I pride myself on my organization when travelling. I usually buy the books, read the tips, and download the maps prior to arriving in any new city or country. However, when I spent five days in San Sebastian, Spain as part of a three-week backpacking trip, I went in a little more “blind” than usual. Having done little besides look up pictures of the beach, I stepped out of the car in San Sebastian with few plans or expectations. Fortunately, not having a laundry list of things to see and do made for a creative stay. We were able to wander as we pleased (San Sebastian is totally walkable), finding things to do along the way. We hit most of the popular spots, and I’ve summarized my list of to-do’s in this charming coastal town.
San Sebastian sits on a little bay, and one side of the bay’s crest ends in Monte Urgull, a hikable hill with amazing views. The paths circulate the hill in gentle slopes, so the hike to the top isn’t too rigorous and can be done fairly quickly (about an hour), depending on how many detours you take. At the top, you’ll find a small museum, religious statue, and breathtaking views of the whole bay. There is also a little library tucked in the hill, which prompted my friend and I to wonder if the workers have to hike up to work each day!
Buen Pastor Cathedral
One of the central spots in San Sebastian’s bustling “old district” is Buen Pastor Cathedral, the top of which extends high into the sunny sky. The building itself is impressive from the outside, and the little plaza on which it sits is a fun place to people watch while enjoying gelato from a nearby shop.
Easily the most popular attraction, the central beach (La Concha Beach) is clean and fun. We actually didn’t spend too much time lounging here, though I would have willingly spent several days sunning and people watching had we been staying in San Sebastian for longer. The crest-shaped beach is the perfect length for a morning walk, if that floats your boat. On some summer nights, the beach plays host to an international fireworks competition. We thoroughly enjoyed wandering down to the sand each evening to stake out a spot for that night’s show. Afterward, I highly recommend making your way to an ice cream shop (the name of which I sadly cannot find) on the western side of the bay, where I enjoyed the best dark chocolate ice cream of my life. Not. Kidding. Walk about a block or two southwest on Matia Kalea. The shop will be on your right.
This busy pastry/gelato shop dishes out some delectable sweets! Stop here for an indulgent breakfast, quick snack, dessert, or all of the above. Expect to wait for a seat if you’re looking to leisurely enjoy your treats. The place gets crowded during peak months.
Find Oiartzun’s website here.