At a Glance
When to Go
San Sebastián has a tiny and pleasantly dated airport (EAS) located in the nearby village of Hondarribia. From there, you can take a city bus or a taxi, which will run you about 30 euros. Flying into Bilbao (BIO) is another easy option. A bus leaves from the airport exit to the center of San Sebastián every 45 minutes past the hour and costs about 16 euros.
Once you arrive, San Sebastián is best experienced on foot. The city can be walked end to end in about an hour (this is a favorite local pastime). City buses are plentiful, punctual, and straightforward. Taxis (+34 943 46 46 46) begin at 6 euros for a journey within city limits. San Sebastián is well-connected to other cities by bus and train, though buses are usually more efficient (if you have the option). The Renfe train connects to the rest of Spain, while the Euskotren connects San Sebastián to France and Bilbao.
Food and Drink
San Sebastián is home to Basque people who are culturally and genetically distinct from other Europeans. They speak Euskara, a language isolate that is unrelated to the Romance languages of the region. Learn a few words, if you're aiming to please: kaixo means "hello," and agur is "good-bye." Basques know how to celebrate their uniqueness—whether with a day dedicated to Euskara, or by partying on Calle San Juan de Bilbao in the Parte Vieja (Old Quarter).
Basques love a good party. The Tamborrada (held on January 20) celebrates the city's patron saint with a 24-hour festival in which participants walk through the city, drumming. Saint Thomas’s Day (December 21) commemorates the day that farmers used to travel to the city to pay their yearly rent; festivities include traditional dress, generous quantities of cider, and the eating of txistorra (a Basque pork sausage). For a more modern cultural event, check out the September film festival, Zinemaldi, which is one of Europe’s most important.
What the Locals Know
Marti is a freelance writer and a cook living in San Sebastián. She has contributed to Modern Farmer, Southern Living, Remedy Quarterly, The New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, EITB (Basque News), Mindfood, and Edible, among other magazines. She also gives regular cooking classes, runs a bakery business (@TheCookie_es), and founded a society for the appreciation of vermouth (@vermutsociety) that is making its way across the globe.