Hostelworld Guide for San Sebastian

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Beautiful beaches are the hallmark of San Sebastian, a hidden gem in the Basque region of Northern Spain. Bookended by Monte Urgull and Monte Igueldo, the shell-shaped Bahía de la Concha is a favourite with swimmers, kayakers and boaters, as well as the people who flock to the sandy stretches of the La Concha and Ondarreta beaches. The city has an almost small town feel to it, but actually houses over 183,000 people. Divided into a number of unique neighbourhoods including Gros, Centro and Amara Viejo, San Sebastian also has an old town area. Known as Parte Vieja, this old town is filled with narrow streets, boutiques and bars, and is a favourite with visitors. Its laid back atmosphere draws travellers of all ages, from culinary types after the top local speciality, 'pintxos' to surfers looking to take advantage of the sweet waves off Zurriola beach. Thanks to its natural charm, delicious cuisine and extensive collection of curiosities, San Sebastian can't help but capture the imagination.

 

 

In this Guide...      

Useful Information
After Dark
Places to Eat
Top Attractions
Budget Tips
Where to Shop






 The Essentials


 Climate


Getting There

By plane: Many people travelling to San Sebastian will arrive in either Biarritz or Bilbao airports. Biarritz Airport in France is around 40km from San Sebastian, and a rail service operates between the two. It's about 95km from Bilbao Airport to San Sebastian, around an hour by bus.

By train: Trains arrive in San Sebastian from a number of cities across Spain, Portugal and France. The city has two main train stations, the RENFE at Puerta de Maria Cristina and the Euskotren at Plaza Easo. National trains arrive at the RENFE, while the Euskotren deals with local services.

By bus: A variety of bus companies operate services from San Sebastian to other Spanish and European destinations. The main bus station is located at Plaza de Pio XII.

Getting Around

On foot: You can get to quite a few of the main attractions on foot; however, you will more than likely need to use public transport during your stay.

By bus: A network of buses runs throughout San Sebastian offering a cheap and efficient way of getting around the city.

By bicycle: Bicycles are a popular way to get around here too, thanks to a substantial network of dedicated cycling lanes.

 Useful Phrases

Hello: Hola
Goodbye: Adios
Please: Por favor
Thank you: Gracias
You're welcome: De nada
Yes: Si
No: No
Of course: De acuerdo
Excuse me: Perdona
How are you?: Como estas?
Open: Abierto
Closed: Cerrado
What is your name?: Cual es tu nombre?
My name is...: Mi nombre es...
How much?: Cuanto cuesta?
May I have the bill?: Me puede traer la cuenta?


San Sebastian has a mild climate overall, with temperatures usually staying above 6ºC during the winter months. Summer in the city is hot and sunny, with August seeing high temperatures averaging 24.5 ºC. In the spring, the weather here is mild but prone to rain. April is usually the wettest month, seeing an average rainfall of around 305mm.

 Good to know...

Language: Spanish
Currency: Euro
Electricity: 220 Volts AC/50Hz, 2-pin plug
Area Code: +34 (Spain), 91 (San Sebastian)
Emergency Code: Ambulance 112, Fire 080/085, Police 092
Time Zone: Central European Time (GMT+1)
Central Post Office: Calle de Undaneta
Main Tourist Office: Reina Regente 3
Price of a coffee: €2
Price of a meal: €5-€10
Price of a beer: €2/€3

Embassies*

USA: +34 (0)91 5872200
UK: +34 (0)91 7008200
Canada: +34 (0)91 4233250
Australia: +34 (0)91 3536600
South Africa: +34 (0)91 4363780
Ireland: +34 (0)91 4364093
Germany: +34 (0)91 5579000
Italy: +34 (0)91 4233300
New Zealand: + 34 (0)91 5330226
France: +34 (0)91 4238900

* All embassies in Madrid

 
Hostelworld Guide for San Sebastian www.hostelworld.com

 Cheap Eats


 After Dark


Santana Café, Reina Regente 6, Centro As well as a spread of great value pintxos, you'll find a selection of bocadillos, burgers and salads on the menu. Dishes are tasty and good value, while the staff are friendly, giving the place a laid-back atmosphere in which to enjoy your food. Open Mon-Sat 8am-8pm, closed Sun.

Nestor Bar, Pescadería 11, Parte Vieja The place to go in San Sebastian for tortilla de patatas, Nestor Bar is a little hole in the wall spot that produces some of the most sought after food in the city. These coveted tortillas only come out of the oven twice daily - first of all at 1pm, then again at 8pm. Make sure you're on time if you want a piece. It also offers other tasty pintxos if you miss tortilla time.Open daily 12.30pm-4pm & 7pm-12am.

Bar Iruna, Easo 73, Amara Viejo A great spot for breakfast, the counters of Bar Iruna are covered with big platters of food every morning. Including croissants to the ever-present tortilla de patatas, you'll find a mouth-watering selection to choose from. Open daily 8am-11pm.

 Got to pick a pintxos or two

Bar Borda-Berri, Fermin Calbetón 12, Parte Vieja Popular with a younger crowd, Borda-Berri serves cheap, contemporary pintxos, which are the local speciality and are pretty similar to tapas. Two of the top dishes here are the beef cheek and the mushroom risotto. Open daily 12.15am-3.30pm & 7.15pm-11.30pm.

Va Bene Disco Burger, Blas de Lezo 4, Amara Viejo One of a couple of Disco Burgers in San Sebastian, it's a step above your typical fast food joint as all the burgers are handmade. The abundance of Americana might be a bit much but with such cheap, delicious burgers you won't mind. Open Tues-Sat 11am-2am, Mon-Sun 11am-3am.


Be Bop, Paseo de Salamanca, Parte Vieja Dark and inviting, this cool bar entices its crowd with a mix of loud jazz and Latin music. There aren't that many tables inside but there's plenty of floor space if you feel the urge to salsa. Cocktails are particularly popular here and won't break the bank. Open daily 4pm-4.30am.

Victoria Eugenia Theatre, C/ República Argentina 2, Centro Recently renovated, the Victoria Eugenia is San Sebastian's premiere theatre. Established in 1912, today it boasts a stunning main theatre complete with 910 seats. A wide variety of events are held here, including dance, classical music performances, theatrical shows and concerts by contemporary bands. Box office open daily 11.30am-1.30pm & 5pm-8pm.

Dylan, C/ San Martin 68, Amara Viejo This funky little place is a top spot to chill out with a drink or two while listening to the chatter of the locals and the awesome mix of rock and Spanish music. A lived-in bar, it's popular with a younger crowd who come to lounge on the comfy couches. Open daily 7pm-2am.

 Gay/Lesbian San Sebastian

While San Sebastian might not have the biggest gay scene, there are still a few great nightspots to check out. Trígono (Lersundi Jeneralaren Kalea 8) is the city's oldest gay club and was recently remodelled giving its packed dance floor a trendy look. Other gay-friendly venues include Pokhara (C/Sánchez Toca 1) and Txirula (San Martin 49).

Mendaur, Fermin Calbeton 8, Parte Vieja Popular with a mix of local students and backpacking visitors, Mendaur is a busy bar where the crowd can sometimes be seen spilling into the narrow street outside. Happy hour lasts from 9pm-11am, with great value on beers, spirits and cocktails. Open winter Sun-Thurs 5pm-2am Fri-Sat 5pm-3am, summer Sun-Thurs 5pm-2.30am Fri-Sat 5pm-3.30pm.

Bar Txurrut, Plaza de la Constitución 9, Parte Vieja Though this bar does have some seating inside, the real action is out at the tables trickling onto Plaza de la Constitución. These are filled from morning 'til night with a happy mix of patrons enjoying a beer, cocktail or glass of wine. For a real kick, try the 'Carajillo', a special Spanish hot drink mixing coffee with brandy or rum. Open daily 11.30am-1am.


 Don't Miss


 Mark Your Calendar


Aquarium, Carlos Blasco de Imaz Plaza 1, Parte Vieja Boasting a transparent tunnel filled with toothy sharks, this fish-fest is really unmissable. Opened in 1928, it holds 32 different tanks and over 200 species. Open Oct-Mar Mon-Fri 10am-7pm Sat-Sun 10am-8pm, Apr-June & Sept Mon-Fri 10am-8pm Sat-Sun 10am-9pm, July-Aug daily 10am-10pm; admission €12.

 Surf's up

Playa de Zurriola, Gros Surfing is the big draw here with plenty of seasoned surfers taking to their boards to ride the waves each day. Beginners are catered for too, with a surf school on the beach offering lessons as well as rentals of all the necessary paraphernalia. There's also a section of the water set apart for swimmers.

kutxaEspacio de la Ciencia, Paseo Mikeletegi 43-45, Miramón Parkea In this highly interactive museum you can literally reach out and touch science. Check out the mini-tornado in its glass case, the labyrinth of mirrors, and lots more. Open Sept-June Tues-Fri 10am-7pm Sat-Sun 11am-7pm closed Mon, July-Aug Mon-Fri 10am-7pm, Sat-Sun 11am-8pm; admission €7.

Museo Chillida Leku, Bº Jáuregui, 66, Hernani Chillida Leku is an open-air museum covering around 13 hectares about 20 minutes from the city by bus. It houses over 40 sculptures by famous artist Eduardo Chillida. Open Sept-June Wed-Mon 10.30am-3pm closed Tues, July-Aug Mon-Sat 10.30am-8pm Sun 10.30am-3pm; admission €8.50.

Monte Igueldo, Paseo del Faro, Igueldo The best way to get to the top of Monte Igueldo is to take the funicular. Step out at the top and you'll find the entire city spread out below. Apart from the view, there's a bunch of kitschy yet fun carnival attractions to enjoy. Opening hours vary with seasons and weather; funicular return ticket €2.50.


January - La Tamborrada Over the course of one day in January, around 100 different marching bands parade through the city. Parties and other events also take place.

February - Caldereros Fiesta During this festival, people dress up in the traditional garb of the gypsies who used to pass through the city. It's a noisy festival as participants bang on pots and pans with a variety of implements just like the gypsies used to do.

March - dFERIA Running since 1988, this festival is a showcase of performance art. Lasting for five days, the event includes numerous theatrical performances attended by large numbers of people.

July - Jazzaldia This festival is one of Europe's most popular celebrations of all things jazz. Taking place over five days, it includes performances by musicians from all over the world and has been running since 1966.

August - Aste Nagusia/Semana Grande Taking place across one week in August, this is a riotous carnival of music, dance, fireworks and more.

August-September - Musika Hamabostaldia Spain's longest running celebration of classical music, this annual festival began in 1939. During its run, a large number of musicians from all around the world perform.

September - International Film Festival An important event on the global movie calendar, it attracts top international movies which are screened at a selection of venues. Retrospectives, showcases, exhibitions and more also feature.

October-November - Horror and Fantasy Film Festival A celebration of the macabre, this film festival includes screenings of national and international movies. All-night fright fests, exhibitions, comic-related events and more are also part of the festival.

December - Santo Tomas Fair This Christmas fair with a rural flair is attended by many people wearing traditional dress. A variety of vendors sell local foods, crafts and more.

December - Olentzero Each year on Christmas Eve, children in the Basque Country wait for the blue-suited Olentzero instead of Santa Claus. Locals wear traditional dress for a parade of song and dance through the town.

 
Hostelworld Guide for San Sebastian www.hostelworld.com

 Neighbourhood Watch


 Retail Therapy


Gros One of the first things you'll notice in Gros is the Kursaal Conference Centre which looks great lit up at night. It's not all man-made attractions here though, as this area sports one of the city's best beaches. Playa de Zurriola is a favourite with surfers, swimmers and sunbathers alike. Also a great spot to head at night, Gros is filled with bars and restaurants.

Centro Sandwiched between the Playa de La Concha and the River Urumea, Centro is San Sebastian's animated city centre. Leafy streets filled with stores draw crowds of locals and visitors. It's home to both the Parque de Alderdi-Eder with its old-timey carousel and the Plaza de Gipuzkoa, which sports its own duck pond.

 Old town charm

Parte Vieja San Sebastian's old town area is a warren of narrow streets lined with tall buildings and is home to some the city's top pintxos bars. As well as culinary delights, this neighbourhood also sports some of the city's best attractions including the Aquarium, the Naval Museum, the Santa Maria and San Vincente Churches, and Plaza de la Constitución.

Amara Nuevo Home to the Estadio Anoeta stadium, mostly used for footballs matches, this neighbourhood is south of the city centre along the Urumea River. At Plaza de Irun, you'll find Arcco Amara, one of the city's major shopping centres, while Plaza Pio XII sports a large fountain surrounded by pretty flowerbeds.

Ondaretta While in this section of the city, check out Playa de Ondarreta where you can pick shells, stroll along the sand or go for a swim. The walk along Avenida de Satrustegul provides cool views of the bay and stretches towards Paseo de Eduardo Chillida, home of the eye-catching Peine De Los Vientos sculptures.


Arcco Amara, Plaza de Irun 6, Amara Nuevo A short trip from the city centre, this sprawling complex was opened in 1996 and boasts four floors of stores selling clothes, shoes, cosmetics, accessories, electronics and more. There's a great choice of local brands to choose from here, along with a tattoo parlour and a hair salon. Open Mon-Sat 9.30am-9.30pm, closed Sun.

Mercado de San Martín, C/ de Urbieta 9, Centro A mix of shopping centre and traditional market, San Martín hosts stores from top brands like Zara, Bershka, Body Shop and Fnac. In its lower level you'll find lots of counters selling everything from jamón to shellfish. Open Mon-Sat 10am-10pm, closed Sun; traditional market daily 8am-8pm.

Calle Narrika, Parte Vieja Home to some of the coolest shops in San Sebastian's old town area, this narrow street has some great alternative stores. From colourful jewellery to funky bags, you'll find lots of tempting merchandise here, alongside more typical touristy fare.

 Avenue apparel

Avenida de la Libertad, Centro One of San Sebastian's main thoroughfares, Avenida de la Libertad stretches out between La Concha Beach and the River Urumea. Along both sides of this leafy street, you'll come across some of the best shops in the city like upmarket department store Auzmendi. Other stores here include Blanco, H&M and Pimkie.

La Brexta, Bretxa Plaza 1, Parte Vieja Taking up three floors, La Bretxa combines a modern shopping centre with a large traditional food market. It boasts a great selection of stores selling clothes, shoes, cosmetics, jewellery, electronics, interiors and more. Some of the big name brands seen in the centre are Hello Kitty, Timberland and Games Workshop. Open Mon-Sat 9.30am-9.30pm, closed Sun.


 San Sebastian for Free


 A Day in San Sebastian...


Spend some time on Playa de La Concha A favourite with sun-seekers, this long stretch of sandy beach is one of the city's best features. At most times of the day, you'll see people strolling through the surf, heading out to swim or kayak in the Bahía de La Concha or simply sitting on the sand checking out the superb views.

 Sculptures by the sea

Check out the Peine De Los Vientos sculptures It's an enjoyable walk by the bay down to where you'll find this collection of three sculptures. Created by famous local artist Eduardo Chillida in 1977, the Peine De Los Vientos or Wind Comb is a well-loved monument. To catch lots of different views of the sculptures and the sea beyond, just sit along the nearby sea walls.

Visit the imposing Buen Pastor Cathedral You can't miss this impressive Gothic cathedral thanks to its towering spire which soars 75 metres into the sky. Inside this important place of worship, you'll find huge ceilings, beautiful stained glass and lots of religious art. Open Mon-Sat 8.30am-12.30pm & 5pm-8pm, Sundays during mass.

Wander around Plaza de Gipuzkoa One of San Sebastian's most picturesque squares, Plaza de Gipuzkoa's central area is rich in colourful flowers and handy benches. Here you can watch the ducks traverse their pond, check out the hedge clock and have a look at the cool star chart on the monument in the middle of the park.

Stroll through Parque de Alderdi-Eder Looking out on La Concha Beach and beside the Town Hall, this open park is an understandably busy spot. From it, you'll get great views of the bay, Monte Igueldo and Monte Urgull, while the park itself boasts cool fountains and flowers. The highlight is the kitschy old carousel running in the playground.


Begin your day with a spot of breakfast at the well-trafficked Bar Iruna on Easo, offering tortilla de patatas and more.

Walk along Playa de La Concha and Playa de Ondarreta towards Paseo de Eduardo Chillida and the Wind Comb sculptures.

Take the funicular up to the top of Monte Igueldo where you'll find a funfair and striking views of San Sebastian.

Head back to the Centro area, home to a number of bars and restaurants offering tasty lunches.

Stroll through Parte Vieja, San Sebastian's old town, to check out the numerous boutiques, along with the Santa Maria and San Vicente Churches.

Wander by the boats docked at the harbour to visit two top notch attractions, the Naval Museum and the Aquarium (below).

sharks

From the tree-lined Alameda del Boulevard, cross the Puente de Zurriola bridge into Gros. Here you'll find favourite surfer beach Playa de Zurriola.

Make your way back to Parte Vieja, where you can sample a huge selection of pintxos in a wide variety of bars including Bar Borda-Berri and Ganbara.

If you're looking to settle somewhere for a while, grab a table outside Bar Txurrut on Plaza de la Constitución.

Finish the night at one of Parte Vieja's nightspots like Be Bop on Paseo de Salamanca or Mendaur on Fermin Calbeton.

 
Hostelworld Guide for San Sebastian www.hostelworld.com