On and off the Camino del Norte in San Sebastian, Spain

July 21, 2014 — 12 Comments

Even on a cloudy day, the first views of San Sebastian from the Camino del Norte were amazing. I had long anticipated visiting the Basque city and couldn’t wait to descend the mountain and walk along the beaches, check out the historic buildings, and have a closer look at the hill of Urgall. My time would be limited, but I was going to enjoy my afternoon and evening in San Sebastian.

I left my last post, Coastal Views Along The Camino del Norte in Spain, Pasajes de San Pedro to San Sebastian, here, after walking along one of the most scenic stretches of the Camino de Santiago. It had been a tiring day, but also one that was memorable for I had met a group of friendly, interesting women, and we would stay together for another day.

San Sebastian Zurriola Beach



San Sebastian, or Donostia in Basque, is the largest city in Basque Country, Euskadi, and has roots as a settlement dating back to Roman times. The city has a rich history that sadly has been influenced by numerous wars and periods of unrest. Since the middle ages, the French, Portuguese, British, and Spanish Nationalists all held the city for periods of time.

After a rich history, the vibrant city was destroyed by Portuguese & British soldiers in 1813. Shelling during the various Carlist Wars damaged the rebuilt city greatly and occupation of the Spanish Nationalists proved disastrous. Much of the city was again destroyed and many of the residents were killed or had to escape to other regions. The rebuilding of San Sebastian began in the early 1950s with major improvements in the 1990s to make the city not only a center of business for the region, but a tourist destination.

San Sebastian City Zurriola Beach



The Camino followed a road through a pleasant rural neighbourhood before descending through the forest for a short period.

San Sebastian bollard Camino del Norte



San Sebastian Camino del Norte track



After the descent, you arrive at the city proper. This church is the Parroquia Mariaren Bihotza.

San Sebastian church





While the Camino traveled through the downtown, our group first wanted to walk along Zurriola Beach. The hill of Urgull is in the center. As you can tell, the beach on this cool and showery afternoon was rather quiet. Zurriola Beach is 800 meters in length and most cities would be happy to have this beach alone. However, there two more beaches awaiting on the other side of Urgull. We’ll get there soon. Zurriola Beach is known as the “Surf Beach” in San Sebastian and popular with a younger crowd.

San Sebastian Zurriola Beach Spain



Looking back to Zurriola Beach and the mountain we had just descended.

Zurriola Beach Spain San Sebastian



Looking toward Urgull from the bridge over the Río Urumea.

San Sebastian Spain Urgull



The bridge, Puente del Kursaal, leads us to an vibrant and historic area part of San Sebastian. I’ll cover more of this area as well as the Camino through the city on my next post.

San Sebastian Nik Puente del Kursaal río Urumea



Because of its panoramic view to sea and around San Sebastian, Urgull was a strategic location for military operations dating back to the 12th century. On the top is Mota Castle as well as barracks and former military buildings. The statue you see is of Jesus Christ and was erected in 1950. The time has long passed that Urgull was used for military purposes, and today, the hill is a popular tourist attraction.

San Sebastian Urgull Camino





Urgull and the historic neighbourhood from the famous beach, Playa de la Concha. At 1.5 kilometers long, this is the most visited beach in San Sebastian and often voted among the top city beaches in the world. Ayuntamiento de San Sebastián is at the center, right.

San Sebastian Urgull Camino del Norte



Part of the attraction along the beaches in San Sebastian is the promenade along the entire length. It was clean and popular. I walked with a group and later, by myself, and never felt threatened. This beautiful clock overlooked Playa de la Concha.

San Sebastian promenade clock



One of the many performers along the promenade.

San Sebastian promenade concert



Facing La Concha Bay, Bahía de la Concha, and Santa Clara Island. In times of plaque, this island housed infected people to keep them away from the healthy in the city. Today, the small island is popular with tourists with a small beach and a bar. Santa Clara Island has its own port and a ferry operates from the city every half hour. 

Playa de la Concha San Sebastian Isla de Santa Clara



The sun is starting to set.

San Sebastian Isla Santa Clara Playa de la Concha



Someone spent a long time making this below surface level sand castle.

San Sebastian Sand Castle Playa de la Concha



One of the more attractive buildings along the promenade in San Sebastian is Maskor Gain. These luxury apartments overlook Playa de la Concha and some are available for rent.

San Sebastian Maskor Gain Playa de la Concha





Playa de Ondarreta is a smaller beach near Monte Igueldo. On a stormy, sunny day, this beach is also popular with surfers and bodyboarders. It was very quiet on this calm, cloudy evening.

Playa de la Concha San Sebastian Spain



Looking toward Monte Igueldo that has a popular lookout and a hotel overlooking the city and Bahía de la Concha.

Zurriola Beach San Sebastian Spain



I’ll stop here at Playa de Ondarreta. My albergue was a few blocks away and I had to get a bed for the night. It had been a long, tiring first day to this point from Irún on the Camino del Norte. I had never calculated the long walk through the city to the albergues. On my next post, An Evening in San Sebastian, Spain, On and off the Camino del Norte, I’ll backtrack through much of the city and show you the exterior of the cathedral, Catedral del Buen Pastor de San Sebastián, and visit the Camino through San Sebastian. With the setting sun, the walk was enjoyable, and the views were magnificent. I hope you enjoyed this post. Thanks for your time.

If you have my book, Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, or have ordered it, I really appreciate your support. It’s also out on Kindle and Kobo. My Goodreads and Amazon pages have reviews and more information. Please share this post, and thanks for your time.

About Randall St. Germain

Randall St. Germain, author of Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, is a middle-aged Canadian Boy who is passionate about nature, photography, hiking, music, and self-improvement. After the death of his mother, he chose to walk the famous pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago, across the north of Spain, despite knowing little about it. He certainly didn’t plan to write a book until the latter days of his Camino. Similar to walking the Camino, writing and publishing a book was a learning experience. It was also very rewarding, and part of his ongoing journey. Please join him as he takes you along on his journey in Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, and on his blog Camino My Way.


12 responses to On and off the Camino del Norte in San Sebastian, Spain

  1. What a mid-week treat Randall…absolutely gorgeous mon ami I think I will sit here for a while and admire your gorgeous photos and to also listen to the beautiful background music. Cheers!

    • Thanks Meesh. Always appreciate your comments. This post took a while extra due to research and sorting photos. It was easier when I just used one camera 🙂

  2. Beautiful! I’d rather be sitting there than at my desk. Great post!

  3. Hi, Randall
    I am an experienced walker, having done the Camino Frances and the Chemin du Puy. Am planning to walk the Camino del Norte in May. In your experience, are there enough refugios along the route to avoid having to carry a tent? I want to avoid having to carry the extra weight if not absolutely necessary
    Buen Camino

    • Mel, I haven’t walked the Chemin du Puy but have read a little about it. I would say that the albergues in terms of frequency and numbers of beds would be between the Chemin du Puy and Camino Francés. If you start walking early and stick with the stages, arriving in the early to mid afternoon, you should be fine. If you like to walk into the evening like I do, then there is a difficulty. I carried a tent on the Francés but didn’t use it and left it at home for the del Norte. I ended up staying in private hostals or hotel rooms on about 12 occasions when there wasn’t an albergue bed available or there wasn’t even an albergue in the area where I was. Of course it was an extra expense because I was alone but still not too bad. The average price then was about 24 Euros. Honestly, I don’t feel comfortable taking a tent and sure wouldn’t after someone tried to rob me on the third day of my del Norte. I hope that helps. A pleasant and safe journey to you. Buen Camino! 🙂

  4. Hi, Randall
    Our planned walk of the Camino del Norte is only 6 weeks away. While we have a lot of information gleaned from multiple sources such as your blogs, I haven’t been able to find any guidebook that lists the locations of the albergues des peregrinos along the way. Can you please point me to a good reference (or references?)

  5. Just setting off today and with your blog guidance we hope to start where you did. Finding your blog was a great help.

  6. Thank you for all the information you shared. I’m only starting to think about doing a bit of the camino with my husband and 2 kids next Easter. It’s great to have info. about the albergues.

    • Fiona, I picked up my albergue guide in San Sebastian. The Irun albergue may have one too. You may also find one online but make sure it is current. I wish you a pleasant journey. Stay safe 🙂

Leave a Reply

Text formatting is available via select HTML. <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>