5 Day Trips from San Sebastián
Have you ever felt like you needed a holiday when on holiday? Day trips are the best way to refresh a vacation and provide a new perspective on your time away.
If you’re staying in San Sebastian for more than a week, I advise you use your time wisely and explore the surrounding region. Within one hour you could be ordering café au lait in France, running with the bulls in Pamplona or getting lost in a forest in Bizkaia.
Biarritz was the 17th century holiday escape of Napoleon III and his wife, Empress Eugénie. Located just an hour’s bus ride from San Sebastian, a return journey costs as little as €14 with ALSA or Lurraldebus.
Biarritz is not just heralded as a surf destination but has a hodgepodge of inland attractions: Biarritz Aquarium is located close to the shore, just to give the fish a taste of what they are missing; The Biarritz Lighthouse which provides a panorama of the Basque coast; The Russian Orthodox Church, whose opulence is tainted by its general state of disrepair, but still worth the visit for those who can’t quite make it out to Moscow.
Like most Basque towns, Hondarribia imbues a wonderful medieval charm where the coast plays a great part in the identity of the people. Many people set sail from its harbour to journey around the bay during some of Spain’s numerous public holidays.
There is also one rite of passage every visitor should do when coming to Hondarribia and that is to step onto a jetty which starts in Spain but ends in France (see above). A day trip to Hondarribia is easily accessible from San Sebastian by taking the E20 or E21 bus for less than €2.
Vitoria-Gasteiz, so fun they named it twice. That didn’t actually happen, but people usually refer to the city as Vitoria or Gastiez, rarely both. Being a university town, there is certainly a lot more to keep you entertained throughout the evening, and not everything revolves around food!
Vitoria has a very strong commitment to art and culture, and houses one of the best contemporary art museums in the region: Artium.
Visitors also enjoy the mural trail which has various illustrations around the Old Town and depicts the communal identity of the city: Intinerario Murlistico. Did I also mention this is the capital of the Basque region?
Being the largest city in Basque Country, Bilbao needs no introduction. Home of the Guggenheim Museum, forward-thinking architecture, and old markets twisted around high-end shopping – a day trip to Bilbao is always a crowd-pleaser.
From Doña Casilda Park to domineering steel structures outside the town hall, every street in Bilbao has something to catch your eye. The music scene is at its peak here, with BBK Live in July drawing in festival-goers from across Europe.
For many tourists Bilbao is a final destination, but a day-trip can provide a welcome sense of cosmopolitan bustle before returning to the beauty that is San Sebastian’s restful coast. You can catch regular buses with Pesa for €12 each way or sometimes ALSA have cheaper tickets starting at €6.55
Day trips by car:
It is said that John the Baptist set foot on the picturesque island of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Spring or summer is the best time to visit this former hermitage as half of the tourist value is in climbing the 241 steps to the top of the hill!
The Sanctuary of Arantzazu is the most original church I have ever encountered. The thorns that jut out across the façade of the building, the thirteen disciples (not twelve!) who guard the main entrance and the eclectic, rave-like crypt which welcomes people for quiet contemplation all work together to create a fantastic attraction hidden in the hills of Oñati and waiting to welcome sinners and saints alike.