Cycling in San Sebastian, Spain

View of San Sebastian from Monte Igeldo, SpainThere is something inherently serene about cycling by the sea. Perhaps its the feeling of salty air filling your lungs as your glide like a gull along the waters-edge. Perhaps its the big blue space that reminds you that the world is vast and wild. Or maybe, its just the simple pleasure of being away from routine, out of constructed confines, instead among the fresh air and earthly wonders.

San Sebastian is a seaside city made for cycling. Dedicated bike paths have been carefully woven across the city, along the wide boulevards, past many pleasing city sights and along flat, scenic roads. After finishing my Camino in Santiago de Compostela, I spent a glorious day cycling in San Sebastian, which I can highly recommend to anyone who plans to visit San Sebastian.

Here is a little suggested cycling itinerary that brought me a lot of joy.

Map of San Sebastian (from Tourist Information) with notes

Starting in central San Sebastian, make your way through the historical quarter of Parte Vieja before circling around Mone Urgull mendia, the headland closest to the city centre. There is a dedicated bike path and walkway along the rock-fortified shore, giving you a front-row view of the Bay of Biscay, which flows into the North Atlantic Sea.

In about 10 minutes, you can cycle around to Plaza Jacques Cousteau, where you can decide to either take the lift down to the pier level or continue along a steeper path into the town (there are some shallow stairs you will need to walk down) or chain your bike and walk to the peak of the headland, where there is a panoramic view of the city and sea… and a really big statue of Christ.

Starting near Monte Urgull in San Sebastian, Spain Riding around Monte Urgull in San Sebastian, Spain Pier and harbour near Monte Urgull in San Sebastian, Spain

Whichever option you choose, you will need to eventually get down to pier level. Once there, make your way past the hundreds of colourful bobbing boats in the harbour to the wide boulevard that sweeps along the famous Playa de La Concha and Playa de Ondaretta. As you ride, the aqua water will be lapping gently on your right and the beach-front park will be filled with children on the merry-go-round and swings, elderly hat-wearing men on benches, and buskers playing pipes and strings for your Euros. Again, there is a dedicated bike path for you to enjoy.

Playa (Beach) in San Sebastian, Spain & view of Monte UrgullMerry-go-round along Playa (Beach) in San Sebastian, SpainPlaya (Beach) in San Sebastian, Spain

Riding in the Spanish sunshine along the a clear blue shore is bound to tempt your inner swimmer. If, like me, you’ve not thought ahead to the highly likely prospect of wanting to swim, there is a protected little cove towards the end of Playa de Ondarreta that’s perfect for a quick, secluded dip in your underwear. Otherwise, you could join the happy-snap tourists and cap-donned oldies in their daily bath along the main beach.

 Playa (Beach) in San Sebastian, SpainPlaya in San Sebastian, Spain

Continuing along the waterfront, through a traffic tunnel with a dedicated bike path, and past expensive seaside cafes, you will come to paved area at the end of the bay that is perfect for photos of the beach and city you’ve just ridden past. Walking your bike up the paved terrace, you’ll find colourful caves, rusty rock-mounted sculptures, blow holes and a tiered platforms perfect for picnicking.

San Sebastian, SpainSea blow holes, San Sebastian, SpainBeach caves, San Sebastian, SpainSea sculptures San Sebastian, Spain

After a little break, remount and ride back towards the fitness centre, taking a right turn where the sign points towards the funicular. A quiet road, which you will share with traffic, takes you to the beautiful funicular station building, where you chain you bike, buy a return ticket for a couple of Euros, and take a relaxing ride to the top of the headland in a little red cable car dating back to the early 1900s.

 Funicular station in San Sebastian up to Monte Igeldo, SpainFunicular in San Sebastian up to Monte Igeldo, Spain

The headland, Monte Igeldo mendia, has the opposite panoramic view as its neighbouring summit across the bay and hosts cafes serving ice-cream and a near-deserted theme park, Parque de Atracciones, which includes a ghost rail and bumper cars. I could have spent many more hours up there admiring the crystal waters below, the fluffy white clouds on the horizon and the green farmlands backing onto the city.

View of San Sebastian from Monte Igeldo, Spain

Returning by funicular to your chained bikes below, take the same route back towards the city. If you have the time and energy, I recommend expanding your tour to include some of San Sebastian’s other delights, as listed below.

Other sights to add into your cycling tour:

  • Inglesia de Santia Maria is a lovely church surrounded by tapas bars and lively little plazas. Find it on near your cycling tour starting point or once you’ve made the your lap around the Monte Urgull.
  • For an extra leg on your cycling tour, head across the Rio Urunea on one of the ornate little bridges that joins the city. From there you can ride along the edge of Playa de Zurriola to another coastal lookout. Then, you can double back along the wide boulevard lining the river, away from the beach, admiring the leafy parks and glassy river views, before crossing one of the bridges further along, and riding along the bike paths on the other side of the river, back to central San Sebastian.
  • If you are in need of a coffee break or cocktail  in central San Sebastian, I can highly recommend a funky little place on Calle Bengoetxea called Koh Tao. Order the submarino for a candle-lit chocolate novelty.

 

Rio Urumea - river mouth to sea -  in San Sebastian, Spain Church in San Sebastian, SpainRio  - river -  in San Sebastian, SpainSubmarino, coffee, tea at Cafe Bar Koh Tao in San Sebastian, Spain

Other tips for a day of cycling in San Sebastian

  • Bikes can be hired from hotels, hostels, and dedicated hire shops around the city for as little as 5 Euros (or as much as 20 Euros), with the price depending on whether you hire for a full or half day. If you are not sure where to get one, ask at the tourist information office on Alamada del Boulevard.
  • Helmets are not required by law in Spain and are usually not included with bike hire.
  • Traffic travels on the right side of the road, like most of Europe – this is good to remember.
  • Lunch options are plentiful, with some lovely sea-view benches from which to enjoy a picnic, or cafes lining the beach-front boulevards. Stock up on supplies at the central mercado, just a block from the tourist information centre, where there is a big supermarket down the escalators, lots of delis and a produce market most mornings at street level.
  • Make sure you have a bike chain and lock. Most hire bikes come equipped for security, but just check it all works before you set off on your adventure. There are plenty of places to chain up your bike while you stop for an ice-cream, coffee or quick dip in the sea.
  • Allow the best part of a day to do the above itinerary (e.g. 4-5 hours). The distances are not big and the it is quite flat and easy to ride in most parts, but all the stopping for photos, indulgences and sights etc. can take quite a while.
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126 thoughts on “Cycling in San Sebastian, Spain

  1. your entry is so very comprehensive; gracias! Splendid photography!

    these scenes make me happy for you and the memories you are making.

    Te deseo una aventura segura y llena de recuerdos ~

    1. Gracias. Me alegro de que haya disfrutado de mi post. Espero que haya suficiente información para asegurarse de que alguien siguiendo mis instrucciones no se pierda.

    1. Thanks CF! So glad to hear I’ve influenced your list. Let me know if you have any question when it comes time for you to travel there. Always happy to answer any questions if I can.

    1. Always welcome Rustic Recluse. I can’t say enough about the laid-back pleasure of a cycle tour. It makes you feel like you’re on a real adventure, not to mention helping you to see more in less time.

      1. Yes indeed, just what I need now! I’m feeling stuffed up at my desk and a cycling trip definitely allows me to see more + exercise! I need it – now if only I could grab a week off from work… 😦

  2. A place I’d really like to visit. That mountain backdrop too! I wish your photos were bigger Nic. I know I can “big them up” but it takes time. I know that you have a lot of content so it’s a matter of space and composition, but still?

    1. Hey Jo,

      Thanks for your comment. I upload all my images as full size and re-scale them to fit the post view, so you should be able to click on each image for a full sized, big-as-it-gets version.

      I’ve found that any other type of file that is bigger is hard to upload on the sometimes patchy internet I use on the road, and also can be hard to load for some people at home.

      Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any more worries.
      Nic

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this! I never got past the beautiful, no – breathtaking, beaches to consider what else to do there! My sister lived there for a summer and Loved it!

    1. Hi Katie, Thanks for reading. Yes, I hope to go back and do more there one day. The cycling was wonderful but there seems to be a lot more in the area too, like vineyards.

  4. I went to San Sebastian last year for the day. I can’t wait to go back and just laze around on the beach. Maybe I’ll have to consider a bike ride too. 🙂

  5. I lived in San Sebastian, Spain for 6 months. I loved it. Your pictures made me miss La Concha and my morning runs through the city. Gracias! Me encantan las fotos. Me voy a mirar mis fotos y recordar mi tiempo allá.

  6. My wife and I have lived in San Sebastian and we loved it. All of your pictures reminded me of that wonderful city and it is a must place to visit. I never even thought about cycling it!!! Great post and I look forward to where you head next!! Happy travels to you all!

  7. Sounds idyllic!!! I love cycling in Spain! Wait a second – I think I just love Spain! Can’t wait to come back – have set the date – I am walking the Camino in September! Will have to look back on your posts now that I know for sure I am going!!! Enjoy the rest of your time!

  8. The picture on the ‘freshly pressed’ caught my attention because this is where my now husband proposed to me last July. We stopped in San Sebastian last summer for a few days before we ran with the bulls in Pamplona. This city is truly like something out of a fairy tale. We had a blast! Great blog post!

    1. Hi Jaqx,

      Thanks so much for reading. What a beautiful place to receive a proposal! Congratulations!

      You are right, it is like a fairytale there with the crystal clear waters and waterside restaurants. I loved Pamplona too!

      Nic

  9. Thank you for letting us see your beautiful journey. Your tips are very useful too. Wish I had a chance to go there one day! Congratulations on freshly pressed.

    1. Hi Dasman, Thanks for reading. Glad you like. I’ve had a few wonderful cycling adventures in my travels, this one included, and find myself searching for cycling opportunities everywhere I go now. Always an adventure. Glad to bring back the memories.

  10. Looks like things haven’t changed much since I spent a summer there in 2004, except I remember riding my bike in the rain mostly… Thanks for bringing back the memories.

    1. Hey Svetopolis, thanks for commenting. We has rain most of the time we were in San Sebastian, with the exception of the cycling day. Glad to prompt some memories for you. Nic

  11. San Sebastian looks beautiful! I’ve been to Spain but only to Madrid (not much scenery) and luckily I’m playing another visit in the next few months.. so I’ll definitely be adding this to one of my stops 🙂
    Great post!

  12. Ohh I use to go there with my grandpa to walk, play tennis, share a coffee. He always says that this bay is his Rio, with the Christ statue as Brazilian “Corcovado” 😉 Thanks so much for sharing this place. See ya

  13. Love your post and your blog, well written articles, and excellent photographs, I have learned something new and will be adding a pinterest button to my blog posts from now on. Your blog is very comprehensive, and is something I can aspire to. Thanks again, your new follower, Mark, http://www.francenormandy.com

    1. Hey Mark,

      Thanks for the lovely positive feedback. Really appreciate your kind words. I love writing about my travels and working as a freelancer, and I love being about to share some info and wanderlust that I’ve picked up along the way.

      Thanks for following!

      Nic

    1. Hey JJ LIm,

      Glad to hear it. Thanks for reading.

      Keep an eye out for my other posts about Spain. I’ve already published some on the Camin de Santiago and places along the way, as well as Barcelona and The Alhambra in Granada. Many many more to filter through though.

      Nic

  14. Wonderful article. Timely too, as a friend is visiting there soon IIRC.

    I must admit, being a bit of a Napoleonic history nerd at times, what instantly springs to mind when I hear the name of San Sebastian is its sack towards the end of the Peninsular War. I knew it had a harbour (that was why part of its importance), but I had no idea it’s such a beautiful location & city. Thanks for opening my eyes!

    1. Hi, Thanks for your comment. To be honest I only vaguely knew of San Sebastian’s historical significant before visiting; it was the beaches and tapas I’d heard about, and which drew me in. Hope your friend has a great visit.

  15. Awww, San Sebastian is one of my absolute fav places in the world and your lovely post and great photos have made me really want to be there right now! Last time we went to the Chillida sculpture park which was fantastic (I see you have photographed his piece on the rocks). What a place & what tapas….
    Also like Hondarribia & of couse St.Jean de Luz round the corner in France. Oh to be sipping a chilled port…

    1. Hi Niki, You sound like you know you way around well. I can see how San Sebastian could inspire multiple visits. I am certainly sold on a return trip one day. Thanks for commenting. Nic

  16. I have always wanted to travel to the Coast of Spain and you’re images have convinced me. Absolutely breathtaking!

    1. Thanks Carlie, it’s a great place to holiday. Another Spanish coast to consider is the south-east. Some of the little towns outside Malaga, like La Herradurra, are gorgeous on the Mediterranean. I’ll be putting up a post soon about my adventures there.

  17. Beautiful, extensive blog, one I would hope to save somewhere on my computer in hopes to travel to Spain and bike ride. Thank you and congrats on being freshly pressed

  18. Great tips and beautiful photos. I’ve wanted to go to San Sebastien for a long time, and you’ve definitely persuaded me! I never considered taking a bike, but it looks like it will be a lot of fun.

  19. You do a great job of selling SS. Wonderful images. My wife and I are planning a cycle trip south from Santander in September. Perhaps will will have to change our plans now! Thanks for posting. Norman

  20. Your photos are beautiful – even keener to get to San Sebastian and now I think a bike journey will most definitely need to be the preferred method of transport. This post is a perfect example of what makes wordpress amazing!

    1. Hey Never in Toronto,

      Cheers for reading and for your lovely feedback. So glad to stoke the SS wanderlust in you and perhaps even inspire a bike ride. Have a great time when you’re there!

      Nic

  21. Oh cycling by the sea–I LOVE the idea of it, especially during summertime! Spain sounds like a wonderful place to cycle and sight-see. I’ve done relatively lots of cycling by the sea here in San Diego and the views are amazing. I wish more young people were into bicycling and even just walking places. It’s a good way to relax while enjoying natural scenery often overlooked if traveling by car.

    1. Hey Romantic Asian Guy, Thanks for your comment. Yes, cycling is a wonderful young persons endeavour. I think it may be making a come-back too, you know. Thanks for reading and happy cycling!

  22. Great post. Thanks for the tips, which will come in handy the next time I’m in Spain this October. The riding looks much more interesting than here in Aruba. Bon dia!

  23. I could not have read this at a better time. I’m planning to make a trip there soon, and was looking for cycling routes. Yours seems pretty great, how long did it take you? I especially love the carousel, was it part of a fair or something?

    1. Hey Uttara V,

      Glad to hear this was a well timed post for you 🙂

      Including all the extra options listed at the end of the post (with photo, coffee, ice-cream and lunch breaks) this ride took me about five hours, but it could be done in much less, as I was riding very slowly in a group of friends.

      The distances are not big and the it is quite flat and easy to ride and navigate most of the way. If you were to exclude all the rest stops and ride quickly, I imagine it would take just over an hour to ride the distance.

      The carousel seems like a fixed feature on the beachfront, and it right next to a playground and a park with benches, where people tend to congregate. I thought it was quite lovely too.

      Enjoy your trip, and let me know if you have any other questions.

      Nic

      1. Hey Nic,
        I do love the idea of riding around slowly, seems like the best way to soak in the surroundings. I think I’m going to use this route for sure. 🙂 Maybe ill put up my travel ideas on my blog soon, you should read it.

        Also I read your other posts, you’ve done quite a bit of travelling, it’s so great! I hope to do that in this upcoming trip of mine, although I don’t quite have as much time. 😦 I think I will send you an email with all my questions. There are plenty.

        Me encantado leer tu blog!
        Tara

  24. Reblogged this on Dark of the Matinee and commented:
    Συνεχίζουμε τα ταξίδια στις πόλεις της Ευρώπης μετά από καιρό. Γιατί το καλοκαίρι είναι συνυφασμένο με τα ελληνικά νησιά. Βέβαια τώρα είναι και η καλύτερη εποχή για επίσκεψη στο ένδοξο San Sebastian, την πρωτεύουσα της Βασκονίας. Στο κείμενο θα βρείτε φωτογραφίες και tips για μια ημερήσια ποδηλατάδα! Enjoy!

    1. I’m glad you liked the stroll Anita. San Sebastian is certainly a city best seen from its coastal paths.
      I loved looking back towards the town, along the white laced railings and calm blue bay.

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