The dynamic restaurant scene is what attracts most people to San Sebastián, but there’s more to the Spanish resort town than just its culinary delights.
Located in the Basque Country on the northwest coast of Spain, San Sebastián is home to an array of beaches that are perfect for catching some rays. The quaint Old Town is not to be missed, with the impressive Santa Maria and San Vincente churches among the highlights. To feel the true charm of San Sebastián, there are some wonderful boutique hotels serving up top-notch service and appetising design, bookable with Culture Trip.
If Hotel Niza was any closer to the sea, you’d be able to swim up to the front desk. Overlooking Playa Concha, San Sebastian’s most spacious and attractive stretch of sand, it offers simply furnished doubles with the sound of the waves breaking on the shore to lull you to sleep. Enjoy pintxos at onsite eatery Biarritz, where the celebrated young chef has put his own stamp on traditional Basque cuisine. If you’re after something a little more active, hop on one of the free hotel bikes and take a cruise around town.
Hotel La Galeria occupies an elegant 1800s mansion behind Playa Ondarreta, the smaller of the two beaches facing Concha Bay. Compact, sea-view rooms are named after painters such as Renoir, Dali and Picasso, and each features a reproduction of one of their works; some also have Juliet balconies. Golfers can incorporate fees for teeing off at the Goiburu Course into their booking. There’s no in-house restaurant, but there are plenty of pintxo joints within a five-minute stroll.
Ibaia Et Arramak is housed in one of those stately old mansions that line San Sebastian’s riverbanks, many of which wouldn’t look out of place on a Parisian boulevard. Some of the en-suite doubles look out over the property’s garden and patio – an intimate space surrounded by moss-covered walls – and all have access to a communal kitchen. The hotel has partnered with nearby cafes and restaurants, so you can hop between them for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and it has a collaboration with La Perla, one of the city’s best spas.
One of SANSEbay’s major selling points is its location: not only does it offer 29 rooms and suites directly overlooking the port and Concha Bay, but it’s also in the centre of the Old Town (Parte Vieja), minutes on foot from all the historical attractions and pintxo bars. Other perks of this perfectly appointed spot include a complimentary welcome drink, gourmet breakfasts and some of the most delicious homemade cakes in town.
Named after the eco-friendly family that own and run it, the Arima is a hotel that respects its surroundings. It’s a 20-minute drive south of San Sebastian, opposite the wild Miramom Forest, a discreet structure of stone, iron and wood that runs on geothermal and aerothermal powers and water collection systems. Get back to nature in the spa, where the yoga and workout rooms seem to blend with the surrounding trees, or by booking a junior suite terrace for rooftop views of the Basque countryside.
This quirky hotel is just a short walk from the main bars and restaurants of the hip Gros neighbourhood. Rooms are furnished with an eclectic mix of old and new, including original artwork and vintage wooden wardrobes. The bathrooms, meanwhile, are new, clean and functional, often with eye-catching modern tiles and spacious walk-in showers. Guests can help themselves to complimentary tea, coffee and biscuits at any time of day, and the staff are friendly and only too happy to recommend a pintxos bar or two.
One of San Sebastián’s top luxury hotels and also one of its quirkiest, Hotel Astoria 7 is entirely themed around cinema. Each room is dedicated to a particular actor, director or film and is adorned with large black-and-white pictures to set the tone. Contemporary designer furniture keeps the decor just the right side of kitsch, while the rooms are spacious and comfortable. The Hotel Astoria 7 is within walking distance of the old town and the beach, as well as the city centre.
This early 20th-century building was given a full facelift ahead of opening as a stylish hotel in 2018. Capturing the glamour of its original art deco years, the hotel’s cool, contemporary interiors feature crushed velvet armchairs, dark-wood writing tables and designer light fittings. Each room also comes with its own espresso machine, kettle and fridge. The hotel is located opposite La Concha Beach – guests will adore the vistas from the rooftop terrace and swimming pool.
Housed within a majestic 19th-century building, the Hotel Villa Soro oozes period charm and maintains an air of aristocratic elegance. Well-groomed gardens offer a welcome break from the buzz of the city centre, although the old town is just a 10-minute walk away. The hotel also has bicycles that guests can borrow for free. In contrast to the rather eye-catching sophistication of the common areas – where chandeliers hang from the ceiling and the floors are made from marble – the rooms exude a more subtle elegance, with a prime focus on comfort.
Let yourself be wowed by the stylish minimalism of the Hotel Akelarre; rich cotton sheets, comfortable leather armchairs and exceptional views of the sea are among the simple luxuries at this Relais & Chateâux hotel. Guests need only step downstairs to the hotel’s three-Michelin-star restaurant, where Pedro Subijana proves why he’s considered one of the Basque Country’s best chefs. Unwind in the luxury spa and wellness area or enjoy the peace and quiet from the rooftop terrace.