San Sebastian in 2 Days: everything you need to know

Two days may not seem long enough to get to know San Sebastian, one of the most famous cities in the Basque Country, but with the right itinerary you will be able to discover its main sites.

Matías Rodríguez

Matías Rodríguez

9 min read

San Sebastian in 2 Days: everything you need to know

Playa en san sebastian | ©Reyes Del campo

San Sebastian is the best known city in the Bay of Biscay and also one of the main cities in the Basque Country. With its mountains, its beaches on the Cantabrian Sea and the beauty of its streets that combine a historic district with other more modern areas, Donostia has many attractions to offer, so if you want to see its main sites in just two days you will have to hurry.

Some of the best things to see and do in San Sebastian include visiting Mount Igueldo and its funicular, walking through the Gros neighborhood , visiting the Parte Vieja and enjoying Basque cuisine and some of the best gastronomic tours in the city.

Day 1: Visit the Parte Vieja, walk around the Gros neighborhood, have lunch at a pintxo bar and walk around Monte Ulía

Kursaal Bridge| ©Aurélien ANNE
Kursaal Bridge| ©Aurélien ANNE

San Sebastian is a city built on the shores of the Cantabrian Sea, so the Old Part is in a coastal area, close to the Bay of La Concha.

During the first day I suggest a tour of the historic district of Donostia and also Gros and Monte Ulia, from where you can see one of the best sunsets in the Basque Country.

Visit the Old Part of San Sebastian

The Old Part is the most emblematic area of San Sebastian and the best option is to walk around it during the morning. There you can visit the Basilica of Nuestra Señora del Coro, which mixes baroque and gothic styles in its beautiful facade, the Donostia City Hall, the Bretxa Market and the Plaza de la Constitución, which is one of the most famous squares in San Sebastian.

If you want to know the green lung of the Old Part you can get lost in the Alderdi Eder Park, which is located very close to the Concha Beach, and then return to the Main Street to visit the Church of San Vicente and the Museum of San Telmo, where if you are interested you can enter and learn about Basque history and culture.

In the Parte Vieja you will also find some of the best pintxo stands in Donostia.

In the Old Part I recommend you to visit the port of San Sebastian, which is one of the best known of the Basque coast, and from where you will be able to contemplate an open view of the Bay of La Concha, especially if you are visiting the city in summer and the day is clear.

In the port you can also choose to take a boat tour of San Sebastian, although I do not advise you to opt for this option on a 2-day visit because you will miss out on other options.

Book a gastronomic tour of the old town

Walk through the neighborhood of Gros

Opposite the Old Town, separated by the Kursaal Bridge, the Gros neighborhood is one of the most picturesque in San Sebastian. It contrasts with the old town for its youthful atmosphere, which makes it one of the favorite areas among surfers, as it is home to Zurriola Beach, which is ideal for surfing.

In Gros you can walk along the Alameda del Boulevard and the promenade, which is one of the most attractive places in San Sebastian and where most of the restaurants and shops in the neighborhood are located. You can also take a break in Plaza Cataluña, which is surrounded by bars and pintxo stalls.

The Dove of Peace is another of the main attractions of Gros, as it is a sculpture that represents the understanding within the Basque Country. It is located on the esplanade of Sagüés, at the end of the Zurriola promenade.

You can also choose to tour Gros by bike, either on a guided tour or on your own, or use the hop on-hop off tourist bus, which provides for a stop in the neighborhood.

Book a ride on the tourist bus in San Sebastian

Lunch in a pintxo bar

Basque gastronomy is one of the most exquisite in Spain and also one of the reasons that drive tourists to tour the Basque Country. This is no exception in San Sebastian and, back in the Parte Vieja, on the other side of the Kursaal Bridge, you can have lunch during your first day in some of the best bars in the city.

Baby squid, prawns, tempura, chops, sirloin steak, smoked eel and cod in all its forms are some of the options for tapas in San Sebastian.

You can discover these dishes in La Cuchara de San Telmo, in Bar Txepetxa, in Gandarias, one of the classic bars of Donostia, in Borda Berri or in La Viña, which are the most traditional bars, but the whole city has excellent places to discover its flavors.

In La Viña, in addition, you can also try the dessert options, among which stands out the cheesecake, which is one of the best in the world and that in some countries like Japan and Turkey try to imitate following the original recipe.

You can also discover the best pintxo bars in San Sebastian on a gastronomic tour and then continue the tour of the city visiting bars on your own to manage your own time.

Book a pintxo bar tour with an expert local guide

Walk around Monte Ulía

Mount Ulía| ©Kent Wang
Mount Ulía| ©Kent Wang

After lunch I suggest you take a hiking tour of Monte Ulía, which is the site from which whales were sighted in the Middle Ages and is now one of the main viewpoints of the city.

From the Old Part you can get there by bus lines 13, 14 and 29 and once there you can walk a 6.5 kilometer hiking trail to the top.

At the highest point of Ulía you can access the viewpoint to contemplate the beaches and cliffs of the Bay of Biscay from the 235 meters high mountain. At the eastern end you can see how the Ulía merges with the mountain creating one of the most spectacular optical illusions of San Sebastian.

If you wish, you can stay at the top of the Ulía until sunset to watch one of the most beautiful sunsets of the Basque coast.

Another option to watch the sunset during the first day is to spend less time in Ulía and opt for a sailing trip to watch the sunset from the Cantabrian Sea, although you should keep in mind that the departures include a walk along the coast, so it could take time away from the tour.

Book a sunset boat trip

Close your first day in a bar in Donostia

You can celebrate the intense tour of your first day in San Sebastian by eating and drinking in some of the city's bars. For that you can visit La Gintonería Donostiarra, the Whisky Museum or La Cepa, where you can taste some of the best Rioja wines.

If you are one of those who, in addition to enjoying a good drink, want to continue the night, you can go out partying in the nightclubs on Reyes Católicos street, in the Old Part in the area near the port, or visit the Casino Kursaal, near the City Hall of San Sebastian, and try your luck.

Another plan to close your first night is to walk along the beach, watch the lights of the city from some of the high points of San Sebastian and walk along the promenade of the Concha Bay.

Book a pintxos tour in San Sebastian

Day 2: Walk along the Concha Bay, visit the San Martin Market, visit Mount Igueldo and enjoy the Basque gastronomy

Concha Bay| ©Philippe BOISSEL
Concha Bay| ©Philippe BOISSEL

For the second and last day I propose a tour of two of the main points of San Sebastian: the Concha Bay and the Concha Beach.

You can also visit the San Martin Market, which has been open since the nineteenth century, and visit Mount Igueldo, which has a funicular and even an amusement park at the top.

Tour the Concha Bay

La Concha Bay is one of the most famous sites on the Basque coast and is home to Ondarreta Beach and La Concha Beach, which for its white sand and crystal clear waters is considered one of the most beautiful urban beaches in the world. There you can walk along the shore or stroll along the promenade, where you will find beach bars and other commercial establishments.

La Concha Bay is also known for the island of Santa Clara, famous for its almost 800 year old chapel and the lighthouse that distinguishes it. Santa Clara is virtually united by a stone breakwater that was never completed from the island's port to the sculpture of the Peine del Viento, in Ondarreta. You can also take some of San Sebastian's best boat tours around the bay San Sebastian Boat Tours

On the separation between Ondarreta and La Concha Beach you can also visit the Miramar Palace, which was part of the Spanish Royal Family's summer residence and is now part of the City Hall and has rooms for rent. The palace and its gardens are open to the public.

You can tour the Concha Bay, the beaches and the promenade by bicycle or on a walk of about 2 kilometers and the island of Santa Clara can be visited during a boat trip, although from the Miramar Palace you will have one of the best views of the island territory.

Book a boat trip in San Sebastian

Visit the San Martin Market

San Martin Market| ©Errasti
San Martin Market| ©Errasti

Donostia has two food markets, which are La Bretxa and San Martin, but the latter is the more representative of the two. Located in the Old Town, the San Martin market has a wide variety of produce, fish, butchers and sausages and is a reference point for locals.

In the San Martin Market you can lose yourself among the fresh food stalls and also have lunch in some of the gastronomic establishments. Among them I recommend you visit Maribel, which specializes in sausages and stands out for its chistorra sausage, which is considered one of the best in Spain.

The San Martin Market is located in the Old Part, two blocks from the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd of San Sebastian, so you can walk there from the Concha Beach. The market has free admission.

Maybe 2 days are not enough time to visit the other markets of the city, but if you plan a longer stay in Donostia, you can also visit the La Bretxa Market. If you plan to stay several days in the city, here is a list that may be useful to discover San Sebastian in 4 days.

Details of interest

  • Price... Entrance to the market is free.
  • Location... Urbieta Kalea 9, San Sebastian.
  • Opening hours... Every day from 7.30 am to 11.00 pm.
  • How to get there... Buses lines 13, 14, 29 and C1.

Visit Mount Igueldo

Mount Igueldo is another of the famous panoramic points of San Sebastian and is located west of the Bay of La Concha. From the market you can reach it by bus on lines 5, 16, 25, 33 and 45 and it is ideal to visit it after lunch because it has a funicular that will take you to the top, but it does not open until 11.00 am.

At the top of Mount Igueldo you can contemplate some of the best panoramic views of the city, take the most outstanding pictures of San Sebastian, have a drink at the bar and also visit the amusement park, which is mainly characterized by children's games, so it is a good place to consider if you plan to visit Donostia with children.

The best alternative is to walk down from Monte Igueldo. This way you can visit the Peine del Viento sculpture , the central lighthouse of the mountain and to continue glimpsing the open views of the city.

If you prefer, you can also wait for the sunset from the top to watch the sunset over the Cantabrian Sea again, but from another place.

Interesting details

  • Price of the funicular... The round trip of the funicular has an approximate cost of 4 euros.
  • Funicular location... Funikular Plaza 4, San Sebastian.
  • Funicular opening hours... Every day from 11.00 am to 7.00 pm.
  • How to get to the funicular... By bus lines 5, 16, 25, 33 and 45.

Say goodbye to San Sebastian enjoying the Basque gastronomy

The best way to close your intensive trip in San Sebastian is enjoying the Basque gastronomy. After visiting the Concha Bay, the Old Part, Gros and the mountains, you can relax and dine on sea bream, hake, paella or baked txangurro, Donostia's specialties that stand out mainly for their fresh fish.

You can opt for the restaurants in the historic district or in the neighborhood of Gros, but also for the tascas in other parts of the city, as the gastronomic offer of San Sebastian is very wide and of good quality everywhere.

I advise you to accompany the dishes with Rioja wine, which is one of the most famous wines in Spain and stands out for its freshness, aromatic flavor and the variety of grape varieties it offers. The Rioja wine route excursion is also one of the best tours to do from San Sebastian.

Book a day trip to Rioja from San Sebastián