The atmospheric San Sebastian, (known as ‘Donostia’ in Basque language), is a perfect place for solo travellers! Stunning scenery, a charismatic old town, beautiful beaches, plenty of walking areas and awesomely delicious food! Read about my solo travel to San Sebastian and get inspired for your own solo trip.
Don’t hesitate to visit this gem of the Basque country alone and get on the road right now. Read on to discover just how much I enjoyed the intense 72 hours in San Sebastian and get inspired for your own solo trip.
THE CONTENT HIGHLIGHTS:
- How to Get To San Sebastian from Bilbao
- Can I Get Lost in San Sebastian?
- Breakfast in San Sebastian
- La Concha Beach
- Urgull Hill
- Rain & Great Pintxos in San Sebastian
- Ondaretta Beach
- Funcilar & Monte Igueldo
- Piene del Viento
This is an ultimate solo travel San Sebastian guide! Believe me, I have planned to go to this Basque heaven for almost four years; that’s quite a lot of time to get prepared!
SOLO IN SAN SEBASTIAN, DAY 1
It is probably a better idea to fly to the capital of Basque country, Bilbao, rather than to the smaller airport in San Sebastian as you will find more flight options to the former.
To get to Donostia / San Sebastian from Bilbao is pretty easy. There is a frequent bus which leaves the airport in Bilbao every hour at a quarter to. The bus stop is directly in front of the arrivals hall and you just need to buy your ticket from the machine inside.
The journey costs around 17 euros and takes 75 minutes. You can have a nap, but I really enjoyed taking in the great views from the bus. The north of Spain has stunning nature, everything is so green and bushy after arriving from the rain-starved south!
Tip to remember: You have more flights to/from Bilbao and there is an hourly bus from Bilbao Airport to San Sebastian.
One of the reasons I travel solo is as a way of working on my terrible navigation skills. These were put to the test as soon as I arrived at Donostia bus station, located on the eastern side of the river Urumea.
I had booked a room in the Pension Easo which is on the western side of the city, only about 11 minutes from the bus station, but that was quite enough for me to find myself going around in circles and getting farther and farther away from my destination.
Luckily, San Sebastian is not a huge city and it’s difficult to go too far off-course. So in the end I found the Pension, just later than I should have and despite some initial struggles!
Do You Struggle with Directions? Travel to San Sebastian!
If you have the same problem with map-reading and find yourself always getting lost, San Sebastian is a great place to go as you just can’t stay lost for long in this small city.
There are a few navigation points to look out for, namely: the river Urumea; the eastern beach Zurriola hondartza; the most popular beach La Kontxa (Concha), with the hill Urgull on the right and the very western beach Ondaretta with a hill called Mont Igueldo on the left. Easy peasy!
Tip to remember: Use the river, 3 beaches and hills to navigate. San Sebastian is easy to find your way around once you get your bearings.
ALONE IN SAN SEBASTIAN, DAY 2
I spent most of the first day travelling, so my real solo travel in San Sebastian started on the second day. It was a pretty intense 24 hours, I have to tell you!
I started my morning with looking for breakfast. I found it a bit hard to find a lovely morning snack place near my accommodation. Google maps kept showing me places in the old town, which wasn’t too far but I just wanted to go out, drink my morning coffee, eat some lovely pastry and get back to the pension to get ready!
There were a few cafeterias around but it took me a while to find out a really good brekkie place. Go to Café Irubi, when you stay around the area of Good Shepherd of San Sebastián Cathedral (Artzain Onaren Katedrala). It’s a small, cosy place with some fresh pastry, toast selection, lovely coffee and interesting books about the history of the Basque country. Yum Tum!
Tip to remember: Don’t trust Google maps when searching for breakfast here. It showed me restaurants which opened from 4pm. Just find a place on your own instead.
Toothpaste for 5 Euros, My Teeth Shine like Diamonds
Just before I started my lovely solo travel day in San Sebastian, I had to buy something I can’t live without. Or possibly I can live without it but it may cause me never-ending solitude. I needed to buy some tooth paste. As I struggled to find a drugstore or any bigger shopping mall nearby, I went to the closest pharmacy I could find.
The not-very-nice lady basically robbed me when she gave me a 50 ml tube of toothpaste for more than 5 euros. As a shy newcomer, not aware of prices in the Basque Country, I paid against my own will that ridiculous amount. Then I went back to the Pension to brush my teeth to see shiny diamonds in the mirrors. Thanks to this special toothpaste all the selfies I took later that day came out flawlessly!
Tip to remember: Don’t forget your tooth paste. San Sebastian is quite expensive!
When you read about San Sebastian, every second sentence is about La Concha. I was very curious to see this popular beach with my own eyes. I can tell you dear solo travellers, it was love at first sight. I really can’t describe it but when I arrived to the Kontxa promenade I literally got goosebumps. And they weren’t gone even after 15 minutes or so.
The beach is beautiful, long and wide, with wild waves drawing curls on the shore. The typical Donostia morning mist has its charm too. Then you have the Santa Klara Uhartea island there and a lovely view to the City Hall in the old town.
You can also see the port and the Urgull hill on your right and Monte Igueldo and Ondaretta beach on your left. You literally don’t know where to look first. It was just 10:00 in the morning when I started my walk around Bahia de La Concha and I already knew that this trip was gonna be a blast.
My solo travel San Sebastian trip I’d had in my mind for the last 4 years had got real, beautifully real! In that moment I was truly happy I finally managed to find some time, ask my boyfriend for permission (not really!) and head to the north.
Tip to remember: Take some tissues in case you burst into tears on seeing La Concha for the first time.
7 Hours of Walking
One of the reasons I can’t do some trips with my boyfriend or my friends is that I just love taking long walks. When I start walking and exploring I just can’t stop.
The same happened to me the very first time I encountered the charming city of San Sebastian. I really think you should do the same! A solo trip in San Sebastian without long walking hours is not worth it! There are so many picturesque views to see.
I walked around the Bahia de la Concha, went to the port which quite surprised me. Ports usually look the same and I generally don’t find them to be the most entertaining of places. However, the port in Donostia was pretty lovely.
When you go a bit further towards the Urgull hill, you can see a beautiful view of the city. There are also few restaurants in the port and the famous Aquarium.
After that I had a coffee and a snack at the market which is in the centre of the old town. I really recommend it. The market is small but very cute, with plenty of fresh Basque food and a couple of pintxo places. They also have very clean toilets! I bet that every female solo traveller will appreciate this information!
The old town of San Sebastian is pretty small, with usual Mediterranean narrow streets. There are many restaurants, bars, shops and also a few chronicles of history – churches, basilica and that kind of stuff…
Tip to remember: Walk a lot and explore even more. Chill in the chilled out port and visit the San Sebastian market.
After a walk in the old town I decided to climb the Urgull hill. It wasn’t on my to-do list as I had planned to take the funicular that day. But when I got an idea that the view from there has to be freaking cool, I just started hiking. With one small bottle of water, no food and a pack of cigarettes.
Here I have to give you some advice, dear solo travellers. Pack some snacks! Especially when you plan to spend around five hours climbing, hiking and walking around this stunning hill!
There are so many paths and trails to follow when on Urgull that I could write a separate article about it (and I will). After spending hours and hours on the hill and seeing hundreds of views and taking thousands of pictures, I consider myself as an Urgull specialist. How modest! Anyway, you have to go to Urgull!
Tip to remember: Spend as much time as you can walking up the Urgull. There are literally hundreds of breath-taking view points. Don’t forget snacks though!
One doesn’t have to be a genius to know what can happen when a female solo traveller spends 7 hours of walking and hiking, eating just 1 croissant and drinking half a litre of water. Yeah, the crazy exhaustion comes! Try to guess what’s the best snack to kill your hunger pangs? Pintxos!!!
I tried the first pintxos in a small restaurant called La Taverna de Blas: 4.2 stars on Google, 4 stars on Tripadvisor. It was yummy but nothing really special though.
The same day my friend, also a female solo traveller, recommended a lovely Pintxos place called SiriMiri located in the old town. This pintxeteria is just awesome! The food there was absolutely delicious and without doubt it was the best pintxos I had during my short but intense stay in Donostia.
After eating Pintxos, it started pouring rain and wouldn’t stop for the whole night. I sat in a quite alright-ish bar and then had a misty, rainy walk around Kontxa. It was stunning – you really need to see the Bay when on a rainy day to truly appreciate its natural beauty.
Tip to remember: Eat pintxos in SiriMiri and walk the Concha Bay on a rainy day!
SOLO TRAVEL IN SAN SEBASTIAN: DAY 3
Ondaretta, you’re so pretty!
Everybody who visits San Sebastian freaks out about La Concha! I freaked out too, but you know what? I think that my very favourite beach was actually Ondaretta. I found it cleaner, nicer, less crowded and more private.
There is also a lovely park, just at the beginning of Ondaretta, around the Consorcio Palacio Miramar. From there you have a gorgeous view of the old town and the famous La Concha bay.
Tip to remember: Don’t ignore Ondaretta, it deserves your attention.
Just a few minutes after Ondaretta beach there is a funicular station where you can buy tickets for the funicular which goes up Monte Igueldo. I bought a return ticket for 3 euros or so but at the end I just used the funicular on the way up.
I have to say that the funicular was a little crazy for me. It was packed with people, and seemed to be made from just a few pieces of wood which kept creaking all the time. I felt like it was just about to disintegrate at any moment!
The views from Monte Igueldo are another point of interest of any solo travel in San Sebastian. They were stunning! The only thing which is awful on this lovely hill are those (for me) disgusting attractions which were luckily closed. Yop, there is an amusement park: terror house, labyrinths and that kind of stuff. It really spoils the nature over there!
Hidden Views, Come to Mama!
The top of Monte Igueldo was a bit packed. In Urgull, it was more about relaxation and privacy, while Monte Igueldo had a few viewpoints with dozens of tourists on each of them.
Yes, the views were pretty impressive but the total awesomeness is a bit lower down the hill. I had a random idea to walk down, even though there was a closed ramp and I wasn’t completely sure if I was breaking some rule by going down there!
Actually, I don’t care! The walk was just amazing and the views were unbeatable! I got speechless and then within a second I was shouting aloud at how amazing it was. I still hope that nobody heard me…
Tip to remember: All solo travellers of San Sebastian, walk down Monte Igueldo, don’t ruin your day by taking the funicular.
I have to confess that I almost missed this cool sculpture located just below the Monte Igueldo. My friend texted me that day, saying I have to go and see it, so I went to check it out.
The Piene del Viento sculpture features massive pieces of rock with twisted iron constructions seeming to come out of the stone. It might sound a bit weird, but it’s pretty cool.
My day was almost over, and I didn’t have any energy left after moving a lot and eating nothing. I stopped at Nom Bar directly next to Piene del Viento to get some food. I got surprisingly pintxos and it was very tasty and also cheap. Go there, they have a nice terrace with an beautiful view.
Later on I chilled on the Ondaretta beach taking selfies (OMG) and after my self-love time I went to the old town to get even more Pintxos!
After walking myself to death I went back to my Pension and I found myself feeling really sad. The next morning I had to leave San Sebastian and travel to Bilbao.
Another piece of advice for your solo travel San Sebastian trip: 72 hours is not enough! Don’t be as silly as me and spend as much time as possible in this lovely city.
It’s a beautiful and atmospheric place, you can enjoy lovely food, charming city, astonishing views and nature!
That’s all solo folks! If you have any questions about solo travel in San Sebastian, write a comment below.