San Sebastian, or Donostia in the local language, is a real crowd pleaser. It strikes the perfect balance between being a vibrant, lively city and having those slowed down beach vibes we all love. It’s a playground for surfers and explorers alike with cobbled streets around every corner and the shimmering turquoise Bay of Biscay calling out to be surfed. For the foodies, it’s a gastronomic paradise which suits every budget – from pintxos bars to Michelin stars.
So if a picture perfect and effortlessly cool destination is what you’re after then get yourself down to this Spanish hotspot before everyone else beats you there. Keep reading for all the best things to do in San Sebastian when you only have 24 hours.
When your hostel has great taste in reading material 😍 📷@jenkg05
The amazing hostel roof terrace at A Room In The City 📷@lola.photography
Wake up in former convent turned hostel A Room In The City surrounded by minimalist, pastel palette design. Spend a while mooching over the complimentary mags in the exposed brick living room before heading to the rooftop to familiarise yourself with the view. This is definitely one of the best places to stay in San Sebastian. If you’re feeling virtuous, attend one of the hostel yoga classes up there to really get your morning zen on.
A hike up Monte Urgull is one of the best things to do in San Sebastian 📷@lola.photography
A refreshing dip afterwards is a must 📷@lola.photography
San Sebastian is a wonderful mix of mountains and sea, so to make the most of this take a hike to visit the twelve-metre long statue of Jesus Christ on Monte Urgull. It’s a gradual 30 minute climb which circuits the beautiful coast all the way to the top. Once there, you’ll be rewarded with epic panoramic views, crisp coastal air, and one huge release of endorphins. Make sure you take plenty of water, sensible shoes and a camera, as the views on top are postcard worthy! As you can see from the pictures, this is easily one of the best things to do in San Sebastian, though you’ll need to go early to avoid the heat.
If you’re seeking more adventure you can also head to Monte Igueldo which is a former lighthouse turned viewpoint on the opposite side of the bay. There’s a funicular which takes you all the way to the top and a retro amusement park with great coastal scenes.
Ambigu Estacion serves one of the best brunches in San Sebastian 📷@jenkg05
If you’re wondering where to eat in San Sebastian, then we’ve got you covered for every delicious meal of the day. For a late breakfast, head to Ambigu Estacion Coffee & Casual Food, a kitsch, wallet-friendly cafe which transports you away from the typical tourist traps and into true Basque country hospitality. Here they serve a simple Catalan dish made with bread, small ripe tomatoes, garlic and extra virgin olive oil – just the thing after all that hiking!
If you’re after something a little more lavish, La Madame offers a dedicated brunch every Saturday and Sunday from 12pm to 4pm where you can get everything from brunch staples like eggs benedict to chocolate covered churros. Make sure to check out the bathrooms as they’re anything but ordinary!
BLISS at Zurriola Beach 📷@lola.photography
Get your surf on without breaking the bank at Surfing Extea hostel 📷@jenkg05
When in Rome (or when in San Sebastian rather) make like the locals and try your hand at surfing down on Zurriola beach. Don’t worry if you can’t stand up straight away (or at all) as even paddling around on the board is so much fun. The surf here is perfect for beginners but if you’re feeling a little rusty then the guys at Surfing Etxea hostel can sort you out with lessons and all the gear. They offer lessons from €28 an hour and beds in their spotless dorm from €16 a night. Or if you don’t fancy surfing, just float around in the gorgeous turquoise waters.
Plants + food heaven at Kafe Botanik 📷@jenkg05
Kafe Botanika is a must for tasty and oh-so Instagrammable homemade food 📷@jenkg05
Time for lunch! You’ll want to stay on a tight schedule for all meals during your stay here as there is so much good food to cover! An absolute must visit is Kafe Botanika, offering mostly vegetarian and vegan options in a botanical, blossoming setting. The ingredients are fresh and the atmosphere is local and serene. Choose the ‘Dish of the Day’ or ‘Plato Del Dia’ for seasonal produce plus a dessert, and add a fresh juice on the side for an Instagram worthy snap.
La Concha beach is a prime napping location 📷@lola.photography
Siesta is best served whilst snoozing to the crash of waves against the shore. Head to La Concha beach which is the more classic, elegant beach out of the two and take five.
Gorgeous Spanish architecture in San Sebastian 📷@jenkg05
Bag yourself some cool vintage threads at Dabadaba 📷@jenkg05
Get lost wandering the winding streets of the Old Town, marvelling at the classical buildings with pastel coloured shutters and the melting pot of architectural styles. If you’re into vintage finds, you can venture across the María Cristina Bridge and explore the hipster market in Dabadaba which occurs on the first Sunday of every month. To get there just follow the street art clad walls and booming tunes through a dark tunnel until you reach the entrance.
Stopping off for cheesecake at La Vina on calle 31 de agosto is a rite of passage in San Sebastian. You simply haven’t lived until a slice of this beauty has passed your lips! The people who work here run a well-oiled machine, with fresh cheesecakes pumped out throughout the day like clockwork. The atmosphere inside is buzzy and bustling and the fast, cash-only service will have you in and out in a jiffy.
Sunsets on Zurriola beach are 🔥 📷@lola.photography
To secure yourself the best sunset spot on the famous wall overlooking Zurriola beach you’ll need to head there early, as catching the last light of the day is a popular pastime for the locals. Group up and you can send someone to grab some Gin & Tonics in plastic cups from the nearby bar which will make the sunset just that little bit sweeter. Ogle at the skaters and BMXers who glide around the promenade with ease. This shared moment will definitely be a highlight of the trip.
Atari Gastroteka is one of the best restaurants in San Sebastian 📷@daniel_chaim18
If variety is the spice of life then the ONLY way to eat dinner is by venturing onto the typical Basque country pintxos crawl. There is an abundance of good places to get artful pintxos from in San Sebastian, but if you can hustle a seat outside Atari Gastroteka then you’ve struck gold. Not only do you get spectacular views of locals congregating on the steps of Baroque Basilica of Santa Maria, but you’ll have the chance to feast on organic wine, calamari croquettes, beef cheek and grilled octopus with potato. The action inside is unstoppable and on Thursdays the pintxos is half price!
Next door to Atari Gastroteka is Sirimiri, where the level of service and presentation is impeccable. Here you can sample innovative and unique twists on lamb, steak tartare, smoked salmon and squid. There’s a secluded round table at the back of the restaurant which is ideal for big groups.
Le Bukoswki is a veteran of San Sebastian’s party culture 📷@latiaradeudo
Cross the river to Le Bukowski for good vibes, live music and a young hip crowd. This place is a landmark on the San Sebastian nightlife scene and has been around for over 20 years. The music is diverse and is sure to strike a chord with the whole crew. The party doesn’t stop until 5am here, if you can manage to keep up!
Did we miss any amazing things to do in San Sebastian off this itinerary? Let us know in the comments below 👇