San Sebastián is a coastal city and municipality located in the Basque Autonomous Community, Spain. It lies on the coast of the Bay of Biscay, 20 km (12 miles) from the French border. Capital city of Gipuzkoa, the municipality's population is 186,409 (2012), with its metropolitan area reaching 436,500 (2010). Locals call themselvesdonostiarra(singular), both in Spanish andBasque.

Info San Sebastian


San Sebastián is a coastal city and municipality located in the Basque Autonomous Community, Spain. It lies on the coast of the Bay of Biscay, 20 km (12 miles) from the French border. Capital city of Gipuzkoa, the municipality's population is 186,409 (2012), with its metropolitan area reaching 436,500 (2010). Locals call themselvesdonostiarra(singular), both in Spanish andBasque.

The main economic activities are commerce and tourism, and it is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Spain. Despite the city’s small size, events such as the San Sebastián International Film Festival have given it an international dimension. San Sebastián, along with Wrocław,Poland, is the European Capital of Culture in 2016.

POPULATION :  186,095
FOUNDED :   1180
TIME ZONE :• Time zone CET (UTC+1)
• Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
AREA :  • Land 60.89 km2 (23.51 sq mi)
ELEVATION :  6 m (20 ft)
COORDINATES : 43°19′17″N 1°59′8″W
SEX RATIO : Male: 49.4%
 Female: 50.6%
POSTAL CODE :  20001–20018
DIALING CODE : +34 943
WEBSITE :  City Council


San Sebastian boasts one of the best in-city beaches in Europe. It is quite unusual feeling that you can sunbathe and swim right next to major historical buildings and churches. Surfers are in abundance here.

The city is quite small and cozy, featuring many seafood restaurants, several beaches, tons of pintxos bars and a choice of designer clothes shops.

San Sebastián shows a dynamic cultural scene, where grass-roots initiative based on different parts of the city and the concerted private and public synergy have paved the ground for a rich range of possibilities and events catering to the tastes of a wide and selected public alike. The city was selected as European Capital of Culture for 2016 (shared with Wrocław, Poland) with a basic motto, "Waves of people's energy", summarizing a clear message: people and movements of citizens are the real driving force behind transformations and changes in the world.

Events ranging from traditional city festivals to music, theatre or cinema take place all year round, while they specially thrive in summer. In the last week of July, San Sebastián's Jazz Festival (Jazzaldia), the longest, continuously running Jazz Festival in Europe is held. In different spots of the city gigs are staged, sometimes with free admission. The Musical Fortnight comes next extending for at least fifteen days well into August and featuring classical music concerts. In September, the San Sebastián International Film Festival comes to the spotlight, an event with more than 50 years revolving around the venues of Kursaal and the Victoria Eugenia Theatre.


The Basque cuisine is famous within Spain and many believe it is the Basque Country where you can find the best food. Much of this fame comes from San Sebastian and its bars and restaurants. Although tapas were invented in Andalucia they became perfected in San Sebastian and a walk through the old town before lunch time with its many bars shows why. Each bar is bursting with tapas and they look very delicate. Tapas are generally enjoyed together with a glass of wine or a small beer, and the Spanish tradition suggests to have one tapa and a wine in one bar and move on to the next bar. Tapas can be used as a good substitute for a meal - you pay for each one you eat (about €2-4 each) so you can have as many as you want. If you want 'real' food then that is where San Sebastian can be very good. You can find several different cuisines such Chinese, German, Galician, Italian and of course the obvious Basque cuisine. In and around the harbour you can have the freshest seafood and if you don’t enjoy the simple harbour taverns go and enjoy San Sebastian restaurants with Michelin stars if you have some money to spare.

Tourism Information

Tourism Information (North side of the Boulevard that separates Old and New town), +34 943481166, e-mail:. 09-19. A modern and well-staffed info and booking desk.



The first evidence of human stationary presence in the current city is the settlement of Ametzagaña, between South Intxaurrondo and Astigarraga. The unearthed remains, such as carved stone used as knives to cut animal skin, date from 24,000 to 22,000 BC. The open-air findings of the Upper Paleolithic have revealed that the settlers were hunters and Homo sapiens, besides pointing to a much colder climate at the time.

Ancient Age

San Sebastián is thought to have been in the territory of the Varduli in Roman times. 10 km (6 mi) east of the current city lay the Basque Roman town of Oiasso (Irun), which was for a long time wrongly identified with San Sebastián.

Middle Age

After a long period of silence in evidence, in 1014 the monastery of St. Sebastián with its apple orchards (for cider), located in the term of Hernani, is donated to the Abbey of Leire by Sancho III of Pamplona. By 1181, the city is chartered (given fuero) by king Sancho VI of Pamplona on the site of Izurum, having jurisdiction over all the territory between the rivers Oria and Bidasoa.

In 1200, the city was conquered by Castile, whose king Alfonso VIII, confirmed its charter (fuero), but the Kingdom of Navarre was deprived of its main direct access out to the sea. Perhaps as soon as 1204 (or earlier), the city nucleus at the foot of Urgull started to be populated with Gascon-speaking colonizers from Bayonne and beyond, who left an important imprint in the city's identity in the centuries to come.

In 1265, the use of the city as a seaport is granted to Navarre as part of a wedding pact. The large quantity of Gascons inhabiting the town favoured the development of trade with other European ports and Gascony. The city steered clear of the destructive War of the Bands in Gipuzkoa, the only town in doing so in that territory. In fact, the town only joined Gipuzkoa in 1459 after the war came to an end. Up to the 16th century, Donostia remained mostly out of wars, but by the beginning of the 15th century, a line of walls of simple construction is attested encircling the town. The last chapter of the town in the Middle Ages was brought about by a fire that devastated Donostia in 1489. After burning to the ground, the town began a new renaissance by building up mainly on stone instead of bare timber.

Modern Age

The advent of the Modern Age brought a period of instability and war for the city. After the fall of Navarre, new state boundaries started to be drawn that left Donostia at the forefront of the Spanish border with France. New chunky and more sophisticated walls were erected and the town got involved in the wars engaged between Spain and France on the aftermath of the disappearance of the independent Kingdom of Navarre in 1521. Actually, the town provided critical naval help to the Spanish king on the frontier disputes that took place in Hondarribia, which earned the town the titles "Muy Noble y Muy Leal", recorded on its coat of arms. Moreover, the town took sides with the new emperor Charles V by sending a party to the Battle of Noain and providing help to the emperor against the Revolt of the Comuneros.

After the conquest of the Iberian Navarre and the attachment of Donostia to Gipuzkoa, Gascons, who had played a leading role in the political and economic life of the town since its foundation, began to be excluded from influential public positions by means of a string of regional sentences upheld by royal decision (regional diets of Zestoa 1527, Hondarribia 1557, Bergara 1558, Tolosa 1604 and Deba 1662). Meanwhile, the climate of war and disease left the town in a poor condition that drove many fishermen and traders to take to the sea as corsairs as a way of getting a living, most of the times under the auspices of the king Philip II of Spain, who benefited from the disruption caused to and wealth obtained from the French and Dutch trade ships.

In 1656, the city was used as the royal headquarters during the marriage of the Infanta to Louis XIV at Saint-Jean-de-Luz nearby. After a relatively peaceful 17th century, the town was besieged and taken over by the troops of the French Duke of Berwick up to 1721. However, San Sebastián was not spared by shelling in the French assault and many urban structures were reconstructed, e.g. a new opening in the middle of the town, the Plaza Berria (that was to become the current Konstituzio Plaza).

In 1728, the "Real Compañía Guipuzcoana de Caracas was founded and boosted commerce with the Americas. Thanks to the profit the company generated, the town underwent some urban reforms and improvements and the new Santa Maria Church was erected by subscription. This period of wealth and development was to last up to the end of 18th century.

In 1808, Napoleonic forces captured San Sebastián in the Peninsular War. In 1813, after a siege of various weeks, on 28 August, during the night, a landing party from a British Royal Navy squadron captured Santa Clara Island, in the bay. Situated on a narrow promontory that jutted out into the sea between the waters of the Bay of Biscay and the broad estuary of the Urumea River, the town was hard to get at and well fortified – "it was the strongest fortification I ever saw, Gibraltar excepted", wrote William Dent. Three days later, on 31 August, British and Portuguese troops besieging San Sebastián assaulted the town. The relieving troops ransacked and burnt the city to the ground. Only the street at the foot of the hill (now called 31 August Street) remained.

Contemporary history

After the destructive events, the reconstruction of the city was decided in the same spot with an only slightly altered layout, since a modern octagonal draft project by the architect P.M. Ugartemendia was turned down and eventually M. Gogorza's blueprint was approved, while supervised and implemented by the former. This area, the Old Part, oozes neoclassical, austere and systematic style in its architectural construction. The Constitution Square was built in 1817 and the town hall (current library) between 1828 and 1832. Housing works were carried out gradually during various decades until they were achieved.

The liberal and bourgeois San Sebastián became capital of Gipuzkoa (at the expense of Tolosa) until 1823, when absolutists assailed the town again (only 200 inhabitants remained in town when the assaulting troops broke in), but it was made capital city again in 1854. In 1833, British volunteers under Sir George de Lacy Evans defended the town againstCarlist attack, and their fallen were buried at the "English Cemetery" on the hill Urgull.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the local government was still ruled on the principle of nobility, while the inhabitants of foreign origin or descent had always been ubiquitous in the town, especially the traders. Although San Sebastián benefited greatly from the charts system established in the Basque Country (foruak, with borders in the Ebro river and no duties for overseas goods), the town was at odds with the more traditional Gipuzkoa, even requesting the detachment from the province and the annexation to Navarre in 1841.

In 1863, the defensive walls of the town were demolished (their remains are visible in the underground car-park at the Boulevard) and an expansion of the town began in an attempt to escape the military function it had held before. Works were appointed to Jose Goicoa and Ramon Cortazar, who modeled the new city according to an orthogonal shape much in an neoclassical Parisian style, and the former designed elegant buildings, like the Miramar Palace, or the Concha Promenade. The city was chosen by the Spanish monarchy to spend the summer following the French example of the near Biarritz. Subsequently the Spanish nobility and the diplomatic corps opened residences in the summer capital. As the "wave baths" at La Concha conflicted with shipbuilding activity, shipyards relocated to Pasaia, a near bay formerly part of San Sebastián.

However, in 1875, war battered the town again and shelling over the city by Carlists caused acclaimed bertsolari and poet Bilintx to die in 1876. As of 1885, King Alfonso XII of Spain's widow Maria Cristina spent her summer in Donostia on a yearly basis (took accommodation at the Miramar Palace), bringing along her retinue. In 1887, the Casino was erected, which eventually turned into the current city hall, and somewhat later the Regional Government's (Diputación's) building was completed in the Gipuzkoa Plaza following Jose Goicoa's design. Cultural life thrived on this period, giving rise to various typical events in the city, such as the Caldereros or the Tamborrada, and journalistic and literary productions both in Spanish and Basque.

After much debate within the city over its vocation, either tourism or manufacturing, Donostia developed into a fully-fledged seaside resort, but some industry developed in the district of Antiguo and outskirts of the city. Following the outbreak of World War I, San Sebastián became an attracting focus for renowned international figures of culture and politics,  e.g. Mata Hari, Leon Trotsky, Maurice Ravel, Romanones, etc.

Various rationalist architectural landmarks, typically white or light toned, were erected and dotted the urban landscape in the 20s and 30s (La Equitativa, Nautico, building Easo, etc.). In 1924-1926, works to canalize the Urumea river were carried out on the southern tip of the city. However, after the city's Belle Epoque in the European war time, repression under Miguel Primo de Rivera's dictatorship didn't favour the city. In 1924, gambling was prohibited by the authoritarian regime, causing the Grand Casino and the Kursaal (1921) to struggle to survive.

In 1930, Spanish republican forces signed up the Pact of San Sebastián leading to the Second Spanish Republic. Unrest and repression did not stop with the new political regime, and large-scale industrial action was taken several times by the growing anarchist, communist and socialist unions. The 1936 military coup was initially defeated by resistance led by the Basque Nationalists, anarchists and communists, but later that year the province fell to Spanish Nationalist forces during the Northern Campaign. The occupation proved disastrous for the city dwellers: between 1936 and 1943, 485 people were executed as a result of pseudo-trials by the Spanish Nationalists (Requetés and Falangists), including the mayor. Extrajudicial executions (paseos) by the rebel occupying military account for an estimate of over 600 individuals murdered in the area during the first months. Many children were evacuated to temporary safety in Bilbao, with the city draining on an exodus estimated at 40,000 to 50,000 inhabitants.

In the aftermath of war, the city was stricken by poverty, famine and repression, coupled with thriving smuggling. Many republican detainees were held at the Ondarreta prison in grim and humid conditions (building demolished in 1948) right at the beach with the same name. However, industry developed and paved the way for the urban expansion in the popular district Egia and eclectic styled Amara Berri, on the marshes and riverbed of the Urumea, at the end of the 1940s and beginning of the 1950s.

In 1943, the seeds of the Basque language schools were being sown by Elvira Zipitria, who started to give instruction in Basque at her own house in the Old Part. In 1947, the Grand Casino was turned into the City Hall. A decade later, in 1953, businessmen from the city organised the first San Sebastián International Film Festival to stimulate the economic life and national and international profile of the city.

The massive immigration from various parts of Spain, spurred by growing industrial production, greatly increased population, in turn bringing about a quick and chaotic urban development on the outskirts of the city (Altza, Intxaurrondo, Herrera, Bidebieta, etc.), but social, cultural and political contradictions and inequities followed, so sparking dissatisfaction. A general climate of protest and street demonstrations ensued, driven by Basque nationalists (especially armed separatist organisation ETA) and underground unions, triggering in 1968 the first state of emergency in Gipuzkoa. Several more were imposed by the Francoist authorities in the run-up to the dictator's death in 1975.

In the middle of the shaky economic situation and real estate speculation, the iconic buildings Kursaal and Chofre bullring in Gros were demolished in 1973. On the other hand, sculptor Eduardo Chillida's and architect Peña Ganchegui's landmark The Comb of the Winds was built at the bay's western tip (1975–1977). The 1970s to the mid-1980s were years of general urban and social decay marked by social and political unrest and violence.

In 1979, the first democratic municipal elections were held, won by the Basque Nationalist Party, who held office along with splinter party Eusko Alkartasuna (Basque Solidarity) until 1991. The Spanish Socialist Workers' Party's Odon Elorza took over as mayor that year until 2011, when he was overthrown unexpectedly in elections by Juan Carlos Izagirre (Bildu).

As of the 1990s, a major makeover of the city centre was undertaken aimed at enhancing and revamping the neoclassical and modernist side of San Sebastián's architecture. Other milestone works include the reshape and enlargement of the Zurriola beach and promenade and the inauguration of the Kursaal Palace cubes (1999), or the new university campus and technological facilities in Ibaeta, the provision of a wide bike lane network, underground car-parks and significant public transport improvements. Districts of cutting-edge design have been erected, such as Ibaeta or Riberas de Loiola, while some important projects hang on the balance prompted by financial tensions.


San Sebastián features an oceanic climate with warm, but not hot summers, and cool but not cold winters. Like many cities with this climate, San Sebastián typically experiences cloudy or overcast conditions for the majority of the year, typically with some precipitation. The city averages roughly 1,650 mm (65 in) of precipitation annually, which is fairly evenly spread throughout the year. However, the city is somewhat drier and noticeably sunnier in the summer months, experiencing on average approximately 100 mm (3.94 in) of precipitation during those months. Average temperatures range from 8.9 °C (48.0 °F) in January to 21.5 °C (70.7 °F) in August.

Climate data for San Sebastián

Record high °C (°F)24.6
Average high °C (°F)13.1
Daily mean °C (°F)8.9
Average low °C (°F)4.7
Record low °C (°F)−12.0
Source: Agencia Estatal de Meteorología


The city is in the north of the Basque Country, on the southern coast of the Bay of Biscay. San Sebastián's picturesque shoreline makes it a popular beach resort. The seaside environment is enhanced by hilly surroundings that are easily accessible, i.e., Urgull (at the heart of the city by the seashore), romantic Mount Ulia extending east to Pasaia, Mount Adarra rising proud far on the south and Igeldo, overlooking the bay from the west.

The city sits at the mouth of the River Urumea, Donostia having been built to a large extent over the river's wetlands during the last two centuries. In fact, the city centre and the districts of Amara Berri andRiberas de Loiola lie on such terrain and the former bed of the river, diverted to its current canalized course in the first half of the 20th century.


Parte Vieja

The Parte Vieja (Old Town) is the traditional core area of the city, and was surrounded by walls up to 1863, when they were demolished so as to occupy the stretch of sand and land that connected the town to the mainland (a stretch of the walls still limits the Old Part on its exit to the port through the Portaletas gate). The Old Town is divided in two parishes relating to the Santa Maria and San Vicente churches, the inhabitants belonging to the former being dubbed traditionally joxemaritarrak, while those attached to the latter are referred to as koxkeroak. Historically, the koxkeroak up to the early 18th century were largely Gascon speaking inhabitants. Especially after the end of Franco's dictatorship, scores of bars sprang up all over the Old Part which are very popular with the youth and the tourists, although not as much with the local residents. Most current buildings trace back to the 19th century, erected thanks to the concerted effort and determination of the town dwellers after the 1813 destruction of the town by the allied Anglo-Portuguese troops.

There is a small fishing and recreation port, with two-floor picturesque houses lined under the front-wall of the mount Urgull. Yet these houses are relatively new, resulting from the demilitarization of the hill,sold to the city council by the Ministry of War in 1924.


This part stands at the west side of the city beyond the Miramar Palace. It is arguably the first population nucleus, even before the land at the foot of Urgull (Old Part) was settled. A monastery ofSan Sebastián el Antiguo ('the Old') is attested in documents at the time of the foundation (12th century). At the mid 19th century, industry developed (Cervezas El León,Suchard, Lizarriturry), the nucleus coming to be populated by workers. Industry has since been replaced by services and the tourist sector. The Matia kalea provides the main axis for the district.

Amara Zaharra

Or Old Amara, named after the farmhouse Amara. It has eventually merged with the city centre to a large extent, since former Amara lay on the marshes at the left of the River Urumea. The core of this district is the Easo Plaza, with the railway terminal of Euskotren closing the square at its south.

Amara Berri

This city expansion to the south came about as of the 1940s, after the works to canalize the river were achieved. Nowadays the name Amara usually applies to this sector, the newer district having overshadowed the original nucleus both in size and population. The district harbours the main road entrance to the city, with Donostia's central bus station being located between the roundabout and the river (Plaza Pio XII). Facilities of many state run agencies were established here and presently Amara's buildings house many business offices. The district revolves around the axis of Avenida Sancho el Sabio and Avenida de Madrid.


The district is built on the sandy terrain across the river. The Gros orZurriola surf beach by the river's mouth bears witness to that type of soil. In the 19th century, shanties and workshops started to dot the area, Tomas Gros being one of its main proprietors as well as providing the name for this part of the city. The area held the former monumental bullring Chofre demolished in 1973, on a site currently occupied by a housing estate. The district shows a dynamic commercial activity, recently boosted by the presence of the Kursaal Congress Centre by the beach.


One of the newest parts in the city, it kept a rural air until not long ago. The postwar city council bought the quaint compound of the Aiete Palace for the use of Francisco Franco in 1940, right after the conclusion of the Civil War. The place in turn became the summer residence for the dictator up to 1975. Nowadays home to the Bakearen Etxea or Peace Memorial House.


Egia, stemming from (H)Egia (Basque for either bank/shore or hill), is a popular district of Donostia on the right side of the Urumea beyond the train station. At the beginning of the 20th century a patch of land by the railway started to be used as a football pitch, eventually turning into the official stadium of the local team Real Sociedad before it was transferred in the 1990s to Anoeta, south of Amara Berri (nowadays the site harbours houses). The former tobacco factory building Tabakalera, which has been converted into a Contemporary Culture Centre, conjures up the former industrial past of the area, Right opposite to this building lies the Cristina Enea park, a public compound with a botanic vocation. Egia holds the city cemetery, Polloe, at the north-east fringes of the district, stretching out to South Intxaurrondo.


This part (meaning 'walnut tree' in Basque) is a large district to the east of the city. The original nucleus lies between the railway and the AtegorrietaAvenue, where still today the farmhouse Intxaurrondo Zar, declared "National Monument", is situated since the mid-17th century. The railway cuts across the district, the southern side being the fruit of the heavy development undergone in the area during the immigration years of the 1950s and 1960s. In addition, further housing estates have been built up more recently souther beyond the N-1 E-5 E-80 E-70 ring road (South Intxaurrondo). The police force Guardia Civil runs controversial barracks there (works for new housing are underway).


Altza (Basque for alder tree) is the easternmost district of San Sebastián along with Bidebieta and Trintxerpe. It was but a quaint village comprising scattered farmhouses and a small nucleus a century ago (2,683 inhabitants in 1910), yet on the arrival of thousands of immigrants in the 1960s and 1970s a rapid and chaotic housing and building activity ensued, resulting in a maze of grey landscape of skyscrapers and 32,531 inhabitants crammed in them (data of 1970), the figure is 20,000 as of 2013.


Ibaeta stands on the former location for various factories (e.g., Cervezas El Leon) of San Sebastián, with the buildings of the old industrial estate being demolished in the late 20th century. The levelling of this large flat area paved the ground for a carefully planned modern and elegant housing estate, featuring a new university campus for the public University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU) and institutions such as the Donostia International Physics Center or the Nanotechnology Center. A stream called Konporta flows down along the eastern side of the area, but it was canalized under the ground almost all along to its mouth on the bay pushed by urban building pressure.


It lies by the Urumea at the south-east end of the city. It comprises a small patch of detached houses (Ciudad Jardín) and a core area of 6-odd floor buildings. The district has recently gone through a major makeover, with works finishing in 2008. The road axis coming from important industrial areas (Astigarraga-Hernani) crosses the district heading downtown. A military base stands across the river, home to an uprising in 1936. Attempts by the city council to close it have been unsuccessful so far.

Riberas de Loiola

New modern district erected in the 2000s next to the city's inner bypass and south road entrance to Donostia. A pedestrian bridge spans the Urumea river onto the Cristina Enea Park.


The Martutene district bordering to the south on the town of Astigarraga comes next to Loiola in the south direction. This part of the city features an industrial area, a football pitch for lower leagues, a disused vocational training building and enclosure as well as a prison, much in decay and due to be transferred soon to a new location, probably in the municipality's exclave of Zubieta, while this option is coming in for much opposition.


The exclave Zubieta (meaning 'place of bridges') was a picturesque old village up to recent years, with a bunch of houses, a unique handball pitch (on account of its single wall as opposed to the regular two) and a church. Yet it has undergone a great urban development, which has rendered the location a built-up area with paved streets and due equipment. Two contested projects are under way to build a solid-waste incinerator and a prison nearby. Historically, neighbours from Donostia held a meeting at a house in the former village in the wake of the 1813 burning, in order to decide the reconstruction of the town.

Internet, Comunication


WiFi zones can be seen in a cafe on the Ondarreta beach; in many bars in the Old City. It's unclear whether they are paid or free of charge.

  • Splash, C/Sanchez Toca, 7. In the Centro neighborhood, right behind the Buen Pastor Cathedral. Offers free Wi-Fi with purchase of food, drink, etc.
  • Kite, C/Ijentea, 4. In Parte Vieja, towards the end of the Boulevard, going towards the Kontxa. Offers free Wi-Fi with the purchase of food, drink, etc.

There are many WiFi points throughout the city and indicated by a white WiFi symbol on street-posts. These are free to access.

Prices in San Sebastian



Milk1 liter$0.87
Tomatoes1 kg$1.97
Cheese0.5 kg$8.00
Apples1 kg$1.70
Oranges1 kg$1.45
Beer (domestic)0.5 l$0.70
Bottle of Wine1 bottle$5.00
Coca-Cola2 liters$1.70
Bread1 piece$1.13
Water1.5 l$0.72



Dinner (Low-range)for 2$25.00
Dinner (Mid-range)for 2$41.00
Dinner (High-range)for 2$
Mac Meal or similar1 meal$7.00
Water0.33 l$1.25
Cappuccino1 cup$1.53
Beer (Imported)0.33 l$2.50
Beer (domestic)0.5 l$2.00
Coca-Cola0.33 l$1.70
Coctail drink1 drink$8.00



Cinema2 tickets$15.00
Gym1 month$55.00
Men’s Haircut1 haircut$14.00
Theatar2 tickets$112.00
Mobile (prepaid)1 min.$0.15
Pack of Marlboro1 pack$5.00



Antibiotics1 pack$7.00
Tampons32 pieces$4.30
Deodorant50 ml.$4.00
Shampoo400 ml.$5.35
Toilet paper4 rolls$2.85
Toothpaste1 tube$2.50



Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)$78.00
Dress summer (Zara, H&M)1$33.00
Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)$81.00
Leather shoes1$96.00



Gasoline1 liter$1.26
Taxi1 km$1.20
Local Transport1 ticket$1.60

Tourist (Backpacker)  

62 € per day

Estimated cost per 1 day including:

  • meals in cheap restaurant
  • public transport
  • cheap hotel

Tourist (business/regular)  

180 € per day

Estimated cost per 1 day including:

  • mid-range meals and drinks
  • transportation
  • hotel

Transportation - Get In

Transportation - Get In

By plane

San Sebastian is well served by airports:

  • San Sebastian, a small airport 20 km from the town centre, next to Hondarribia.
  • Bus to the airport: i2 (€2) departs from Plaza Gipuzkoa nearly once a hour takes 30min, making a maximum of 4 stops (typically less).
  • Cafes in the departures area are limited to a single cafe on the ground floor, plus posh restaurant on the 2nd floor.
  • Shopping in departures area is limited to a single souvenir small shop; no duty free shops available.
  • Electronic check-in is available only for Iberia and Spanair. It doesn't work for Iberia e-tickets printed from an e-mail, however.
  • Wi-Fi network is not available.
  • Biarritz (in France), 50 km away with bus and train connections to San Sebastian [www]. Take a French SNCF train to Hendaye, change to the nearby Euskotren station (located just outside the SNCF station) and take a Euskotren [www] to San Sebastian. Each train ride is between 30–40 minutes, with the total train trip cost less than €10. A coach service also exists between Biarritz airport and the Hendaye train station, via Saint-Jean-De-Luz (change buses there). The coach ride is less than one hour and costs about €4. For an airport transfer, taxi, bus or coach from Biarritz Airport to San Sebastian check Biarritz Airport Transfers or Sea-Lifts Airport Transfer.
  • Bilbao airport is [www] , 100 km away with good bus connections, about one an hour during the day. The trip takes about 70min, and costs around €15. The bus company is called PESA. Tickets for the journey from Bilbao to San Sebastian can be purchased on board the bus, however for the trip from San Sebastian to Bilbao, tickets must be purchased from the PESA office around the corner from the bus station.
  • Vitoria-Gasteiz airport [www] , 114 km from San Sebastian with good bus connections. A bus from the airport will take you to the central bus station, from where you can take a bus (companies Pesa [www] or La Burundesa [www] ) to San Sebastian for around €7.50.

Transportation - Get In

By Train

International trains from France mainly arrive at Hendaye and Irun stations, whence it is possible to take a local train to San Sebastian. Take care when booking from France, as a town named Saint Sébastien exists there as well.

San Sebastian has two main train stations: the RENFE station for national and local Cercanías trains (located at the east end of Puente de Maria Cristina), and the Euskotren Amara station for its local network (located at the Plaza Easo).

From France, there is a multitude of TGV and TER (regional trains) to Hendaye. To reach San Sebastian, change here onto an Euskotren train. Connections are frequent, and continue until late. The last train towards San Sebastian departs Hendaye at 22:33. A few trains from France do not end in Hendaye, and go across the border to Irun. At Irun station, the best option to reach San Sebastian is to change there to a RENFE Cercanías train. Direct TGVs from Paris Montparnasse depart at 10:28, 12:28 (to Irun), and 14:28. In addition, there exists a number of possible connections with a change in Bordeaux.

From Portugal, there is a daily Trenhotel overnight train, leaving Lisbon Sta. Appolonia station at 21:18, and arriving San Sebastian at 10:53.

From the major cities of Spain (outside the Basque Country), the train is much quicker than a bus, and if booked in advance often the cheapest option too. Twice- or thrice-daily direct intercity connections (Alvia) are maintained by state operator RENFE from Vitoria-Gasteiz, Burgos,Valladolid and Madrid, and from Pamplona, Zaragoza, Tarragona and Barcelona. Both lines utilize semi-high speed train sets that travel on the high-speed tracks where they can. Madrid-San Sebastian journey time is between 4h51m and 5h21m. Barcelona-San Sebastian journey time is 5h39m. RENFE also operates a daily service with conventional coaches (Arco) towards Santiago de Compostela and A Coruña, which is ideal for pilgrims looking to skip a portion of the road.

From within the Basque Country (except for Hendaye and Irun), the bus is usually quicker. There are however some scenic train routes operated by Euskotren from the surrounding area, and from Bilbao, with onwards connections by FEVE from Santander (Cantabria), and León (Castilla y Leon). The routes offer a leisurely alternative to travellers who have time to spare.

Transportation - Get In

By Bus

The Basque Country is generally easier to get around by bus than by train. Buses arrive and depart at the San Sebastian bus station, at Plaza de Pio XII in Amara Nuevo. A number of bus companies operate services to San Sebastian, including:

  • Pesa [www]
  • La Burundesa [www]
  • Continental Autos
  • Roncalesa (for connection with Pamplona).

Buses are the only way to get to some areas of the Basque region, and often run more often (and cheaper!) than trains. Vitoria-Gasteiz, capital of the Basque Country, is a 2-hour ride away. Bilbao, the travel hub and biggest city in the region (1-hour ride), and Pamplona (1-hour ride) are other popular destinations, but longer-range buses do overnights to Madrid, Barcelona and even Milan.

Bilbao's bus station is accessibly via the San Mamés metro station. Buy a ticket for the next bus to San Sebastian at the Pesa window for 11.75 €. They leave from stop 2, 3, or 4 every 30 minutes or hour.

Transportation - Get In

By Car

In the downtown, parking is costly (roughly €20/day); most parking spots are underground, and finding a way to get there can be nerve-wracking. Left turns are more rare than rights (and are unpredictable). Having a driving map is essential. The biggest underground parking lots are in the city center, so the easiest way to find a place without wasting time is to go through the road that goes by the river and follow the signs.

There are some free parking lots in the west of the city: on the tourist maps by SanSebastianTurismo available in some guesthouses, the area is marked with a blue dotted line "Controlled parking zone".

Transportation - Get Around

You can see San Sebastián on foot and by taxi. Taxis only pick up passengers at designated taxi stops or when booked by phone. They aren't permitted to take passengers who hail them on the street.

Bicycle lanes are all around the downtown, and in the summer bicycles can be hired (at certain times they are free) from strategically placed locations around the city. Apart from private hiring companies, the town hall has a bike-service all over the city, which is also open to tourists. Tourists should get a bike-card at the Tourist Information Center in Boulevard, 8 (€20 deposit, €15 for 1 day, €20 for 4 days, €25 per week) [www] . This card should be given back the day after it is purchased so as to recover the €20 deposit. This way you can use any of the multiple bikes around the city, for a maximum of 4h non-stop (Leaving 30 minutes between use allows you to cycle for a further 4h non-stop), from 10:00 to 21:00. There are several bike-service spots around the city, and bikes can be picked up and dropped off at different points.

D-Bus has a number of routes across the city. Single journeys to any destination on its network cost a flat rate of €1.45. However, for residents staying for longer periods, they may wish to buy the 'Kutxa chip' card available from Kutxa Bank's main office at C/ Garibay 15, close to the Parte Vieja, for €5.50. After the initial purchase, the card can be topped up on ATM's all over the city and instead of paying the flat rate of €1.45, holders merely swipe their card and pay €0.73 for each journey. There is a local app for smartphones (both iPhone and Android) that tells you bus arrival time for each bus stop, selectable on a map.

It's also possible to buy and top up a tourist card, valid for 10 days, at some newsagents. The card costs €2.60 after which each journey is €0.75. The card can be used to pay for up to five people. Touch it against the electronic card reader as you get on the bus, once per passenger.






Clothes and shoes

San Sebastian is known as a stylish city and an image-conscious one, so it is stuffed with high-end shops. Peruse La Parte Vieja (the old part of town) for cool boutiques filled with quirky designer gear. There are fantastic shoe stores—I remember one in particular whose rainbow of amazing women's shoes in the window changed daily—and sources for that inimitable bold Spanish fashion. Designer clothes for men are much more difficult to find than for women.

Most shops are freestanding, but there is an enclosed shopping mall (La Brexta) that has the cineplex (as well as the city's lone McDonald's) as well as a collection of high street shops in the modern Nuevo Mercardo San Martin complex [www].

Some of the shops worthwhile visiting are:

  • HakeiGaribai 8,  +34 943 432-056, e-mail: .Mo-Sa 10:00-20:00. Try for gorgeous, one-of-a-kind women's shoes and accessories (bags and jewelry). Its tiny shop, and its displays are stunning, with walls lined in delicate shoes and silk scarves arranged by color.
  • Hoss IntropiaTxurruka, 6+34 943 42 56 34. Women-only wear.
  • Nice-day, Nice-thingsC/ Fuenterrabia, 14,  +34 943 425 403.
  • DarlingtonC/Reyes Catolicos,10,  +34 943 465064. 10:30AM-1:30PM, 5PM-10PM. Original Spanish designer accessories at affordable prices.
  • emenbi, cosy clothes Usandizaga 7 and C/ Fermin Calbeton 44, e-mail: .


  • KukuxumusuMayor Kalea, 15,  +34 943 421 184


  • HawaiiCalle San Bartolome, 12, San Sebastian,  +34 943 428 996. The shop has the major surf brands plus helpful stuff that surf themself with passion. One finds surf boards, wet suits or swim and beach clothing.


The Basque cuisine is famous within Spain and many believe it is the Basque Country where you can find the best food. Much of this fame comes from San Sebastian and its bars and restaurants. Although tapas were invented in Andalucia they became perfected in San Sebastian and a walk through the old town before lunch time with its many bars shows why. Each bar is bursting with tapas and they look very delicate. Tapas are generally enjoyed together with a glass of wine or a small beer, and the Spanish tradition suggests to have one tapa and a wine in one bar and move on to the next bar. Tapas can be used as a good substitute for a meal - you pay for each one you eat (about €2-4 each) so you can have as many as you want. If you want 'real' food then that is where San Sebastian can be very good. You can find several different cuisines such Chinese, German, Galician, Italian and of course the obvious Basque cuisine. In and around the harbour you can have the freshest seafood and if you don’t enjoy the simple harbour taverns go and enjoy San Sebastian restaurants with Michelin stars if you have some money to spare.

San Sebastian is not a place for vegetarians or vegans, unless you are able to catch the fresh produce markets in the morning and cook for yourself. Pescetarians can get along fine with the abundance of seafood offered on menus.

Lo Mejor de la Gastronomia holds annual conference and competition in November, including nominations for pintxos bars and for restaurants.


Healthy breakfast (even omelet) is hard to find in cafes: typically sandwiches or breakfast variety of pintxos are offered.

  • GaragarAlameda del Boulevard, 22,  +34 943 42 28 40. Quite touristy place. Terrace has a surcharge, indoor is stifling and too dark for a breakfast. €8 for omelet+toast w/ham+fresh orange juice (terrace).
  • La VidaC/San Marcial 37,  +34 943 244 150, e-mail:. 9AM-midnight. This stylish venue offers great value breakfast from €6-8, great selection of daily baked muffins, seed bars, croissants, English breakfast, Mediterranean breakfast and more.
  • Regatta20 Hondarribia Kalea,  +34 943 424 169, e-mail:. open from 7:30AM, kitchen closes at 11:30PM. Not evident from outside, this lounge-style cafe is popular place for breakfast among locals. Selection of potato-based pies, croissants with variety of meats. Good selection of infusion teas which are hard to find elsewhere in the city. €6-7 for an average breakfast. Menu del dia €10.8, 1PM-4PM.

Lunch and dining


Along the waterfront one can find many cafes and bakeries.

  • AldanondoC/Euskal Herria 6,  +34 943-422852. Great and inexpensive steak house. Menu del dia: €23. Fish main courses generally €14-22. VAT not included.
  • Juanito KojuaCalle Puerto 14, Old Town,  +34 943420180.13:00 - 15:30 and 20:30 - 23:00.
  • La RampaMuelle 26-27 bajo,  +34 943 42 16 52. Fish restaurant with Basque flavour. Perfectly-trained waiters with excellent English. Grilled rape is particularly good. Try cider, take a specialty cider pouring cork with you. VAT not included.
  • La ZurriCalle de Zabaleta 10,  +34 943 29-3886. 13:00-15:00.Simple Basque dishes which are cooked delicately. Go downstairs. Popular with locals. For lunch, arrive before 3PM to catch full range of options. The daily menu includes a glass of wine. Flan is rare case when it has taste in every layer. Daily menu €11.
  • TxuletaPlaza de la Trinidad 2, Parte Vieja. Excellent, reasonably priced renditions of Basque specialties Txangurro, Chipirones en su tinta, y sopa de pescado.
  • Casa UrolaCalle Fermin Calbeton 20, Old Town. 13h-16.15h 20h-23.15h.


  • Akelarre RestaurantPaseo Padre Orcolaga, 56, 20008 San Sebastián,  +34943311209fax: +34 943 21 92 68. 13-15:30 and 20:30-23.
  • ArbelaitzPaseo de Mikeletegi, 53, 20009 Donostia-San Sebastian,  +34 943308220. Monday to Sunday for lunch, Friday + Saturday dinner. Owned by famous cook Hilario Arbelaitz. For adventurous it features a 10 course gastronomic menu for 100 EUR.
  • Arzak RestaurantAvda. Alcalde Jose Elosegui 273,  +34 943 278 465 - 943 285 593fax: +34 943 272 753, e-mail:. Open From January to June: Closed Sunday evening, Monday and Tuesday. From July to December: Closed Sunday evening and Monday. Vacations: June 15 to July 2 and November 2 to November 26.. Three Michelin stars restaurant. All credit cards accepted. About €150 per head by the time you've added the wine etc., but well worth it! €80-100 plus drinks and VAT.
  • Martin Berasategui, Calle Loidi 4, Lasarte-Oria (Guipúzcoa)+34 943 36 64 71, e-mail: . A 3 Michelin star restaurant close to San Sebastian with other outlets at Kursaal and in Bilbao at the Guggenheim. €175 for the degustation menu (about 12 courses) plus wine and service.
  • SaltxipiCalzada Vieja de Ategorrieta 3,  +34 943 323 310.Calzada Vieja de Ategorrieta, 3, 943 323 310. Just outside Gros in a residential street this family run restaurant has a mainly seafood menu. It's specialty is Spider Crab - it's baked variety is worth the 10 minute walk from the old town!
  • Zuberoa Restaurant, Araneder Bidea, Barrio Iturriotz 20180 OIARTZUN, Gipuzkoa,  +34 943 49 12 28. A farmhouse transformed by cook Hilario Arbelaitz.


The way to eat pintxos, (tapas in the Basque Country whether speaking Spanish or Basque) in San Sebastian is quite different from other cities in Spain. There are two kinds of tapas: cold and hot ones.

Don't attempt to eat pintxos if you're starving, you'll treat it like a buffet and prices will easily rack up as everything seems more appealing. Only get a couple of pintxos at a time as sometimes what looks really appealing, has been sitting on the bar the whole day and is past it's use by date. Test the waters. Cold ones are displayed on the bar. Just ask the barman for your drink and pick the pintxos yourself. If you need a plate, just ask. Hot ones must be ordered from the barman and they take a short time to be cooked. There is always a hot tapas menu hanging from the wall.

When you are done eating your tapas and have finished your drink you ask the barman for the bill, and you have to tell him what you have eaten. It is very important to be honest, as it is a long tradition. Locals will be upset if they find people eating and not paying. Normally you don't eat many pintxos at one bar but move from bar to bar, drinking a beer (caña) or wine and eating one or two tapas. Then you move to another bar. Traditionally residents would have one or two pintxos in the early evening to stave off any hunger before a later sit-down meal, rather than making a meal out of a large number of pintxos.

Generally, if the barman asks you to show your plate to them before you start eating, you know the bar markets towards tourists and is sub par and more expensive that it should be. A good bar will ask you what you've eaten as you pay and you should see a chef working out the back.

Most pintxo bars are to be found in the old town, particularly on the streets running parallel to Boulevard. Generally a pintxo will cost €2-3. At some bars the pintxos are all priced the same, at others the price depends on the pintxo. Pintxos (tapas) bars are thick in the Parte Vieja (Old Town), but there are masses of other places nearby in the Gros and Centro areas. Most bars charge by the toothpick or plate from €1-5.

The Jamon Iberico (usually seen hanging from the ceiling in whole leg portions) is ubiquitous, and equally good virtually everywhere. The calamari seems to be the same at every bar, don't order it again at a different pintxo bar if you didn't like it the first time.

Old Town (Parte Vieja)

  • Rojo Y Negro, Calle San Marcial 52, +34 94 343 1861. A little bit out of old town you'll find huge portions of tasty pintxos without breaking the bank. If you want to meet locals or see how this whole pintxos thing is done, this is the place to do it without being obnoxious or tacky. Minimal tourist flow and friendly, professional staff that speak enough English to understand you. Try the marinated octopus and meatballs in tomato sauce, although these are slightly expensive at €6, it's a full meal in itself and comes with bread. You can't go wrong with the even cheaper bread-based pintxos at €1.5 to €2.5 which range from interesting flavour combinations to the ol' steady, jamon on bread. Beer and wine is cheap and they won't turn up their noses if you ask for tap water.
  • Bernardo Etxea is clean and pleasant, with excellently prepared pintxos. Calle Puerto, Parte Vieja
  • Tamboril in the corner of the main square in the Old Town
  • Goiz Argi Fermín Calbetón, Parte Vieja. Pintxos bar with the deliciousbrocheta de gambas (fried prawns with a special vinaigrette), bola de carne (meat ball with red pepper) and a lot of cold pintxos with anchovies, mushrooms, cod, salmon, etc. Any of wine by glasses is good.
  • Ganbara Parte Vieja
  • Casa Gandarias Parte Vieja. Try Solo Mio (a piece of sirloin steak) with a glass of Belondrade Y Lurton white wine.
  • Casa VergaraParte Vieja, Mayor 15,  +34 943 43-10-73. Pintxos bar, quite spacious. Not overcrowded in the evenings during the weekdays.
  • Martinez Parte Vieja
  • La Cepa Parte Vieja
  • Borda Berri Parte Vieja. C/Fermin Calbeton. Excellent pintxos with a changing menu. Try the 'Taco de Bacalao' (Tempura fried cod with a romesco sauce)
  • Juantxo Parte Vieja. C/Enbeltran. Best, cheapest 'bocadillo de tortilla de patatas' in Parte Vieja. About €2,70 for a huge sandwich.


  • Hidalgo 56 Gros
  • Bergara Gros
  • Casa Senra Gros


  • Iturrioz Centro.
  • Bar Alex Centro
  • Bar Alustiza Centro
  • Bar Zazpi Centro

Cook-by-order pintxos

Some slightly pricier pintxo bars that don't have pre-cooked pintxos and only cook them on order (correspondingly, their pintxo are of higher quality) are:

  • La Cuchara de San Telmo (The Spoon), Plaza Valle Lersundi, C/31 de Agosto 28 (Off Calle 31 de Agosto, not easy to find, GPS +43.32446°,-1.98535°),  +34 943 435 446, e-mail:. Don't judge their food by their interior. Jamon Iberico is cited as particularly good.
  • A Fuego NegroCalle 31 de Agosto,  +34 650 135 373. Trendy interior, good-looking people. Really tasty tapas.
  • Borda BerriCalle 12 Fermín Calbetón (Parte Vieja),  +34 943 425 638. The menu is on a chalk board and everything is excellent. €1 - 3,5.

Coffe & Drink

Local specialties

  • The Kalimotxo (pronounced "calimotcho") is a local drink that is made with 50% wine (normally an inexpensive red wine) and 50% Coca-Cola. You will see a very large proportion of young people drink this near the harbour at playa La Concha and later on, in bars or clubs. It is definitely something to try out while you are there.


Coffee is espresso, not brewed, even in the on-the-beach cafes.

  • BideluzePlaza de Guipuzcoa 14+34 943-460219. Great place for coffee; Cafe Con Leche - that is, coffee with milk - is particularly good.
  • Hogar Dulce HogarBermingham Kalea, 1 20002 Donostia-San Sebastián,  +34 943 24 66 81. 7:30 – 21:30, Saturday+Sunday 8:30 - 21:30. Great place that newly opened in 2012 for breakfast with big toast named "tostadon", coffee and orange juice with free Wi-Fi. For lunch or dinner the burger are very popular. The owner of course surfs himself.

Cider and Sidreria

A purely Guipuzcoan experience, sidrerias dot the countryside and offer all you can drink sidra (a mildly alcoholic apple flavored cider) shooting straight from the barrel. Sidrerias usually offer a traditional set menu of cod omelette, cod with peppers, txuleta (really thick steak), and then for dessert: cheese, walnuts and membrillo (quince paste). The cider house season runs from the end of January to the end of May, but a couple of traditional sidrerias that are open all year (you'll need to get a car, bus or taxi from town) are:

  • AginagaAginaga,  +34 943 36 67 10. €22.

Sights & Landmarks

  • From top of Mount Igueldo at the West end of La Concha bay, enjoy great view of the town
  • Visit the Miramar palace and its park over El pico del Loro; enjoy sitting on a lawn there

Things to do

  • Beach - there are two main beaches, one on either side of the river.
    • La Concha, on the west side is the larger, is protected from the sea and has an island and boats in the bay. Ondarreta is in the same bay as La Concha, but split by El pico del Loro (a rocky outcropping). La Concha and Ondarreta has umbrellas, tents and lounge chairs for €15 per day; free WC, showers and changing rooms. A team of fully-equipped life-guards are there during the daytime.
    • La Zurriola to the east of the old town and river is a surf beach, clearly better if you want waves or beach sports.
  • Surfing - surfboards and bodyboards can be rented on Zurriola beach. You'll probably want to spring for a wetsuit as well.
    • The Zurriola Surf Eskola (founded in 2012) offers surf lessons for both beginners and advanced with excellent trainers. They also rent board and wetsuits.
    • The longtime Puka Surf Eskola offers surf lessons (around €65 per person for five one-hour lessons in a small group) and has a surf shop too [www].
  • Hiking
    • For a short easy hike visit the statue of Christ on top of the mountain between the beaches. It takes around an hour to walk up at a leisurely pace. There's a bar on the way up if you need to stop for refreshments or admire the view. To reach the bar: find a library; from there find directions upstairs to a Castle; follow the stairs along green hedge. The park officially closes at 9PM in summer (in reality, gates close bit later), and the bar closes before sunset in summer time—and definitely before park is closed.
    • For a longer hike, head up the hill from Zurriola by taking Zemoria St up from the east end of the Zurriola, and following the long stairway at the end of Zemoria St up to the hiking path which is toward the left. From there, follow the trail marked by the red & white markings toPasaia/San Pedro. Initially, the trail is marked by red, white, and green stripes, but the green trail diverts halfway in. The full hike from San Sebastian to Pasaia/San Pedro is approximately 5.5 miles one-way and should take around 2.5 hours. Once you get there, you can take a local bus back (for €1.35).
  • Tennis and squash: There is a single tennis court (roofed), and two open-air squash courts—both between the El pico del Loro beach and bottom of Mount Igeldo.
  • Tourist Land Train - a tourist land train leaves from the Calle Zubieta in front of La Concha Beach.
  • Aquarium - by the Paseo de Kaiko, at the far right of La Concha Beach.
  • Kayak - kayaks can be hired on Ondaretta beach, for about €7 per hour.
  • Water skiing in the La Concha bay
  • Funicular (cable-car). 10AM-9PM. will take you up and down Mount Igueldo. If you use your own transport to get up (including walking) you'll have to pay a €1.70 per person toll at the top. The top of the mountain provides a great view over the town (and access to the Mount Igueldo Amusement Park) €1.40 each way.
  • Mount Igueldo Amusement Park. an aging amusement park with quaint rides can be found at the top of Mount Igeldo, at the West end of La Concha bay.

Festivals and events

San Sebastián Day

Every year on 20 January (the feast of Saint Sebastian), the people of San Sebastián celebrate a festival known as the "Tamborrada". At midnight, in the Konstituzio plaza in the "Alde Zaharra/Parte Vieja" (Old Part), the mayor raises the flag of San Sebastián (see in the infobox). For 24 hours, the entire city is awash with the sound of drums. The adults, dressed as cooks and soldiers, march around the city. They march all night with their cook hats and white aprons with the March of San Sebastián.

On this day a procession was held in the early 19th century from the Santa Maria Church in the Old Part to the San Sebastián Church in the district of Antiguo, while later limited on the grounds of weather conditions to the in-wall area. The event finished with a popular dancing accompanied on the military band's flutes and drums. In addition, every day a soldier parade took place to change the guards at the town's southern walls. Since the San Sebastián Day was the first festival heralding the upcoming Carnival, it's no surprise that some youths in Carnival mood followed them aping their martial manners and drumrolls, using for the purpose the buckets left at the fountains. In the period spanning the 1860s and 1880s the celebrations started to shape as we know them today with proper military style outfits and parades and the tunes fashioned by music composer Raimundo Sarriegui.

Adults usually have dinner in sociedades gastronómicas ("gourmet clubs"), who traditionally admitted only males, but nowadays even the strictest ones allow women on the "Noche de la Tamborrada". They eat sophisticated meals cooked by themselves, mostly composed of seafood (traditionall yelvers, now no longer served due to its exorbitant price) and drink the best wines. For "Donostiarras" this is the most celebrated festival of the year.

Semana Grande/Aste Nagusia

A festival called Semana Grande in Spanish and Aste Nagusia in Basque ("Big/Main Week") is held every year in mid-August. An important international fireworks contest takes place, in which a fireworks presentation is made every night over the bay and, at the end, the contest's winner is declared. It also highlights the parade of giants and big-heads every afternoon.

Basque Week

This decades long festivity taking place at the beginning of September features events related to Basque culture, such as performances of traditional improvising poets (bertsolaris), Basque pelota games, stone lifting contests, oxen wagers, dance exhibitions or the cider tasting festival. Yet the main highlight may be the rowing boat competition, where teams from different towns of the Bay of Biscay contend for the Flag of La Concha. Thousands of supporters coming from these coastal locations pour into the city's streets and promenades overlooking the bay to follow the event, especially on the Sunday of the final race. All day long the streets of the Old Part play host to droves of youths clad in their team colours who party there in a cheerful atmosphere.

Santa Ageda Bezpera

Saint Agatha's Eve is a traditional event taking place at the beginning of February or end of January in many spots of the Basque Country. It holds a small but cherished slot in the city's run-up to the Carnival. Groups dressed up in Basque traditional farmer costume march across the neighbourhood singing and wielding a characteristic stick beaten on the ground to the rhythm of the traditional Saint Agatha's tune. The singers ask for a small donation, which can be money, a drink or something to eat.


This is a local festival held on the first Saturday of February linked to the upcoming Carnival, where different groups of people dressed in Romani (Gypsy) tinkers attire take to the streets banging rhythmically a hammer or spoon against a pot or pan, and usually bar-hop while they sing the traditional songs for the occasion. They were just men voices some time ago, but women participate and sing currently too. The festival is 131 years old in 2015.

Santo Tomas

This popular festival takes place on the 21 December, a date frequently shrouded in winter cold. From early in the morning, stalls are arranged across the city centre and people from all Gipuzkoa flock to the streets of the centre and the Old Part, with crowds of people often dressed in traditional Basque "farmer" outfit turning out and filling the area. Traditional and typical produce is showcased and sold on the stalls, while the main drink is cider and the most popular snacks are txistorra (a type of thin, uncured chorizo) wrapped in talos (flatbread). A large pig is on display in the Konstituzio Plaza, which is raffled off during the festival.


As in other Basque cities, towns and villages, on Christmas Eve the Olentzero and the accompanying carol singers usually dressed in Basque farmer costume take over the streets, especially in the city centre, asking for small donations in bars, shops and banks after singing their repertoire. Sometimes Olentzero choirs roam around the streets in later dates, on the 31st for example, and are often related to cultural, social or political associations and demands.



  • Bataplán is definitely the hottest club in San Sebastian. Be careful not to arrive too early; usually there is no party before 1AM. People normally start arriving at 2AM, and the club closes around 6 or 7AM. The entry fee is normally €15 (including one drink) but you can get in for free before 3AM if you ask for a VIP pass at a bar beforehand (Bar Tas Tas is a good place for that). This club has an amazing terrace out back to relax after you've had one drink too many (drinks cost around €8 a pop, by the way, €5 for a beer). All year round, the club is filled with local people, tourists and exchange students.

Safety in San Sebastian


Very High / 8.5

Safety (Walking alone - day)

High / 7.9

Safety (Walking alone - night)