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, Centro and Aiete.
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  station for national and local trains (at the east end of Puente de Maria Cristina), and the Euskotren  station for the local network (Plaza Easo). However as you are travelling from Spain to France, there is not a single train from San Sebastian to Biarritz, nor is the service between the two linked. You may therefore be stuck half way waiting for hours for a connecting train. Most likely better option is to go to Hendaye with Euskotren (Metro Donostialdea) and change there to train. Euskotren station in Hendaye is right next to the train station.
If coming in by train via Renfe in Barcelona, it is better to buy a turista class ticket rather than a preferente ticket. In the first 2.5 hours of your journey you are on a high speed train, then you switch to a commuter rail which has free for all seating. This train routing is as of jan 2014.
San Sebastian, 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 about 30 mins, making maximum 4 stops (typically less). If going from San Sebastián to the airport the cost is 2.30 euros one way. The time from city center to the airport is 45 minutes.
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 . Take a French SNCF train to Hendaye, change to the nearby Euskotren station (located just outside the SNCF station) and take a Euskotren  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. For an airport transfer, taxi, bus or coach from Biarritz Airport to San Sebastian check Sea-Lifts Airport Transfer  or Biarritz Airport Transfers 
Bilbao (sometimes called Aeropuerto - Loiu after the village it's located in), 100km away with good bus connections, about one an hour during the day. The trip takes about 70min, and costs around €16.50. 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, 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  or La Burundesa ) to San Sebastian for around €7.50.
Santander Airport is served by Ryanair, Volotea and other low-cost air carriers. Buses from the airport leave to the city of Santander every 30 minutes, and buses every 2 hours leave Santander to San Sebastian. This route is served by Alsa , it takes around 2 hours and a half and costs approximately €14 (as of October 2013). The same company has 2 direct buses every day from the airport to San Sebastian, at 12:10 and 19:10, for €13,38.
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:
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.
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. The biggest underground parkings are located in the city center, so the easiest way to find a place without wasting time is to go through the road that goes by the river and follow the signals.
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".
You can see San Sebastián on foot and by bicycle. One important note: taxis can only be taken at taxi stops; you cannot just lift your hand and shout "taxi!". It is forbidden for them to take passengers who are not at the taxi stops, except for those passengers who call and ask for a taxi by phone.
Bicycle lanes are all around the downtown, and in the summer bicycles can be hired (at certain times they are free) from strategically placed locations around the city.
Apart from private hiring companies, the town hall has a bike-service all over the city, which is also open to tourists. Tourists should get a bike-card at the Tourist Information Center in Boulevard, 8 (20€ deposit, 15€ for 1 day, 20€ for 4 days, 25€ per week) . This card should be given back the day after it is purchased so as to recover the 20€ deposit. This way you can use any of the multiple bikes around the city, for a maximum of 4h non-stop (Leaving 30 minutes between use allows you to cycle for a further 4h non-stop), from 10:00 to 21:00. There are several bike-service spots around the city, and bikes can be picked up and dropped off at different points.
D-Bus offers a number of options to use its´ bus services in the city. Single journeys to any destination on its network cost a flat rate of €1.45. However, for residents staying for longer periods, they may wish to buy the 'Kutxa chip' card available from Kutxa Bank's main office at C/ Garibay 15, close to the Parte Vieja, for €5.50. After the initial purchase, the card can be topped up on ATM's all over the city and instead of paying the flat rate of €1.45, holders merely swipe their card and pay €0.73 for each journey. The city is properly bus-connected. There is a local app for smartphones (both iPhone and Android) that tells you bus arrival time for each bus stop, selectable on a map .
It's also possible to buy and top up a tourist card, valid for 10 days, at some newsagents. The card costs €2.60 after which each journey is €0.75. The card can be used to pay for up to five people. Touch it against the electronic card reader as you get on the bus, once per passenger.
From top of Monte Igueldo at the West end of La Concha bay, enjoy great view of the town. You can take the funicular up or walk up the hill. You will still need to pay the 2.20 euro toll per person once you reach the top. If anything, you get some great views of the ocean, harbor, town and a lighthouse.
Visit the Miramar palace and its park over El pico del Loro; enjoy sitting on a lawn there
At the far west end of Playa de Onderreta see the sculpture El peine del Viento or The Wind Comb. This was created by a local artist and has become somewhat of a symbol for the town.
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) .
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 by taking Zemoria St up from the east end of the Zurriola, and following the long stairway at the end of Zemoria St up to the hiking path which is toward the left. From there, follow the trail marked by the red & white markings to Pasaia/San Pedro. Initially, the trail is marked by red, white, and green stripes, but the green trail diverts halfway in. The full hike from San Sebastian to Pasaia/San Pedro is approximately 5.5 miles one-way and should take around 2.5 hours. Once you get there, you can take a local bus back (for €1.65).
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 Ondarreta 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 €2.20 per person toll at the top. As well as the rides, the top of the mountain provides a great view of the town.
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 (La Bretxa) that has the cineplex (as well as the city's lone McDonald's) as well as a collection of high street shops in the modern Nuevo Mercardo San Martin complex .
Some of the designer shops worthwhile visiting are:
Whim, Plaza Buen Pastor 2, ☎ +34 943 42 84 57. Women wear and Party dresses.edit
Hakei, Garibai 8, ☎ (943)432-056 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . 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
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 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.
San Sebastian is not a place for vegetarians or vegans, unless you are able to catch the fresh produce markets in the morning and cook for yourself. Pescetarians can get along fine with the abundance of seafood offered on menus.
Lo Mejor de la Gastronomia 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 a 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
La Vida C/San Marcial 37, , hours open from 9am closes at midnight, this new stylish venue offers great value breakfast from €6-8, great selection of daily baked muffins, seed bars, croissants, English breakfast, Mediterranean breakfast and more. email - email@example.com - tel. 943 244 150.
Cafe Kantoi Fermin Calbeton 41 esq. Calle Mayor 1 o, Alde Zaharra 2003, Donostia / San Sebastian, seems a favorite among locals and one of the few places in Parte Vieja that's open early. For 3.50 euros you get a juice, tea or coffee and a pastry/muffin/croissant. - tel. 943 44 19 68.
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, . 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, . 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
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: €175 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: firstname.lastname@example.org),  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!
Saltxipi, Calzada Vieja de Ategorrieta, 3, 943 323 310 . Just outside Gros in a residential street this family run restaurant has a mainly seafood menu. It's specialty is Spider Crab - it's baked variety is worth the 10 minute walk from the old town!
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.
Don't attempt to eat pintxos if you're starving, you'll treat it like a buffet and prices will easily rack up as everything seems more appealing. Only get a couple of pintxos at a time as sometimes what looks really appealing, has been sitting on the bar the whole day and is past it's use by date. Test the waters.
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.
Generally, if the barman asks you to show your plate to them before you start eating, you know the bar markets towards tourists and is sub par and more expensive that it should be. A good bar will ask you what you've eaten as you pay and you should see a chef working out the back.
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.
The calamari seems to be the same at every bar, don't order it again at a different pintxo bar if you didn't like it the first time.
Rojo Y Negro, Calle San Marcial 52, +34 94 343 1861. A little bit out of old town you'll find huge portions of tasty pintxos without breaking the bank. If you want to meet locals or see how this whole pintxos thing is done, this is the place to do it without being obnoxious or tacky. Minimal tourist flow and friendly, professional staff that speak enough english to understand you. Try the marinated octopus and meatballs in tomato sauce, although these are slightly expensive at €6, it's a full meal in itself and comes with bread. You can't go wrong with the even cheaper bread-based pintxos at €1.5 to €2.5 which range from interesting flavour combinations to the ol' steady, jamon on bread. Beer and wine is cheap and they won't turn up their noses if you ask for tap water.
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
Borda Berri Parte Vieja. C/Fermin Calbeton. Excellent pintxos with a changing menu. Try the 'Taco de Bacalao' (Tempura fried cod with a romesco sauce)
Juantxo Parte Vieja. C/Enbeltran. Best, cheapest 'bocadillo de tortilla de patatas' in Parte Vieja. About €2,70 for a huge sandwich.
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, GPS +43.32446°,-1.98535°), ☎ +34 943 435 446 (email@example.com), . 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, . Trendy interior, good-looking people. Really tasty tapas.edit
Borda Berri, Calle 12 Fermín Calbetón (Parte Vieja GPS +43.32347°,-1.98386°), ☎ +34 943 425 638. The menu is on a chalk board and everything is excellent.€1 - 3,5. 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.
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 peppers, txuleta (really thick steak), and then for dessert: cheese, walnuts and membrillo (quince paste). The cider house season runs from the end of January to the end of May, but a couple of traditional sidrerias that are open all year (you'll need to get a car, bus or taxi from town) are:
Aginaga (Cider bar and Hotel), Aginaga, ☎ 943 36 67 10. Close by San Sebastian, in the midst of nature.€22. edit
Bataplán is definitely the hottest club in San Sebastian. Be careful not to arrive too early; usually there is no party before 1 AM. People normally start arriving at 2AM, and the club closes around 6 or 7 AM. The entry fee is normally 15 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 8 euros a pop, by the way, 5 euros for a beer). All year round, the club is filled with local people, tourists and exchange students.
Camping Igueldo open all year Paseo Padre Orkolaga 69. Igeldo (San Sebastián), Phone: 943-280490, Fax: 943-280411. 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.
Urban House Hostel, Alameda del Boulevard 26, ☎ 943-428154, . One of the popular hostels in town€16. edit
Olga´s Place, 38 Zabaleta st., ☎ 943-326725 (firstname.lastname@example.org). An international hostel 1 minute walk from the beach. Clean rooms, free internet. Friendly staff. edit
Green Nest Uba Aterpetxea, Camino de Uba 43, ☎ +34 943457117 (email@example.com), . checkin: 24h; checkout: 24h. A newly built, international hostel with high quality and cheap prizes. Located 4 km from the city center with a good connection to public transport. Free WiFi, a friendly staff, a kitchen and a neighbouring restaurant. edit
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: 943 433-570), . 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, 13 San Jeronimo (Old town), Phone/Fax: (+34) 943 428602. €25-50 depending on season and room size. Very clean and friendly.
"Pensión San Juan" - C/San Juan nº 13 - 3 floor - Phone (+34)943-426345. It´s located in the Old Town. Double and group rooms (15€ - 65€) .
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.
Hotel Mercure Monte Igueldo Pº del Faro 134(Igeldo), tel: 943-210211 Fax: 943-215028, () 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. The hotel has recently been fully renovated and is living up to its 5 star rating.
Zarauz - summer getaway, the longest beach in Guipuzcoa, and a magnet for surfers
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