One of the best parts of exploring a new city is getting off the beaten path and seeing things from a local point of view.
Not that the major tourist attractions in San Sebastian aren’t worth seeing. After all, they’re popular for a reason! However, getting off the beaten path in San Sebastian can be just as exciting as visiting the major sights. Here are our favorite hidden gems in this lovely Basque city so you can get a different perspective on local life and discover something new.
Pintxos crawl through the Amara neighborhood instead of the Old Town
Many visitors to San Sebastian don’t even explore the city beyond its most popular barrio. While the Old Town certainly has its charms, there are other neighborhoods in San Sebastian that deserve a visit as well. One of our favorites is the Amara neighborhood just south of the city center. This comfortable, modern district doesn’t have a lot of sights, but it makes up in local color what it lacks in tourist attractions.
Not only is Amara a great place to find inexpensive accommodations, it’s also home to some of the best lesser-known food in the city. Take a pintxos crawl through its historic bars and restaurants and you’ll feel like a true local almost immediately. This is a great way to get off the beaten path in San Sebastian if you’re craving a unique gastronomic experience in one of Europe’s best cities for foodies.
Catch some waves at Zurriola Beach instead of La Concha
Don’t get us wrong, we love San Sebastian’s iconic La Concha Beach just as much as the next person. Its status as one of Europe’s most beautiful city beaches is well-deserved. However, it’s not the only beach in San Sebastian! It is the only beach many tourists visit, though, which means it can get quite crowded as the day goes on.
If you’re looking to get off the beaten path in San Sebastian, head a bit further east instead to Zurriola Beach. This lesser-known beach just north of the Gros neighborhood has a more laid-back and younger vibe than La Concha. Its great waves make it especially popular with surfers, but you don’t have to grab a board if you don’t want to. Join a pickup volleyball game, go for a jog or simply relax and work on your tan.
Hike Monte Ulía instead of Monte Urgull
Just east of Zurriola Beach, you’ll find Monte Ulía towering over the city. This staggering mountain occupies more than 310,000 square meters of green space within the city limits of San Sebastian! However, many visitors and locals alike trek up Monte Urgull instead, most likely due to its proximity to the city center.
Despite its intimidating size, Monte Ulía is actually quite a nice hike, even for beginners. It also has a unique place in San Sebastian’s history. Ancient occupants of the city originally used it as a whale-watching lookout, while later it was used as a military structure. Remains of its former functions line the mountain’s many paths. Look out for these and be sure to check out the unusual views of the city, too!
Experience art at Tabakalera instead of Kursaal
San Sebastian’s world famous Kursaal conference center and auditorium plays host to some of the biggest names to ever grace the stage. It is locally renowned for good reason, and if you have the chance to catch a show there while you’re in town, go for it! However, San Sebastian’s art scene is growing on a local level at a former tobacco factory in Gros known as Tabakalera.
A visit to Tabakalera is a great way to get off the beaten path in San Sebastian by supporting local artists and their work. The historic building now houses independent film screenings, art exhibitions, creative workshops and more. Stop by and spend a few hours exploring this unique creative space and get inspired.
Address: Andre Zigarrogileak Plaza, 1
Shop like a local at Mercado Itinerante de Productores instead of La Bretxa or San Martín
We’re big fans of San Sebastian’s two famous markets, but their popularity among locals and visitors alike means that they can get quite crowded. If you’re in town on a Saturday, check out the Mercado Itinerante de Productores. Here, you’ll find smaller, family-run producers from the region selling their fresh, high-quality products at fair prices. The open-air market is also a great place to find artisanal craft items in addition to fresh food. It sets up shop in a different location depending on the week, so be sure to check the schedule on their website to find out where to go.