Donostia: Wikis


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Donostia-San Sebastián
Bahía de La Concha (La Concha Bay)


Nickname(s): Sanse, Donosti, San Seb, La Bella Easo[1]
Motto: «Por fidelidad, nobleza y lealtad ganadas
(Spanish for "Won by fidelity, nobility and loyalty")
Location in Spain, in the province of Gipuzkoa\Guipúzcoa
Coordinates: 43°19′17″N 1°59′8″W / 43.32139°N 1.98556°W / 43.32139; -1.98556
Country Spain
Autonomous community Autonomous Community of the Basque Country
Province Gipuzkoa \Guipúzcoa
Neighbourhoods 21
Founded 1180
 - Mayor Odón Elorza (PSOE)
 - Land 60.89 km2 (23.5 sq mi)
Elevation 6 m (20 ft)
Population (2006)
 - Total 183,308
 Density 3,010.48/km2 (7,797.1/sq mi)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 - Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 20001-20018
Area code(s) 34 (Spain) + 943 (Guipuzcoa)
Website (Spanish)
La Concha's bay
Gipuzkoa Square
Kursaal bridge

Donostia-San Sebastián (Basque: Donostia, IPA: [do'nos̺tia]; Spanish: San Sebastián, known officially as Donostia-San Sebastián) is the capital city of the province of Gipuzkoa, in the Basque Country, Spain. Locals call themselves donostiarras, both in Basque and Spanish. Its population is 183,090 (2007 estimate), and its metropolitan area's population is 405,099.



The city is in the north of the Basque Country, on the southern coast of the Bay of Biscay. San Sebastián's picturesque coastline makes it a popular beach resort. Adding to the seaside environment, it benefits from hilly surroundings easily available, 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 built to a large extent over wetlands of the river during the last couple of centuries, with the city´s downtown and the areas of Amara Berri and Riberas de Loiola lying on such terrain and the former bed of the river diverted to its current canalized course (first half of the 20th century).

Parts of the city

As a result of Donostia's sprawling in all directions, first into the flatlands shaped by the river Urumea and later up the hills, new districts arose since the walls of the city were demolished in 1863. The first expansion of the old town stretched out to the river's mouth, on the old quarter called Zurriola (a name later given by Council decision to the sand area and the street across the river).

The orthogonal layout nowadays making up the city centre (the Cortazar development) was built up to 1914 (first phase finished) much in tune with a Parisian Haussmannian style. The arcades of the Buen Pastor square were fashioned after the ones of the Rue de Rivoli, with the Maria Cristina Bridge being inspired in the Pont Alexandre III that spans the Seine. The Estación del Norte train station standing right across the bridge was inaugurated in 1864 just after the arrival of the railway to Donostia, with its metallic shelter being designed by Gustave Eiffel.


Parte Vieja

Parte Vieja (Old Part) is the traditional core area of the city, which 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 Part 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 XVIIIth century were largely Gascon speaking inhabitants. Especially after the end of Franco's dictatorship, scores of bars sprang up all over the Old Part, very popular with the youth and the tourists, although not as much with the neighbours. Most current buildings trace back to the XIXth century, erected thanks to the concerted effort and determination of its dwellers after allied forces of Spain looted and burnt down the town (1813).

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 of San Sebastián el Antiguo ('the Old') is attested in documents at the time of the foundation (XIIth century). At the mid XIXth 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. 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 or Zurriola 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. Gros 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.


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 cigarette factory conjures up the former industrial past of the area, while the building has been made recently into a Contemporary Culture Centre. 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.


City hall of San Sebastián

This part (meaning 'chestnut tree' in Basque) is a large district to the east of the city. The original nucleus lies between the railway and the Ategorrieta Avenue, 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 '50s and '60s. 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 paramilitary body Guardia Civil owns a controversial compound and headquarters 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 50s and 60s 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, some 50,000 in 1996). A scheme for the improvement of the area and the construction of a new housing estate (Auditz Akular) is under way in the late 2000s.


This tip of San Sebastián's eastern sprawl lies actually on the bank of the Bay of Pasaia, next to the neighbourhood San Pedro from the latter. It was heavily populated in the 50s and 60s with population pouring in mainly from Galicia, who crammed in grey tone functional buildings with little regard to aesthetics.


San Ignacio de Loiola Church

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 XXth 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. 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. Military facilities (home to an uprising in 1936) stand across the river. Attempts by the city council to get them back from the military have been unsuccessful so far.


The 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.


Wind combs: Peine de los vientos sculptures of Eduardo Chillida at the base of the Igueldo mountain

This rural quarter is almost a small town in its own right (many neighbours advocate for a municipality of its own), located at the mountain range of the same name towering La Concha bay on its west side. At the nearest point of the bay lies a permanent fairground at the hillock Mendiotz, topped by a conspicuous mock military tower (actually built up at the beginning of the XXth century for tourism) which houses a hotel. There is a frequented camp-site on the area.


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.


San Sebastián's Cathedral
  • Archeological research has unearthed remains from a small settlement of the Roman age.
  • 1014 The monastery of St. Sebastián, in the term of Hernani is donated to the Abbey of Leire by Sancho III of Pamplona.
  • 1150 The city is chartered (given fuero) by king Sancho VI of Pamplona, having jurisdiction over all the territory between the rivers Oria and Bidasoa. The city nucleus at the foot of Urgull was populated with Gascon-speaking colonizers from Bayonne.
  • 1200 The city is conquered by Castile, whose king Alfonso VIII, confirms its fuero.
  • 1265 The use of the city as a seaport is granted to Navarre as part of a wedding pact.
  • 1656 The city is used as the royal headquarters during the marriage of the Infanta to Louis XIV at St Jean de Luz nearby.
  • San Sebastián is the homeport of most Spanish corsary ships.
  • 1728 The foundation of the "Real Compañía Guipuzcoana de Caracas" boosts commerce with the Americas.
  • 1808 Napoleonic forces capture San Sebastián in the Peninsular War.
  • 1813 On 31 August, British and Portuguese troops besieging San Sebastián defeat French occupying troops. The relieving troops lost all self-control and burnt down the city. Only the street at the foot of the hill (now called 31 August Street) remains.
  • 1813 The city is rebuilt in the same spot but with a slightly altered layout, but architecturally in much the same style.
  • 1833 British volunteers under Sir George de Lacy Evans defend the city against Carlist attack. Their fallen are buried at the "English Cemetery" on Monte Urgull.
  • 1863 The city walls are demolished (their remains are visible in the underground carpark at the Boulevard) and an expansion of the city begins.
  • 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 relocate to Pasaia, a near bay formerly part of San Sebastián.
  • 1875 Beginning of shelling over the city by Carlists, causing acclaimed bertsolari and poet Bilintx to die in 1876.
  • 1885 King Alfonso XII of Spain's widow Maria Cristina spends her summer in Donostia on a yearly basis (takes lodging at the Miramar Palace), bringing along her retinue.
  • 1887 The Casino is erected, which eventually turned into the current city hall.
  • 1914 Following the outbreak of World War I, San Sebastián becomes an attracting focus for renowned international figures of culture and politics, e.g. Mata Hari, Leon Trotsky, Maurice Ravel, Romanones, etc.
  • 1930 Spanish republican forces sign up the San Sebastián Pact leading to the Second Spanish Republic.
  • 1936 The military coup is defeated by resistance lead by the Basque Nationalists.[2]
  • 1936 The province falls to Spanish Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War.[3]
  • 1953 The San Sebastián International Film Festival begins.
  • 1968 First State of Emergency imposed on Gipuzkoa by Franco's regime, with several more ensuing up to 1975.
  • 1973 Iconic buildings Kursaal and the Chofre bullring in Gros demolished.


City´s coast
  • Donostia is renowned for its Basque cuisine. San Sebastián and its surrounding area is home to a high concentration of restaurants boasting Michelin stars, namely Arzak (San Sebastián), Berasategi (Lasarte), Akelarre (district Igeldo), to mention but a few. Adding to these cooking highlights, the city features tasty snacks similar to tapas called pintxos, which may be found at the bars of the Old Part.


San Sebastián International Film Festival

San Sebastián International Film Festival, Red Carpet.

The most important Spanish international film festival and one of the most important film festivals in Europe is held in this city in September, the San Sebastian International Film Festival.

Jazz Festival

The longest, continuously running Jazz Festival in Europe happens the last week of July and features the top musicians from around the world. The 43rd edition took place July 22-27, 2008. San Sebastián Jazz Festival

Street Zinema Festival

Street Zinema is an international audiovisual festival exploring contemporary art and urban cultures. Street-Zinema.Net

Candidate city "European Capital of Culture 2016"

The bid by San Sebastián to become European Capital of Culture in 2016 has now defined its basic idea, which the entire project will revolve around: "Waves of people's energy". This basic idea sums up the “soul” of the “San Sebastián 2016” candidature in a clear message: people and movements of citizens are the real driving force behind transformations and changes in the world. They provide the vital civic energy that makes societies advance and progress. Citizens, in short, play the leading role in the search for solutions to new global challenges.

Official website of the candidature

Popular celebrations

Aerial view of Donostia - San Sebastián
La Concha Beach
Miramar Gardens

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 imbued with the Carnival mood followed them aping their martial manners and drumrolls, using for the purpose the buckets left at the fountains. This may have developed into informal youth music groups, with each individual dressing up as they fancied. However, tradition goes that in 1881 unusable military outfit was found in the San Telmo Headquarters. The Town Council decided to grant them to the Union Artesana club so that they could hand them over to their drum-players. Bakers (nowadays cooks) joined the parades sporting barrels donated by Vicente "Txiki" Buenechea to be used as drums. Other clubs followed suit, the festival taking on at the turn of the century the shape of the present-day mixed military and civil style celebration, enlivened by popular music composer Raimundo Sarriegui's much cherished tunes, such as the "San Sebastián March" (1861).[4]

Adults usually have dinner in sociedades gastronómicas ("gourmet clubs"), which provide elements of the procession, and which traditionally admitted only males. Nowadays, even the strictest ones allow women on the "Noche de la Tamborrada". They eat sophisticated meals cooked by themselves, mostly composed of seafood (traditionally elvers, 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.

After hearing drums all night, children wake up with a version of the Tamborrada for kids. Children dress traditionally as soldiers and march around the city. Children from all the schools of San Sebastián march that day. They have their specific costumes which usually represent a particular country (France, England, Germany, etc.)

Semana Grande / Aste Nagusia

A festival called Semana Grande in Spanish and Aste Nagusia in Basque ("Big/Main Week") is held every year at 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. Other features of the festival include brass bands enlivening the streets, popular music performances at and by the beach, as well as fairground attractions arranged at the seaside promenade Paseo Nuevo.

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

View of the harbour
Tamborrada, kids section

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 cherised 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 125 years old in 2009.

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 red sausage pintxos or pancakes. An hefty pig is exhibited in the Konstituzio Plaza, which is raffled among the punters.


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.


Like most of both Spain and the Basque country, football is the most popular competitive sport. The principal football club is Real Sociedad de Fútbol, S.A.D. (more commonly referred to as Real Sociedad). It plays at the Estadio Anoeta, which seats 32,000 spectators, and the club is currently part of the Spanish Segunda División (Second Division) [1]. Real Sociedad was one of the founding members of the Spanish football league - La Liga. It enjoyed a particularly successful period of its history in the early 1980s when it was the Spanish champion two years running (1980-81, 1981-82).

Cycling is also extremely popular in Spain, the Clásica de San Sebastián (San Sebastián Classic) processional cycle race is held during early August. It has been held annually in San Sebastián since 1981. The race is part of the UCI ProTour and was previously part of its predecessor the UCI World Cup.

Famous people from San Sebastián

Miramar Palace, built in 1894
  • Indalezio Bizkarrondo "Bilintx" (1831-1876): A romantic poet and bertsolari closely attached to the city. He wrote and recited verses mostly in Basque that have struck a chord in the popular culture of the region, such as "Bein batian Loyolan". Died tragically after being hit by Carlist shelling.
  • Raimundo Sarriegi (1840-1913): Composer of the most memorable tunes for the Tamborrada.
  • Serafin Baroja (1840-1912): Writer, Basque culture advocate and liberal. Father of Pio Baroja.

Twin Cities

Panoramic view of La Concha's bay (at day)
Panoramic view of La Concha's bay (at night)


  1. ^ The nickname of la bella Easo ("beautiful Easo") comes from a 19th-century identification of the town as the Roman port of Oiasso. Other locations seem now more probable.
  2. ^ Hugh Thomas, Spanish Civil War, (2001), p. 226
  3. ^ Hugh Thomas, (2001), p. 397.
  4. ^ Sadaba, Javier; Sadava, Asier (1995). Historia de San Sebastián. Editorial Txertoa. pp. 107-110. ISBN 84-7148.  Book in Spanish

External links

Coordinates: 43°19′17″N 1°59′08″W / 43.3215°N 1.9856°W / 43.3215; -1.9856

San Sebastián (the Spanish-language name of Saint Sebastian) may refer to:

  • Siege of San Sebastián



  • Argentina
    • San Sebastián, Argentina
  • Chile
    • San Sebastián, Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
    • San Sebastián, San José, Costa Rica, a district of San José canton in Costa Rica
  • Mexico
    • San Sebastián del Oeste, a town and municipality in Jalisco state, Mexico
  • Puerto Rico
    • San Sebastián, Puerto Rico, a municipality
  • Spain
    • Donostia-San Sebastián, a city in the Basque Country, Spain
    • San Sebastián de La Gomera, a town in the Canary Islands, Spain
    • San Sebastián de los Reyes, a city near Madrid, Spain.
  • Venezuela
    • San Sebastián, Aragua (San Sebastián de los Reyes), a city in Venezuela
  • El Salvador
    • San Sebastián, San Vincente


  • Fort San Sebastian (Ghana)
  • Fort San Sebastian (Spain)
  • Fort San Sebastian (Mosambique)



Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to San Sebastian article)

From Wikitravel

For other places with the same name, see Sebastian (disambiguation).

San Sebastián [1] (Basque: Donostia; officially: Donostia-San Sebastián) is in the Basque Country in Spain.

San Sebastián
San Sebastián


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 fish restaurants, several beaches, tons of pintxos bars and a choice of designer clothes shops.

Orientation: The city is divided into Old Town (Parte Vieja), Gros and Centro.

Get in

By train

Trains arrive from many parts of Spain, Portugal and France, including overnight services from Paris and Lisbon. Take care when booking from France as there is also a town named Saint Sébastien in France. There are two train stations in San Sebastian: the RENFE [2] station for national trains (at the east end of Puente de Maria Cristina), and the Euskotren [3] station for the local network (Plaza Easo).

By plane

San Sebastian is well served by airports:

  • San Sebastian [4], a small airport 20km from the town centre, next to Hondarribia.
  • Bus to the airport: i2 (€2) departs from Plaza Gipuzkoa nearly once a hour and rides exactly 30min, making maximum 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.
  • Wifi network is not available.
  • Biarritz (in France), 50km away with bus and train connections to San Sebastian [5]. Take a French SNCF[6] train to Hendaye, change to the nearby Euskotren station (located just outside the SNCF station) and take a Euskotren [7] 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.
  • Bilbao [8], 100km 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 [9], 114km 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 [10] or La Burundesa [11]) to San Sebastian for around €7.50.

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 [12]
  • La Burundesa [13]
  • 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, Milan and even Barcelona.

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.

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".

Get around

You can see San Sebastián on foot and by taxi.

Bicycle lanes are all around the downtown.

Local Transportation site: [[14]]

San Sebastián, Paseo de la Concha
San Sebastián, Paseo de la Concha
  • 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
  • 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 surf shop also offers surf lessons (around €65 per person for five one-hour lessons in a small group) [15].
  • 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 and follow the red & white markings to San Pedro, around 2.5 hours, from which you can take a local bus back (for approx €1.50).
  • 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
  • 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. A funicular (cable-car) will take you up and down the mountain (approx €1.40 each way; operates 10am-9pm). 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. As well as the rides, the top of the mountain provides a great view of the town.


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 that has the cineplex (as well as the city's lone McDonald's).

Some of the designer shops worthful visiting are:

  • Dam, Narrika 23 / Iñigo 4, +34 943 424 567.  edit
  • Hakei, Garibai 8, (943)432-056 (), [16]. 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.  edit
  • Hoss Intropia, Guetaria 10, +34 943 42 56 34, [17]. Women-only wear.  edit
  • Nice-day, Nice-things, C/ Fuenterrabia, 14, 943 425 403.  edit
  • Trip Donosti, 31 August, 33, 943 429443 (fax: 943 427731).  edit


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 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.

Lo Mejor de la Gastronomia [18] 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.

  • Garagar, Boulevard 22. 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).  edit
  • Regatta, 20 Hondarribia Kalea. 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.  edit

Lunch and dining



San Sebastian, Puente del Kursaal
San Sebastian, Puente del Kursaal
  • Cafes and bakeries along the waterfront.
  • Txuleta Plaza de la Trinidad, Parte Vieja - Excellent, reasonably priced renditions of Basque specialties Txangurro, Chipirones en su tinta, y sopa de pescado.
  • Aldanondo, C/Euskal Herria, 6, 943-422852, [19]. Great and inexpensive steak house. Menu del dia: €23. Fish main courses generally €14-22. VAT not included.  edit
  • Avenida XXI Avda de la Libertad - excellent three course set lunches for €12, including wine (€12.75 on Saturday).
  • Juanito Kojua Calle Puerto, Old Town
  • La Rampa, Muelle 26-27 bajo, 943 42 16 52, [20]. 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.  edit
  • Urola Calle Fermin Calbeton, Old Town
  • La Zurri, Gros, Calle de Zabaleta 10, 943 29-3886. Simple Basque dishes which are cooked delicately. Popular with locals. For lunch, arrive before 3PM to catch full range of options. Flan is rare case when it has taste in every layer. Menu del dia: €9.  edit
  • Freiduria, San Francisco, 56, 943 32 66 63. Best paella in town for around 12€. Jug of sangria €7. No menus but really friendly staff..  edit


  • Urepel Restaurant, Paseo Salamanca 3, 943 424040. Closed on Sunday and Tuesday
  • Zuberoa Restaurant
  • Akelarre Restaurant, Pedro Orcaloga 56 (Igueldo), 943 311209 fax: 943 21 92 68, [21]
  • Martin Berasategui, Calle Loidi 4, Lasarte-Oria (Guipúzcoa), 943 36 64 71. A 3 Michelin star restaurant close to San Sebastian with other outlets at Kursaal and in Bilbao at the Guggenheim. Price: €140 for the degustation menu (about 12 courses) plus wine and service.
  • Arzak Restaurant, Avda. Alcalde Jose Elosegui,73, 943 278 465 / 943 285 593, (fax: 943 272 753, email:, [22] 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. Avg. Price: €80-100 plus drinks and VAT. All credit cards accepted. About €150 per head by the time you've added the wine etc., but well worth it!


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.

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.

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.

Old Town (Parte Vieja)

  • 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 delicious brocheta 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 with a glass of Belondrade Y Lurton white wine.
  • Casa Vergara, Parte Vieja, Mayor 15, 943 43-10-73. Pintxos bar, quite spacious. Not overcrowded in the evenings during the weekdays.  edit
  • Martinez Parte Vieja
  • La Cepa Parte Vieja


  • 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), +34 943 435 446 (), [23]. Don't judge their food by their interior. Jamon Iberico is cited as particularly good.  edit
  • A Fuego Negro, Calle 31 de Agosto, 650 135 373, [24]. Trendy interior, good-looking people. Really tasty tapas.  edit
  • 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.

  • Bideluze, Plaza de Guipuzcoa 14, 943/460219. Great place for coffee; Cafe Con Leche - that is, coffee with milk - is particularly good.  edit

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 vegetables, steak, and then cheese. A couple of traditional sidrerias that are open all year (you'll need to get a car, bus or taxi from town) are:

  • Aginaga, Aginaga, 943 36 67 10. €22.  edit
  • Petritegi, Astigarraga, 943 45 71 88 (fax: 943 45 24 69), [25]. €22.  edit
  • Bataplán is definitely the hottest club in San Sebastian. All the beautiful people go there. However, be careful not to arrive too early; the club never opens before 2 AM. People normally start arriving at 3AM, and the club closes around 7AM. The entry fee is normally 12 euros (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 6-7 euros a pop, by the way). All year round, the club is filled with local people, tourists and exchange students.
  • Camping Igeldo open all year Paseo Padre Orkolaga 69. Igeldo (San Sebastián), Phone: 943-280490 Fax: 943-280411, [26]. You must book at peak times. Very international with its own bar, shop and a couple of restaurants nearby, and a bus directly to the beach and centre.
  • Hostel Aida 9 Iztueta st. 1º floor,("Gros" Quarter), Phone: 943-327800 Fax: 943-326707
  • Hotel Anoeta, 60 Anoeta Avenue(Amara), Phone: 943-451499 Fax: 943-452036. €80-100.
  • Hotel Avenida, 55 Road to Igeldo(Igeldo), Phone: 943-212022, Fax: 943-212887. Prices from €78-125.
  • Pension Edorta, C/Puerto 13, 1st and 2nd floors (find a separate doorbell; go up to the 1st floor), 943 423-773 (, fax: 943 433-570), [27]. Rooms are all in the same design, but vary in size (#5 Donostia is much smaller than #4 Kursaal or #1). Some rooms have no view (eg. #5). Shared bathroom, unoccupied most of the time even in high season. No breakfasts; no shared guestroom to spend time with fellow travelers. Helpful staff. The whole pension is less than 10 rooms.  edit
  • Hotel Europa, 55 San Martín st.(Centre). €100-160. Phone: 943-470880 Fax: 943-471730
  • Pension Ira Flor[28], 13 San Jeronimo (Old town), Phone/Fax: (+34) 943 428602. €25-50 depending on season and room size. Very clean and friendly. Great location in the liveliest part of San Sebastian.
  • Hospedaje Irune San Jerónimo 17-1º Derecha (Old town) ,Phone: 943425743-626625110. Rooms with en-suite bathroom €25-47 depending on season. Clean and friendly.
  • Pension La Perla Calle Loiola 10-1 (Centre), Phone: 943-428123. Rooms with en-suite bathroom €30-47 depending on season. Clean and friendly. Her sister runs the nearby Urkia.
  • Hotel Niza, 56 Zubieta st.(Centre), Phone 943-426663, Fax: 943-441251. Prices range from €48-118.
  • NH Aranzazu, Vitoria-Gasteiz, 1, +34.94.3219077 [29]. The NH Aránzazu benefits from a privileged location next to the Ondarreta beach and 300m from the Playa de la Concha. The hotel is 800 m away from the city's historic district and 20 minutes from the airport.
  • Pension Urkia, Calle Urbieta 12-3 (Centre), Phone: 943-424436. Rooms with en-suite bathroom €30-47 depending on season. Clean and friendly. Her sister runs the nearby La Perla.
  • Hotel Mercure Monte Igueldo Pº del Faro 134(Igeldo), tel: 943-210211 Fax: 943-215028, ([30]) Prices range from 96-130 Euros. The Hotel sits on top of Mountain Igeldo and has scenic view over San Sebastian and the best beach in San Sebastian "La Concha" Phone:
  • Hotel Maria Cristina, a Luxury Collection Hotel. A luxury belle epoque hotel, it is the choice of many actors during the world-famous cinema festival. This is a remarkably unclean hotel considering its 5 star rating.
San Sebastian: La Concha bay
San Sebastian: La Concha bay



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.

  • Bilbao - home of the famous Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art and other architectural masterpieces
  • Hondarribia - beautiful fishing town and a place for more pintxos
  • Vitoria-Gasteiz - capital of the Basque country
  • Zarauz - summer getaway, the longest beach in Guipuzcoa, and a magnet for surfers
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Proper noun


  1. A coastal city in the Basque Country of northern Spain.

See also


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