The Best Hotels in San Sebastián

The properties that make up San Sebastian’s small but solid hotel scene, such as the 19th-century Hotel Villa Soro and the belle époque–style Hotel Maria Cristina, A Luxury Collection Hotel, tend to be located in and around the city’s historic center. Make sure to reserve ahead for summer’s high season, as rooms in July and August fill up months in advance.

Familia Santua Kalea, 1, 20010 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Built on the foundations of San Sebastián’s iconic Astoria movie theater, this sleek and modern hotel is all about Hollywood. The lively lobby library—a retro-inspired lounge often filled with laptop-toting freelancers—has a wall of DVDs available to borrow and is plastered with black-and-white portraits of movie stars, while each room is themed to a different film-industry heavyweight who attended the San Sebastián International Film Festival since it started in 1953. Even the restaurants—popular gourmet spots frequented by discerning locals—are adorned with cinema-themed artwork and accents, and one of the meeting rooms can be transformed into a private theater upon request, complete with cinema-style seating.

Outside the front door, the view, too, is cinematic. Astoria7 isn’t right in the tourist-heavy old town, but rather on a leafy boulevard in a part of town where locals actually live. It’s a 15-minute stroll to the iconic La Concha Beach, whose golden crescent is the dream of every urban beach babe and touring photographer. So, put on those sunglasses and take in the views.
Zubieta Kalea, 2, 20007 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
A belle epoque grande dame presiding over San Sebastián’s iconic La Concha Beach, the Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra has been a palace, casino, hospital, and of course hotel since its construction in 1865. Before and after World War I, it was the kind of place where well-to-do Europeans went on seaside holidays for months at a time, enjoying direct beach access, the city’s renowned seafood, and the hotel’s elegant design. Nowadays, the society consists of a somewhat less star-studded lineup—once Toulouse-Lautrec, Archduchess Elizabeth of Austria, and Mata Hari were all guests—but the unobstructed Bahía de la Concha views, lovely rooms (all with private balconies), and pride of place at the heart of the city remain. The window-lined brasserie takes its cue from classic French bistros—it’s not hard to imagine that the well-dressed gentlemen at the next table are French aristocrats-in-exile—and its tables along the beachfront promenade are the perfect place to while away a few hours over pintxos, txakoli (a sparkling white wine from Basque Country), and people watching. If you were to spend a few months in a seaside town, this would be the way to do it.
Paseo, República Argentina Kalea, 4, 20004 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Inaugurated in 1912 by its namesake, the Spanish regent Maria Cristina, this belle epoque landmark has welcomed international elite to its gilded halls from day one. Designed by the same architect behind the Ritz in Paris, the hotel has long been a favorite of celebrities during the San Sebastián Film Festival (Bette Davis was, notably, a fan). A $25 million renovation in 2012 only cemented its status as the city’s most luxurious hotel. With three of the city’s most elegant eateries (including a favorite see-and-be-seen bar), panoramic views of iconic belle epoque buildings and the Urumea River from the many terraces, and signature Luxury Collection concierge service, the Maria Cristina still feels fit for the aristocracy who frequented it in the city’s beach-destination heyday. Spacious and decadent rooms with an updated belle epoque style, as well as a central location within walking distance of many of San Sebastián’s Michelin-starred restaurants, only sweeten the deal.
Ategorrieta Hiribidea, 61, 20013 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
A 19th-century private estate just outside San Sebastián’s city center, Villa Soro was commissioned by a wealthy businessman as a wedding gift for his daughter; it was designed by the same architect who built the iconic Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra, which towers over the La Concha waterfront at the city center. In contrast to that classic belle epoque building, the villa takes its inspiration from English architecture—complete with peaked roofs and faux-Tudor beaming—that was in vogue at the time, while the manicured gardens were designed by renowned Romantic landscape designer Pierre Ducasse.

Now an intimate, 25-room boutique hotel, Villa Soro maintains the same relaxed, cozy atmosphere one might expect to find at a friend’s estate, complete with two elegant drawing rooms outfitted with armchairs that beg to be curled up in with a book. The dark-wood-and-leather bar room (complete with a fireplace, of course) beckons visitors with vermouth and txakoli. Rooms are homey and classically elegant, spread between the main house and the restored carriage house, and they make for a romantic retreat within walking distance of the city’s sights and Michelin-starred restaurants.
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