the north of Navarra provides remarkable mountain views while coastal hikes along Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Lapurdi feature striking coastlines and picturesque fishing villages. The popular Camino de Santiago passes through San Sebastian and students can enjoy hiking along parts of this famous trek.
Given its proximity to The Pyrenees Mountains it is the perfect base camp for downhill skiing or cross country skiing in the winter months. You can also spend the weekend at ski hot spots such as Formigal in north-eastern Spain or La Mongie in France.
For those seeking more adventure, in 2015 a new Adventure & Activity Park, IrriSarri Land, opened in nearby Navarra and offers a wide range for activities for adults and teenagers. It has an indoor ropes course, dirt bike tracks, zip-line circuit, giant pendulum swing and even helicopter rides!
Additionally, San Sebastian has a range of sporting options from football, tennis, golf to ice skating.
San Sebastian offers different nightlife options from cocktail bars to student friendly pubs, from live music venues to clubs.
If you are after a lively bar scene with a variety of options head to La Parte Vieja. Apart from local bars and pubs you’ll also find some cocktail bars and jazz bars. You’ll also find four of the main clubs located close to La Parte Vieja. Head towards La Concha and you’ll also find two of the main clubs – Bataplan and La Rotunda – or towards to River Urumea to get into Friends or Vitoria Eugenia.
Reyes Católicos, located just behind the Buen Pastor Cathedral, has some great terraces and a good mix of more local bars. You can also find DJs on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
If you like live music, head to our neighbourhood Egia! La Bukowksi and Daba Daba both host concerts from local, national and international artists from a range a different genres. Depending on who is playing there may be a cover charge.
Gros also has some good nightlife options and is especially popular on Thursday evenings. You’ll also find some cocktail bars (including a Gin Tonic bar!) nestled among the more budget friendly pubs.
Discover more about San Sebastian:
- San SebastianTurism Office
- European Capital of Culture 2016
- San Sebastian Events & Festivals
- San Sebastian Restaurants
- Club Fortuna Gym