Ultimate San Sebastian Solo Travel Guide (2023)
Wouldn’t you like to visit what Travel and Leisure dubbed the second best city beach in the world on your upcoming Spain solo travel?
You can by using this ultimate, one-stop-shop San Sebastian Solo Travel Guide compiled from my first-hand, solo travel to San Sebastian, which has all things San Sebastian travel planning information with bonus budget travel tips, eco-travel tips, and more throughout.
When done, you’ll not only be confident to plan your San Sebastian, Spain solo travel this year, but book it as well. Let’s get you to San Sebastian, Spain.
This San Sebastian Travel Guide is intentionally written for the solo traveler, the first time San Sebastian traveler, and/or older traveler (I am over 50 and have been solo traveling FOREVER) in mind. Yet, anyone can use this travel guide it to plan and book San Sebastian travel.
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- Spain Solo Travel Guide
- What is San Sebastian Known For?
- The Best Time of Year to Visit San Sebastian
- How to Get to San Sebastian, Spain
- Getting Around San Sebastian
- Is San Sebastian Spain Safe to Visit?
- San Sebastian Travel Packing Essentials
- Where to Stay in San Sebastian on Solo Travel
- 5 MUST DO in San Sebastian Activities
- MORE BEST Things to Do in San Sebastian
- Beyond San Sebastian
- BEST Booking Sites for San Sebastian Travel
- How to Get THE BEST of San Sebastian in 2 Days
- More Travel Guides You’ll Like
Spain Solo Travel Guide
If you need more Spain travel tips to supplement your San Sebastian travel planning, consult my ultimate Spain Solo Travel Guide full of tips on culture, entry requirements, currency, tipping, using electronics, safety, and a lot more to plan solo travel in Spain.
San Sebastian, Spain will blow you away. Start that travel planning to Spain, and don’t forget to check out my 2 Days in San Sebastian Itinerary perfect for first-time San Sebastian solo travel.
More Spain Travel Guides & Itineraries
- Pamplona in 1 Day Itinerary and Guide
- How to Spend 3 Days in Barcelona
- The Ultimate Madrid Solo Travel Guide
- The Best of Madrid in 3 Days Itinerary
- 7 Best Europe Beach Destinations for Solo Travelers
What is San Sebastian Known For?
The north eastern region of Spain is known as Spain’s Basque country. The Basque country is comprised of six provinces – three in Spain and three in France. Nestled in the middle of this region on the Atlantic Ocean is the Guipúzcoa provincia (province) with Donastia-San Sebastián as its capital.
More commonly referred to as San Sebastián (“Donastia” a shortened Basque translation of “San Sebastián”), this city is blessed with sprawling beaches on the north and green, mountainous area to the south, making it one of the best beach destinations in Europe.
Thirty miles to the east lies the French border with the Pyrenees Mountains beyond. One hundred miles to the west is the larger city of Bilbao with more golden beaches and the Guggenheim museum.
The epic natural scenery of San Sebastian is La Concha Bay, comprised of a small island and the sweeping, golden La Concha Beach and Ondarreta Beach, giving a Rio de Janeiro nod to this small, posh, historical town where the Spanish monarchy use to summer.
La Concha paseo (promenade) allows you to wander along the length of bay into the heart of Old Town and the “romantic area” for history, shopping, award winning dining and nightlife. Further east lies a mixture of younger, hip culture and surfers.
Overseeing the bay lies two small mountains, one topped with a fort and statue of Jesus, reminding you of the region’s history and culture.
Due to its location, you’ll hear a mix of Basque, Spanish, and French, but English is also spoken. Signs in Basque and Spanish easily direct the pedestrian to all of the top things to do in San Sebastian.
Is San Sebastian Worth Visiting?
San Sebastián is worth visiting for sure. If you don’t add San Sebastian as a leisurely destination to your single travel in Spain, you are sorely missing out.
The Best Time of Year to Visit San Sebastian
The best time for traveling to San Sebastian relies on weather, costs, activities and events offered.
San Sebastian Weather & Costs
The weather in San Sebastian averages in the low 40°s F to the low 80°s F, with warmest weather in the summer June through August.
Summer provides for multiple outdoor activities, but also when it can be more crowded and when San Sebastian is expensive to visit. The winter months of December through February are the coldest and rainiest, with lower costs and outdoor opportunities.
Shoulder season months provide good weather, lower tourist costs and good daylight hours. The months of April and May are said to be the best months to visit San Sebastian. However, I suggest visiting San Sebastian after summer.
September has good weather and costs for a San Sebastian visit if you work around the popular San Sebastian Film Festival.
Yet, San Sebastian weather in October is also wonderful with very few tourists. I went to early October, had wonderful day and night time weather and completely enjoyed it. Bring an eco-friendly travel umbrella just in case.
San Sebastian Events
I suggest also checking the San Sebastian events calendar to help determine which month is best for your San Sebastian travel.
For this San Sebastian Solo Travel Guide, I highly recommend visiting San Sebastian in October, which is when I was there. Go in the beginning of the month for warmer weather.
How to Get to San Sebastian, Spain
Flying Into San Sebastian
The closest airport to San Sebastian is San Sebastián Airport (EAS). Flights to San Sebastian are mostly serviced by Vueling Airlines, Iberia Airlines, British Airways, Volotea Airlines and Binter Canarias Airlines. San Sebastian Airport is approximately 16 km from San Sebastian.
The other airports near San Sebastian are the Biarritz Airport (BIQ), 48 km from San Sebastian, and Bilbao Airport (BIO), 100 km away.
Search for Cheap Flights to San Sebastian
Eco Travel Tips
Skyscanner provides a ‘Greener flights’ filter highlighting flights that emit less CO2. Additionally, you can purchase carbon offsets through your airline to lower your carbon footprint.
If you do not have access to an airport shuttle by your hotel, the cheapest transportation from any airport is by bus or train.
San Sebastian Airport Bus
To catch the bus from San Sebastian Airport, which is the quickest way, walk to the bus stop right outside the front door and catch the E21 bus to Donestia. Tickets are purchased on the bus and costs less than €3. The bus arrives in the city center in less than 30 minutes.
From the airport in Bilbao to San Sebastian, you can catch the PESA bus line to the center of San Sebastián (San Sebastián is c / F. Garcia Lorca 2 station). Tickets are purchased on the bus. Check last departure lines online.
The Biarritz bus to San Sebastian is approximately €3 and can take over an hour.
San Sebastian Airport Train
From San Sebastian Airport, catch the E2 train from the FICOBA-IRUN station towards LASARTE-ORIA, which arrives at the AMARA-DONOSTIA station near Old Town in approximately 35 min (€2 – 3).
There are several trains departing Biarritz Airport which involves transfers, and total trip time is over an hour. There is no train from Bilbao Airport to San Sebastian available.
San Sebastian Airport Taxi or Rideshare
A taxi from any airport serving San Sebastian can range from €45 to €160, depending on the airport.
Spain has Bolt, Uber, Carpoolworld, and other possible regional ridesharing services and apps.
You do have the option to rent a car at any of the airports but then you’ll have to deal with parking within the city, which could be limited. Check with your hotel or pension first to see if they have parking available.
Bus or Train to San Sebastian
San Sebastian receives many regional trains and buses, which are usually a quicker and less expensive. They depart and arrive from the Donestia-San Sebastian station on the east side of River Urumea, which is only a 10-15 minute walk to the city center.
Trainline Provides Cheap Train and Bus Tickets
Eco Travel Tips
For flights only 2 to 3 hours in duration to and from San Sebastian, take the train or bus instead. It could also save time and money, and the scenery is much prettier.
When hiring a rideshare, choose the Bolt Green or Uber Green options, or use Carpoolworld, to support the use of electric cars and carpooling for cleaner transportation in Spain.
More Eco Travel Tips & Ideas
- 25 Must-Have & Eco-Friendly Solo Beach Trip Essentials
- 15 Eco Long-haul Flight Essentials for Solo Travel
- Top 10 Eco-Friendly Carry On Luggage
- 10 Best Eco-Friendly Personal Item Bags for Flying
- 10 Top Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Swimwear Brands
- 10 Easy Ways to Be an Eco-Friendly Traveler
Getting Around San Sebastian
The majority of the city is very walkable making the best things to do in San Sebastian quite easy.
It makes arriving and departing by public transportation easy as well. All bus lines will drop you off in the Historic Center with more stops located just south of Alameda del Boulevard (aka, “the Boulevard”).
Once there, it’s doubtful you’d need car transportation.
The city is mostly flat, with extensive sidewalks, promenades and bike paths, making it also optimal for walking and easy bike rides or electric scooters.
Eco Travel Tips
Avoid taking a taxi in San Sebastian or rideshare, and see the city by foot, bike or electric scooter instead.
Save Time and Book Your Bike in Advance
Want to ride around San Sebastian, but not alone? San Sebastian has bike, e-bike and e-scooter tours, too. I always say group excursions are a great way to learn more about a city while meeting new people during solo travel. At any age.
San Sebastian Biking Tours and More
If you want to learn more about San Sebastian or its incredible food and wine, consider a historic or food walking tour of San Sebastian. There are private and group tours available. Of course, group tours do provide that additional chance to meet others traveling in San Sebastian alone.
San Sebastian Group Walking Tours
San Sebastian Private Walking Tours
Last, but not least, La Concha Bay and the Spanish coastline also provide for scenic boat rides that can be done inexpensively and within a short period of time so as not to consume your San Sebastian itinerary.
San Sebastian Boat Tours
Is San Sebastian Spain Safe to Visit?
San Sebastian’s crime rate is considered very low.
I never felt unsafe in San Sebastian as a solo female traveler, even when walking around at night.
If you normally feel uncomfortable being out solo at night, you may want to consider going when the daylight hours are longest so you have more time to explore San Sebastian.
Solo Travel Tips
Have WhatsApp on your mobile device(s). Many smaller establishments and activity/tourism offices use this as a method of communication making it easier to make inquiries or booking and learn, or notify, of any scheduling changes.
Get the T-Mobile International Plan or something similar in price and features. I no longer work on WiFi only on international travel. I’ll use it when it’s there, but having access to roaming when needed for GPS and Google Maps is a game changer.
More Solo Travel Tips & Ideas
- How to Plan Your First Solo Trip: Step 1
- How to Choose Your First Solo Trip Destination
- How to Create a Solo Travel Budget
- How To Save Money for Solo Travel
- Top 10 Tips on How to Do a Solo Beach Trip
- 10 Must Know Planning Tips for First-Time International Travel
San Sebastian Travel Packing Essentials
I’m not one to tell someone else how to pack, but there definitely some solo travel essentials I would recommend taking on your travel to San Sebastian, like the following.
This list of travel essentials combined can make your San Sebastian travel easier and more memorable while being friendlier to the environment.
Where to Stay in San Sebastian on Solo Travel
Whether you’re staying a week or a weekend in San Sebastian, or a first-time visitor, I would highly recommend staying within the city center within the marked section of the map below.
The San Sebastian city center is walking distance to all of the best things to do in San Sebastian, including shopping, dining and nightlife, as well as the transportation points. I believe it’s the best area to stay in San Sebastian as you’re minutes from everything.
Of course, you can stay outside the city center, but then you may be adding transportation costs and time to your solo travel itinerary.
San Sebastian Hotels and More
San Sebastian has multiple hotel, pension, and hostel options within the city center across all budget types. Going in the off season, or booking well in advance, will get you the best San Sebastian prices on any type of accommodation.
Consider booking at a property that either is eco-friendly or sustainably rated, or at least employs these methods into their business.
Eco Travel Tips
In addition to Booking.com’s San Sebastian’s Travel Sustainable properties, Green Globe and Green Key Global also have eco-friendly certified lodging options.
For location, price, amenities (including free-cancellation), eco-friendly and sustainable operations, and customer reviews and ratings, here are my San Sebastian Solo Travel Guide recommendations (i.e., where I would stay).
San Sebastian Hostels
Hostels are an option for budget-friendly solo travel. I would recommend A Room in the City. They appear to offer private rooms but you may need to share a bathroom.
Find the Best San Sebastian Hostel Deal
San Sebastian Pensións
Pensións (guest houses) run from budget-friendly to expensive. In fact, you could find a private room pensión for less than a hostel on your solo travel in San Sebastian.
Note, not all pensións will offer breakfast, and some pensións may close their front desk by a certain time in the evening. Check on their front-desk hours and if they may leave a key for you.
My pensión recommends are:
I stayed at Pensión Easo, a reasonably priced, high-rated pension in a great location. It was a small room, but it had all of the amenities I needed. Plus, they employ some eco-friendly practices (like recycling, efficient water-use methods, and no single-use plastics), and I had the most comfortable bed I slept on in all of the seven weeks I was in Europe. No kidding.
Ask for Pilar. She was fabulous and very helpful on correspondence before and during my stay with recommendations on what to do.
San Sebastian Hotels
Hotels in San Sebastian will range from budget to posh. My following recommendations are:
If you’d like to stay in the crown jewel hotel in San Sebastian, check out the Hotel María Cristina that overlooks the Urumea River.
Reserve Early for the Best Price
5 MUST DO in San Sebastian Activities
What would a San Sebastian Solo Travel Guide be without listing the best things to do in San Sebastian?
San Sebastian is compact and very walkable, so it makes it a breeze to capture a lot of San Sebastian in a short period of time, just don’t miss the San Sebastian must see items.
This video will show you what an amazing solo trip in San Sebastian you’ll have.
Ways to Do Some San Sebastian MUST DOs
MORE BEST Things to Do in San Sebastian
Here are quite a few more must see and things to do beyond those San Sebastian must do’s, all In a close proximity, to add into your San Sebastian travel itinerary. If you want to know how to see most of them on your first time travel, use my Best 2 Days in San Sebastian Itinerary.
Let’s start with the biggest attractions (literally) in Donostia-San Sebastián.
San Sebastian Beaches
Tucked in the southeast corner of the Bay of Biscay is La Concha Bay, the epic, natural centerpiece of San Sebastian, which spans across two districts, and holds two amazing beaches full of sporting types and sunbathers, and a sprawling promenade with overlooks.
- Kontxa Hondartza (Playa de la Concha / La Concha Beach)
- Playa de la Ondarreta (Ondarreta Beach)
- Paseo Marítimo San Sebastián (Paseo de la Concha / La Concha Promenade) with Loretopea tunnel that connects both beaches.
On the northern end of the Gros district is Playa de la Zurriola (Zurriola Beach), the third, but not less in stature, of the San Sebastian beaches. This beach is very expansive and popular with the surfers.
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San Sebastian Neighborhoods
Located on the northeastern side of La Concha Bay is the popular San Sebastian Zentroa (Centro / City Center), which is divided into two parts, Old Town and the Romantic Area.
Alde Zaharra (Parte Vieja / Old Town)
Literally “old part” in English, Alde Zaharra (Parte Vieja) is the Old Town historic quarter, located at the base of Monte Urgull and north of the Boulevard, and between the Urumea River and the Port of Donostia.
Parte Vieja is full of monuments, historical elements, beach and hiking, shopping, and restaurants and nightlife.
City Center “Romantic Area”
Starting at Alameda del Boulevard, south of Old Town, this area of the city center is full of large pedestrian streets leading you to the town’s best shopping, mix of modern, Baroque and Belle Époque buildings, parks, and more history.
Within and beyond these two areas lies multiple things to do in San Sebastian. Look out for the following when you go to San Sebastian on your Spain solo travel.
Landmarks and Points of Interest
You can spend much time on the outdoor San Sebastian attractions so time of year can really make or break your visit.
- Isla de Santa Clara (Santa Clara Island)
- Monte Urgull and Motako Gaztelua (Castillo de la Mota / Mota Castle)
- Pasealeku Berria (Paseo Nuevo) – Monte Urgull looping path
- Eraikuntza Hutsa Eskultura (Escultura Construccion Vacia) sculpture
- Port of Donostia (Puerto de San Sebastián)
- Kiosko del Boulevard – cast iron and stained glass pavilion built in 1903
- Monte Igueldo
- Igeldoko Funikularra (Funicular Monte Igueldo / Monte Igueldo Funicular)
- Haizearen orrazia sculptures by Eduardo Chillida
- Monte Ulía
- Maria Kristina Zubia (Puente Maria Cristina / Maria Cristina Bridge)
- Santa Catalina Bridge
- Kursaal Zubia (Puente del Kusaal / Zurriola Bridge)
Cathedrals and Castles
- Santa Maria Basilika (Basilica de Santa Maria del Coro / Church of Saint Mary)
- San Bizente Eliza(Iglesia de San Vicente / Church of Saint Vincent)
- Miramar Jauregia (Mirimar Palacio / Miramar Palace)
- Artzain Onaren Katedrala (Catedral del Buen Pastor de San Sebastián / The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd) – classic Gothic church.
History and Architecture
- Caserio Katxola (Katxola Homestead)
- Tabakalera – former tobacco factory
- Kursaal – designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo
- Donostiako Udala (Ayuntamiento de San Sebastian / San Sebastian City Hall)
- Victoria Eugenia Antzokia (El Teatro de Victoria Eugenia / Victoria Eugenia Theatre) – classic Belle Époque style building.
Museums and Aquariums
Although Old Town holds multiple top San Sebastian attractions to absorb San Sebastian’s culture and learn about its history, don’t be afraid to go further for more.
- Donostiako Aquariuma Euskadin (El Aquarium de San Sebastian / San Sebastian Aquarium) – one of the best things to do in San Sebastian when raining.
- Euskal Itsas Museoa (Untzi Museoa /Naval Museum) – mid 18th century consulate tower house.
- San Telmo Museoa (Museo San Telmo / San Telmo Museum)– 16th-century convent with historical and fine arts collection.
- Eureka! Zientzia Museoa (Eureka! Science Museum)
- Hondalea – art museum in a former lighthouse on Santa Clara Island.
Parks, Plazas and Promenades
Sprawling parks, promenades and historical plazas abound in this waterfront town providing time to rest, picnic, nature or people watch.
- Alderdi Eder parkea (Alderdi Eder gardens) with an old-fashioned carousel in front of San Sebastian City Hall
- Plaza de la Konsti (Plaza de la Constitucion / Constitution Square)
- Gipuzkoa Plaza (Plaze de Gipuzkoa / Gipuzkoa Square) – with an amazing astronomical clock and pond with resident swans.
- Aiete Palace and Park and Miramon Park – two of the largest parks in San Sebastian.
- Cristina Enea Park
- Urumea promenade – picturesque pedestrian and bike path on the River Urumea
- Plaza de Easo
Eco Travel Tips
San Sebastian is blessed with a lot of flat terrain and long bike paths offering great ecotourism opportunities like renting a bike or taking a bike tour.
Surrounded by water, there are also multiple water sports to try. Try sailing or learn how to surf.
San Sebastian Restaurants & Nightlife
Also within San Sebastian Old Town are opportunities to partake in some of the best food in Spain.
Nestled between the water and rich landscape, San Sebastian has an abundance of fresh food to try at Mercado de la Brexta (Brexta Market). Shop with the locals and do a grab and go while you wander Old Town or the waterfront.
Also, San Sebastian’s 11 Michelin-star restaurants puts it on the map as the culinary capital of Spain, so you have multiple opportunities for fine dining on single travel.
San Sebastian is also famous for its pintxos, those delectable small plates of food (think tapas), typically served on top of bread or with a toothpick, that make budget-friendly, foodie solo travelers smile.
Wander La calle 31 de agosto to sample the many pintxos bars and dine on your favorite seafood or veggie bites and a glass of Txakoli, the crispy, local Basque white wine. It’s all truly yummy.
Take the opportunity to visit the San Sebastian restaurants in Old Town, or take a San Sebastian food tour.
Beyond San Sebastian
If you have time or want to explore more of the Basque region on your Spain travel, try a day trip from San Sebastian. There are multiple, top travel destinations all within an hour or two from San Sebastian.
Top Day Trips from San Sebastian
BEST Booking Sites for San Sebastian Travel
Here is a summary of the best booking sites I recommend you bookmark and use to successfully book your travel to San Sebastian, Spain. I use just about all of these for most travel locations. I even gave you my suggested San Sebastian pensión.
These booking sites give you multiple travel options and awesome travel deals for all travel budgets. They will certainly help get a jump on your trip to San Sebastian.
For the best travel deals, always book early.
Don’t forget to check out San Sebastian ecotourism ideas and use my Spain Travel Guide complete your San Sebastian travel planning and booking.
How to Get THE BEST of San Sebastian in 2 Days
Now that you know you are familiar with San Sebastian, would you like an itinerary idea to get you going? Check out my 2 days in San Sebastan itinerary perfect for first time solo travel to San Sebastian. It takes out all of the guesswork. You’ll love it.
Let Me Hear From You
I would love to hear if my San Sebastian Solo Travel Guide was helpful in planning your solo travel. Post me your thoughts or questions in the Comments section below. Thank you!