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San Sebastian is one of the best cities to visit in Spain, both because of its phenomenal pintxo culture as well as its natural beauty along the coast. However, while it is a wonderful city, there are also fantastic day trips from San Sebastian that make for incredible getaways to places that are far different from the Basque city.
These 10 day trips from San Sebastian all offer something different, so read through them all and find the ones that best suit what you are looking for in a day trip!
1. Zarautz and Zumaia
Zarautz and Zumaia are both small coastal towns in the Basque Country that have astonishing beaches and world-class restaurants.
Sounds like San Sebastian, right?
Well, they are definitely similar in what they offer, but Zarautz and Zumaia offer a small town, pueblo, vibe that will help you escape that larger city feel of San Sebastian.
Zarautz and Zumaia are both well-known for their prime surfing spots along Spain’s northern coast. While the water will most likely be cold, both Basque towns are great for surfing.
If you are not into surfing, perhaps food is more your style? Yeah, we thought so.
Zarautz is home to one of the most famous chefs in the world, Karlos Arguiñano, who owns Hotel Restaurante Karlos Anguiñano and the Aiala cooking school. There are also other wonderful restaurants and places to eat in Zarautz if this is a little above your budget.
While Zarautz has a fantastic gastronomic cuisine, Zumaia isn’t about to be overshadowed by them. Zumaia is famous for its connection to octopus as they are, and have been for centuries, fished right off the shore. It’s the perfect city if you want the freshest possible octopus in Spain!
All in all, Zarautz and Zumaia make for the perfect, short day trips from San Sebastian, for food, surfing, and natural beauty.
Zarautz Distance from San Sebastian: About 21 kilometers (13 miles) or 28 minutes by car
Zumaia Distance from San Sebastian: About 34 kilometers (21 miles) or 35 minutes by car
San Sebastian often outshines this bigger Basque city because of its coastal location, but the port city of Bilbao is actually almost twice the size of San Sebastian and offers a lot that you can’t see in there.
Bilbao might not be as beautiful from a nature standpoint, but it offers much more of a big city feel. In fact, it’s the biggest city of all these day trips from San Sebastian at about 345,000 people.
The top thing to do in Bilbao is the Guggenheim Museum. Built in 1997, this architectural wonder sticks out from almost everything else around it and really is a fixture in the center of Bilbao. Walking the river and at least marveling at the Guggenheim from the outside is a must-do when visiting Bilbao.
The art inside is very modern but truly world-class. If modern art isn’t your thing or you just don’t want to pay for admission, consider skipping it. If it’s within your travel budget, consider going inside as it is one of the world’s best art museums, and it’s always good to try to expand your view of art.
Aside from the Guggenheim, make sure to wander the streets of the Casco Viejo when on your day trip to Bilbao. These winding streets are filled with picturesque buildings and hole-in-the-wall pintxo bars. Stop by the Plaza Nueva to grab some Txakoli, sparkling wine from the Basque country.
If you find yourself with more time, head up to Mount Artxanda for an outstanding view of Bilbao from above. This might not be a must-do on your day trip, but we’re a sucker for views which is why we recommend it.
The more industrial Bilbao makes for a great day trip from San Sebastian, especially if you are wanting to explore another bigger Basque city!
Bilbao Distance from San Sebastian: About 102 km (63 miles) or 1 hour 11 minutes by car
Made famous by San Fermín, or the Running of the Bulls for many, Pamplona is the first day trip from San Sebastian on this list that is outside of the País Vasco autonomous community.
Pamplona is in the nearby autonomous community of Navarra that sits just south of País Vasco. Although it’s in Navarra, Pamplona is actually closer to San Sebastian than Bilbao, making it a very convenient day trip!
As mentioned, Pamplona is home to the San Fermín festival which happens every year from July 6 to July 14. This is basically a constant party throughout the week with drinking, eating, and running with the bulls if you so choose.
If you are taking a day trip from San Sebastian to Pamplona during any other time fo the year, there is still plenty to do, including visiting some of Ernest Hemingway’s old haunts. The most famous of these is Café Iruña in the Plaza del Castillo in the center of town.
Pamplona is not a hugely visited city outside of San Fermín, but it’s a nice day trip from San Sebastian and allows you to visit Navarra.
Pamplona Distance from San Sebastian: About 82 km (51 miles) or 1 hour 4 minutes by car
4. Bayonne and Biarritz
Visiting Bayonne and Biarritz is a unique day trip from San Sebastian because you actually leave the country and head to France!
While Bayonne and Biarritz are technically in France, they’re still is the Basque County, just the French Basque Country, or Pays Basque. The culture between the Spanish and French Basque countries are very similar as it is still more Basque than either Spanish or French.
Bayonne and Biarritz make the list of day trips from San Sebastian as a tandem because they are so close teach other, sitting only about 30 minutes apart by bus and even less by car.
Both cities are different and have their own distinct vibes. Biarritz is a glitzy coastal city with plenty of resorts and visitors, while Bayonne is inland and more of an industrial city. In a way, they are similar to Bilbao and Biarritz, but much smaller and much closer together.
If you are taking a day trip from San Sebastian to Bayonne or Biarritz, definitely make a visit to both to see which one you prefer!
For more information on visiting Bayonne and Biarritz, read our full post Visiting Bayonne and Biarritz: Two Basque Cities in France.
Bayonne and Biarritz Distance from San Sebastian: About 50 km (31 miles) or 45 minutes by car
5. Bakio, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Bermeo, Bosque Oma, and Guernica
Well, we’re backing the Basque Country for this day trip from San Sebastian, and it’s quite the itinerary of places to see throughout the northern Basque Country.
These 5 places can all be combined into one road trip from San Sebastian that can all be done in one day since you won’t really be in any one place too long, and they are all connected.
Starting out, you will head to the small coastal town of Bakio before visiting the spectacular San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. This little hermitage sits out in the Bay of Biscay and is connected to the mainland by a bridge. It’s history dates back as early as the 9th century!
There are 231 steps that wind up the side of the rocky islet to the little hermitage. Once on top, there’s also a little shelter where you can relax that protects you from the strong winds off the sea. According to legend if you ring the bell 3 times and make a wish, it will come true.
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is one of the must-see places in the Basque Country! It’s absolutely stunning and picturesque. Make sure you stop and appreciate the beauty of the bridge and stairs leading up to it along with the natural beauty surrounding it. This is probably why HBO’s Game of Thrones used it as a filming location for Dragonstone. Although, they digitally constructed a castle on top of it.
Bermeo is the next stop after San Juan de Gaztelugatxe on this day trip. It sits just east of it, whereas Bakio sits just west. Bermeo is another small Basque village on the coast that is worth a quick stop. These beautiful villages, while all alike in some ways, each have their own unique styles.
After Bermeo, you’ll stop at the Bosque de Oma, or Oma Forest. It’s an artist’s installation where trees are painted on and different objects appear as you walk through the forest depending on where you’re standing.
The last stop on this day trip from San Sebastian is Guernica. This small Basque village is most famous for being represented in Picasso’s Guernica painting. In 1937, the town was bombed by Hitler and 1,354 people were killed. Picasso’s painting depicts the horrors of this day.
Aside from this horrific historical event, Guernica is a small, quiet town with a market and the world’s largest jai alai stadium. It’s a great place to end your day trip before returning to San Sebastian.
Total Distance: 240 km (150 miles) or 3 hours 47 minutes by car without stopping
Staying within the Basque Country again, Vitoria-Gasteiz makes for a perfect day trip to the Basque Country’s capital city.
It’s the least well-known of the 3 major Basque cities—Bilbao, San Sebastian, and Vitoria-Gasteiz—but it is the capital and houses all the autonomous community’s government buildings. Rumor has it that because the more popular Bilbao and San Sebastian kept fighting and could not decide on who should be the capital, they just decided to give it to Vitoria-Gasteiz.
The city’s population sits right between San Sebastian and Bilbao’s making it a medium-sized city. It is not often visited by foreign travelers or Spaniards, so you will be able to stay away from tourists here. Outside of the typical cathedral and museums, the best thing to do in Vitoria-Gasteiz is to eat pintxos, which are much cheaper than in the other two major Basque cities.
Vitoria-Gasteiz might not be the most exciting day trip from San Sebastian on this list, but it is another major Basque city to explore and can always be combined with another day trip on this list.
Vitoria-Gasteiz Distance From San Sebastian: About 100 km (62 miles) or 1 hour 19 minutes by car
Much like Vitoria-Gasteiz, Logroño is a capital city that is not often visited by travelers or Spaniards. It is the capital of La Rioja, an autonomous community just south of the Basque Country.
While Logroño nor La Rioja is visited much, it is very well-known, and if you recognize the name it’s probably from wine. That’s right. La Rioja wine, one of the best wines in the world, comes from this region in Spain, which means that there is plenty of inexpensive, but amazing, wine for you to drink here!
Logroño makes for an easy day trip from San Sebastian because its so close too. It’s the furthest from San Sebastian on this list, but still under 2 hours away.
There is plenty to do in Logroño, and you can read all about what to do when visiting Logroño in our post. However, if you don’t feel like reading all that right now, the number one thing to do in Logroño is visit the famous Calle Laurel.
Calle Laurel is Logroño’s famous pintxo street which is lined with bars that serve up various pintxos and wine, beer, or non-alcoholic beverages. With just 10€, you will be able to eat and drink at about 4 different places giving you a great bang for your….euro?
If you are a food lover and looking for a day trip from San Sebastian to another one of Spain’s best food cities, go to Logroño!
Logroño Distance From San Sebastian: About 150 km (93 miles) or 1 hour 50 minutes by car
8. Aiako Harria – Peñas de Aya
Aiako Harria Natural Park is a fantastic getaway for those looking to do some hiking or outdoor exploring. It’s also known as Peñas de Aya Natural Park in Spanish. Aiako Harria is the Basque name.
The national park is very close to San Sebastian making for an easy day trip, but there are countless trails to explore in this area. You can even get some marvelous views over some of the Basque towns on the coast.
Aiako Harria Distance from San Sebastian: About 24 km (15 miles) or 42 minutes by car
9. Zegama and Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park
The Basque town of Zegama and Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park are other outdoorsy day trips from San Sebastian. Zegama sits right outside of Aizkorri-Aratz and is the perfect place to go eat after a day exploring the park, the Basque Country’s second largest.
Zegama is a very small Basque town in the mountains but hosts one of the most famous trail races in Spain: Zegama-Aizkorri.
This trail race starts and ends in Zegama and brings some of the best trail runners from around the world. Whether you’re a runner or not, the excitement and energy around Zegama during the race is outstanding.
If you are just looking for a quick day trip from San Sebastian to get out and hike in the Basque mountains, Aizkorri-Aratz is a wonderful place to do it!
Zegama Distance from San Sebastian: 54 km (34 miles) or about 49 minutes by car
The last on these 10 day trips from San Sebastian is actually one of the closest. Hondarribia is basically the next larger town just northeast of San Sebastian when combined with Irun.
Hondarribia is right on the Spanish-French border and the Bay of Biscay and is a prominent Basque fishing village. One of the best things to do in Hondarribia is to go to the Barrio de la Marina, Marine District, to explore the local pintxo bars and stunning architecture.
Of course with being on the coast, the beach in Hondarribia is also one of the top things to do in Hondarribia, especially during the hot summer months.
If you can’t spend a full day in Hondarribia, combine it with a trip to Irun, Behobia, and Hendaye (just across the border in France), or stop at a Basque Sidrería near San Sebastian. A sidrería is a cider house, which are pretty famous in the Basque Country. They serve steaks, along with a bunch of sides, and their own cider that you often serve yourself from huge barrels.
Hondarribia Distance from San Sebastian: About 23 km (14 miles) or about 24 minutes by car
When visiting San Sebastian, you might not ever want to leave as its a wonderful city that offers so much. However, if you are there for a long time and looking for day trip from San Sebastian, these 10 day trips offer a host variety of options for you depending on what type of day trip you are looking for!
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Your pictures are stunning! Did you take them? I would love to do part of the Camino de Santiago one day.
Thank you, James! We took almost all of the pictures on our own. The ones we didn’t take all have a source under them. We hope to do the Camino de Santiago one day too. It’s right at the top of our travel list!