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19 October 2023

GUIDE TO THE OLD TOWN

Discover the history and charm of San Sebastián through a tour of the Old Town. Cobblestone streets, squares full of life and a gastronomic offer that delights the senses. Shops with lots of history, bars full of pintxos and architecture that takes you to bygone eras. In this guide you’ll immerse yourself in the authenticity of Basque culture and learn the essentials of an area that will surprise you at every turn.

What to see in the Old Town?

1. Paseo Nuevo AND Monte Urgull

As soon as you cross the Kursaal bridge, leaving the neighborhood of Gros behind, a route begins along the mouth of the Urumea River and the entrance to the Old Town – at least one of them. We’re talking about the Paseo Nuevo, a path along the coast that winds between the rocks of the sea and the vegetation of the mountains. Along the walk, you’ll find the iconic sculpture “Empty Construction” by Jorge Oteiza, an important Basque artist. His work attracts attention especially for the abstract nature of the pieces, with vertical and horizontal shapes joined together to create a hollow space inside.

From the Paseo Nuevo we recommend climbing Mount Urgull, a hill that rises above the city with paths that cross forest, naval cannons from the 15th-16th centuries and lookout points. Don’t hesitate to discover the views over La Concha Bay, with Santa Clara Island and Mount Igueldo in the background, and the city at your feet. An experience that from the beginning combines art, nature and history, and that gives you a unique perspective on the beauty of San Sebastián.

2. Fishing port, Aquarium and Puerto Street

The descent down Mount Urgull will take you to the port, where you’ll encounter the most deep-rooted Basque traditions. Full of boats moored at the dock, surrounded by fishing houses and restaurants with typical seafood, here you’ll learn about the roots and stories of families that formerly dedicated themselves solely to fishing. There is the Basque Maritime Museum and the Aquarium, a mandatory stop that will conquer children and adults alike.

Continue the adventure by going through the portals that will take you to Calle Puerto, one of the entrances to the heart of the Old Town. From there you’ll easily reach the Parish of Santa María – if you look straight along Calle Mayor from its stairs, you can see Buen Pastor Cathedral. A curiosity that few know about! –.

3. Plaza de la Constitución and gastronomic culture

Entering the Old Town is getting to know the true historical core of the city. Full of narrow, cobbled streets, lively squares and traditional shops that reflect the culture of the Basque region. An example of this is the Plaza de la Constitución, which has always played an essential role in the social and cultural life of San Sebastián. It stands out for its rectangular shape and white façades with yellow and pastel blue tones. Look closely, because each balcony has a number – the plaza was once a bullring. The owners of the houses gave the balconies to the town hall and these became boxes during the celebration of these events.

The Plaza de la Constitución, like the rest of the Old Town, is home to numerous bars, restaurants and taverns with a wide variety of pintxos, delicious tapas that are an integral part and hallmark of the local culinary culture. Take the opportunity to go from bar to bar, from pintxo to pintxo, and experience it like a true “txikitero”! In addition, you’ll find some of the best-known restaurants with history, so you can enjoy both authentic traditional cuisine and also opt for avant-garde establishments and innovative creations.

4. San Telmo Museum, La Bretxa Market, and Boulevard

Continue strolling through this gastronomic and cultural paradise until you reach Zuloaga Square, where you’ll find the San Telmo Museum. Inside this 16th-century building, now connected to a modern block, you’ll explore Basque history through various exhibitions. We suggest completing this journey into the past by visiting the Church of San Vicente, probably the oldest building in the city.

A visit to La Bretxa Market is a must. Since 1870, it has preserved the essence of traditional markets with local and seasonal products. In addition to the more than 40 stalls on the ground floor of the building, outside, families from the surrounding villages will share with you the best foods from their gardens. It’s the perfect opportunity to savor the authenticity of the Basque Country!

Furthermore, one of the entrances to the market is accessed from Boulevard Alameda, the perfect meeting point to also explore the Gros neighborhood, tour the city center, or start your stroll towards the Old Town. And don’t forget to try the famous ice creams at “Bule”!

5. Go out and have a great time!

The Old Town is one of the liveliest areas in San Sebastián during the day, and also at night! Although it’s generally a city known for its tranquility, the pintxos bars turn into places where dancing is guaranteed until as late as you want.

Exploring the Old Town at any time of day is immersing yourself in the authenticity of Basque culture and discovering its architectural and gastronomic heritage. It’s a place where the past and present harmoniously intertwine, creating a unique experience for visitors.

If you want to keep learning about the gem of the Cantabrian Sea, you can find interesting information about what to see in San Sebastián and its surroundings on our blog. And if you’re traveling with family, we’ll tell you what to see in San Sebastián with children!