Engel & Völkers Licence Partner Donostia | San Sebastián > Blog > A Fun & Unique Historical Walking Tour of San Sebastián - Donostia

A Fun & Unique Historical Walking Tour of San Sebastián - Donostia

Located just 20 kilometres from France's southwestern border, San Sebastián (or Donostia in Basque) offers a wealth of gastronomical, historical, and cultural delights. Whether you are enjoying a well-earned respite, or are proud to call San Sebastian your new home we have prepared an exciting walking route around the Historical Centre which can serve as an excellent introduction and orientation to the cultural heritage of this inspiring city. The route will take you to massive Cathedrals and churches, pristine beaches, well-preserved historic buildings, parks, and botanical gardens. It is also worth noting that the city’s robust gastronomic culture offers the 2nd most Michelin-starred restaurants per capita in the world, next to Kyoto, Japan.

Our 3.5-kilometer tour will be a leisurely walk along the city streets, the coastline, and its’ riverbanks.

 San Sebastián, Spain
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Click here to see our Sebastian Walking Route on Google Maps

We begin at the iconic Artzain Onaren Katedrala or the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd along Urdaneta Kalea (Calle Urdaneta or Urdaneta street). This vertically-imposing massive 19th-century Neo-Gothic cathedral can accommodate as many as 4,000 people. Elegant stained rose-glass windows, ribbed vaulted ceilings, religious sculptures, gold-decorated altars, valuable altarpieces, and a massive 30-ton organ, are some of the striking features inside the church. The most prominent exterior element of the church is its bell tower spire designed after the famous Cologne Cathedral in Germany. The cathedral is surrounded by gardens, trees, benches, and conveniently located drinking fountains.

After a moment of reflection inside this magnificent cathedral, let's take San Martin Kalea (street) and head towards the beach. Turn right onto Triunfo Kalea, cross the Zaragoza Plaza, towards Marques Miraflores Kalea, and we are now approaching the Paseo de la Concha or La Concha Promenade.

The Bahía de la Concha or Bay of Concha, named after its shell shape, is a 1,350-meter long beach. It is framed by the Urgull mountain on one side, the Igueldo mountain on the other, with the Island of Santa Clara at the entrance of the Bay. The crescent-shaped Playa de La Concha or La Concha Beach boasts fine sands and relatively calm, sparkling blue waters. This scenic beach is often referred to as one of the most beautiful urban beaches in Europe. It is a picture-perfect layer of blue skies, green mountains, blue waters, and white surf which gently rolls into the cream-coloured shores.

Pause for a moment at the Paseo’s ornamental railings and breathe in the refreshing Atlantic breeze. You may want to take off your shoes, and stroll along the sandy beach or walk in the shallow waters before we head north. When you see the Cervantes Enparantza or the Cervantes Square, it is time to head back towards the Promenade so we can explore the French garden inspired square with carefully trimmed trees, benches, and soda kiosks. Standing just off the centre is the Monument of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza riding on donkeys. They are famous characters in a novel by the well-known Spanish author, Don Miguel de Cervantes. A Drinking Water Fountain stands near the monument.

Let's stay along the Promenade while walking north towards our next destination, the Parque Alderdi Eder or Alderdi Eder Park. This gorgeous park by the beach is one of the most visited parks in San Sebastian. The most prominent feature is its French formal garden layout characterized by symmetrical flower beds, elaborate street lamps, palm trees, and tamarind trees. At the northeast corner of the park is a children's playground and a merry-go-round, called Carrusel de San Sebastián. The north end of the park faces the Donostiako Udala or the San Sebastian City Hall, a grand historic building built-in 1887. The building is now utilized as the City Library.

 San Sebastián, Spain
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Let’s continue onto De Alderdi Eder Parkea, and turn right toward Ijentea Kalea. You will be passing the lush flower gardens of the City Hall. Turn right onto Ijentea Kalea and we are now entering the narrow cobbled street of Calle Mayor, a part of the Old Quarters where the buildings maintain an ambiance of ancient Roman times. At the end of Calle Mayor, you can just glimpse of the stunning facade of Basílica de Santa María del Coro or Basilica of Saint Mary of Coro, which also houses the Museo Diocesano De San Sebastián. This 17th-century Romanesque church with a status of a minor basilica is uniquely accented with Gothic, Baroque, and neoclassical elements. The vaulted niche at the main entrance between the two towers is one of the most visited architectural works in San Sebastián, featuring a sculpture of Saint Sebastian, various religious reliefs, the shield of the City, and the papal symbols.

Let’s proceed North East to 31 de Agosto Kalea, where to your left, you will find the De la Trinidad Plaza. Depending on the time of the year, this square is a venue for fairs and festivals, like San Sebastian Day, the Jazz festival, and other musical performances.

Back on 31 de Agosto Kalea, continue until you reach an open playground to your left, with the much-visited San Bizente Eliza or the Church of Saint Vincent to your right. The oldest standing church in San Sebastian and founded in the 16th century, the interior exudes a peaceful and calming atmosphere, with a life-size sculpture of Saint Vincent, and sculptures of scenes depicting the suffering of Jesus Christ.

The open playground is part of the Zuloaga Plaza where the San Telmo Museum is found. The Museum is dedicated to telling the heritage of the Basque people and their distinctive culture through different periods. The archaeological pieces, religious artifacts, artworks, coins, weapons, costumes, and displays highlighting the traditional Basque lifestyle, make up the massive collection in this museum. Across from the Museum is the Cines Príncipe or the city's movie theatre equipped with modern surround sound technology for maximum entertainment and life-like experience.

Let us continue on San Juan Kalea and head south, turning right onto Iñigo Kalea. Our next destination is Constitución Plaza or Constitution Square where the gorgeous building of Centro de Servicios Sociales is found, at the heart of the Old Quarters. The square is home to the City Council Office and is surrounded by cafes and restaurants. This is the perfect place to enjoy a short break, grab an ice-cold soda, a fruit shake, or an ice cream cone. After resting our feet, let's take the exit to the south and continue on Arrandegi Kalea and right onto Narrika Kalea.

The stretch of Narrika Kalea is vibrant and lively, with an array of colourful gift shops, souvenir boutiques, fruit stalls, and sometimes even street musicians. Stay on Narrika Kalea until you reach Alameda del Boulevard. Take the first left, and you find the office of Donostia-San Sebastián Turismo or the Tourism Office of Donostia-San Sebastián. Here you can find free city maps, tourist guides, transportation network maps and schedules, and information about activities like guided nature hikes, electric bike and boat tours, and countryside trips. You will also find the schedule of ongoing festivals, concerts, fairs, and sporting events like surfing competitions and boat races or regattas. Please note that during September the Euskal Jaiak or the Basque Festivities are celebrated with traditional games of log cutting, stone lifting, and other cultural presentations.

At the next intersection, turn left toward Legazpi Kalea. After a short walk, you will arrive at the Plaza Gipuzkoa to your right. This gorgeous square was designed by the French landscape architect, Pierre Ducasse. It features carefully curated species of flowers, shrubs, aquatic plants, and trees. It also has a duck and fish pond, a garden clock, sculptures, and an antique but fully functional meteorological instrument. The park is a charming green contrast to the skyline of buildings surrounding the area, like a patch of woodland in the middle of a city.

After taking a relaxing pause at one of the shaded benches, serenaded by the chirping of birds, let's head southeast of Gipuzkoa Plaza onto Idiakez Kalea and cross onto Bergara Kalea and straight to Prim Kalea. You will arrive at the roundabout of Plaza de Bilbao with a huge fountain at the centre. Turn left onto Valentin Olano Kalea, and we are now approaching our next destination, the Puente Maria Cristina or the Maria Cristina Bridge. This is a historic bridge over Urumea River, decorated with 18-meter high obelisks on its four corners, elaborate railings, and wide pedestrian lane on both sides. The bridge was inaugurated in 1905 during the Feast of San Sebastian, with live music performances and fireworks.

Let's stay on the same side of the river, and take the tree-lined sidewalk of Larramendi Kalea. Enjoy the shaded path, the view of the river to your left, and the well-preserved Basque buildings to your right. Turn right onto the same street of Larramendi Kalea, cross to the opposite side, and right onto Reyes Catolicos Kalea. Standing on this street, you will find yourself facing the magnificent Cathedral of the Good Shepherd down the road. We have returned to our start point, and because the Reyes Catolicos Kalea offers a lovely variety of cosy cafes and specialty restaurants with alfresco seats, this is the perfect spot to end our walking tour.

 San Sebastián, Spain
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Licence Partner Donostia | San Sebastián
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    Email: sansebastian@engelvoelkers.com

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