Monte Urgull is a medium-sized hill on the western end of San Sebastian. It helps to create the beautiful landscape surrounding this famous and charming town in the Basque country. It’s 123 metres high and it offers one of the most stunning views of the town, the surrounding sandy beaches and the turquoise waters of Viscay Bay. The panoramic views alone could justify climbing up Monte Urgull but believe me, there are many other things to see and do.
Monte Urgull was the first activity I decided to undertake on my solo travel to San Sebastian, and it also turned out to be one of my favourites. I spent around five hours walking around this beautiful hill, enjoying every single breath-taking view it offers. Monte Urgull is a must-see in San Sebastian. You can’t truly get to know it without looking down from above at its glory!
How to Get Up Urgull Hill
There are a few different paths to take on a hike up Mount Urgull. I personally found and took 4 different routes (no, I didn’t have to, I was just drunk on the incredible views!)
One way is to start from the San Telmo museum. On the right side of the building you can find a set of steps leading towards a bushy pathway up the hill.
The second way is to follow the steps which are slightly hidden behind the left side of the Basilica of Koruko Andre Mariaren.
If you prefer starting from the north side of the hill, get around to the well-known Aquarium situated at the end of the port.
The fourth route I found is near the parking area at Paseo Neuvo Balcón. To give you an idea of just where everything is, I have highlighted all these entrance and exit points in the map above.
7 Reasons to Visit Monte Urgull & What to Do on Top of the Hill
1. It’s Perfect for a Lovely Hike
Monte Urgull is definitely not an incredibly large hill but it still gives you so many tiny pathways you can wander through! There are 12 different stations in total along with hundreds of viewpoints – if I don’t count just the ‘official’ ones.
Climbing up this iconic hill of San Sebastian is a lovely hike and it’s up to you how much time you spend over there. You can easily climb to the top of Monte Urgull in 15 minutes and go straight back down again if you’re in a rush. Otherwise you can explore the hill’s beautiful contours and hang around for hours and hours!
2. You Get Gorgeous Views Wherever You Look
This is definitely the main reason to climb up Urgull Hill – the astonishing views. Mount Urgull is liberally studded with hundreds of visible, less visible and totally secret viewpoints. The eastern side of the hill offers you a panoramic view of the Urumea river, the Zurriola beach and the eastern part of the city.
The western side of Urgull is on the other hand completely devoted to the flourishing La Concha bay, Santa Klara island and the Mount of Igueldo. The view surrounds you no matter where you go and it’s so stunning it is hard to describe in words.
3. All the History of San Sebastian is Soaked in Urgull
Mont Urgull was a very important defence point from the early years of the 12th century. To highlight the historical importance of the hill, a museum about San Sebastian was built directly there, on the top of Mount Urgull. You will find it on the ground floor of Castillo de la Mota, a monumental castle built in the 12th century.
The museum is called Urgulleko Historiaren Etxea and the good news is that entrance is free. You will find two floors of exhibitions there which open the door to the rich history of one of the most fascinating cultures in the world – the culture of the Basque people.
4. Get the Mysterious Buzz at the Castillo de la Mota
Castle of Mota, (in Basque language Motako Gazteula), is the final destination for most of Monte Urgull’s hikers. It’s situated right on the top of the hill with the historical museum at the bottom and the imposing statue of Jesus Christ towering from the roof of the castle.
This castle has lots of walls and steps where you can sit down to give yourself a break while taking in the never-ending views of the lovely city of San Sebastian. It’s an unbelievably calm place with a mysterious charm all its own.
5. Snap the Statue of Jesus Christ
It’s not just in Rio that you will find a statue of Christ, as San Sebastian has its own version too! Alright, it’s not a 30-metre tall giant but it’s still quite big enough to grab the attention! Estatua del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús is 12.5 metres in height and adorns the very top of the Castillo de la Mota. The statue was built in 1950, and guess what? It’s beautifully photogenic!
6. Get Yourself Some Privacy
As with all popular touristic places, San Sebastian can be overcrowded at times. One of the places where you can go to hide from the hustle-and-bustle is on Monte Urgull. As I mentioned before it has so many small pathways and routes that even on a busy day you can find yourself a tiny piece of land to call your own. It will be just you… and those amazing views, of course.
7. Take a Picnic in The Park
There is also a lovely park up there! Even though it’s pretty humble, it calls you for a little siesta and maybe a picnic to refresh yourself. It’s at the third stop of Monte Urgull and the name of this area is Santiago Bateria. Apart from the lawn and the pretty trees which give you some lovely shade, this is one of the most popular viewpoints on the hill.
If you run out of water or need some booze to get your energy back walk down to a bar called Polboriña. I was totally surprised by the rich selection of craft beers available here – including some tasty local ones. Apart from some cold gold in a bottle you can enlighten yourself by watching another bunch of marvellous views. I told you, the views are everywhere, you just can’t escape them!
That’s it, my solo travel folks! Don’t even think about traveling to San Sebastian without stopping at Urgull hill. Not going there is one of the Seven Deadly Basque Travel Sins, believe me.
There should be a bus connection going up the hill as well. Although, why would you spoil your healthy little hike with a sweaty bus polluting the surrounding nature? And don’t you worry, you can’t get lost up there, even if you’re going solo. It’s easy peasy: Enjoy!