Nightlife in San Sebastián: Partying the Basque way

February 24, 2018
Oihana Guillan

Most tourists who visit San Sebastián can’t wait to taste the local cuisine, but there comes a point when sampling so much food becomes overwhelming, and you need other activities for exploring local life. That typically includes wandering around the city, relaxing at some of the best beaches in Europe, or shopping for local products and gifts in the fancy stores of the city centre. But if you’re more into discovering a city’s nightlife, then add mingling with locals at pubs, live music bars and discos to your to-do list.

Here’s how to party the Basque way in San Sebastián — because combining culture with a few pints and cocktails is something we definitely enjoy.

Live music pubs and concert halls

Dabadaba – Mundaiz, 8

Welcome to Dabadaba, one of the most popular and versatile music venues in San Sebastián! More than just a dance hall, Dabadaba regularly features markets, exhibitions, music gigs and amazing parties. DJ sets are especially popular, but every night is unique at Dabadaba, with artists from all genres and countries hitting the stage at different hours.

abadaba tends to attract an alternative, bohemian crowd, and the vibe is usually pretty relaxed. Its location close to both the train and bus stations makes it a perfect venue for those staying in the city centre, Gros or Old Town area. If you can’t find it, just look for the Tabakalera building, the International Centre for Contemporary Culture. Dabadaba is right around the corner.

locals enjoying pintxos at night in San Sebastian
Pre-party warm up! For those wanting to combine pintxo eating with partying, don’t forget that Thursday is a magical night for Basques | Photo by San Sebastian Urban Adventures

Le Bukowski – Egia, 18

One of the classic venues in San Sebastián, opened back in the 1980s, Le Bukowski is widely known among locals for being one of the best options to end a night. This always-crowded retro pub is a local favourite, located in the Egia district.

This is another ideal club if you’re wandering the city centre and Gros areas. If you’re looking for live music, eclectic DJ sets and all kinds of genres, from electronica to soul, Le Bukowski might be the club for you.

Altxerri Bar & Jazz – Reina Regente, 2

Right by the spectacular Victoria Eugenia theatre, in one of the basements along Reina Regente Street, you’ll find jazz paradise in Altxerri Bar&Jazz. Donostiarras go crazy for good, old-style jazz, and this is the place to hear it, especially if you also like excellent cocktails and a lively crowd.

It’s centrally located, and features a mix of local Basque musicians and international artists. As a club that’s been offering live shows for at least 20 years now, Altxerri is the most influential pub in the San Sebastián jazz scene, and is one of the main venues during the annual Jazz Festival.

Convent Garden – Manterola, 15

No, you’re not entering a nunnery. Convent Garden is a relatively new spot, catering to the alternative youth of San Sebastián. It’s also an amazing pub, still unknown to many locals, but with a promising future ahead.

It’s located close to Buen Pastor Cathedral, in the old San Martín Obispo or Reparadoras parish. The building consists of three different areas for hanging out: a patio (Convent Garden) with gorgeous views and a place to enjoy a drink and live music under the sun; a concert room called La Cripta (former crypt of the church); and A Room in the City hostel, making it the right place to mingle with people from all over the world.

Panoramic view of San Sebastián at night (Amara, Egia, Gros and city centre) | Photo by San Sebastian Urban Adventures

Discos: Gu, Bataplan, Victoria Café Disco

Discos in San Sebastián have always been tremendously trendy. And while there are some unspoken etiquette rules, unless they are are hosting a VIP event, these discos are accessible to anyone looking for fun times in a fashionable club by the bay.

Both Gu and Bataplan, the most popular discos in San Sebastián, offer truly fabulous locations, with a terrace or balcony offering breathtaking views to La Concha. There is an entrance fee in both cases, but a drink is typically included.

Gu, the curious white ship building by the port and city hall, has been a popular choice for ravers over the decades. Meanwhile, Bataplan is the choice of young locals, especially university students, who go out every Thursday during the academic year. Its stylish and sometimes bizarre décor will have you exploring the spacious room.

Lastly, Victoria Café Disco in Victoria Eugenia theatre is a few blocks away from La Concha. It’s an interesting option on Saturday nights, with a luxurious location near the Hotel Maria Cristina — trust us, it’ll make for an unforgettable night.

When does the party start?

It is widely known that Spaniards always do everything late. Here, in the Basque Country, we are not so different. Many friends have a sandwich in the port area and then hang out by the bay, where they have a few drinks on the sand. Others choose to go on a pintxo crawl (called a “pintxopote”), then hit the dance floor.

If you go out around 8pm, you’ll immediately realise no one’s in the mood for partying yet. In fact, the party doesn’t start until 11pm or midnight and won’t end until around 4am (or when the sun rises).

If you’re not here to party, and simply want to experience a live concert, music venues in San Sebastián all have their agendas available online.

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