Visit San Sebastian With Kids: Best Things To Do

As we drove along the Pyrenees, through Southern France and Northern Spain, we were excited to visit San Sebastián, Spain.  The number one reason most people visit San Sebastián, in Spain’s Basque region, is to sample the fantastic cuisine. Probably not when visiting San Sebastian with kids, however. With kids, it’s all about activities and the beach.

We’d heard and read so much about San Sebastian as a family-friendly city. We were dying to see the incredible art, architecture, and of course, taste the delicious small plates at pintxos bars. We were excited to see if we liked Barcelona’s tapas or Basque pintos better.

I promise that San Sebastián was one of those cities that matched up to ALL of the hype and anticipation. It was a true highlight of our journey from Lourdes to Bilbao.

Here are our favorite things to do when you visit San Sebastian with kids

1. Explore San Sebastián’s Old Town

old town san sebastian

Old Town is the most visited part of San Sebastián. It’s located at the base of Mount Urgull and surrounded by the Bahía de la Concha and Urumea River. Old Town preserves the traditional and historical vibe of San Sebastián perfectly with beautiful cobbled streets. Old Town is filled with many many monuments and churches, and at every corner you’ll find traditional pintxos bars.

San Sebastian Plaza de la Constitution
Plaza de la Constitution

Constitution Square is located in the heart of the neighborhood and you can’t miss the colorful facades. Constitution Square was originally a bullring, and to keep part of its history, the numbers on each balcony remain today.

2. Church of San Vicente

Church of San Vicente

The Church of San Vicente was built in the sixteenth century and claims to be the oldest temple of any sort in San Sebastián. Architecturally, its an example of Basque Gothic style, with its imposing facade and intricately designed interior. The church’s interior houses a remarkable altarpiece, considered a masterpiece of Basque sculpture, dedicated to Saint Vincent Martyr. People who are baptized in this church are called “koxkeros” which refers to the “koxkas” – the carved stone sculptures with adorn the exterior walls of the church.

3. Pintxos Bars

Pintxos bars offer hundreds of options of small portions of food, to sample some of the delicious basque cuisine. (Pinxtos is pronounced like “peen-chos“). Most pinxtos bars have the food on top of the bar where you grab a plate and help yourself.

Every pintxos bar is an adventure i san sebastian spain

The idea is to have a drink (usually a glass of house red wine) and a small bite in a few different bars.

Most locals would never go into one bar, load up a plate with many pintxos, and sit and have a couple of drinks. Part of the fun is wandering from bar to bar to see what delights they are serving. Pinxtos in San Sebastian are oriented towards seafood, which makes sense. There are fish, shrimp, crabs, and shellfish, all assembled meticulously so their presentation is as impressive as their taste.

4. Saint Mary’s Basilica, San Sebastian

This beautiful church is located at the North end of the Old Town. You can’t help but find it while working through a pintxos lunch or dinner.

Saint Mary's church in san sebastian

It’s not easily spotted from a distance since the buildings are tall, but once you turn a winding corner and see the beautiful facade facing you, it looks like something from a magical fairytale. This church was built in the 18th century and is dedicated to St. Sebastian, who proudly stands on the facade watching down over his people.

5. Bahia de La Concha

San Sebastián beach is simply stunning, and some say it’s the best city beach in all of Spain.  It’s big, but small at the same time. It’s always calm as it’s located in an almost fully enclosed bay, so no surfing here.

Bahia de La Concha

The broad, crescent-shaped beach in san sebastian spain

The promenade is lined with tamariz trees, and we walked the whole crescent shape. Santa Clara Island sits in the middle of the bay, and we sat on the beach and watched people swim to the island and back. The fine white sand is so clean, and it’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy your surroundings.

6. Fantastic Artwork

San Sebastian (or Donostia as it’s known in Basque) is full of culture, history, and art. Here are some of the best artworks and places to see art.

The Comb of the Wind (Peine del Viento): This iconic sculpture set by Eduardo Chillida is one of San Sebastian’s most famous artworks, located at the entrance to the bay of La Concha. It consists of three massive steel sculptures, anchored to the rocks, with each one weighing about 10 tonnes! The three pieces visually align with each other and interact with the sea and wind to create a dramatic natural spectacle.

Artwork everywhere in san sebastian

There’s fantastic artwork all over San Sebastián. We particularly loved the group of sculptures by Eduardo Chillida.

The Murals of the San Telmo Museum: The museum itself is story of Basque history and art and the murals by José María Sert in one of its chapels are particularly noteworthy. These dramatic, baroque-style murals depict various historical and mythological scenes.

Alfonso VIII Street Mural. This impressive work of street art illustrates scenes from the city’s history and culture, adding vibrant color and life to the street. It’s a modern expression of San Sebastian’s culture and vibe.

The Fountain of the Earth (Fuente de la Tierra) at Plaza Gipuzkoa is a beautiful example of urban art and design, this fountain is surrounded by meticulously landscaped gardens and features detailed sculptures that represent the earth and its abundance.

7. Monte Urgull, San Sebastian

Three mountains surround San Sebastián, and offer incredible panoramic views of the city.

Monte Urgull

View from Monte Urgull

We climbed the steep hill to Monte Urgull to check out the majestic views, and see the large statue of Jesus up close and personal. It reminded us of climbing up to see Christ the Redeemer in Brazil. At the top, in addition to fantastic views, there’s a small historical museum sharing the history of San Sebastián. This used to be a Spanish fort, and it would certainly be hard to defeat due to the hill’s incline and it’s incredible 306 degree view of the ocean, bay and city.

8. Monte Igueldo

On the opposite side of the bay from Monte Urgull is Monte Igueldo. We were intrigued by the large fort on top of Monte Igueldo and decided we were up for the loooooong hike to check it out.

san sebastian spain with kids - vsit San Sebastian Spain Monte Urgull

Visit San Sebastian Spain to see the incredible sights

There’s a century-old funicular railway to take you to the top of this mountain, OR, you can grab your water and walk. We chose to walk. We adventured up the steep, winding road, past the most beautiful homes with bay views until we reached the top. There’s no sidewalk, but there’s very little traffic. At the top, there’s a fort, a hotel, and an old school carnival where we ate the most delicious churros.

San Sebastian With Kids: Hidden Gems & Insider Secrets

What’s the best time to visit San Sebastian with kids?

Spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) are perfect. The weather’s nice, and it’s not too crowded, making it easier to explore. San Sebastian is a popular holiday spot for Spaniards, and it’s incredibly crowded in the summer and accommodations are much more expensive.

Can we easily get around San Sebastian with a stroller?

Absolutely! San Sebastian is quite walkable, and many areas, especially around the beaches and the old town, are accessible with strollers.

Are there beaches suitable for kids in San Sebastian?

Yes, the Concha Beach is perfect for families. The water is calm, and there’s plenty of sand for castle building. Ondarreta Beach is also great for kids, with playgrounds nearby.

What’s a good way to learn about San Sebastian’s history?

Visit the San Telmo Museum. It has interactive exhibits that are perfect for kids, and art from local artists for adults.

What’s an insider secret in San Sebastian?

On the top of Monte Igueldo there is an amusement park. It’s not in every guidebook so it’s not very busy. If you’re a visitor, you need to pay a toll to even access the park.

What are three off-the-beaten-path places to see in San Sebastian?

  • Igeldo Tower: Besides the amusement park, the tower offers breathtaking views of San Sebastian.
  • Miramar Palace Gardens: A peaceful spot with lovely gardens, a playground, and great sea views.
  • The Sculptures at Peine del Viento: These are a bit more well-known but still a magical place to explore, where art meets nature at the edge of the sea.

What’s the best way to get around San Sebastian with kids?

San Sebastian is very walkable, especially the Old Town and beachfront areas. For longer distances, the city has an efficient public bus system and taxis are also readily available and can be a convenient option. We had a rental car, but there’s no reason to drive in the city.

What local festivals can we experience in San Sebastian?

Semana Grande (Aste Nagusia) is a week-long festival in August that features fireworks, concerts, and street performances. It’s very family-friendly.

San Sebastian Day (January 20th) The city comes alive with music, as locals dress as cooks and soldiers to parade through the streets. It’s a unique cultural experience.

Visit San Sebastian Spain: eat churros

The Neighborhoods of San Sebastian

Deciding where to stay in San Sebastian? That depends on what you’re looking for in your visit, but each area offers its unique charm and conveniences. For families and first-time visitors, staying near the Parte Vieja (Old Town) or near the beaches like La Concha or Ondarreta are great choices.

 

Parte Vieja (San Sebastian Old Town)

The heart of San Sebastian, brimming with culture, and pintxos bars. Staying here means you’re within walking distance of major attractions, including the beach. It’s great for those who love to explore city life, but it’s loud, so you should be prepared to be close to restaurants and nightlife. This area isn’t recommended for families with kids.

Centro (San Sebastian City Centre)

The area around La Concha Beach offers more spacious accommodations, some with stunning bay views. This area also provides easy access to the Old Town. It’s ideal if you’re looking for a blend of beach relaxation and city exploration. There are plenty of shops and cafes around.

Gros

For a more local vibe, consider staying in Gros. It’s less crowded than the Old Town, offers its own array of excellent pintxos bars, and has the Zurriola Beach, which is an ocean beach rather than bay-side beach. You can surf here when the waves cooperate. Gros is a great choice for families or visitors interested in a slightly quieter area but still keen on enjoying San Sebastian’s vibrant culture.

Antiguo

Antiguo s Perfect for families, Antiguo is at the other end of La Concha Bay and offers a more residential atmosphere with easy beach access, parks, and the Monte Igueldo amusement park nearby. It’s well-connected to the rest of the city by public transport, making it a comfortable base for exploring.

Have you been to visit San Sebastian Spain?

Let me know in the comments below and join me on Instagram and X (Twitter)!

About The Author

Samantha

I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

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