Four must-do things to do in San Sebastian
1. Pintxo and txikito in the Old Town
San Sebastian old town is at the foot of Mount Urgull with sea on one side and the River Urumea on the other, it is picturesque. What attracts tourists to Old town are the many pintxo bars that dot this foodies’ paradise.
Just wander round the Old Town, stopping often at one of the numerous bars and restaurants for a txikito (young white wine) and the ubiquitous pintxos. San Sebastian Old town also has two famous churches - San Vicente Church and Baroque style Basilica of Santa María.
2. Funicular to Igueldo
In the morning take the Igueldo funicular to reach the top of Igeldo Mountain. The historical funicular built in 1912 is worth the trip for the scenic views.
3. Walk along the La Concha promenade
La Concha is one of the best urban beaches in Spain. Locals take pride in the long promenade that runs from Mount Igeldo to Mount Urgull.
4. Trying cider at traditional cider houses
You cannot leave San Sebastian without trying cider at one of the cider houses. In the traditional cider houses you drink cider straight from the barrel in a very special ritual. Most of cider houses are found in the town of Astigarraga, 10 minutes from San Sebastian.
San Sebastian is a small city and can easily be visited in one day. But ideally, you should spend 2 or 3 days.
What to see in San Sebastian
You have to go to Casco Viejo or Parte Vieja, the old city of San Sebastian. If time is short, visit from outside, the San Telmo Museum in the 16th century Dominican Convent.
Go to the center of the city with the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, and see the architecture of the Kursaal congress center.
Walk past to admire the Teatro Victoria Eugenia, walk around the port areas and you can go up to Monte Igueldo for panoramic views of the Concha bay and the city.
Getting around San Sebastian
All San Sebastian can be seen on foot and by some public transport because the city is very small. The center of San Sebastian, La Concha beach, the old part and the Port are on foot. For Mount Igueldo you have to take a 3-minute funicular ride that starts from just beside Ondaretta Beach.
Local food and drink recommendations in San Sebastian:
Go to cider houses without fail. It is the place to drink the local drink, cider, along with barbecued ribs and idiazabal cheese. There are many cider houses in Gipuzkoa, and the most famous are in Astigarraga.
The cider season is from mid January till the end of April. If you are keen on cider houses, here is a link that I consider very interesting and gives all the details of where to go.
Of course you must have pintxos which are typical of San Sebastian. Go into one of the many bars in the old part of the city.
There are also several restaurants with Michelin stars but they must be booked. A great local restaurant - not Michelin, but very nice - is Nestor bar in Calle Pescadería 11. Have the potato omelette and steak.
Don’t worry, all of this can be done in one day in San Sebastian.
Another day in San Sebastian
After spending 1 day, which is enough for San Sebastian, you should spend the additional day to visit Fuenterrabia (or Hondarribia), and the French Basque region.
Fuenterrabia on the Spain side of the border with France, is a seaside fishing village full of seaside maritime atmosphere. Its architecture is a mix of Spanish and French Basque.
Basque Gastronomy is what Fuenterrabia is most known for these days - there are fantastic bars and restaurants for every wallet size.
Biarritz, Hendaye and Saint Jean de Luz in the French Basque region are very picturesque with magnificent beaches and nice bistros to eat at. The French Basque towns are very neat and picturesque, it is wonderful to stroll through the streets and have a coffee on their many terraces. See this link for more details.
Getting around from San Sebastian:
From San Sebastian to Fuenterrabia is less than 30 minutes by bus. And it will cost you under 5 Eu.
Saint Jean de Luz is only a 20 minutes journey from San Sebastian by car or taxi.
To Saint Jean de Luz and French Basque region you can also take a slower bus or train. But if you are on a day trip then you want to minimize travel time. And driving from San Sebastian to the border and the French Basque towns is the best way to admire the scenic countryside.
Ideally, spend at least 2 days in San Sebastian
Day 1 - Beach, old city, and pintxos
Go to La Concha beach, hang out at the promenade, take the funicular to the nearby Monte Igueldo. Come back in the afternoon to the old city, walk around the streets (shop if you like); finish the day with Pintxos or a Michelin meal.
Day 2 - French Basque and Cider
Head to St. Jean de Luz in the French Basque region. Stay for lunch and enjoy the laid back countryside. Stop by Biarritz on the way back. In the evening have dinner at a cider house in Astigarraga, very close to San Sebastian.