San Sebastian – Donostia: A Photo Diary
Planning a trip to San Sebastian Spain?
San Sebastian Spain is my favorite places that I visited in Europe. Also known as Donostia, is located in the Basque region along the northern coast of Spain. It is a gorgeous seaside town with beautiful beaches and views of the Bay of Biscay. It is also well-known for having some of the best food and the most Michelin chefs per capita than anywhere in the world.
When I went to San Sebastian in the late fall of 2011, I booked myself into a hostel for three days. I ended up extending my visit and stayed seven days. Then a few weeks later, I returned for Christmas and stayed for another three weeks. I found the locals to be friendly, the food amazing, and the vibe fantastic. There’s a cool surf scene there if you’re into surfing. The beaches were amazing even in the winter; I can’t even imagine what they are like in the summer. There is one beach called La Concha, which is just for tanning and laying out, and Zurriola Beach is where you can surf. What I would do to go back now!!
When I was there I stayed in a hostel called Olga’s Place (now closed). I am not normally a hostel person but while traveling on my round the world trip, I stayed at a handful of places so that I could travel longer and meet other travelers since I was solo. At Olga’s, I met some amazing people who I am still very good friends with today. I keep in touch with them thanks to social media and a couple of them hosted me in their homes in Australia. While we were there, we would explore the area, go on hikes, get to know each other, cook together and most importantly go out and eat pintxos at night.
I arrived in San Sebastian from Barcelona via the ALSA bus. I tend to book things last minute so the bus option was a lot cheaper than taking the RENFE train. The bus ride left BCN at about 10 pm and it was an overnight one. I remember arriving in San Sebastian at around 5 am and being weary eyed and shuffling onto the street in the dark. There is no bus station here so please take note. I waited on the road for a taxi to show up and he took me to the hostel. I didn’t mind taking the bus because I am able to sleep on buses. Most friends who have been to San Sebastian took the train from other parts of Spain and Portugal.
Here are just a handful of photos from my stay in San Sebastian:
A view of San Sebastian from a hike I did. Kind of amazing right?
San Sebastian…I miss you
Jesus on top of Monte Urdell
Playa de la Concha!
Along the harbor
Boats on boats on boats
La Plaza de la Constitucion
Met these awesome friends in San Sebastian at Olga’s
A little hike with hostel buddies to see the stunning view of the Bay of Biscay
Here was our view of the Bay of Biscay. Unreal!
My friends Matt and Sean. They made my stay unforgettable
My San Sebastian crew and I
El Peine del Viento aka The Wind Combs
Standing over the blow holes at El Peine del Viento
Tips for San Sebastian Spain
- Stay as long as possible and eat as much as possible!!
- If you are coming in from Barcelona or Madrid, the Alsa bus lines are fine. It’s about 6 or so hours from Madrid and about 8 from Barcelona, otherwise take the RENFE train from BCN. There isn’t a direct train option from Madrid
- You can fly into Bilbao which has an airport if you’re coming from other parts of Europe and then take a bus to San Sebastian. On my return to San Sebastian, I took an EasyJet flight to Bilbao and took the ALSA bus. At the time, I believe the bus ride was 10 Euros one way.
- If you are going onto onward to France, the train lines do not connect. You cannot buy a ticket online to go to France. You have to take the Euskotren to Hendaye (France) over the border to buy a ticket. When I went to Hendaye, the customer service agent was not there. The only option to buy a train ticket was via machine. My American ATM card was not accepted without a chip so luckily my Kiwi mate who was with me paid for my ticket and I reimbursed him later with cash. I want to go back and start a business selling tickets to travelers in San Sebastian as well as open a laundromat.
- Just an FYI – the laundromat in town is ridiculous and charges 15 Euros for one load.
- For budget, accommodations try a hostel. I stayed in a dorm room at Olga’s Hostel (now shuttered) but they did have private rooms as well.
- Please note like the rest of Spain, San Sebastian participates in siesta. Things are shut down for a few hours between 2 and 5. There is a gas station across the street from Zurriola that stays open. Thankfully they sell bread and jamon!
FOR MORE HELPFUL POSTS AND LINKS:
- ALSA is the Spanish bus company that I used to get to San Sebastian from Barcelona
- PESA is another bus company that services the region
- EUSKOTREN is the train I rode to the border of France when I left for Paris
- Where to eat in San Sebastian
- More travel tips and destination guides
- Use this link to search for accommodations
- Use this link to search for flights, cars, and more
- Get a discount off your first stay with Air Bnb by using this link