With stunning beaches, vibrant culture, and arguably the best food in Spain – San Sebastian is one of Spain's most cosmopolitan and culturally rich cities. Known as Donostia in the Basque Country (the region of Spain in which it's located), this thriving city has the second most Michelin stars per capita in the world and is considered Spain's go-to destination for fine dining and foodies.

But aside from its famous pintxos (more on those later), there are many attractive neighborhoods to explore in San Sebastian.

Accommodation guide san sebastian

Wondering where to stay in San Sebastian? I've got you covered with a guide to the best neighborhoods in San Sebastian and the coolest hotels and apartments in San Sebastian.

The Best Neighborhoods to Stay in San Sebastian

If you're wondering which barrio to spend your San Sebastian vacation in, wonder no more with my guide to the best places to stay in San Sebastian.

Old Town/Parte Vieja – If you're in the market for charming cobbled streets, cute independent stores, and historic buildings with hundreds of years of history behind them, you'll love San Sebastian's Old Town. The beating heart of the city, here you'll find many restaurants and bars as well as the incredibly popular San Telmo Museum.

Centro – Home to plenty of places to eat, drink, and shop, San Sebastian's center is between two of the city's most popular draws – the beach and the Old Town. Here you'll find tons of things to do to keep you busy during the day and evening.

Gros – Looking for a laid-back surfer hangout with excellent nightlife to boot? You'll love Gros, the city's hipster neighborhood with a thriving art scene and plenty of cool bars.

La Concha – La Concha Bay and the beach area is the place to stay in San Sebastian for beach lovers. Playa de La Concha is widely regarded as one of Spain's best city beaches (if not Europe's) and is clean, safe, and lively.

Antiguo & Ondarreta Beach – As hinted at by its name, Antiguo is the oldest neighborhood in the city, with a distinctively authentic feel that really lets you into San Sebastian's culture. Its trademark spot, Ondarreta Beach, is a less busy (but equally as pretty) alternative to La Concha.

Amara – Amara is undoubtedly the perfect destination for travelers wanting to get a taste of how locals live. While not as ideal for beach bums as other parts of the cities, it's full of hidden gems and San Sebastian residents with fascinating stories to tell.

1. Where to stay in San Sebastian for the first time & sightseeing: Old Town/Parte Vieja

San Sebastian's cultural highlight, its Old Town, is undoubtedly the best place in the city to visit for pintxos, tapas-like small bites that tend to be served on a small slice of toasted bread. With San Sebastian's prime coastal position, most of these pintxos are fish-based – ideal for seafood lovers.

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In the Old Town, you'll see locals spill into the streets during lunch, queuing for these tiny tasty bites, including at one of the city's oldest traditional bakeries, Otaegui.

There are plenty more historical sites to see in this bustling part of the city, including churches, plazas, and museums.

Best area for:

  • First-time visitors

  • Tourist

  • History buffs

  • Foodies

Things to see & do

  • Visit the Plaza de la Constitución

  • Taste some of the city's best pintxos (I recommend you join this tour to find the best of the best!)

  • See the Basilica of Santa Maria

  • Stroll down the popular Calle 31 de Agosto

  • Go to the San Telmo Museum to learn about Basque culture

Best hotels to stay in San Sebastian Old Town

($$$) Hotel Atari

Featuring a 24-hour front desk, free Wi-Fi, and even a balcony with a city view in some rooms, this delightful hotel is contemporary, stylish, and well-located.

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($$) Hotel SANSEbay

One of the best hotels in San Sebastian for blending style and affordability, SANSEbay boasts beautiful rooms, elegant furniture and modern amenities.

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($) Casa Nicolasa

Located in the Old Town but still in proximity to the popular La Concha beach, Casa Nicolasa promises stylish decor and well-equipped rooms throughout.

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2. Where to stay in San Sebastian for shopping: Centro

Ironically more peaceful than the Old Town (which can get overrun with tourists), San Sebastian's stylish center is where you'll find streets lined with independent boutique stores as well as iconic landmarks, including the Buen Pastor Cathedral and the City Hall.

And, of course, plenty of pintxos, which you can enjoy paired with local bars in the center's many great restaurants and bars.

Accommodation san sebastian

Best area for:

  • Shoppers

  • Tourists only visiting for a weekend

Things to see & do

  • Go shopping

  • Take a hop-on, hop-off city tour bus

  • Go bar hopping

  • See the Donostia City Hall

  • See a performance at Victoria Eugenia Antzokia

  • Stroll along the Urumea River

Best hotels to stay in San Sebastian Centro

($$$) Pensión Garibai

Located in proximity to the beach as well as San Sebastian's vibrant center, this hotel offers air-conditioned rooms with free and effective Wi-Fi throughout the property.

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($$) Zenit Convento San Martin

With a gorgeous seasonal outdoor swimming pool, private parking, and an on-site restaurant serving up delicious local cuisine, this hotel is a great place to stay for visitors to the beautiful city of San Sebastian.

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($) Sercotel Hotel Europa

With seriously stylish rooms at affordable prices, Sercotel Hotel Europa is one of the best places to stay in central San Sebastian.

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3. Where to stay in San Sebastian for nightlife & on a budget: Gros

With a hip, youthful vibe and abundant surfing opportunities at Zurriola Beach, Gros is, without a doubt, one of San Sebastian's coolest neighborhoods.

Home to boutique hotels as well as plenty of contemporary hipster bars serving up delicious drinks with small plates to go with them, Gros is the must-visit hangout for San Sebastian's trendiest residents.

San sebastian spain

Best area for:

  • Surfers

  • Art lovers

  • Film enthusiasts

  • Nightlife lovers

Things to see & do

Best hotels to stay in Gros

($$$) Bidaia Boutique Hotel

With a lovely on-site restaurant and bar, this hotel in Gros has free Wi-Fi throughout and also offers a paid airport shuttle service.

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($$) Pension Kursaal

With clean, minimalist rooms and modern furniture, this stylish hotel is situated on Zurriola Beach's beachfront, making it the go-to destination for beach bums.

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($) Hotel Trueba

Near both the beach and the Kursaal Convention Centre, Hotel Trueba is a clean, welcoming hotel with a quiet lounge area and bar to enjoy during your stay.

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4. Where to stay in San Sebastian on the beach & with family: La Concha Beach

San Sebastian is famous for being a coastal city, with La Concha being its most famous beach. Despite being an urban, beachside location, La Concha is clean and picturesque, so whether you're hoping to catch a tan or enjoy some watersports, it's a great place to spend the afternoon.

La Concha itself is within walking distance of San Sebastian's center and Old Town, so you're never far from dusting off the sand and doing some shopping or grabbing some tasty pintxos.

San sebastian

Things to see & do

  • Spend a day at the beach

  • Hit the nearby shops and bars

  • Try some water sports

Best area for:

  • Families

  • Beach lovers

  • Water sports enthusiasts

Best hotels to stay in La Concha

($$$) Hotel Boutique Villa Favorita

This gorgeous 4-star hotel is located on La Concha's beachfront and has all the modern amenities and stylish decor you'd want from a hotel of this caliber – but be warned, it's not the most budget-friendly!

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($$) Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra

Located on the beachfront promenade overlooking La Concha Bay, this lovely hotel has modern, spacious rooms, sea views, and a charming on-site bar and restaurant where you can spend a pleasant evening.

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($) Gran Zubieta La Concha

With free Wi-Fi, a well-equipped kitchen, and a city view, this sustainable apartment offers stylish and clean accommodation in San Sebastian with proximity to the city's most famous beach.

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5. Where to stay in San Sebastian for couples: Antiguo & Ondarreta Beach

San Sebastian's center and the Old Town can be quite full-on to visit, with an abundance of sights and sounds and the influx of tourists every year during summer. Antiguo, on the other hand, offers visitors a more relaxed and authentic experience.

Instead of feeling like you have to come to Antiguo and get through a long tick list, you can simply spend your days here strolling through its charming streets and paying visits to the nearby Ondarreta Beach.

Where to stay in san sebastian spain

Ondarreta isn't as well-known as La Concha, so it's a must-visit if you're planning on escaping the crowds. As well as urban amenities and a beach, Antiguo is home to plenty of green spaces, allowing you to feel closer to nature during your stay.

It has an inherently magical and romantic feel, making it the ideal spot for a couple's getaway.

Things to see & do

  • Visit Miramar Palace Gardens

  • Take a trip to Santa Clara island

  • Take a stroll down the sea pathway

Best area for:

  • Couples

  • Travelers looking to get off the beaten track

Best hotels to stay in Antiguo

($$$) Hotel Ilunion

Just 200 meters from Antiguo's beloved beach, this contemporary accommodation is perfect for travelers wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the center while still wanting to be close to the action and the beach.

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($$) NH Collection San Sebastian Aranzazu

With a popular on-site restaurant known for its excellent cooking and sophisticated rooms with modern, stylish decor, the NH Collection hotel is a great destination to stay in Antiguo.

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($) Pension T5 Donostia Suites

Located less than 10 minutes from Ondarreta Beach on foot, this stunning guest house offers suites with modern decor and free, fast Wi-Fi, as well as private on-site parking if you decide to rent a car to get around.

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6. Where to stay in San Sebastian away from the crowds & local life: Amara

If you're looking to escape the huge swathe of tourists that visit every year and enjoy a part of San Sebastian that boasts a more local vibe, look no further than Amara. This neighborhood might be peaceful, but it's anything but boring, with the fabulous Plaza Easo nearby, serving as its central hub for all things food, drink, and socializing.

There's a park and plenty of hidden gems for foodies. In fact, there are many dessert places here for the visitor with a sweet tooth, including churrerias and chocolaterias, serving up the tasty treats you expect in a place with such a strong culinary reputation.

Where to stay san sebastian

Things to see & do

  • Visit the local restaurants and cafes and do some people watching

  • Grab a drink in the nearby Plaza Easo

  • Shop at the ARCCO Centro Commercial

Best area for:

  • Older visitors

  • Travelers looking for a more authentic experience

  • Dessert places and bakeries

  • Those wanting to be close to the football stadium Estadio Reale Arena

Best hotels to stay in Amara

($$$) Hotel Zinema7

Themed around cinema and San Sebastian's annual film festival, this super stylish hotel provides a friendly welcome to all visitors and is a great destination in this lesser-known part of town.

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($$) Hotel Silken Amara Plaza

With elegant, modern rooms and free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel, this spot is the ideal location for a comfortable stay, with an acclaimed on-site restaurant and a helpful 24-hour front desk.

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($) Casual de las Olas San Sebastián

With bright, colorful, air-conditioned rooms and affordable pricing, this hotel is a friendly destination for visitors to Amara seeking a home away from home.

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Where to stay in San Sebastian – Frequently Asked Questions

⭐ Is it worth staying in San Sebastian?

Whether or not you want to stay in San Sebastian depends on the type of holiday you're looking for, but in my opinion, it's well worth the visit. With a mix of cultural sights, beaches, and, of course, the food (oh, the food!), there's something for every type of traveler to enjoy.

📍 Where is the main area in San Sebastian?

The two main areas of San Sebastian are the Centro and the Old Town (Parte Vieja). The city center is home to plenty of bars and eateries as well as some of the best luxury hotels but doesn't tend to attract as many tourists as the Old Town. Meanwhile, the Old Town is the best spot for culture vultures and sightseers.

📅 How many days should I spend in San Sebastian?

A long weekend gives you enough time for a whistle-stop tour of San Sebastian's most famous sights, but if you want to get to know the city better or enjoy a few days relaxing at the beach, a week will give you adequate time.

☀️ What is the best season to stay in San Sebastian?

Summer is the obvious choice for beach lovers when the weather is hot, and the sun is all but guaranteed to be out. Bear in mind, though, that not only can summer experience heatwaves in San Sebastian, but it's also the most popular time of the year to visit, making it expensive and busy.

If you want to go when accommodation and flights are slightly cheaper, try months outside of the school holidays, such as May, June, and September. The weather is still generally pleasant during these months.

💸 Is San Sebastian expensive?

While Spain, on the whole, has a cheaper cost of living than countries like the US, San Sebastian is one of the most expensive places in Spain, with prices similar to big cities like Madrid and Barcelona. If you're visiting San Sebastian for a week and eating out for most meals, you can expect to spend around €500 per person on food, drinks, sightseeing, and transport (excluding accommodation).

🚶 Do I need a car in San Sebastian, or is it walkable?

Like most Spanish cities, San Sebastian can be explored on foot. Most of the popular sites are within walking distance of one another, and there are plenty of pedestrian streets meant for exploring with a leisurely stroll. With public transport options also available, there's no need to hire a car unless you want to visit some other towns and cities in the region or do day trips across the nearby French border.

❓ Should I stay in San Sebastian or Bilbao?

Neither Bilbao nor San Sebastian are particularly big cities, but both pack a cultural punch that's worth seeing for yourself. Bilbao has more to do in the traditional sense, with plenty of museums to keep even the most dedicated culture vulture entertained. San Sebastian has less to do and is smaller than Bilbao, but it's better for foodies and beach lovers.

If you're in the Basque region of Spain, it's worth trying to see both of these beautiful Spanish cities. If you only have time for one, however, choose whether you're more interested in beaches and culinary delights (San Sebastian) or world-class museums and incredible architecture (Bilbao).

Where to Stay in San Sebastian – Final Words

There are plenty of accommodation options to suit every need in this Spanish gem, from 5-star hotels in San Sebastian to family-run B&Bs.

Plus, San Sebastian is home to plenty of vibrant neighborhoods, so whether you decide to stay in the city centre, near La Concha beach, or somewhere with an insight into local life, I'm sure you'll have an incredible time.

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