San Sebastian Architecture Guide

San Sebastian is home to a delightful clash of architectural styles, with medieval townhouses coexisting beside Renaissance monasteries, neo-Gothic churches, Belle Epoque spas, and cutting-edge, contemporary museums. Here are a few notable buildings you shouldn’t miss in this Basque Country city.

Castillo de la Mota
Perched atop Monte Urgull, this medieval stone fortress has existed in some form since the 12th century. The castle now houses the Casa de la Historia museum, and is well worth the climb for its panoramic views of the city.

Plaza de la Constitucion
Life in San Sebastian revolves around the Plaza de la Constitucion in the heart of the Old Town (Parte Vieja). Most of the buildings in this photogenic neighborhood date back to the 19th century, after the city was destroyed in 1813 by English, French, and Portuguese troops. Today the dynamic area teems with cafés and bars serving pintxos (small bar snacks) and txakoli wine, both Basque specialties. 

Cathedral Buen Pastor 
In the late 19th century, San Sebastian, then a a favored seaside resort of the wealthy, underwent rapid development. Part of this expansion was Buen Pastor, a neo-Gothic cathedral. Opened in 1897, the church was inspired by medieval religious structures in Germany and France.

City Hall (Ayuntamiento)
Admire the delicate Belle Epoque lines at the twin-towered Ayuntamiento (City Hall), which is housed in the former Gran Casino. The building dates back to 1897 and stands on La Concha Bay with Old Town to one side and the quiet Alderi Eder gardens to the other.

Real Club Náutio de San Sebastian
Built in 1928, the Real Club Náutico de San Sebastian was designed in the rationalist architectural style to resemble a moored ship. The unusual building, which houses a yacht club on La Concha Beach, ranks among the benchmark examples of modern architecture in Spain.

The two translucent cubes of the Kursaal were designed by architect Rafael Moneo to look like a pair of beached rocks. The award-winning contemporary building is particularly striking at night, when it’s illuminated and shimmers over La Concha.
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