Centre - Old town
Gastronomy and shopping in the heart of the city
Tradition and modernity are brought together in one of the most special areas of the city. Stroll through the fishing port and lose yourself in the streets of the Historical Quarter where the smell of pintxos emanates from every corner. Cross the Boulevard and leap through time to land in the centre of Donostia, and visit its pedestrian streets and spend a few hours shopping in its lovely shops and boutiques.
Wander around the streets of the Historical Quarter, climb to the top of Monte Urgull and visit the most iconic buildings of the centre of San Sebastián
Map and places of interest
- 1. Plaza de la Constitución
- 2. San Vicente Church
- 3. San Telmo Museum
- 4. Monte Urgull
- 5. Paseo Nuevo and Oteiza's ‘Construcción Vacía’
- 6. Aquarium
- 7. Fishing Port
- 8. Santa María Church
- 9. Boulevard Avenue
- 10. Plaza de Gipuzkoa
- 11. Victoria Eugenia Theatre
- 12. Maria Cristina Hotel
- 13. Buen Pastor Cathedral
- 14. Shopping Area
- 15. Town Hall and Alderdi Eder Gardens
- 16. Royal Nautical Club
The historical quarter, Urgull and The Paseo Nuevo walkway
The Historical Quarter is located at the foot of Monte Urgull, between the port and the Urumea, river, on one side of the bay. Immersing yourself in its pedestrian streets will allow you to discover the true social centre of Donostia. The Historical Quarter’s cobbled streets, such as the 31 de Agosto, which commemorates the fire on that day in 1813, are filled with bars where you can enjoy the best pintxos in the city. The Santa María del Coro Basilica and the San Vicente Church are both fascinating and beautiful buildings.
The Plaza de la Constitución, square, one of the most famous in the city, is also located in this area of San Sebastián. This busy square bustles with life and acts as the main setting for important local fiestas such as the famous Tamborrada.
The Plaza de la Constitución, in the centre of the Historical Quarter, is one of the most iconic places in the city.
On leaving the Historical Quarter at the end that leads out to the sea, you will discover one of the most deeply-held Basque traditions: the port and the life that unfolds in the dock. The port area is filled with moored boats waiting to set sail and is surrounded by fishing cottages, and it features seafood restaurants offering a true taste of the sea. The Port of Donostia has always retained its unique spirit and is the perfect place to get a feel for the roots of the Donostian people. And if you would like to discover more about Donostians’ relationship with the sea throughout the centuries, visit the Maritime Museum and the Aquarium.
Another square that cannot be left off your visit is Plaza Zuloaga. Here, you will find the San Telmo Museum, where you can journey through Basque history and take a look at some of its exhibitions. A 16th century building that was expanded in 2011 with an avant-garde extension, it remains perfectly integrated into the slopes of Monte Urgull. And indeed, from this location you can access that famous hill - one of the lungs of the city - and follow a route that will lead you to discover different scenic lookout spots, pass by the English Cemetery and arrive at the impressive Castillo de la Mota fortress at the feet of the Sagrado Corazón monument.
The terrace by the Nautical Club and the port is the perfect place to sit and enjoy the sunset over La Concha Bay
Centre and romantic area
Surrounding the Historical Quarter and providing access to the rest of the city, we have the Boulevard
This is a meeting point for both young and old, and the true nerve centre of the city. Nearly all of the city bus lines stop here..
The centre of San Sebastián is surrounded by what is often referred to as the “romantic area” of the city. The building that houses Donostia Town Hall, watches over this area: this is a former city casino which was built in 1887 in the style of the casinos that proliferated on the French Côte d'Azur. And at its feet, we have the Alderdi Eder, gardens, decorated with an elegant old-fashioned carousel. If you have children, this is a stop that cannot be missed.
San Sebastián Town Hall with the Alderdi Eder gardens at its base
And don't forget to stroll through the wide leafy streets of the romantic area: you will be struck by the beauty of some of its buildings and entryways. Next to the Urumea River, enjoy the beauty of Belle Époque buildings such as the Victoria Eugenia Theatre and the Hotel María Cristina. And if you continue to walk through the pedestrian streets, you can sit down and rest at the Plaza Gipuzkoa square, a small oasis of peace and calm in the city centre. Children will love the beauty of the swans and fish that live in its pond.
But keep walking, because one of the jewels of Donostia is still ahead of you: the Buen Pastor Cathedral. Built in the Neo-Gothic style, this is a homage to the great medieval cathedrals of Europe. Its 75-metre spire remains the highest construction in San Sebastián to this present day.
The Buen Pastor Cathedral is located right by one of the most important shopping areas in the city centre
Shopping in the city centre
In addition to hosting some of the city's most iconic places within its web of streets, the “romantic area” is known to be the shopping epicentre of Donostia. Places such as the San Martín Market, today converted into a shopping centre, and Urbieta, Fuenterrabia and Getaria streets are all filled with small boutiques to suit all styles, as well as shops selling the most widely recognised international brands.
And remember to visit the traditional La Bretxa Market, located right on the Boulevard, which houses a shopping centre and a traditional market with some of the most highly-renowned stalls for typical San Sebastián produce. It's not unusual to bump into some of the most famous chefs in the city while shopping, because they visit this market on an almost daily basis.
Every morning, the stalls at La Bretxa Market fill up with typical produce from Euskadi
The world of pintxos and traditional basque cuisine
The pintxo is a true hallmark of Donostian cuisine. You will find selections of pintxos at almost every bar in the city, although the concentration is even higher in the Historical Quarter, which is filled with bars and restaurants that make these small treats into a real banquet. In both the historical area and the rest of the neighbourhoods in the city, you can make the most of going from bar to bar, from pintxo to pintxo, experiencing the city like a true txikitero donostiarra.
In addition to this, both the centre and the Historical Quarter host some of the best-known and most historical restaurants in the city. Enjoy Basque cuisine in a traditional environment and setting, or dare to try avant-garde locations with innovative dishes.
In the restaurants in the port area, you can sample a delicious grilled fish or seafood dish
Any bar in the centre and the Historical Quarter will offer this amazing array
And don't forget to try one of San Sebastián's famous ice creams. Visit any of its ice cream shops, choose between the endless array of flavours and enjoy this delicious treat: you will be taking part in one of Donostia’s most vibrant traditions.
Bars and nightlife
The nightlife in Donostia is intense, so go out and have a good time!
The Historical Quarter is one of the liveliest nightlife areas in the city. At night, pintxo bars turn into atmospheric places where both younger and older people can enjoy a variety of different music styles.
And when the bars shut, you will find the best-known clubs in the city in the surrounding areas, where you can have fun, laugh, and dance until you drop.
Sleeping in the heart of the city
The Historical Quarter and the romantic area of the city are both places of many contrasts. You can stay in a five-star hotel such as the Hotel María Cristina or in one of the many hostales and pensiones that you will find in the Historical Quarter.
Of course, there is also a wide range of accommodation options that fall somewhere in the middle. Two, three and four-star hotels provide quality and enable you to stay in the centre of the city.
How to get there
There are many ways of reaching the Historical Quarter of Donostia. If you are coming from one of the cities in the surrounding area, you can travel by bus, train or Euskotren. The Euskotren stop will leave you in Amara, which is very close to the shopping area. Both the bus and the train (you can get off at the Estación de Norte) will leave you close to the centre of the city. Just cross a bridge, and you will find yourself in the romantic area.
If you stay in any of the neighbourhoods of the city, it is very easy to move around, either walking, by bicycle or by bus, because both the Boulevard and the Plaza Gipuzkoa square are served by the majority of bus lines. It’s less advisable to drive a car into the city at night because of the traffic and parking availability issues, but if you do come by car, the best option is to park in the underground car parks in the Historical Quarter or the city centre: the Boulevard, La Concha, San Martín or Buen Pastor car parks.
And for getting around within the area? There's nothing better than walking. The pedestrian streets and broad avenues mean that wandering through the centre of San Sebastián and the Historical Quarter is a real pleasure that cannot be missed. Elkano Street is one of the pedestrian streets in the city centre.
Elkano Street is one of the pedestrian streets in the city centre