48 hours in stunning San Sebastián – explore its unmissable attractions
The beautiful city on the Bay of Biscay has everything a weekend destination needs: fantastic food and great shopping and cultural experiences.
San Sebastián, or Donostia as the city is called in Basque, has for many years been a destination that foodies the world over have kept to themselves. Located in the heart of Basque country in northern Spain, it is the city in Europe with the most Michelin-starred restaurants per square kilometre. No place in the world has more stars per capita!
But in the pursuit of tempting visitors with incredible dining experiences, much of what San Sebastián has to offer beyond food has been overshadowed. Even with a modest 200,000 inhabitants, it is an oasis of memorable experiences.
Whether seeking gastronomic adventure, exploring cultural treasures, or being soothed by the waves on the beach, 48 hours in San Sebastián is an unforgettable journey into a world of sensual pleasures and cultural insights.
Here is a suggestion on how to make the best use of your precious time in one of Spain's most vibrant cities.
How to get to San Sebastián
The easiest way to get to San Sebastián is to fly to the neighbouring city of Bilbao. There are direct flights from many of the biggest cities in Europe.
From other parts of the world, you should plan on needing to make a stopover or two.
From Bilbao airport it is a 40-50 minute drive by taxi to San Sebastián city centre. Expect to pay around €100 one way. Buses are a cheaper option and there is a direct bus from the airport to San Sebastián bus terminal.
Where to stay in San Sebastián
There is no shortage of good accommodation options in the city, where the different neighbourhoods all have their own unique charm. Fortunately, San Sebastián is easy to navigate, and most things in the centre are just a short walk away. In recent years, the city has also invested heavily in promoting cycling, and it is a great city to experience from the seat of a bicycle.
If you want to stay in a nice and central spot, the venerable Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra is the place for you. The hotel has been running for over 150 years and is perfectly located on the seafront overlooking La Concha beach. There are 166 rooms in total and it's just short distance to most of San Sebastián's attractions such as museums, shopping, and restaurants.
Find exclusive offers from our partners: Hotel by the beach
Day 1 in San Sebastián
After checking in, slip into some comfortable shoes and go explore the city. San Sebastián is perfect to discover on your own and is a classic Spanish town with large, open squares in delightful combination with narrow streets and alleys.
Walk in the direction of the old town and spend the next few hours exploring the district. Here, you will find plenty of bars, restaurants and shops. Take a trip to the San Telmo Museum, housed in a monastery from the 1600s. Here, you can learn more about Basque culture and history.
After your museum visit, walk across the bridge in the direction of Zurriola beach in the Gros neighbourhood. The beach is known for partying, fun, and good waves, attracting surfers from all over the world. The Gros neighbourhood also has a large selection of antique shops, galleries and sporting goods shops.
The best lunch in San Sebastián
By now, you might be hungry. If you didn't take the opportunity to try out one of the many restaurants in the old town, we highly recommend sampling some tasty tacos at Doña Chepina. It may sound strange, but believe us, the small restaurant in the Aegia neighbourhood is worth the trip. Run by Betty, originally from Mexico, and her family, it's home to the city's - if not Europe's - best tacos.
After lunch, head back towards the city centre in the direction of the Artzain Onaren Cathedral. In the surrounding area you will find good opportunities for shopping and a breather at the many outdoor spots in the area around the cathedral. Sip a glass of dry cider or Txakoli wine – both local specialities.
A gastronomic paradise
It's no secret that many people come to San Sebastián solely to eat delicious food. It's no wonder considering that the city is considered one of the world's most exciting food destinations, widely known for pinxtos, a kind of Basque tapas. All over the city you will find bars serving these fantastic snacks for a low price.
In the old town alone, you will find over 200 pinxto bars. Hop from bar to bar and taste local specialties. If you are not sure which one to visit, a guided pinxto tour might be a good idea. Mimo – Bite the experience is a company that offers such tours. In addition to a local guide, food and drinks are included in the price.
When your pinxtos tour is over, end the evening at one of the old town's many exciting bars. If great cocktails, cool music, and friendly staff are what you're looking for, check out the Arraun cocktail bar at Angel Kalea 4.
Day 2 in San Sebastián
If the weather is on your side, start the day with a refreshing dip in the Bay of Biscay. It nurtures both body, soul and mind – perfect if you had one too many cocktails the night before.
Learn to cook Basque cuisine
Considering that San Sebastián is a destination for food lovers, a great way to experience the culinary culture up close is through a cooking class. Mimo – Bite the experience, mentioned above, offers several different cooking classes. Join experienced master chefs at one of the city's many food markets, source ingredients and make your own Basque dish. It's fun and educational.
After a day in the kitchen, a walk along the promenade at La Concha beach is highly recommended. Follow the promenade out to the sculpture series Haizearen orrazia XV. On the way, stop at the Palace of Miramar, built for the Spanish royal family in 1893. There are various cultural events held in the garden of the palace all year round and it offers a unique view of the city and the bay.
You may even be lucky enough to catch a free concert!
Countless Michelin-starred alternatives
Can you even say that you've been to San Sebastián if you have not eaten at one of the city's many Michelin-starred restaurants? There are many to choose from, but Amelia, Arzak, and Martín Berasategui are among the most famous. Owner and star chef at Amelia, Paulo Airaudo, has lifted the veil on what it takes in terms of dedication and perfection to be among the best restaurants in the world.
Check out our article: Chasing his third Michelin star in the world's premier food city
Once dinner is complete, it's important to burn some of the calories one has consumed. The old town is still the liveliest area, but other good options for live music and partying until the late hours include Gros, Aegia, and the area known as Reyes Católicos.
Discover San Sebastián
Dazzling beauty, world-famous food and beautiful beaches. Here is where to stay in the Spanish city.