If you’re backpacking in Spain and find yourself on a quick visit to one of its most famous towns in the Basque Country, you’re in for a treat! these are my recommendations on things to do in San Sebastian for a very quick one-day visit!
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San Sebastian is relatively small, but prepare yourself to walk a lot in order to do all of the following. There are buses, but for me that’s cheating 😉
Brace yourself for a full-day of wandering in San Sebastian!
Start your day by Climbing the Mount Urgull
After having breakfast, the best you can do is go straight to Mount Urgull. It doesn’t take more than 15-25 minutes to get to the top and you will be rewarded by the best views of San Sebastian! it will take longer though as you will find numerous spots to stop and enjoy the views.
Among the few spots with different viewpoints, my favourite was actually the viewpoint towards the Zurriola Beach as it looks a little bit less “built” than the main beach “Playa de la Kontxa”
At the top of the mount you will find the defensive outpost of La Mota Castle, from here you will be able to admire the entire town that you will walk later!
There are a few paths as well so you can go down on a different route than you came up, you will find plenty of signs showing the route.
Walk the Playa de la Kontxa
Coming down from Mount Urgull the next stop will be to go towards the Comb of the Wind sculpture. To get there you need to walk all over the Playa de la Kontxa.
This is one of the most famous city beaches in Europe and back in the 19th century was chosen into a sort of summer residence by the royal family of Spain.
The beach is about 1.4Km long and expect it to be pretty crowded with sunny days! as I had a bit of a miserable rainy day there were not many who adventured out that day! (I did see a group of grandmas bathing though!!!)
Once you pass a short tunnel, you will arrive to Ondarreta Beach which is shorter. By the end of it you will find the next spot on this itinerary!
Visit the Comb of the Wind Sculpture
You may be thinking, wait what! to walk all this just for an sculpture!?
Yeah! if you appreciate art this one deserves to be visited. This set of three sculptures was designed by one of Spain’s most famous contemporary artist.
Eduardo Chillida’s works are not only known in Spain but worldwide, he was born (and also died) in San Sebastian.
When asked about the name of this sculpture he mentioned that “for such a beautiful city like San Sebastian, even the wind has to enter looking at its best”
The views from this point are also worth the walk. I’ve been told that sometimes the walkway to the sculptures is closed when the weather is not good, but I didn’t see any of that even that I had a super rainy day.
Remember to eat eat eat in San Sebastian!
If there’s something San Sebastian is famous for is for its Pintxos culture, these are just like small tapas, normally a small piece of bread with a topping, but those toppings are what makes some bars more famous than others!
I loved all the pintxos that I had! some can be big, but you will need at least 3-5 to feel like you had a meal.
Visit the Tabacalera
After a quick pintxo and txakoli (local wine) for lunch, the best way to finish the day is enjoying some exhibitions at the Tabacalera.
As it names gives it away, this used to be a tobacco company and has been converted into a contemporary culture centre.
When I went, there were 4 different exhibitions, with a couple more in the making so you can surely spent quite some time exploring them all!
The Tabacalera is super easy to find, right next to the train/bus station! A friend told me that the pizzas there are super tasty, but being in pintxo paradise I didn’t try them!
Walk around the centre
San Sebastian is a really pretty place to walk around, so if you still have some energy just wander around its lovely streets in the town centre and forget about time!
Spend the night having tapas
Similar to lunch time, the most common thing to do in San Sebastian when going out at night is to try many different places, just one “zurito” (small beer or wine) and pintxo at each of them!
The options to choose are simply soooo many! so feel free to drop by any bar and see what they have on display.
A couple of places that I recommend are: La Mejillonera for cheap but super tasty mussels and the Bodega Donostiarra for an incredible (and cheap!) potato omelette or cod omelette!
Where to stay in San Sebastian
Being a touristy town, you will find plenty of places at almost any budget. I was super lucky to find a wonderful host in Couchsurfing but in case you prefer a private room, check here for the best hostels in San Sebastian
Got more days on your visit to San Sebastian?
Here goes some more ideas!!!
Go surfing to Zurriola Beach!
This beach in San Sebastian is wonderful for surfing, you will find plenty of shops renting boards and giving lessons if you need to take one!
Go hiking to Zumaia – aka Dragonstone!
Whether you’re a fan of Game of Thrones or not, this place is magical! I loved my visit there.
The rock formations by the beach of Zumaia (aka Dragonstone) look like pages of the history book of our planet and are the result of the Iberian peninsula crashing against the European continent and then eroded for over 60 million years forming these stunning flysch cliffs.
This place is less than an hour away by bus or train from San Sebastian! you could just walk around the beach a little bit admiring the incredible rock formations or make it a proper hiking day and go from Zumaia to Deba which is almost 14Km away.
Make it a day trip to Bilbao!
From San Sebastian you can easily make a one-day visit to Bilbao, walk around its old town and spend a good couple of hours at the Guggenheim Museum is a must!
Ready to go to San Sebastian!?
Go for it! there are so many things to do in San Sebastian! it’s really small and has a great charm, I loved my couple of days backpacking there!
Feel free to drop a comment below you have any questions and if you know of other things to do in San Sebastian also drop a line below!! 🙂
Check out the rest of my backpacking adventures around the world for more ideas on your next trip!