One of the most beautiful cities along the Cantabrian coast (often known as the summer capital of Europe), San Sebastián is framed by a breathtaking white sandy bay overlooking the pristine ocean. It also has a unique and creative vibe reflected most in its extensive collection of superb hotels. From eclectic boutiques to large and ultra-modern, here are my picks for the best cool and trendy hotels in San Sebastián, Spain…
Hotel Catalonia Donosti
Located at a natural viewpoint, on the hill of San Bartolomé in the city’s Central district, with magnificent panoramic views across La Concha beach and the Old Town, is Hotel Catalonia Donosti.
Two minutes walk from the cathedral, and just 10 minutes from the beach or railway station, it is an ideal hotel to make the most of San Sebastián, enjoying the charm of this historic building with all the comfort and luxury of a boutique hotel.
The hotel is located in the remains of an old convent, dating to the 17th and 18th centuries, with some elements protected by Urban Heritage for their historical value and other parts newly built.
The 128 rooms and suites are nicely styled in noble warm tones with plenty of leather and velvet to complement some hard stone features. One thing in this hotel you don’t want to miss is the views from the panoramic terrace on the roof of the building accessed by a panoramic elevator.
With stunning views over La Concha beach, the Cathedral, and the city center as the sun sets across the bay, or for hot days, stare from the rooftop swimming pool and the solarium area with sun loungers and a chill-out area.
Gorgeous views over La Concha beach
Majestic Basque Coast
The cafe area needs improvement
Food can be pricey
Arima Hotel & Spa
A short distance south of San Sebastián is the leafy techno suburb of Miramón-Zorroaga with spacious green hills punctuated by architecturally inspiring creations such as the Arima Hotel & Spa, a small luxury hotel.
Outside the building appears as if a collection of modernist boxes has been stacked slightly out of kilter. The light sparkles through huge, square windows, and the views parade treetops and expanses of sky, creating a feeling that the entire structure floats in the trees.
Arima is architecturally inspiring and environmentally sustainable, using clean energies, water collection systems, and selective waste management.
Rooms and suites are delightful, comfortable, and restful, emphasizing the natural world. There is a fully equipped fitness area with state-of-the-art training machines and a large spa with a water area, infrared saunas, massage rooms, and a truly glorious rooftop swimming pool.
A very good restaurant spills onto a lovely woodside terrace in summer, and, aside from all this, there’s a regular bus service into San Sebastián, which stops directly outside.
Environmentally sustainable management
Green and tranquil environment
The spa gets booked up
Limited breakfast options
The Zinema7 Hotel is a chic, movie-themed hotel in the largely residential Amara district of San Sebastián. Amara sits along a bend of the River Urumea, with lively bars and cafés amongst tree-lined boulevards and parks.
Yet all this is only a 15-minute walk from the Central district with its famous beach and nearby Old Town. On the walk to Central is the linear Araba Park, with children’s play areas and sculptures honoring Queen María Cristina. At the same time, the hilly Garden of Memory features the minimalist Iesu Church.
Zinema7 Hotel is movie-themed throughout, reflecting San Sebastián’s long association with cinema. Each suite, each room, and each corner pays homage to the stars that have passed through the Zinemaldi, the annual International Film Festival.
Rooms and suites are larger than you find on Central and have a modern, comfortable style with clean lines and soft tones which is continued in the shared spaces to significant effect.
An excellent cocktail bar on site and a good restaurant with a daily seasonal menu and pintxos of Basque specialties. Overall a good, unpretentious hotel that offers excellent accommodation and services at an honest rate.
Pintxos of Basque specialities
Limited parking space
Pillows could be softer
In the Igeldo district, high in the hills to the west of Donostia-San Sebastián, is the impressive Hotel Akelarre. A magic modern architectural box perched with magnificent views over the Bay of Biscay, city, and countryside with an adjoining Michelin star restaurant.
Everything about the hotel is absorbingly beautiful, with pure, clean lines, honed natural stone and quality craftsmanship continuously pulling your eye to the stunning views across the ocean.
The deceptive trompe-l’œil of a metal box that greets you on arrival hides warm descending layers of majestic inspiration. Rooms and suites are subtle and minimalist, all with ocean views, and the finest suites have dressing rooms and private indoor-outdoor plunge pools with a view.
On the first floor of the hotel, in an outstanding setting overlooking the sea, Akelarre Spa is an adults-only space for body and mind relaxation with three treatment cabins, a sauna, a steam room, and a heated hydrotherapy pool with hydromassage jets, waterfalls for the back and a hot tub.
Although it feels remote, it’s only a 15-minute drive to the center of San Sebastián.
Heated hydrotherapy pool
Turkish bath; sauna and three cabins for spa treatments
Adjoining Michelin star restaurant
Modern architectural spectacle
Hotel Villa Favorita
So close to La Concha Beach that it nearly touches the sand, this beautiful, sophisticated adults-only hotel is only 1 km from the Donostia-San Sebastián train station and the San Telmo Museum in the Old Town.
The perfect location for everything and anything Donostiarra. An impressive 19th-century building in the heart of the old promenade with a beautiful front terrace to watch the world waltz by. Much of the original elegance has been preserved with bright original features, plenty of art deco ironwork, and enormous windows overlooking the bay.
On either side of the old building are newer extensions where rooms have glass-fronted balconies with unobstructed views of the horizon and, of course, the romantic Atlantic sunset.
Whether you take a room or suite at the front overlooking the promenade or at the rear overlooking the city, they are all exquisitely designed and decorated in bright white with soft tones and clean lines respectful to the building.
When you think it can’t get much better – there’s an on-site two-star Michelin restaurant and a lovely little bar. Hotel Villa Favorita is a perfect example of the art of hotelling.
Tour of local culture
Art Deco ironwork
Room Mate Gorka Hotel
In the historic central district overlooking tree-lined Gipuzkoa Plaza is Room Mate Gorka Hotel. Don’t be distracted by the name; it’s a stylish, classy hotel in a swish art deco building with gorgeously styled rooms in the absolute heart of San Sebastián.
Rooms and suites are furnished in quality contemporary tones of warm grey with nods to the building’s heritage, but without trying to mimic the era, some have large windows overlooking the lovely garden square below.
Shared spaces have equally comfortable décor with splashes of rich tan to add color. There’s a gym, an excellent breakfast hall, and a very good bar on the ground floor with a small terrace.
It would be hard to find a better location just a short walk from the beach, restaurants, bars, cafés parks and all that’s great about this small city.
Swish art deco building
Contemporary warm gray tones
Scenic Monte Igueldo is nearby
The gym is a bit small
Some noise from the streets
Hotel Zenit San Sebastián
Slightly back from the main streets of Amara in a small valley on the edge of the Aiete district, the Hotel Zenit has neat, modern accommodations styled in a better-than-usual hotelesque fashion.
Rooms and suites are comfortable and practical, yet simply tasteful. The shared spaces have a bit more flair with an almost Scandi theme from plenty of plain wooden surfaces.
It’s a 20-minute walk to the beach at La Concha but, because Hotel Zenit is away from the Central district, it can offer on-site parking, larger rooms for the money, and a good gym with a rooftop solarium and jacuzzi for the summer months.
There’s also a good restaurant on-site with a fabulous breakfast to prepare you for a day exploring this beautiful city.
Eclectic traditional Basque cuisine
Exquisite bright exterior
Cristina Enea Park is nearby
Parking is extra
Some rooms can be small
Hotel Tres Reyes San Sebastián
Tucked away in the south of Donostia-San Sebastián in the modern, largely residential, technology district of Miramón-Zorroaga is the Hotel Tres Reyes.
In itself a contemporary architectural building, super modern, and elegant with a lovely outdoor swimming pool overlooking the neighboring foothills. Inside it’s been creatively styled with bold colors and textures, creating comfortable and soothing rooms, suites, and shared spaces, and cleverly smashing the beige and brown hotel mold – making it imaginatively stand apart.
There’s plenty of tranquillity and nature in this part of the city and it’s only a 15-minute drive or bus journey to the center or 5 minutes to the golf course.
The pool is especially lovely and has its bar, There’s also a very good restaurant serving the finest Basque cuisine at realistic prices and, when you need to shake it all off, a well-equipped gym. An excellent example of how to build and run an excellent modern hotel.
Contemporary architectural building
Creatively styled with bold colors
One of the few hotels to be found in the narrow streets of the Old Town in Donostia–San Sebastián, the Hotel Atari is located inside a beautiful old landmark building directly opposite the stunning Basilica of Santa Maria del Coro, in the heart of the pedestrianized heritage lanes of bars, pintxos, shops, museums, and art.
The rooms are boldly decorated in warm, tasteful tones – the very best, if you can book it, has a wonderful, spacious balcony overlooking the church square.
A sumptuous breakfast is included and there’s a renowned restaurant in the basement serving local and global cuisine. A frankly lovely heritage hotel in a superb location just a short walk from everything in the Old Town and Central districts.
Sophistication of modern facilities
Spectacular views of the Basilica Charming guest rooms with balconies
Glass bathroom doors
A little noisy
This handsome building, a peculiar architectural cross between Castillo and ski lodge, sits in the quiet neighborhood of Ategorrieta-Ulia about 20 minutes walk from central San Sebastián and the beach at Zurriola.
Sitting on a small rise between a road and a railway neatly buffers the noise and provides some wonderful views towards Mt Ulia.
The external quirkiness of the building is replaced by enchantingly styled interiors with wood paneling, parquet, tasteful furnishings, highlighted original features, and comfortable, bright rooms – a few with balconies.
Someone has put a great deal of time and thought into transforming this old home into a lovely retreat, and it works incredibly well. There’s an excellent on-site restaurant serving local produce with a lovely outdoor terrace for the warmer months.
Enchantingly styled interiors
Charming and chic hotel
Kettle needed in rooms
Can be a bit noisy
Competition to be the best hotel in Donostia–San Sebastián is fierce, but the Hotel Arbaso easily retains a position near the top.
Housed within a stunning 19th-century building on the edge of the Good Shepherd of San Sebastián Cathedral square, it is thoroughly modernized inside to provide very comfortable contemporary accommodation and is just a few minutes walk from both the beach and the main railway station.
There are just 50 rooms and suites, some have balconies or cathedral views, and all are finished with unique and exclusive top-quality materials, treated in an artisanal way with iconic and luxurious decoration that oozes unique and unpretentious design.
There is, as you might expect, an excellent restaurant and bar on-site, plus a small gym and sauna. Step outside and you’re in the very heart of this thriving city with its castle, cathedral, harbors, beach, and cuisine.
Stunning 19th-century building
Some rooms can be small
Get get booked up
Hotel Villa Soro
On the eastern side of Donostia–San Sebastián in the grand, peaceful Ategorrieta-Ulia neighborhood is the astonishing Villa Soro.
A beautiful historic 19th-century Baroque villa, reminiscent of a Scottish estate house, in a grand old residential part of town – yet just a 20-minute walk from Zurriola beach and the Central district.
There are only 25 individually designed rooms, each recognizing the heritage of the building with restful, respectful furnishings and plenty of delightful detail.
A grand entrance hall leads to welcoming lounges with fireplaces, a pretty terrace for summer evenings, as well as gardens. On-site are a fine English cocktail bar and a Basque restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
There’s also a small gym and wellness center delivering massages and treatments. A lovely retreat from the city bustle, yet close enough to partake in the best of San Sebastián.
Welcoming lounges with fireplaces
On-site cocktail bar
A little distance from the town
Breakfast menu is limited
Zenit Convento San Martin
Set just a two-minute walk from La Concha beach in the center of San Sebastián, the Hotel Zenit Convento San Martin hides behind the classical façade of an old convent built in 1887 for the congregation of the Servants of Mary.
Inside the remarkable décor continues, with some of the painted ceilings, stained glass, and carved pillars salvaged from its original holy purpose. Guest rooms and suites are modern and very comfortably styled with warm tones, wooden floors, good lighting, and spacious bathrooms.
Some of the higher-storey rooms have outdoor terraces with access to the rooftop pool and one suite has an exquisite original painted vaulted ceiling.
The on-site restaurant offers a legendary breakfast and gastronomically delightful Basque and international cuisine late into the evening. Outside the old streets lead through shopping, gardens, eating, and entertainment towards the Old Town.
Zenit Convento San Martin is arguably one of the best value Donostiarra hotels available.
Walking Tour of San Sebastian
Santa Clara Island Boat Cruise
Basic gym facilities
A bit pricey
Hotel One Shot Tabakalera House
A fifteen-minute stroll from the Central district across the Urumea River and overlooking the pretty Cristina Enea Park is the oddly named Hotel One Shot Tabakalera House.
Located within the Tabakalera (a former tobacco warehouse now a cultural center with curated exhibitions, an extensive media library, and a lovely cafeteria and upstairs a rooftop restaurant), Hotel One Shot is quirkily designed with presumably Mondrian inspiration in black metalwork squares with slabs of primary color.
Some of the rooms have a peculiar duplex layout with a mezzanine seating area above the bed, others have metal cube-type four-posters to perpetuate the modern art theme.
There’s a small fitness centre and daily buffet breakfast for guests, otherwise is plenty to see and do across the bridge or stare at the flamingos in the park.
Peculiar duplex layout
Designed with Mondrian inspiration
Views of Mount Ulia
The gym is a bit small
No coffee machines in rooms
Axel Hotel San Sebastián
In the Central district of San Sebastián, close to the Old Town and famous La Concha beach, is Axel Hotel; a bright, modern hotel for adults only, which describes itself as hetero-friendly.
Neatly designed, warm furnishings in coppertone and crystal-blue dress a welcoming reception hall, and this restful theme curves throughout the building.
Guest rooms and suites enhance the style with plenty of natural light from big windows and defined tasteful furnishings. Some of the higher rooms have balconies to sit out and enjoy the Atlantic air. Axel Hotel San Sebastián has all the essential services you’d expect in a good hotel: a good buffet breakfast, fitness center, sauna, massage spa, stunning rooftop sundeck with a swimming pool, solarium, lounge, and even a Turkish bath.
Ideally located for wandering the streets, a trip around the port and Mount Igueldo, or taking a walk around La Concha Bay, enjoying all that Donostia has to offer as a cosmopolitan city, full of spectacular food, heritage, and culture.
Stunning rooftop sundeck
Warm furnishings in Coppertone
Aiete Park is nearby
See through bathroom walls
Lively vibe might not be for everyone
Hotel San Sebastián Orly Affiliated by Meliá
Set just one street back from La Concha Beach in the Central district, the difficultly named Hotel San Sebastián Orly Affiliated by Meliá (also known as the Tryp Orly) is a tower block in the very heart of San Sebastián perfectly located for all the amenities.
A bit dated and crumbling on the outside the theme is continued inside with brave attempts to modernize the rooms and suites leaving some aspects to be desired.
The higher the room, the better the view out of it, and the quieter the noise levels from the street. Some of the rooms have balconies with magnificent views across the beach, bay, and city center.
There’s a small restaurant on the ground floor offering a buffet breakfast and the whole of Donostia-San Sebastián just a few steps outside the front door with an enormous variety of fine restaurants and bars.
An extremely convenient place to stay, particularly for families, if you want somewhere to truly experience this beautiful Basque city.
Magnificent views across the beach
Modern and spacious accommodation
A bit pricey
The bathroom is a bit small
Off Beat Guesthouse
If you enjoy a budget crash pad in a historic location, this might be the perfect place. A tall, thin lodging house (aka hostel) of five stories in the narrow streets of the Old Town district of Donostia–San Sebastián, the type with nobody on site where you phone for a key code on arrival or struggle with an expired website.
Rooms are small but were brightly modernized and cleaned in the past. Some have windows opening to the pretty stone streets with their bustling nightlife, others open to a quieter central atrium of daylight and soil pipes.
Off Beat Guesthouse is well located for Old Town restaurants and bars, the beautiful 16th-century church of San Bizente is directly opposite, and San Telmo Museoa of Basque history is just around the corner. For travellers interested in entomology this place boasts its in-house living collection.
Hip and Cool Atmosphere
Historic Old Town Location
Modernized and Clean Rooms
Can be expensive
No sound Proofing
A few kilometers to the east of San Sebastián in the nice residential suburb of Intxaurrondo is the adults-only B&B, Villa Birdie.
A neat property with just 5 rooms, some balconies, and a small pool to the rear. On the outside it’s vaguely reminiscent of an Alpine chalet because it was originally designed for the Austrian consul, it is well-styled with contemporary furnishings and the occasional reproduction piece to add color.
Usefully there’s a lift to the upper floors, a good breakfast included each morning, and an honesty bar – should you fancy a nightcap.
There are a few restaurants and taverns in the surrounding streets and it’s very well located for public transport to San Sebastián with Intxaurrondo railway station and bus stops just a 5-minute walk away.
Beautiful Alpine Chalet Aesthetic
Upscale Contemporary Design
Breakfast with organic food
No On-Site Dining
Distance from City Center
All Hotels in San Sebastián Ranked
The table compares the top 18 cool and trendy hotels in San Sebastián.
Hotel Name Location Price Range (per night) Fitness Facilities Distance to Attractions (km) Nearby Restaurants
Hotel Catalonia Donosti 9 Alto San Bartolome Kalea $359-$712 No 1.0 3
Zinema7 Hotel Sagrada Familia, 1, esquina Sancho El Sabio $207-$343 Yes 0.9 2
Hotel Akelarre Padre Orcolaga 56 Monte Igueldo $1296-$1943 Yes 3.7 3
Hotel Villa Favorita Zubieta Kalea 26 $598 No 0.8 2
Room Mate Gorka Hotel 11 Gipuzkoa Plaza $369-$455 No 1.0 1
Arima Hotel & Spa Paseo de Miramon 162 $285-$724 Yes 1.7 2
Hotel Zenit San Sebastián Antonio Maria Labaien $219-$252 No 0.9 2
Hotel Tres Reyes San Sebastián Calle Dulce María Loynaz $195-$465 Yes 2.1 3
Hotel Atari 18 Calle Mayor $272-$276 No 1.4 3
Hotel Bidaïa Ategorrieta Hiribidea, 14 $287-$584 No 1.5 1
Hotel Arbaso 24 Hondarribia Kalea $314-$634 Yes 0.95 1
Hotel Villa Soro Avenida de Ategorrieta, 61 $341-$500 Yes 1.4 1
Zenit Convento San Martin San Martin Kalea $336-$380 No 0.9 2
Hotel One Shot Tabakalera House Paseo Duque de Mandas $219-$318 Yes 1.2 3
Axel Hotel San Sebastián 26 Amara Kalea $260-$335 Yes 1.1 3
Hotel San Sebastián Orly Affiliated by Meliá Plaza Zaragoza, 4 $323-$832 No 0.85 3
Off Beat Guesthouse, Sleep Conscious 31 de Agosto 16, planta 1 $110 No 1.4 3
Villa Birdie 66 Intxaurrondo Kalea, Gros $343 No 2.1 1
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Becky Moore – Owner, writer and photographer
My first true adventure began as a six month voyage around South East Asia as a fresh faced backpacker and ever since I’ve lived a semi nomadic existence, clocking up visits to over 40 countries. I’m a lover of US Road Trips, deserted beaches bathed in warm glow of a sunset, Cuban mojitos, travel destinations far away from the tourist crowds and all things Scandinavian – from cloudberry liquors to Nordic noirs. When not wandering the world and running Global Grasshopper, you’ll find me walking my ex Athens street dog in leafy South West London, strolling around the Brighton Lanes on random day trips, hunting for photogenic landscapes or daydreaming about my favourite places; Havana, Copenhagen, Italy, Borneo, Finland, Greece, Berlin, Laos, California and the surreal and beautiful landscapes of a wintry Iceland.
I’ve been quoted in Forbes, National Geographic, The Times, Yahoo Travel, Huffington Post, Business Insider, Thrillist, British Airways Magazine, Entrepreneur, express.co.uk, Wanderlust, Telegraph Travel, Daily Mail and metro.co.uk. Find me on Linkedin or Facebook.