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14 Best things to see & do in San Sebastian

  • San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain

Last updated: 15 June, 2024
Expert travel writer: Dana Facaros
  • San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain

Seafood in all its forms is the star in San Sebastian, where chefs rival one another in inventiveness. Truffles and wild mushrooms, Iberian pork, succulent beef and exquisite seasonal vegetables; some Michelin-starred places have even started offering vegetarian menus.

Many chefs take pride in sourcing all their ingredients locally – many of which are beautifully displayed the city’s indoor market, the Mercado San Martin.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: Any

  • Getaria, Basque Country, Spain

view of vineyards smothering hills with blue sea behind

Bucket List Experience

Getaria Wine Region

If San Sebastian gets too intense, escape to this lovely village, just 18km west along the coast. Getaria is a real fishing port with a proud heritage. As well as an attractive medieval town centre, it has charming seafood restaurants and broad, clean beaches – and it’s still largely undiscovered by foreigners.

Getaria also has a burgeoning wine scene, as the light, sparkling txakoli wine is produced around here. Txakoli, a very dry, slightly sparkling white that goes perfectly with pintxos, is one of the new stars of Spain’s wine scene. Once just a drink that farmers made for themselves, it’s now ubiquitous in Basque bars and restaurants.

The original txakoli comes from the delightful hill country outside the picturesque village of Getaria, and it’s a great excuse to lose yourself in the area’s countryside and sample a glass or two.

  • San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain

Begun in 1953, the San Sebastian International Film Festival is a sophisticated, established highlight of the global film calendar.

Set against the stunning backdrop of the town’s La Concha beach, SSIFF is a truly international affair, showcasing new movies from around the world.

It’s also one of the most accessible festivals around, with scores of tickets for new and classic film screenings available at reasonable prices.

Adult price: £5

Good for age: 18+

Duration: One week

When: 3rd week September

Freq: annually

  • San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain

If you want to understand the unique and proud Basque culture (believed to be the oldest civilisation, with the oldest language, in Europe), this San Sebastian museum of history and fine arts is the place to go. It recently had a complete makeover – now the beautifully displayed collection covers everything from model ships and prehistoric carvings to regional armour, traditional costume and games, as well as exceptional special exhibitions, often on photography.

The museum also encompasses the must-see former church of San Telmo, decorated with 11 enormous, golden-hued canvases depicting key moments in Basque history – painted in 1932 by Jose Maria Sert.

Adult price: £5

Good for age: 18+

San Martin Market

  • San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain

Spanish ham hanging on a stall in the Boqueria market in Barcelona.

Experience

San Sebastian’s central market, just in from La Concha bay, opened its doors in 1884, and underwent a complete transformation in 2006; along with traditional food stalls, San Martin now hosts concerts and cultural events.

Good for age: 18+

Cristobal Balenciaga Museum

  • Getaria, Basque Country, Spain

Exterior facade, square red brick building

Experience

This small museum tucked away in the small village of Balenciaga’s birth (1895), displays of 20th-century haute couture outfits by the famous designer. There are guided tours and even an onsite fashion school for teaching the tips of the trade.

Adult price: £8

Good for age: 18+

Txokos

  • San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain

Group eating and drinking red wine at dinner barbecue party outdoor

Experience

Txokos in San Sebastian are exclusive gastronomic societies aka private clubs that bring together food enthusiasts to gather, cook, and share meals. It’s a unique opportunity to experience the local Basque cuisine and meet local food connoisseurs. Access is by private, organised tour. Book a special visit in advance with San Sebastian Pintxos or Basque Tours.

Adult price: £Varies

Good for age: 30+

Duration: One evening

Petritegi Cider House

  • San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain

inside the cider house, people sitting at tables by big barrels

Experience

Dine on cod dishes and steaks in this traditional cider house (sagardotegi), just outside San Sebastian. They’ve been making cider here for over 500 years. They offer guided tours of the apple orchards and cider works; their typical set menus are online.

Good for age: 18+

Arzak

  • San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain

Arzak

Experience

San Sebastian’s world-famous three-Michelin-star restaurant (since 1989!), run by Juan Mari Arzak and his daughter Elena Arzak, who won the prize for the world’s best female chef in 2012. There cellar holds some 100,000 bottles of wine.

Adult price: £40

Good for age: 18+

Atari Gastroleku

  • San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain

Prawn skewers tapas

Experience

Right in the medieval centre, this contemporary bar uses the finest ingredients in its traditional and avant garde pintxos – their prawn skewers are famous. Good wine list too. Best to book a table as it fills up fast.

Good for age: 18+