Last update: January 16th, 2024 at 01:45 pm
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Introduction to San Sebastian
Nestled along the picturesque coastline of the Bay of Biscay, San Sebastian, Spain, is a city that effortlessly combines its rich cultural heritage with stunning natural beauty. Known for its world-class cuisine, vibrant festivals, and beautiful beaches, San Sebastian is also a fantastic destination for families.
While enjoying time in the Basque Region of San Sebastian, our family was constantly impressed by what a perfect place it was for kids. In addition to the delightful beaches, there seemed to be something fun around every corner – be it a carousel, a mini tourist train or just a really great playground.
We also found this beautiful city to be such an ideal size for a family holiday – with so many San Sebastian kids tourist attractions within easy walking distance of the beaches and the city centre.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the best things to do in San Sebastian with kids, ensuring that your family trip is filled with laughter, learning, and unforgettable moments.
The Best Things in San Sebastian for Kids
1. Explore Playa La Concha
San Sebastian is renowned for its breathtaking beaches, and Playa de la Concha stands out as one of the most iconic. This crescent-shaped beach offers golden sands and clear waters, providing the perfect setting for a day of fun for the whole family.
Kids can build sandcastles, play beach volleyball, or simply splash around in the shallow waters. Families can also take a leisurely stroll along the scenic promenade, offering stunning views of the bay.
Note: Beach umbrellas, cabanas and chairs can be rented by the day. Arrive early though, as they are often sold out by before noon, especially during the busy summer months. You can find the rental booth on the promenade that runs underneath the main beach promenade.
2. Ride the Carousel
Visit the playground and take a spin on the vintage carousel along the La Concha Promenade (close to Old Town). Like in all of Spain, you will find families enjoying time here late into the evening!
3. Visit Monte Igueldo Amusement Park
Perched on top of Monte Igueldo, this charming amusement park offers panoramic views of San Sebastian and the surrounding coastline. Even better, the amusement park is reached by a ride on a vintage funicular railway.
The park features a variety of rides suitable for all ages, but especially for small children – from a classic carousel and bumper cars to a thrilling roller coaster. (The views of the coastline from the roller coaster are absolutely spectacular!). (The views of the coastline from the roller coaster are absolutely spectacular!)
Tip: Don’t forget to snap a family pic with the gorgeous San Sebastian view as a backdrop.
Learn more at: Monte Igueldo Attractions.
4. Discover the San Sebastian Aquarium
Located at the edge of the old town, the San Sebastián Aquarium is a fascinating destination for families. The aquarium showcases a diverse array of marine life from the Bay of Biscay, including sharks, rays, and colorful fish.
Interactive exhibits and educational presentations make it an engaging experience for kids, offering insights into the wonders of the ocean. The highlight is the underwater tunnel, where families can walk through a transparent corridor surrounded by marine life.
Tip: It’s a popular spot so I highly recommend going at opening to avoid the worst of the crowds.
Learn more on the San Sebastian / Donastia Aquarium website.
5. Climb Mount Urgull
For an active family adventure, head to Mount Urgull, a prominent hill that provides panoramic views of San Sebastian. While the climb may be a bit challenging for younger kids (30-45 minutes), the reward at the top is well worth it. The ruins of an old fortress, Castillo de la Mota, await exploration, offering a glimpse into the city’s history.
Note: The castle offers timed tickets. Get your tickets as soon as you reach the top and explore the exterior of the castle while you wait.
Families can pack a picnic and enjoy lunch surrounded by lush greenery, making it a perfect day out in nature. Alternatively, there is hidden café/barwith great views of the coastline called Urgulleko Polboriña. Reach it via a stone staircase near The Battiments (D on the castle brochure map).
6. Stroll Through Old Town (Parte Vieja)
San Sebastian’s Old Town is a treasure trove of history, culture, and gastronomy. The narrow cobblestone streets are lined with charming shops, vibrant markets, and local eateries.
As you wander through the labyrinthine alleys, kids will enjoy discovering hidden gems and unique storefronts. Make sure to stop by Plaza de la Constitución, a lively square surrounded by colorful buildings and home to numerous cafes.
7. Taste Pintxos in the Old Town
San Sebastian is hailed as the pintxos capital of the world, and the Old Town is the epicenter of this culinary phenomenon. Pintxos are small, flavorful snacks typically served on toothpicks, and they come in a variety of forms, from traditional to avant-garde.
Take your family on a pintxos tour, hopping from one bar to another and sampling the local specialties. Kids will love the bite-sized portions, and it’s a great way to introduce them to the rich Basque culinary tradition.
While some pintxos can be quite elaborate, most pintxos bars have one or two options that even pickier eaters will enjoy (patatas bravas, mac n’ cheese etc.) Many come with a basket of bread alongside.
- See San Sebastian Pintxos Tours (Viator)
Note: The nice thing about taking a pintxos tour is that the tour guides typically can get you the pintxos very quickly. No standing in line. No language struggles if your Spanish (or Basque!) is not strong.
8. Ride the Mini Train
Don’t kid yourself. There is no way you are getting out of San Sebastian with kids without taking a ride on the mini train!
The train runs on a circuit around town and along the beach. It is the best way to a little tour of the city while keeping little ones entertained.
The train leaves at quarter past the hour from De Cervantes Plaza. Tickets are a reasonable 5 euros for adults and 3 euros for children.
9. Experience the San Telmo Museum
Immerse your family in the cultural heritage of the Basque Country by visiting the San Telmo Museoa. Housed in a former Dominican convent, this museum showcases the region’s history, art, and traditions.
Interactive exhibits cater to a younger audience, making the learning experience enjoyable for kids. The museum often hosts family-friendly events and workshops, providing hands-on activities that bring Basque culture to life.
Learn more at: santelmomuseoa.
10. Go for Gelato
In every single family guide I write, I recommend going for gelato! I believe it to be a quintessential family vacation experience! Thankfully, San Sebastian has no shortage of gelaterias!
Many of them line the perimeter of Gipuzkoa Plaza at the edge of the city’s Old Town, including Gelatería Boulevard, Piccola Venezia izozki-denda, and Mahala Izozkiak Helados. Our personal favorite, however, was Arnoldo Izozki-denda (with a second location across from La Concha Beach.
11. Enjoy a Day at Ondarreta Beach
Adjacent to Playa de la Concha, Ondarreta Beach offers a more relaxed atmosphere and is perfect for families with young children. The shallow waters and gentle waves create a safe environment for kids to swim and play.
The beach is surrounded by lush gardens, providing a peaceful retreat for parents while the little ones build sandcastles or participate in beach games. There are also beachfront cafes where families can savor local treats.
As with Playa La Concha, you can rent beach umbrellas and chairs. Look for the guys running around in blue shorts and white shirts to secure one. Arrive early to secure them as they often sell out by noon.
12. Take a Boat Ride to Santa Clara Island
For a maritime adventure, embark on a boat trip to Santa Clara Island, situated in the middle of the bay. Boats depart regularly from the port, offering a short and scenic journey to this small island paradise.
Families can explore the island’s pristine beaches, go for a swim, or enjoy a leisurely picnic. The boat ride itself provides stunning views of San Sebastian’s coastline, creating lasting memories for both parents and children.
Note: Ticket purchases for the ferry can be made at the booth not far from the carousel (on the La Concha Promenade). Some ferry departures include a tour of La Concha Bay.
13. Attend a Family-Friendly Festival
San Sebastian hosts numerous festivals throughout the year, and many of them are family-friendly. One such event is the Tamborrada, a lively drum festival held on January 20th, where locals of all ages take to the streets to celebrate.
Another exciting festival is the San Sebastian International Film Festival, which features a dedicated section for children and teenagers, showcasing films that cater to a younger audience. Check the festival calendar before your visit to plan for these unique cultural experiences.
For more family events: See the San Sebastian Tourism site.
14. Take a Day Trip to Hondarribia
Just a short drive from San Sebastian, the charming town of Hondarribia is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by families. With its well-preserved medieval architecture, colorful houses, and cobblestone streets, Hondarribia offers a delightful change of scenery.
Explore the historic Old Town, visit the medieval castle, and enjoy a family meal in one of the town’s traditional Basque restaurants.
15. Learn to Surf at Zurriola Beach
San Sebastian is not just about relaxing on the beach; it’s also a fantastic place to catch some waves. Zurriola Beach, located at the mouth of the Urumea River, is the city’s surfing hotspot.
Enroll the family in a surf lesson with one of the local surf schools, where experienced instructors will guide you through the basics. It’s an exhilarating way to spend a day together, riding the waves and enjoying the thrill of surfing.
16. Take a Day Trip to Getaria
Getaria, a charming coastal town in Spain’s Basque Country, offers a delightful blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Wander the narrow cobblestone streets of the medieval old town, where you’ll find traditional Basque architecture and picturesque views of the Bay of Biscay. As you stroll along the waterfront promenade, indulge in the town’s culinary treasures by savoring fresh seafood in one of the many excellent restaurants.
While it might be difficult with kids, there is a fabulous Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum above the town (dedicated to the renowned fashion designer born in Getaria). If that is out of the question, there is a wonderful playground with a pirate ship right beside it.
San Sebastian, with its stunning landscapes, rich culture, and delectable cuisine, is a family-friendly destination that caters to a wide range of interests. Whether you’re exploring historic sites, lounging on beautiful beaches, or indulging in culinary delights, San Sebastian offers a perfect blend of relaxation and excitement for families with kids of all ages. So, pack your bags, embrace the Basque spirit, and get ready for an unforgettable family adventure in San Sebastian, Spain.