15 Best Day Trips from San Sebastian, Spain

Located in Basque Country, San Sebastian boasts life with its gorgeous beaches, exquisite cuisine, and its lively nightlife. 

The options are endless, and, unlike most of Spain, it is a tourist hotspot all year round. 

The unique experiences don’t end here though, if you marvel at all of what San Sebastian has to offer, then you’ll love these 15 days trips!

1. Hondarribia

Just a little under 15 miles from San Sebastian, Hondarribia is the perfect example of Basque country living. 

The city is divided into two parts, with the Old Town located on top of a hill and the Marina District located down by the water. Luckily, there are elevators and escalators connecting the two for easy transportation. 

Walk the cobblestone streets of the Old Town and admire the colorful shutters and flower boxes that complement the 15th-century buildings. Take in the beautiful architecture of churches and castles, get up close and personal with historic sculptures, and walk through the ruins of Puerta de Santa María.

The Marina District revolves around Calle San Pedro. Here you will find bright-colored fishermen’s houses, a large fountain, and Pintxo galore. 

Overflowing with Pintxo cafes, you can spend the day hopping from one location to the next enjoying different varieties of these delicious bite-sized snacks. Plan your visit on a Thursday to get the most bang for your buck during Pintxo Pote, where cafes sell their pintxo for only 2 euros and stalls line the plazas for easier access to the different options.  

If you manage to save room for dinner after indulging in a day’s worth of pintxo, Batzokia Jatetxea is an absolute must. This restaurant is as authentic as it gets – so pull out your Google Translate (English to Basque) or pick a dish at random. 

No matter what you get you will not be disappointed, and every meal comes with a bottle of wine

2. Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park

Established  as a natural park in 2006, Aizkorri-Aratz is the second largest park and home to the highest peak in Baque Country. 

Peak Aituxri stands tall at 5,089 feet, and it’s rumored that Mari, the goddess of the Basques, can still be found around the summit. Aside from the park’s massive mountain range, it boasts a diverse collection of geological features from its limestone ridges to its vast beech woods. 

Explore the unique rock formations in Arrikrutz Cave, or take a stroll through the Iturrigorri Beech Forest. Turn back time as you venture through ancient coves, Roman roads, shepherds’ huts, and historic dolmens. 

Keep your eyes out for wildlife including the largest griffon vulture colony in Gipuzkoa and the popular Latxa sheep.  

3. Pasajes

Seafood lovers have to plan a trip to the small fishing village of Pasajes to try some of the freshest seafood you can find in Basque Country.

There is a bus from San Sebastian that can take you to and from Pasajes, but for a different experience you can get there by foot. The hike is about 2 hours long with stunning coastal views the entire way.

No matter where you decide to eat, you’ll enjoy a lovely seafood meal. However, if you are looking for a recommendation, Casa Cámara is the best of the best. The restaurant has been run by the same family since 1884, the view of the bay is splendid, and the monkfish is to die for.  

During the 16th century, the town was one of the most important ports for whalers and some of the grandest whale ships were built here.

If you want to learn more about the history of the village, visit the Albaola Museum where you can see a replica of the whale ships built here, as well as their building process. 

4. Monte Igueldo

For a one of a kind experience, head down to Plaza del Funicular and take the railway up to the top of  Monte Igueldo. The railway is one of the oldest railways still functioning in all of Spain, with its first ride being in 1912. 

You can get up the mountain by car or opt for a rustic cart ride to get the full experience. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the panoramic views overlooking La Concha Bay

Once you arrive at the top you will enter an amusement park that dates back to the early 20th century. There are twenty different attractions to choose from, each still sporting the same design from their original build. The most popular attraction is the ancient roller coaster; although there aren’t large drops, the creaky wooden carts are sure to give you a good scare. There are also trampolines, a labyrinth, an Italian carousel, a few game stalls and so much more. 

After a day of excitement, stop for dinner at El Torreón and sit on the terrace for breathtaking views of San Sebastian, the Gipuzkoan Coast, and the Cantabrian Sea.

5. Zarautz 

If you’re looking for a relaxing day on the beach, Zarautz is the place to be. Queen Isabella II of Spain chose Zarautz for her summer vacation back in the 19th century, and the town has grown in popularity ever since.  With a beach that is nearly 2 miles long, it is no surprise that it has been nicknamed “The Queen of Beaches”. 

With that being said, as lovely as the beach is, it does get pretty crowded in the summertime. The western end of the beach is packed with families, the middle is popular amongst surfers, and the eastern end is the perfect place to go “au naturel”. 

Take a stroll along the walkway lined with unique sculptures and swings for the kids. 

6. St Jean de Luz

With France so near, you can easily take a trip over for the day. What better place to get a glimpse of French lifestyle than at St Jean de Luz? This seaside town may be small, but there are tons of things to do to keep you entertained for weeks. 

Take to the walkway to admire the coast and the adorable homes that line the beach. The two most exquisite buildings along the walkway are the Grand Hôtel and Casino La Pergola.

Go on a shopping spree at Rue Gambetta where you can hop between a variety of clothing boutiques and shops selling iconic French chocolate. 

Don’t miss the chance to see the Church of St. John Baptist. An important symbol of Basque culture, the church is stunning inside and out with impressive wood carvings.

7. Bilbao

No two visits to Bilbao will ever be the same with its constant rotation of events and different activities to explore. 

Guggenheim Museum houses a massive collection of European modern art, but the beauty doesn’t stop there. The building itself is a piece of artwork – and you’ll know it once you see it. 

Take in some of the local culture at the Arriaga Theatre, which was built and furnished in the 19th century.

The El Ensanche Neighbourhood, locally known as the Gran Via, is an amazing place to go shopping – with scenic views every step of the way.

Do as the locals do and partake in an evening of Txikitear.  This consists of bar hopping and enjoying a small glass of wine and pintxos at each place. Make sure to wear your eating pants!

One of the biggest festivals in Bilbao is The Aste Nagusia – the nine days of fun starts with a rocket launch. 

8. La Rioja

La Rioja is known as the biggest and best wine producer in all of Spain, so get ready to sample some of the best wines the country has to offer at one of the 567 wineries available.

But wine isn’t the region’s only specialty; pair your glass of red with a delicious tapa. Each restaurant specializes in a different type of tapa so be sure to check out a few of the menus.

Logroño, La Rioja’s capital, is often overlooked – which means you will have a city free of tourists and full of historic bridges, churches, and museums to enjoy. 

9. The Idiazábal Cheese Trail

This walking trail may take six days to complete, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spend a day checking out a few of its stages. 

Located in Goierri, the tour is based around the county’s famous Idiazábal, a raw-milk sheep cheese. No matter which part of the trail you start on, you’ll be greeted by locals with freshly made sheep cheese paired with their favorite white wine.

The best part, is that every village makes their cheese differently. Some opt for a smoky flavor where others incorporate something sweeter. No two cheeses will ever taste exactly the same. 

10. Lekeitio

Located on the Bay of Biscay, the waterfront village of Lekeitio is a sight to be seen. 

The Basilica of the Asunción de Santa María is a gothic church that stands out amongst the seaside vibes of the town. 

Keep an eye on the water – when you notice the tide is low, you can walk across the sandbar to San Nicolas Island. It’s an easy climb to the top, with rewarding views – but be sure to get back to the mainland before the tide comes in. 

11. Biarritz

For a day of sunbathing on the sandy shores of France, head over to one of the country’s best beach destinations, Biarritz. 

Once visited each summer by the Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III, the town still holds a sense of royalty amongst its pristine beaches, stunning architecture , and well acclaimed restaurants. 

The Grande Plage is the most popular of the beaches with its wide, sandy shore and adorable striped cabanas. Plage du Miramar is a close second. 

To this day you can spend the night at the luxurious Hôtel du Palais, originally built by the emperor for his wife. Enjoy its spacious rooms, two swimming pools, spa, and the elegant restaurant overlooking the water. 

12. Guernica

Widely known as the location for one of the worst bombings in Spanish History, many attractions here revolve around this gruseome event. 

The Alegría Palace is one of the very few buildings that survived the bombing, and now houses the Euskal Herria Museum where you can learn about Basque’s rich history.  

As a result of the unfortunate events that took place in Guernica, the town built the Peace Museum to help its people turn away from the darkness and strive for world peace. Pablo Picasso’s famous painting Guernica, depicts the town’s ghastly past and can be found in the center of town. 

The Monday Market is really important to locals, as the bombing occurred during one of these events. Instead of letting this ruin their traditions, they came back and made it better than ever. 

Enjoy a day of shopping at the local stands and feel the freedom and joy of the Basque people.

13. The Painted Forest of Oma

Located within the Basque biosphere reserve, The Painted Forest of Oma is about a 4-mile round trip. The artwork was created by Agustin Ibarrola in the early 1980s as a way to reflect the relationship between man and nature. 

The painted trees do just that with their vibrant displays of colors and figures that change based on your perspective. Make sure to take your time looking at the artwork from all different angles and watch how the shapes change to truly understand all the forest has to offer. 

14. Pamplona

There is something for everyone in Pamplona with a large variety of attractions, but the city is mostly known for its bull running. Every July, people from near and far come to watch the iconic bull running of the lively San Fermín festival.

Everyone in town is dressed in white or red and watches the event from balconies. Once the bull running is done, they gather in the streets and celebrate through the night.

If bull running isn’t your thing or you won’t be in town during the second week of July, there are still tons of things you can do here. Walk around the plaza, visit the Museo Universidad de Navarra, admire the city walls, and hangout at the riverside park. 

15. Bayonne

Head over to France where you can take in the sights, eat some chocolate, and hop between districts in the city of Bayonne. 

Bayonne Cathedral, the shrine to St. Léon, is a stunning collaboration of architecture and a must-see during any visit into the city. If you fall in love with the design of the Cathedral, head over to its Cloister to see even more of the stunning style. 

The district of Grand Bayonne is the perfect place to spend some time shopping at the local boutiques. For a more lively setting, head over to the district of Petit Bayonne and stop at some of the vibrant bars. 

Whatever you choose to do, don’t forget to visit L’Atelier du Chocola for a chocolate tasting you’ll be talking about for years to come.