Travel Guides Spain | Guide to Guipúzcoa

Guide to Guipúzcoa

What to do and see in Guipúzcoa?

Guipuzcoa Located on the Atlantic coast, Gipuzkoa is the smallest province in Spain. It is a province of great contrasts - sea and mountians, cities and villages, industry and agriculture. There are almost 90 kms of coast consisting of steep cliffs, beautiful beaches and fishing ports. There are modern industrialised areas next to rural areas which still maintain their cultural and folkloric traditions.

San Sebastian, or Donostia as it is called in the Basque language, is the capital of the province. Situated between the mountains and the sea it is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. It has a population of approximately 180,000 habitants.





Excellent gastronomy, international film and jazz festivals, sandy beaches and annual fiestas make this city a perfectplace for tourism. It has very pleasant temperatures in summer with an average of 20 degrees (although in July and August temperatures often reach 30 degrees or more).


What to see and visit in San Sebastián

  • Walks: San Sebastian is an ideal city to walk around because of its compact city centre. A stroll through the Old Part is very pleasant. There'e a great atmosphere and numerous small shops, old buildings, restaurants and bars. The 'Paseo Nuevo' between the sea and Urgull mountain has wonderful views - when the sea is rough people go there to watch the waves crash against the sea wall spectacularly. You get marvellous panoramic views from the top of Urgull mountain which is a small walled mountain with a small fortified castle (12th century), the English cemetery and a statue of Christ at the top - you can reach it easily on foot from the Old Part. The 'Concha' promenade which goes all around the the Concha bay and also to Ondarreta beach allthe way to the 'Piene del Viento' - a famous sculpture by Chillida - in a fabuous setting. The promenade in Gros takes you past the Moneo Cubes (el Kursaal) amd along the Zurriola beach where you can see surfers almost everyday of the year.
  • Cathedrals and Churches: The Buen Pastor Cathedral was built in the 19th century and is Neogothic. The Santa Maria Basilica is in the Old Part, built above some Roman ruins, it has a Baroque facade with a sculpture of San Sebastian, the Christian martyr.
  • Casinos: There is only one - el casino Gran Kursaal in the calle Mayor in the Old Part.
  • Museos: The San Telmo museum in the Old Part is in an former artillery barracks which was later converted into a convent. It has a renaissance style cloister and it also houses a church with wall paintings the Catalan artisit Jose María Sert. It was converted into a museum in the 20th century, it is dedicated to the history of Basque culture and art. The Naval Museum is located in a 18th century in the port, it is dedicated to the history of the Basques at sea. The Religious Art museum is in the Amara neighbourhood (20 minutes walk form the centre). The Science Museum 'Kutxaespacio' is a place where you can learn about science using a range of interactive methods - for both adults and children - it is 10 minutes bus ride away form the city centre. It also has a planetarium.
  • Parks: The Aiete park, designed by the Frenchman Pierre Ducasse, although not in the centre of the city it is the most spectacular. It surrounds a palace built in 1878, where Queen Maria Cristina, King Alfonso XIII and the dictator Franco all stayed at one point or other in history. the Cristina Enea park is the largest - located in an area called Egia just 5 minutes from the city centre. There are also a number of much smaller parks such as Miramar park with its panoramic views of the Concha and Ondarreta beaches and Gipuzkoa square park right in the middle of the city.
  • El Aquarium: Set up in 1928 it is now one of the most modern aquariums in Europe. Recently reformed it has a trasnsparent tunnel which gives you a 360º view where you can see sharks and many other types of fish - truely amazing. It holds almost 5000 different species of marine life in all. Located in the port in a building built on the rocks.

Guipuzcoa La Perla Thermal Baths and Sports Centre: A spa situated on the Concha prmenade in anemblematic building overlooking the bay. Its an ideal place to spend a rainy day.

Chillida-leku (sculpture park) In a beautiful natural setting, there is also an old Basque farmhouse which you can see. Located on the outskirts of the city 10 minutes bus ride from the centre.

San Sebastián

Fiestas in Guipúzcoa

The Tamborrada starts the night of the 19th January in the Constitution Square in the Old Part and continues until the following night. It is San sebastian's own special fiesta the Donostiarras (people from San Sebastian) dress as cooks or soldiers and parade around the city playing drums. The biggest fiestas are 'Semana Grande' (big week) which last a week in the middle of August - the best part of the fiestas are the spectacular firework displays over the beach every night. There are also open air free concerts and street theatre during the day. The International Jazz festival takes place at the end of July (some concerts are free). Finally the International Film festival takes place in September and lasts 10 days.


The main commercial streets are La Avenida, la calle Fuenterrabia and el Boulevard. San Sebastián is a very fashionable city something which is reflected in the numerous small boutiques and designer shops. The Bretxa market, next to the Old Part, is the best place to buy local produce you can great fresh fruit and vegetables, great cheeses, honey and much more.


See our guide to hotels in San Sebastián and the review of Hondarribia Parador.

Places to visit in the province

On the coast:

  • Fuenterrabia: A fishing village on the border with France. Touristic - it has an city wall around the old part and a parador. Good restaurants and pincho bars. (See photos).
  • Pasaia: A port which is partly industrial and also a fishing port. It consists of 4 districts separated by a bay. Pasai Donibane is the prettiest place to visit. You can walk through this fascinating old, typical Basque fishing village. There is just one narrow street with the village square at the end of it. There are good fish restaurants. You can also visit a house where Victor Hugo stayed temporarliy. (See photos).

  • Guetaria: A fishing village. Good restaurants. Juan Sebastian El Cano the first sailor to sail around the world was from here.

  • Zarautz: A touristic small town. Good beach popular with surfers. It also has a golf course and a famous restauarant run by the Basque tv chef Arguiñano.


  • Tolosa: The largest urban population in Gipuzkoa after San Sebastián and previously it ws the capital of the province. Famous for its carnivals in February. The beans and black pudding from here are well known. There is a traditional Basque market once a month.

  • Oiartzun: A pretty mountain village. ideal for hiking. There are some very good restaurants seving mainly meat dishes especially beef.

  • Ordizia: Famous for its meat and vegetable market.
  • Idiazabal: A small mountain village famous for its strong cheeses made from sheep's milk.

  • Arantzazu: A monastery on the side of a mountain (Aitzgorri). La Virgin de Arantzazu (the patron saint of Gipuzkoa) sanctuary is located here. The building is famous for its sculptures by Oteiza and door by Chillida.

Beaches in Guipúzcoa


Fuenterrabia: On the border with France, this small coastal village has a very nice beach. See Parador of Fuenterrabia.

Zarautz: Touristic and popular with surfers.

San Sebastian:

  • La Zurriola:Popular with surfers. The beach was enlarged in 1995.
  • La Concha: Right in the city centre - ideal for sunbathing and swimming.
  • Ondarreta: A quiter beach popular with families.

Other smaller beaches: Orio, Guetaria, Zumaia, Deba and Mutriku

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Travelling to Guipúzcoa? The following links may also be useful
Guides provinces bordering with Guipúzcoa and beautiful places in Spain nearby

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Guide to Caceres Guide to Castellon
Guide to Cuenca Guide to Girona
Guide to Guipuzcoa Guide to Lerida
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