San Sebastian City Guide

Filed in Popular Destinations by on March 6, 2017

San Sebastian City Guide

San Sebastian City Guide  – a classic holiday destination in the north of Spain

If there is one Spanish coastal resort in the north of Spain you get the chance to visit then it must be San Sebastian. It is a city filled with historic buildings, beautiful beaches, amazing restaurants and great tapas. Our San Sebastian city guide offers lots of information on one of the most emblematic and beautiful places to visit in Spain.



Exploring San Sebastian City

The San Sebastian town hall is now a famous landmark which was inaugurated in 1897 as a casino although due to gambling prohibition laws in 1924 the Casino was closed down to be renovated and reopened as the City,s Town Hall and continues to be used for that function to this day.

San Sebastian has three popular beaches : the Playa de la Concha, Ondaretta and the Playa de Gros. La Concha is probably the prettiest, with a wide crescent of sand stretching around the bay, but it’s also the busiest. Ondaretta is less packed considered to be the best beach for swimming. The atmosphere here is more calm than La Concha’s bikini party atmosphere, and locals call the beach La Diplomática.

The picturesque island of Santa Clara is situated closely offshore in the centre of the La Concha Bay and can be accessed from the pier located on the eastern side of the isle. It is home to one of the areas prettiest beaches in the area, although due to the tides it can only be used for part of the day. The island can be accessed by boat or you could join some of the locals and swim across !

kursaal bridge

Kursaal Bridge



Zurriola Bridge also known as the Kursaal Bridge, proudly shows off its original lamps of expressionist and futuristic styles which light up the mouth of the Urumea river. The bridge was built on the site of the old Kursaal Casino.

Once you’re off the beach, you’ll probably want to hit the old quarter for a go at the bars and waterside restaurants crowding the narrow and busy streets. Tapas are laid out at all but the fanciest bars for delectable bites of special treats, fresh fish and seafood are a plenty here, search around the back streets for the best prices and you will not be disappointed.

And if you enjoy festivals in San Sebastian, the wildest, weirdest party of the year is the Procession of Drummers, or Tamborrada, an all-night celebration that lasts from midnight January 19 to noon January 20. Adults and children take to the street to beat on drums and barrels, mimicking the rhythms played by the smartly-uniformed bands. Many of the Tamborrada tunes were composed especially for the occasion by famed composer Raimundo Sarriegi.

The overwhelming charm of San Sebastian for the tourist visitor is it makes an idea romantic getaway with reasonably priced stays available in some of the most charming romantic hotels in San Sebastian.



San Sebastian

San Sebastian



The main districts are


arrow.3 City Centre and Romantic Zone

arrow.3 Old Quarter

arrow.3 Gros District




The city centre of Donostia ( San Sebastian) is situated in the middle of the Playa La Concha, the Old Quarter and the start of the Amara district. At the heart is the Plaza del Buen Pastor and as is most city centres ithe area is a hive of activity and commerce. There are more than enough shops, restaurants, hotels and Pintxo bars to satisfy everyone.

Donostia was once a walled city and parts of the Murral can still be seen dotted around in various places. The streets where designed in a grid like fashion and this area is not only regarded as the best shopping area, specially around Loyola street, but also due to its architecture and street lamps which reminds many a visitor of Paris and is known as the Area Romantica ( The Romantic Area ).

Staring from the north end of the City at the Alameda del Boulevard head south the Calle Legazpi to the Plaza de Guipuzcoa just of the Calle Camino, along the route you can observe the fascinating architecture and the council building, with busts of famous people included.

Heading south again and enjoy the buzz of the city as you walk down to the Avenida de la Libertad. This is the financial district of the city where you will find most of the major Spanish banks along with the top named stores. Crossing over down the Bergara and Prim streets, this will then lead you to the Plaza Bilbao, home of some of the most striking buildings such as the Cathedral del Buen Pastor, the Mitxelena art centre and the home of the Post office (Edifico de Correos).

If you go east of the Plaza Bilbao you can also reach the Estacion del Norte ( the North Railway Station ) which was designed by a rather well known architect, Monsieur Eiffel, famous for another well known landmark in Paris.

Just off the Plaza Bilbao heading east we recommend a visit to the Marie Cristina bridge ( Puente de Marie Cristina ). This unique ornate bridge was built at the turn of the 20th Century out of iron and concrete and has some very interesting features such as sculptured dragons, navel scenes and coats of arms.

San Sebastian

San Sebastian

The Romantic Area

This charming part of San Sebastian got its name for a good reason. The Romantic Area of the city is based around the Calle Reyes Catolicos which leads up to the Cathedral of the Buen Pastor in the southern area of the city centre.

Not only is it romantic with its fine Parisian style architecture and ornate street lamps it is where some of the finest food in the city is served.  After a good fill of your favourite tapas, take a stroll around the area absorbing this unique atmosphere of the area.




San Sebastian Spain

San Sebastian




The Old Quarter

As the name suggests this is the old part of San Sebastian. It stands sandwiched between the foot of Mount Urgull and the city centre and opens out to the sea on both sides from the Plaza de Salamanca to the old Harbour area.

The area was completely rebuilt after a devastating fire therefore you only a very few building s will predate 1813. This is not to say that the old Part lakes any of the charms you would expect from an old fishing village.

Soak up the atmosphere whilst walking around the cobbled streets and narrow alleys discovering some of the best Pintxo ( tapas ) bars , Restaurants and speciality shops that San Sebastian has to offer.

To the north of the old part is Mount Urgull, a demanding climb to the top is well worth the effort as you will be treated to an exhilarating view over the city and the Castillo de la Mota ( The Mota Castle ).

On the west side of the mount are located the Cementario de los Ingleses ( The English Cemetery ) the Museo Militar ( Military Museum the Aquarium which has a glass tunnel walkway where you enjoy a 360 degree view of the marine life, and the Navel Museum which is located slightly north of the Royal Nautical Club.

If you enjoy walking around local indoor food markets as I do then we would recommend a visit to the Mercado de la Bretxa situated just off the Avenida del Boulevard there you will find many colourful stalls full of all the fine produce the area has to offer.

Two of the cities oldest churches can be found in the old quarter, the Basilica de Santa Maria del Coro and the Convent of San Telmo which now acts as a Museum.

At the centre of the Parte Vieja is the beautiful Plaza de la Constitucion where the main cities festivities take place and is fondly known as La Constiby the locals. The plaza used to be the bull ring in the middle ages and is surrounded by buildings with large white painted balconies, which are numbered and where the spectators could easily view the fight.

Roaming around the Old Part you will undoubtedly soak up the oldy worldly charm and enjoy the unmistakable atmosphere of an area that is invariable steeped in history and has seen so much activity and festivities yet still manages to continue with its traditional local life.


Map of San Sebastian

Map of San Sebastian

Gros District

The Barrio Gros ( Gros District is located to the east of the city and the river Urumea, it provides a picturesque view of San Sebastian and has the lovely beach of La Zurriola, a large beach of fine golden sand.

The Gros district can be both laid back and tranquil and then again bustling with commerce, depending on the time of day and week you spend visiting the area. The Kursall convention hall is situated in this district and attracts swarms of conventioneers, it also houses exhibitions and cultural events.

There are also a good number of tapas bars and Restaurants to cater for the large numbers of tourists, locals and conventioneer along with a good selection of Hotels and Hostels. Eating out in the Gros District is as good a place as any in San Sebastian with some of the finest restaurants being locvated here along with a good selection of Tapa ( Pintxo ) bars where you can arguably find the best  tapas in Donastia.

At the Western end of the beach and Gros District you will find the Puente de Zurriola ( The Zurriola bridge ) which is also known as the Kursaal bridge, it majestically straddles the River Urumea and was designed by Arana having some quite spectacular fixtures and lit up half a dozen light-house shaped towers.