Things to do in San Sebastian when it rains

Look, I’m not going to lie to you. The weather in San Sebastian (and the Basque Country in general) can be a bit hit and miss. It can rain – a lot! 

There’s certainly more rainfall here than what you’d typically associate with the rest of Spain. To put it into context, there’s 1,500mm of rain on average each year in Donostia. Whereas southern areas of Spain will typically only receive 500mm.

But that’s part of what adds to its charm and gives the area its spectacular green landscape.

If you think about why people visit San Sebastian. The food, the culture, the stunning architecture and scenery, then a bit of rain shouldn’t put a damper on your visit (pun intended!). 

So, if you do find yourself in the city on a rainy day, what are the best things to do? Well, fear not. We’ve pulled together a list of our favourites.

The best things to do in San Sebastian when it rains

This list is inspired by our general favourite things to do in San Sebastian, but we’ve adapted it for the wet weather! 

If you’re in Donostia for a weekend of mixed weather it’s worth checking out our 1-3 day itinerary too. Otherwise, let’s get into it!

1. Take some time out at La Perla Spa 

The spa at La Perla in San Sebastian
Image from La Perla Facebook

This is the first thing we do when I have visitors over and it rains. It can be very therapeutic listening to the rain and looking out to a stormy beach whilst you’re in the hot tub!

La Perla is a spa and fitness centre, complete with one of the top restaurants in the city. 

So what better way to take a break from any miserable weather than with a sauna session, jacuzzis, swimming pools with jets, ice baths or a massage?

The best thing? La Perla occupies one of the most envied spots in the whole of San Sebastian, sitting right in the middle of La Concha beach. 

Make sure you book in advance as it can get busy when the weather isn’t great. 

2. Visit the San Telmo Museum

The Sert Canvases in the church of the San Telmo museum in San Sebastian

Set in an old convent that was also used as a military barracks, the spectacular building which now houses the San Telmo Museum will not only protect you from the wet weather but is worth the visit itself!

It houses the Museum of Basque Society and Citizenship where you can discover more about the history of Donostia and the Basque Country.

Containing a fine art collection alongside an ethnographic collection preserving the memory of the Basque society, it’s the oldest and one of the most popular museums in the Basque Country. 

3. Explore the San Sebastian Aquarium 

San Sebastian aquarium

Receiving over 300,000 visitors a year, the San Sebastian Aquarium is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Basque Country. 

It features 31 aquariums with a mixture of tropical aquariums and those dedicated to the Cantabrian-Atlantic Sea. All in all, there are over 40 species of fish, 5 species of sharks and 360 degree tunnel to observe them from.

It’s located at the far side of the port, at the start of Paseo Nuevo. It can get especially busy on a rainy day, so It’s worth booking tickets in advance.

4. Go Shopping 

the shopping district of san sebastian in spain

As one of the main cities in the Basque Country and the North of Spain, San Sebastian has one of the best offerings in terms of shops nearby. 

The city has the usual range of big brand shops that you can find in most European cities. But it has also retained an essence of traditional shopping and a unique touch, with plenty of independent shops still thriving.

It’s even fit for royalty! Kate Middleton has been known to be a fan of the shops in the Old Town, and occasionally buy clothes for her children in San Sebastian

If it’s good enough for a princess, then you’re bound to find something for yourself!

5. Explore the Parte Vieja (Old Town)

The facade of the basilica de santa maria

Whilst it’s technically still outside, the Parte Viejas’s narrow streets means it’s a little more protected from bad weather.

The second oldest barrio (area) of San Sebastian, the Old Town is the beating heart of the city. 

It’s the centre of the city’s famous culinary reputation. That’s because the narrow streets are packed with pintxo bars, restaurants, bakeries and bars. The result is a thriving atmosphere full of different noises and smells. 

It also contains some of the most important buildings and spaces in Donostia. Alongside the food and drink, there’s plenty to see in the Old Town

6. Go for Pintxos 

pintxo and drinks at a bar in san sebsatian parte vieja

However, If the rain becomes a little too relentless, you can head into one of San Sebastian’s many pintxo bars.

Donostia has a worldwide reputation for its food and that begins with the pintxos. They are small, appetiser-sized portions of food served in bars (they are ordered separately to your drink which is the main difference to the typical Spanish tapas). 

The best way to get a taste for the best pintxos is to go from bar to bar in the Parte Vieja ordering a couple in each place. 

7. Taste the famous Basque Cider

Inside Gurutzeta Sidreria in Asitgarraga

What better way to escape the rain than divulging into a huge steak, cod omelette and as much cider as you can drink? 

A city famous for its food needs the perfect beverage to wash down all the food. And that’s the most famous Basque drink – Basque cider!

The best way to taste the cider is in one of the local sidrería (Basque cider houses). There are over 100 within 10km from San Sebastian! Some of the best sidrerías are located in Astigarraga, a nearby town.

These establishments have long traditions and offer a unique experience. They usually serve a fixed priced food menu containing cod omelette, fried cod with peppers, finished with a huge steak and as much cider as you want! 

8. Take a Day Trip

View of the Vizcaya Bridge in the Ria Bilbao
Image from Puente Bizkaia Facebook

Whilst it may be raining in San Sebastian, the weather can change pretty dramatically in a matter of half an hours drive due to the surrounding mountains.

So if it’s raining in Donostia, it’s worth checking the weather in places such as Bilbao, Pamplona and Vitoria-Gasteiz. They are all just over an hour away by bus or train, so make an easy day trip from San Sebastian.

If you prefer some smaller traditional Basque coastal towns, there are plenty of options like Getaria, Hondarribia and Zarautz. All of them have their own history and charm and are easily reachable with public transport too.

Game of Thrones fans can even check out Zumaia or San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, two of the filming sets for the breathtaking Dragonstone in the series!

9. Watch nature’s show at Paseo Nuevo

Waves crashing against the walls of Paseo Nuevo

If it’s stormy (and not just raining) you might find that you can get a free live performance of the strength of the sea! 

Paseo Nuevo or The New Promenade loops around the headland Monte Urgull, exposed to the open Cantabrian Sea.

On stormy days, the waves come crashing against the 6 metre thick wall, pummelling it with all its power. There’s a reason it’s called the new promenade!

The result is an incredible spectacle with the waves easily engulfing the 10 metre wall. On particularly stormy days, the promenade will be closed, but you can get a good look from a safe distance on Monte Urgull. 

10. See natures art at El Peine Del Viento

el peine del viento sculpture in san sebastian

An intriguing set of sculptures, El Peine del Viento is almost alive as it lives and changes amongst the sea.

The huge steel sculptures sit on the rocks at the end of Ondarreta Beach and live in harmony with the waves. So similarly to Paseo Nuevo, when the sea is rough, the sculpture is its most impressive! 

Water crashes against the rocks and blasts from the number of blow holes on the viewing platform. Even if you visited El Peine del Viento 100 times, it’d offer something different on each occasion.