San Sebastián with friends: the perfect setting
San Sebastián (Donostia in Basque) is the perfect destination for a city break with friends, whatever the season. Whether you’re into sport or gastronomy, on a hen night or stag do, looking for peace and quiet or bright city lights, a culture buff or nature lover, or all these things, a trip to San Sebastián offers something for everyone.
How should you fill a weekend in San Sebastián? What’s the perfect itinerary? Read on for some suggestions for how to enjoy San Sebastián with your friends – or as the locals say, with your cuadrilla.
San Sebastián, the perfect city for a fun getaway
San Sebastián is perfectly proportioned: small enough to get around it easily, but big enough to have all the advantages of a city. Its old town and other places of interest centre around La Concha Bay and you can easily get around the main sites on foot in one day.
San Sebastián is packed full of landmarks and emblematic sites, not just in its famous Parte Vieja but throughout the city, among them the Kursaal, the Peine del Viento, the Town Hall, the Palacio de Miramar, the Victoria Eugenia and the Gros neighbourhood. In fact, there are so many recognisable places in this city that the best way to start exploring is by donning some comfy shoes and taking a stroll.
Start with a walk along the promenades, each one named after the beach it looks onto. Hence, there’s Paseo de Ondarreta, Paseo de la Concha and Avenida de la Zurriola.
San Sebastián is camera-ready at every turn. Its magical architecture merges with the beauty of the bay and of the mountains sitting either side. In just one day you’ll find yourself falling in love with this unique corner of Spain.
Beach life, whatever the weather
San Sebastián is a wonderful beach destination.
In summer, the sun illuminates the bay and invites you to take a dip at one of the city’s three urban beaches, whatever the time of day.
In winter, a bracing dip in the wild Cantabrian Sea will really make you feel alive.
All you have to do is choose your beach: La Concha or Ondarreta in the bay, or the wilder Zurriola next to the Kursaal. When in Rome…
From Monte Igueldo to Monte Urgull
A trip to San Sebastián wouldn’t be complete without climbing the two hills that sit majestically at either side of La Concha Bay. A short walk up either will reward you with spectacular views over the city.
Monte Igueldo is synonymous with San Sebastián. At 200 metres above sea level, it’s the perfect spot for a panoramic group photo that will make a lasting keepsake of your trip. Igueldo also has a hundred-year-old amusement park, complete with a tower and the oldest working steel roller coaster in the world. If you’re feeling lazy you can hop on the old funicular (the third of its kind built in Spain) and reach the top of the hill in just three minutes.
Monte Urgull offers a different experience. From afar it seems like a mirror image of Igueldo across the bay, but among its trees you’ll find ancient military fortifications and, on the top, the Castillo de La Mota, crowning the hilltop along with a giant statue of Jesus.
A pintxo crawl with friends
Getting together for a few pintxos is a great way to spend time with friends in San Sebastián. The bars are second to none and you’re almost guaranteed a good choice of pintxos whichever you choose.
There are plenty of places suited to special occasions too. Arzak, Martin Berasategui (on the outskirts), Rekondo and Mirador de Ulía are just some of the best restaurants in San Sebastián capable of satisfying the most demanding foodies.
San Sebastián isn’t just about good food: the locals like a tipple too. As in the rest of the Basque Country, no meal is complete without txakoli, cider or patxaran. Plan your culinary experience today!
Pintxo bars in San Sebastián
San Sebastián has some authentic pintxo and haute cuisine establishments that you absolutely must try, whether you’re in the old town or another of San Sebastián’s neighbourhoods. Here’s our top pick:
- Bergara: One of the city’s most prize-winning bars.
- Txalupa: A modern atmosphere with a cocktail bar.
- Cuchara de San Telmo: Classic cuisine, and always jam-packed.
- Borda Berri: Its prized risotto makes this place worth a visit.
- La Espiga: On the go since 1928. Some believe that pintxos were first created here.
Still not satisfied? Check out our post on going out for pintxos in San Sebastián.
Things to do in San Sebastián
San Sebastián has plenty to keep you occupied. In this city, sport and culture are the big two.
- Surfing and hiking
San Sebastián and the surrounding area has some world-renowned surf spots. Whatever your level, you’ll find the perfect wave and a school to help you progress. Surfing in San Sebastián is a perfect group activity with friends.
If you prefer to stay on dry land, you’ll find plenty of hiking routes to choose from. For two of the best, try climbing Monte Jaizkibel or walking the Flysch trail from Zumaia to Mutriku, to the west of the city.
San Sebastián is a culture hub par excellence. Look out for Hollywood stars if you’re in town in late September, when the red carpet is rolled out at the Kursaal for the International Film Festival.
The Basque capital also has cultural centres including Chillida Leku, the Museo de San Telmo, the Aquarium (almost a hundred years old) and the Balenciaga Museum celebrating the famous couturier from Getaria.
If you’re having trouble choosing, check out our San Sebastián guide for some suggestions.