Top 20 Best Things to Do in San Sebastian with Kids…or Without

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Looking for what to do in San Sebastian Spain? We have more than a few suggestions here. Whether you in San Sebastian with kids, a special someone or on your own, you’re going to love exploring things to do in San Sebastian. All the things to do in San Sebastian recommended here are just as fun for solo travelers, for backpackers and for luxury travelers, as well. 

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Things to Do in San Sebastian Spain 

Facing north into the Bay of Biscay, San Sebastian is one of the most beautiful cities in Northern Spain and part of the country’s culinary heart. If you plan to travel in Basque Country, then you’ll find loads of exciting things to do in San Sebastian. The city is a foodie paradise, then to work off all of those calories, you have surfing, hiking, and more. 

Below is our list of fun things to do in San Sebastian. Believe me, there’s more to explore than this, and I hope to share more after our next visit. If you’re like us, you’ll probably want to stay much longer in Northern Spain than you planned. Especially after realizing the number of fun things to do in San Sebastian. The city left us wanting more. In fact, if San Sebastian had Valencia‘s warm and sunny winters, then we might consider moving there. Read on and see why, as we talk about what to do in San Sebastian, including San Sebastian tours and day trips from San Sebastian. 

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San Sebastian Spain: An Introduction

things to do in san sebastian with kids collage 2

Before we run through the best things to do in San Sebastian, here’s a little primer on the city and the reasons for going. 

Where is San Sebastian?

San Sebastian — or Donostia in the Basque language — is in northern Spain only half an hour’s drive from the French border. It’s a beach town, on the Bay of Biscay, and firmly in Basque Country.

Why Visit San Sebastian Spain?

In our opinion, San Sebastian is one of the best cities in Europe, full of unique cultural experiences and amazing food. It’s easily one of our favorite beach towns in the world, and the city is very child-friendly, as well. If you’re thinking of family travel in Spain, then definitely consider visiting San Sebastian with kids. 

What’s San Sebastian Known For?

First and foremost, San Sebastian food is probably the most famous. There is a higher concentration of  Michelin-starred restaurants here than anywhere else on earth — that’s a higher density than Barcelona, Paris, London, New York or Tokyo). Not that I’ve eaten in any of the top San Sebastian restaurants. Even the local places are excellent. In fact, Anthony Bourdain loves San Sebastian restaurants. So much so that he told his viewers not to come. He wants it for himself. San Sebastian is also famous as one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, and one of the best beach towns in the world. The architecture is beautiful, and the way the city is laid out around the three main San Sebastian beaches is breathtaking.

San Sebastian Weather / Best Time to Visit San Sebastian Spain

The best time to visit San Sebastian is between May and September when the temperature rises and there is significantly less rain. You want to be here during San Sebastian beach season, but if you arrive between late July and September, you’ll hit peak crowds as many Spanish and other European use the month of August to chill in the sand here. For the rest of the year, San Sebastian weather isn’t ideal. Temperatures usually don’t top 60ºF/15Cº, and it rains a lot.

What to Do in San Sebastian Spain

SAN SEBASTIAN beaches - san sebastian surfing

Whether you’re looking for some relaxing beach time alone or seeking more educational things to do in San Sebastian with kids, we’re certain that you’ll find plenty to do in this dynamic Spanish beach town.

Take a Walking Tour

One of the simplest and easiest things to do in San Sebastian is to take a walking tour or simply walk through the city on your own. The beach areas are beautiful, as is San Sebastian Old Town, where you’ll find old architecture and loads of beautiful restaurants and tapas bars. 

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2-Hour San Sebastian Walking Tour with Pintxo and Drink

San Sebastian Walking Tour: Hidden Parks and Palaces

Explore the Tapas Scene

san sebastian tapas - san sebastian food tours

The most famous San Sebastian food is pintxos, which are Basque culture’s answer to Spanish tapas. Pintxo restaurants are everywhere, and one of the best things to do in San Sebastian is to eat your weight in San Sebastian pintxos. Kids are welcome in these places too. In fact, it’s a great way to eat in Spain, since kids can try many things to discover what they like. There are lots of San Sebastian tours related to tapas and pintxos, and they can be a great way to try lots of quality places and see a lot. That said, it’s not that hard to just venture out yourself and discover the San Sebastian tapas scene on your own.

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Gourmet San Sebastian Pintxos Tours

San Sebastian Pintxos Tours w/Wine (Lunch)

Pintxos Tasting Paired w/Spanish Wines

Luxe San Sebastian Pintxos Tour & Wine (daytime)

San Sebastián Food Tours: Pintxos & Wine

San Sebastian Vegetarian Pintxos Tours

Small-Group San Sebastian Old Town Pintxos Tours (Evening)

Small-Group San Sebastian Pintxo Tours w/Wine Tastings (Early Eve)

San Sebastian Pintxos Tours with Wine (Evening)

Join a Cooking Class

San Sebastian food and dining are legendary, and one of the best ways to experience the food scene here is to take a cooking class. Below are a few recommendations, or check with your San Sebastian hotel as they may have tips on finding a class as well. If eating is what to do in San Sebastian, then cooking is just as important!

Take a Class!

San Sebastian Cooking Class: Basque Pintxos & Traditional Dishes

France Navarra and La Rioja — San Sebastian Cooking Classes

Chill on San Sebastian Beaches

Our Top 10 Fun Things to Do in San Sebastian with Kids san-sebastian-donostia-playa-concha

If you like sun, saltwater, and sand, then you’re going to have fun at San Sebastian beaches. I’ve never been to a place that incorporates its coastline so well into the city. There are three main San Sebastian beaches (playa).

  • Playa Zurriola is the surf beach.
  • Playa Ondarreta is the calmer and more family-friendly San Sebastian beach.
  • Then there is Playa de la Concha, the most popular beach.

We spent most of our time at Playa de la Concha for reasons I’ll explain below. San Sebastian beaches are a huge draw for the city. They should be one of the main reasons you’re here. One of the most popular things to do in San Sebastian Spain is to soak up some sun here. 

Try Surfing in San Sebastian

Our Top 10 Fun Things to Do in San Sebastian with Kids Zurrilo-beach

If you love to hang ten, then try surfing in San Sebastian. There are waves to match everyone’s skills — both in town and on beaches near San Sebastian. We’ve taken surf lessons in Santander and on the Canary Island of Lanzarote, but most people consider surfing in San Sebastian as good or better. The waves for San Sebastian surfing are supposed to be more consistent, we were told. 

Book a Class: Surfing in San Sebastian Basque Country

Standup Paddleboarding and Sea Kayaking in San Sebastian

Our Top 16 Favorite Places to Go Swimming in Spain with Kids thinng to do in san sebastian with kids

paddleboarding things to do in san sebastian with kids

This city has water sports covered. If you’re in San Sebastian with kids in the summertime, then consider getting them paddleboard or sea kayaking lessons. Rentals are located right on Playa de la Concha, amongst many other locations.

San Sebastian also has places to practice the fairly new sport of coasteering, which is like canyoning (which we love) but uses the coastline instead of rivers. We missed our opportunity to try coasteering in San Sebastian, but it’s on our list for when we return.

Book a Tour: Sunrise in San Sebastian SUP Tour & Breakfast

Visit Santa Clara Island

Our Top 10 Fun Things to Do in San Sebastian with Kids santa-clara-island-path

If you’ve got smaller kids or want a mellower activity, then one of the best things to do in San Sebastian is to take the ferry to Santa Clara Island. This is a great (and short) boat trip out to the small island that faces the beach. Once you get out there, however, you realize that the island is bigger than it seems. No, you won’t get lost on it, but there are lots of secluded nooks and crannies up the hill where you can throw down a blanket and have a private picnic, even on the most crowded summer afternoon. In addition, Santa Clara Island has its own beaches, as well as its own restaurant and bar, but if we had known how long we would end up staying here, we would have brought our own food. Boats come and go from the island every 30 minutes or so.

Wander the Plazas & Playgrounds

Playground. Things to do in san sebastian spain with kids

One of the easiest and most rewarding things to do in San Sebastian is to simply soak up the atmosphere. Between San Sebastian old town and the beaches, you’ll find beautiful plazas with ornate landscaping and wide walking paths. If this isn’t enough room for you and your brood, or if the kids want somewhere more substantial to run around, then the playgrounds here have much of what young ones want. Swings, carousels, and fountains will keep them occupied for a few hours. What’s more, in the warmest months you can also rely on plenty of quality buskers in the plazas as well. We watched guitarists, breakdancers, and acrobats.

Take a Bicycle Tour

san sebastian tours bicycle tours

You can see a lot of the city on two wheels, so we suggest bicycle tours as one of the best things to do in San Sebastian. Most tours are only a few hours and they can accommodate little kids — either on kids’ seats or trailers behind the bikes. There is also an electric bike tour in San Sebastian, which allows you to pedal easily up hills to see some of the best views of the city.  

Book a Bike Tour!

San Sebastian Bike Tours

Basque Country by Bicycle: San Sebastian Bike Tours (2.5 Hours)

San Sebastián Electric Bike Tours

Basque by Bike Small-Group Cycle San Sebastian Bike Tours

Visit Monte Igueldo Amusement Park

funicular and park san sebastian spain

San Sebastian has a funicular railway on the west side of town that takes you to a charming old amusement park with spectacular views of the city. After you’ve soaked up the view, your littlest ones will enjoy a ride or two at the fairground here. For families and young couples looking for a romantic spot, this is what to do in San Sebastian. Like Hanayashiki Amusement Park in Asakusa, Tokyo, this place runs on nostalgia and atmosphere more than the latest adrenalin rush. Expect overpriced old-school fairground rides, which are fun if you want them to be. Food and drinks are available here too, but it may be best to pack your own.

Stroll Through a Park

San Sebastian is a remarkably lush and green city, and thanks to its perpetual embrace of the Atlantic Ocean, the city has plenty of fresh air downtown. However, if you’re in need of greener spaces, then venture over to Ametzagaina Park or to Cristina Enea Park. Both feel like the countryside despite being just at the edge of town.

Go For a Hike

Visit San Sebastian and you’ll discover lots of opportunities to stretch your legs. In fact, since the city is part of the Camino de Santiago, hiking is one of the most common things to do in San Sebastian. One recommendation is to walk the city’s coastline east to west, ending at the Comb of the Winds. Another is to hike the path up to the La Mota Castle, which overlooks Playa Zurrilo to the east and Santa Clara Island to the west. Want a longer hike? San Sebastian has them in every direction — except north into the Atlantic, of course. Keep in mind that the Camino de Santiago passes right through San Sebastian and doesn’t stop until it reaches its famous endpoint.

Book a San Sebastian Hiking Tour!

San Sebastian Hiking the St. James Way

Hiking UNESCO’S Basque Coast Geopark in Zumaia

Hit the Open Water

santa clara island ferry things to do in san sebastian with kids

One of the first things you’ll notice about San Sebastian is just how integrated the ocean and harbor are with the city. Boat tours are a great thing to do in San Sebastian. For one, it shows you another aspect of the Basque/Northern Spanish culture and the relationship the city has with the Bay of Biscay. Additionally, it allows you to see the city for a different angle. There are sunset cruises, dinner cruises and other boat tours that focus on the coastline. 

Book a San Sebastian Boat Tour

Private Sailing Experience: San Sebastian Boat Tour

Discover San Sebastian’s Cliffs

Sunset on a Yacht: San Sebastian Boat Tours

Take a Hot Air Balloon

For some of you, taking a hot air balloon over San Sebastian would be an ideal way to see the Basque Country. Most hot air balloons leave early in the morning. 

Ride a Hot Air Balloon Over Basque Country

Go Paragliding

We didn’t try paragliding in San Sebastian, but now that we’ve tried it in Peru and in Colombia, I know we’d look into it next time we’re looking for things to do in San Sebastian Spain. 

San Sebastian Paragliding Tours

Things to Do in San Sebastian on a Rainy Day

San Sebastian weather being what it is, we suggest having a backup plan in case the rain clouds close in. The weather in San Sebastian in summer is quite good, but all bets are off in other seasons. Here are a few San Sebastian activities to do indoors.

The San Sebastian Aquarium

San Sebastian Aquarium Things to do in San Sebastian Spain with kids

Perched right next to the water, the San Sebastian Aquarium was renovated in 2008 and is an excellent excursion for kids (or adults) interested in the sea.

The Eureka Science Museum

The Eureka Science Museum is full of hands-on exhibits related to science, weather, and nature. It’s located a little away from the beach area, but easily accessible by public bus.

Food in San Sebastian Spain: Tapas, Pintxos, & More

One of the absolute best things to do in San Sebastian is to eat. Make the time to taste the Basque Country’s greatest culinary contributions to the world: pintxos. What are pintxos? Well, pintxos are part of the Spanish tapas tradition, usually presented on bread and laid across a countertop in a self-serve manner. We ate pintxos often in Valencia, but wow: San Sebastian pintxos are next-level. Few pintxos are prepared and presented more beautifully than San Sebastian pintxos. You’ll see them sitting in the front rooms of bars and restaurants everywhere, and there are so many kinds that you and your kids are bound to find more than a few favorites.

Spanish Tapas / Basque Tapas Pinxos Things to do in San Sebastian Spain

Getting to San Sebastian Spain

The nearest airport to San Sebastian is the city’s domestic airport (airport code EAS). The second nearest airport to San Sebastian is either in Bilbao (airport code BIO) or across the French border in Biarritz (airport code BIQ). Both of these airports near San Sebastian are in Basque Country and between 60-90 minutes door-to-door, depending on your airport transportation.

Our recommendation for getting to San Sebastian is to rent a car and drive the entire northern coast of Spain. It’s incredible, and there are so many places to go and things to see: Bilbao, Santiago de Compostela, and the Asturias Region barely scratch the surface. The roads are relatively easy to navigate (not nearly as narrow streets at Toledo, for example), and the coast in the summertime is green and beautiful. Having said that, there are many ways to reach San Sebastian. Here’s a quick rundown of a few of the most popular. 

Bilbao to San Sebastian

  • Roughly 90 minutes (give or take) by car or by train. Buses available, as well.

Madrid to San Sebastian

  • As little as 5-7 hours by bus, car or train. Shave 2 hours off to fly there, but the price may spike. Direct flights are a 1 hour 20min, but add up for 3+ hours when considering customs & getting to/from the airport and into town.

Barcelona to San Sebastian

  • Around 5-8 hours by car, bus or train. If by car or bus, expect a curvy ride. Direct flights are an hour, but add up to 3+ hours when considering customs & getting to/from the airport and into town.

Bordeaux to San Sebastian

  • Approximately 3-5 hours by bus or train, or 2.5 hours by car, depending on how much you stop. San Sebastian is very close to the French border.

Paris to San Sebastian

  • Train/bus combos take less than 6 hours or cheaper long-haul buses take 11-13 hours. There are no direct flights, but you can fly into Bilbao or Biarritz (near the French border).

Day Trips from San Sebastian

Travel in Basque Country - San Juan de Gaztelugatxe: Spain Road Trip

So I’ve given you plenty of things to do in San Sebastian, but there is even more fun if you have time for it. The Basque Country is full of beautiful places and fun activities. Here are a few day trips from San Sebastian to get you started. 

Biarritz & the French Basque Country

French Basque Countryside Day Trips from San Sebastian

Biarritz and French Basque Coast Day Tour from San Sebastian

Pamplona

Pamplona & Xavier Castle Day Trip from San Sebastian (with Lunch)

Bilbao & The San Juan Coast

museum & koons puppy Hotels in Bilbao Spain - Bilbao Hotels Near Guggenheim

Full-Day Bilbao Day Trips from San Sebastian (Gaztelugatxe-Bilbao)

San Pedro, Hondarribia, & San Juan Tour from San Sebastian Tours

Hondarribia & Pasaia (San Pedro & San Juan) Tours

Bilbao, Guggenheim & San Juan de Gaztelugatxe Day Trips from San Sebastian

Gipuzkoa Coast Half-Day Tours from San Sebastian

Basque Cheese Tour: Day Trips from San Sebastian

Idiazabal Cheese Farm Day Trip from San Sebastian

Half-Day Basque Cheese Tour: Day Trips from San Sebastian

Rioja Wine Tours From San Sebastian

Private Rioja Wine Tours: Best Wine Tasting Tours

Rioja Wine Tours/Day Trips from San Sebastian

La Rioja Winery Tour from San Sebastian with Tasting & Lunch

Do You Know What to Do in San Sebastian?

Boat swimming Things to do in San Sebastian Spain

Tell me everything. We really fell in love with this town quickly and want to return as soon as we can. Where did you go? What did you do? And for god’s sake, tell me where did you EAT! Write your tips in the comments, or contact me directly.

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means, at no extra cost to you,  we might receive a small commission if you make a purchase or book a San Sebastian hotel using those links. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help you find fun things to do in San Sebastian Spain. Do you know of more things to do in San Sebastian Spain? Have you been to San Sebastian with kids? Tell us more about it so we can keep our San Sebastian travel tips up to date!

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Comments

  1. You got pinxos spot on as the quintessential food experience in San Sebastian as they’ve been recently picked by Lonely Planet as the #1 food experience in the world!

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