San Sebastián on wheels! Tips for cycling the city

June 26, 2017
Oihana Guillan

Frequently, travellers on our San Sebastián tours compare San Sebastián to Amsterdam because we have a similar cycling culture. Yes, San Sebastián is a bike-friendly city, and the number of bikers getting around is growing every day. There’s nothing Basques enjoy more than getting around our dense mountains, fields, and astounding coastline on two wheels.

One of our favourite moments of the day is the bike ride before and after work. Bikes are an economic option for getting around, help you avoid traffic, prevent further pollution, and help disconnect us from our worries for a while.

Also, fun fact: Basques have always been passionate followers of professional cycling, especially the Tour de France. Legend Miguel Indurain is a professional Navarre-born cyclist who won this race for five consecutive years (1991-1995), as well as the Giro d’Italia in 1992 and 1993. Aside from these victories, he was also winner of the UCI Road World Championship, and won a gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Bike riding in San Sebastian.

Bikes ready to ride in San Sebastian | Photo by San Sebastian Urban Adventures

Biking San Sebastián and the Basque Region

San Sebastián boasts 30 kilometres of bike paths that will take you anywhere within a matter of minutes. Ride along La Concha (where there’s an automated counter that tallies the number of bikers daily) from the portside to Ondarreta Beach, move around the new town and cross the bridges to Gros (an emerging neighbourhood that is becoming more and more popular among locals and foodies), or follow the river to Amara and the mythical stadium of Anoeta, the headquarters of our football team Real Sociedad. Bike paths are intuitive and there are maps available online, in bike stores, and at the Tourist Information Office.

The bike paths in San Sebastián not only lead you to every corner and beyond in the immediate area, but the Basque Country has an extensive bike path infrastructure that spreads out even further, all the way from east to west. Many people even cycle the trails along the nearby St. James’ Way (also known as Camino de Santiago) instead of walking them.

Plus, bikes are allowed by transport companies like Renfe and Euskotren — trains you can take to move around the entire region.

Scenery in San Sebastian

Scenery you might see on a bike trip through San Sebastian

Rules of the road

Before you start pedalling, there are certain rules and restrictions to keep in mind if you want a safe ride in Basque Country. These common sense rules should be applied in all circumstances for everyone’s safety when you’re on a bike.

  • Many people use the bike paths in San Sebastián, but this doesn’t mean all of them are allowed to use them. Runners, dog walkers, and pedestrians overall are not welcome on a path exclusively dedicated to bikers. Therefore, beware. It’s important to watch for pedestrians who may be using the bike path inadvertently.
  • Remember that pedestrians will always have priority at crossroads. Bikes are vehicles and therefore they must yield.
  • Make sure to follow the traffic signs and lights.
  • If you are cycling on the road, stay on the right-hand side.
  • Do not use the sidewalk. If you need to move onto the sidewalk, you should be walking your bike, not riding it.
  • All bikes should have the basic equipment, including a bell, front and back reflectors, etc.
  • Wearing a helmet in urban areas is completely optional; however outside populated areas it is a compulsory requirement. In San Sebastián, children under 13 are encouraged to wear helmets in all cases.
  • On bike paths, do not surpass a speed of more than 15km/hr.
  • Wearing earpieces or headsets while cycling can result in a EUR 200 fine.
  • Similarly, speaking on your mobile phone while riding is also forbidden and can result in a ticket.
  • Drunk cycling is not permitted, and can be punished with a fine of EUR 500 to 1,000.

While fines aren’t given out frequently in San Sebastián, mobility agents might make you stop and get off your bike whenever you’ve committed an infraction. Agents in San Sebastián frequently say that their intention is more to educate bikers and pedestrians.

Sightseeing while cycling is one of the best ways to embrace Basque culture. Basques have a great sense of orientation and a great knowledge of the region’s bike paths and hiking trails. If you are an adventurous traveller, you might want to consider a bike tour of San Sebastián instead of just seeing the city by foot. Our local guides know every bike path like the backs of their hands, and for nearly three hours of fun, we will show you some of the best things to see in our city, along with a few hidden gems.

Basque by Bike

Your San Sebastián cycle tour will start at one of the most iconic buildings in the city: the town hall, Ayuntamiento. Before we take off, you’ll get to mingle with locals, check out the antique carousel, and learn quirky facts like why there are so many small trees in this area, and how San Sebastián is connected to Japan.