San Sebastian On a Budget
SightsBeing a coastal city, some of San SebastiÃ¡n's most beautiful sights are its beaches. La Concha, the city's most popular beach, and Ondarreta, lie in the crescent of the city. Both are nestled upon long stretches of soft sands set against gentle turquoise waters-perfect for a day of sunbathing or swimming. Zurriola Beach is another hot spot popular with the younger crowd, especially for surfing.
Set behind the beaches, the city holds an old world allure of its own, with beautiful architecture and monuments dotted throughout. The heart of San SebastiÃ¡n is home to many enchanting churches like Buen Pastor Cathedral and historical gems in the old town like the Basilica of Santa Maria, the San Vicente Church, and the Plaza de la Constitucion, an old bullring converted into a public courtyard to relax and absorb the atmosphere.
Yet still, behind the city and the beaches, San SebastiÃ¡n is surrounded by the grand presence of nearby mountains. They stand as a colossal backdrop to the city, but are accessible with many sights and activities to engage in from above. Each mountain has its specialty-Monte Urgell with a giant statue of Christ and views of the surrounding beaches, Monte Igueldo with its own amusement park, and Monte Ulia with gorgeous views and ruins of the past.
NeighborhoodsSan SebastiÃ¡n has four main hubs of activity. The lively Parte Vieja (or old town) lies across the neck of Monte Urgull, the bay's eastern headland, and is where the most popular pintxo bars and cheap lodgings can be found. South of the Parte Vieja is the commercial and shopping district, called the Ãrea RomÃ¡ntica. This area is laid out in a grid of late-19th-century buildings that extend from behind Playa de la Concha to the banks of RÃo Urumea. On the east side of the river is the district of Gros, which exists in a more peaceful state away from the busyness on the west side. It has a more relaxed ambience and is home to the surfing beach of Playa de Gros. And finally, at the opposite western end of the city is Playa de Ondarreta, a very high-class district known as a millionaires' belt due to its extravagant holiday homes.
ActivitiesA city of beaches, San SebastiÃ¡n has anything you could want in seaside activities. Whether you want to be active with water sports or prefer to relax the day away on the sand, the coastal stretches of the city with glittering waves offer opportunities to satisfy any beach bum for days. And then there are the mountains, full of prospects for hiking, climbing, and exploring. You might come across some old ruins or follow a trail that opens to sweeping views of the coastline. Monte Urgell even has an Aquarium full of marine life and research, while Monte Igueldo houses an amusement park with a roller coaster that looks over beaches, cliffs, and the city itself.
Back down in San SebastiÃ¡n, the city is also host to many festivals throughout the year, some of which include dFeria festival of theatre and dance, Heineken Jazz Festival in July with about a hundred concerts, as well as the San SebastiÃ¡n International Film Festival in late Septemeber which showcases over 200 international films. Also along the lines of entertainment, the Kursaal, with its translucent crystal structure, has become an icon of the city as the venue for the Film Festival and other concerts ranging from classical to contemporary pop and rock. The Victoria Eugenia Theatre has been another important cultural stage since 1912 and is very popular for musicals and plays throughout the year.
Some of the top museums in the city include the San Telmo Museo which is the oldest displaying history and art of the Basque country, Tabakalera which houses avant-garde and contemporary displays across many media, and the Arteko Gallery which displays the contemporary artwork of young foreign and national artists.
Food and DiningThe cuisine of San SebastiÃ¡n is highly influenced by Basque country, the name given to the region near the Atlantic border of Spain and France. This kind of food consists of items like meats and fish grilled over hot coals, marmitako and lamb stews, cod, Tolosa bean dishes, paprikas from Lekeitio, Idiazabal sheep's cheese, txakoli sparkling wine, and Basque cider. The most popular in San SebastiÃ¡n is pintxos (Basque tapas), which are small plates served hot or cold usually at a bar. Most pintxos cost â¬2-3 and come in a variety of options. Visiting a pintxos bar is an easy way to sample through the flavors of Basque culture. Another interesting specialty of the region is The Kalimotxo-a drink made with 50% wine and 50% Coca-Cola. Most restaurants are located in the Old Town area of the city.
TransportationSan SebastiÃ¡n Airport is the nearest airport, served by Iberia and Vueling airlines to Madrid and Barcelona. The next nearest airports include Biarritz Airport in France and Bilbao Airport-the most important airport in the Basque Country and northern Spain.
There are two train stations in San SebastiÃ¡n: 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).
Bus is generally easier than train when navigating Basque country. Buses arrive and depart at the San SebastiÃ¡n bus station, at Plaza de Pio XII in Amara Nuevo. Bus companies include Pesa, La Burundesa, Alsa, ATCRB, and Roncalesa (for connection with Pamplona).
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Train and Bus Prices
The best prices for buses and trains in Spain can be found on Omio (formerly GoEuro). They let you search across all train, bus, and plane routes throughout the region.