Get the Party Started: Nightlife in San Sebastián

Spain is the country whose inhabitants get the least sleep in Europe—even with the siesta. So what are they doing? Read on to see what San Sebastiánites get up to during the evening. (It’s more than just pintxo bars.)

Kontxa Pasealekua, 12, 20007 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Bataplan is San Sebastián‘s best example of the classic, European, sweaty, house-music-filled disco. It is the iconic disco of the city, the one that you can bet every single San Sebastiánite has passed through at least once in their life. Bouncers do their best of keeping the crowd decently good looking. And in summer, the above ground terrace is open. It’s a great place to drink at sunset, meet people, and the crowd tends to skew a little older (think 30s and above).
Everyone knows a pintxo hop is a must-do in San Sebastián. What everyone doesn’t know is that Atari Gastroteka, located in the shadows of the old town’s beautiful Santa Maria church, is the perfect last stop on the tour. Their artisan foie is slightly sweet and incredibly flavorful, lightly sprinkled with cracked black pepper and sea salt, and served on raisin toast. Paired with a gin and tonic (some of the city’s best), it’s your ideal transition into postprandial nightlife. And Atari also has dessert pintxos for those in your group who want to end on a sweet note.
Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 48, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Cote, apart from dishing up delicious gin-tonics and (gasp!) frozen daiquiris, is one of those spots to see and be seen. There’s always ambience, even midweek, and the bartenders are friendly. And I’m not just saying that because of their habit of putting out chocolate-dipped strawberries.
Salamanca Pasealekua, 3, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Be Bop is a staple in the San Sebastián night scene. If you are with a diverse group and uncertain how to reconcile their tastes, take them to Be Bop. Be Bop plays a wide range of music, from Michael Jackson to The Band to Bruno Mars. Drinks are cheap and the crowd is eclectic. It’s great for the hours before the discos begin to be crowded.
Argentinar Errepublika, 2, 20004 San Sebastián, Guipúzcoa, Spain
Victoria Eugenia is a double-edged sword. A beautiful, red-velvet-swathed theater occupies the aboveground section of this building. Offerings feature biggish names in music, Broadway adaptations, and classical performances. Meanwhile, after midnight, it’s the basement that houses the action. The underground level is a dance club that’s at its peak from 2am on. Expect house music and house remixes of Top 40, as well as a lively, twenty- and thirty-something crowd.
Portua, Spain
“What are all those people doing?” This is probably the most common reaction upon stumbling onto the botellón. People of all ages (but tending towards under 40) gather in a public space, toting plastic bags bearing substantial weight. They contain bocadillos (sandwiches) wrapped in foil and litros (liter-sized plastic soft drink bottles) whose contents have been replaced at least in part by hard liquor. In San Sebastián, the seats lining the port are the most popular spot for the botellón. In a botellón there are (almost) no rules...just have something to drink and a friend, or two, or ten. And let the night begin.
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