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More insider guides for planning a trip to San Sebastián
For all of its glamorous gastronomy, San Sebastián is a small coastal town with an older demographic. That said, the nightlife scene is surprisingly varied, with options that range from classic clubbing to relaxed gin or whisky sipping.
The ‘night’ starts after dinner, around midnight. Locals kick off a long evening out (or end an early one) with a drink in a smaller, laid back bar. Many of those bars close around 2am, and that’s when the transition to discotecas and late-night bars happens. It’s quite easy to find yourself out until 5 or 6am (this is Spain, after all), so embrace the tradition of bar-hopping between gin and tonics with an open mind (and without a watch).
Down a dark alleyway behind the train station, Dabadaba is definitely off the beaten track. However, it has become the official gathering place for hipsters, music lovers, and late-night partiers looking for an alternative to the clubbing scene. Expect several concerts a week, from indie bands across the globe, and an open, anything goes vibe. The bar’s strength is its craft beer selection. On weekends, this is a last stop kind of place.
Contact: 00 34 943 26 58 26; dabadabass.com
Opening times: Thurs, 8:30pm–4:30am; Fri-Sat, 8:30pm-6am
La Gintonería Donostiarra
As the name suggests, the specialty here is the local favourite, the G&T. Expect the most elaborate mixture of gin and tonic you’ve ever had, though—owner Txema Huici is a passionate mixologist and his entire barstaff is trained to painstakingly prepare miniature works of art in oversized fishbowl glasses. Choose from more than 150 gins, and rest assured that the ice will be large and clear, the tonic will be premium, and the finished product will be only slightly stirred to maintain the carbonation. This is more of a sit-down spot, buzzy but tranquil.
Contact: 00 34 943 02 19 56
Opening times: Tues-Thurs, 11am-1am; Fri-Sat, 12pm-2:30am; Sun, 11am-1am
From what could quite possibly be the smallest bar in the city, a passionate elderly couple pours sweet red vermouth over ice for hundreds of customers daily. Bar Roberto is a study in passion – the owners keep a rotation of artisan Spanish vermouths on the lengthy menu, from cheaper large-batch brands from the local wine region to craft vermouths made from costlier wines like Albariño from Galicia. Bar Roberto is a gathering place every midday and evening, and you’ll find its crowd spilling out into the streets, everyone with a red vermouth garnished with an explosion of citrus peels and olives, laughing and drinking to work up an appetite.
Contact:00 34 943 27 90 96
Opening times: Weds-Sat, 12pm-3:30pm and 6:30pm-10:30pm; Sun, 12pm-3:30pm
GU boasts one of the best locations in the entire city. From a structure whose Rationalist architecture stands out among the sea of surrounding Belle Epoque buildings, GU has spectacular views over La Concha bay and the Island of Santa Clara. While it is the perfect location for viewing the sunset, GU comes alive after midnight. You’ll find DJs every weekend and a club packed full of people until the wee hours of the morning (note that a cover charge applies). This is where the beautiful people go to drink and dance the night away.
Contact: 00 34 843 98 07 75; gusansebastian.com
Opening times: Weds, 5pm-2am; Thurs, 5pm-5am; Fri-Sat, 5pm-6am; Sun 5pm-12am
A true San Sebastián classic, Atari is the nexus of the post-pintxo, gin and tonic culture of this food-crazed city. In the very centre of town, next to the Santa Maria del Coro church, Atari serves pintxos all day long, which makes for a smooth segue into the digestive gin and tonic. The waiters mix with an expert hand, with a selection of premium gins that have shaped local tastes, like Brockman’s, Martin Miller’s and Nordés. Nights get packed, and it seems like everyone passes by at least once on their nocturnal amble through the Old Town.
Contact: 00 34 943 44 07 92
Opening times: Sat-Thurs, 12pm-2am; Fri, 12pm-3am
Formerly known as BeBop, this beloved outpost is known for putting on an eclectic mix of music and welcoming all types of partiers. There’s an amped-up cocktail list with sophisticated twists on classics like the Moscow Mule. Friday after work often includes live music and free snacks. When it seems like nowhere else is open, ¡BE! Club is a lifesaver with its varied soundtrack and late hours.
Contact: 00 34 943 47 85 05; beclubss.com
Opening times: Sun-Thurs, 3pm-5am; Fri-Sat, 3pm-6:30am
Going down the stairs of centrally located Altxerri is like stepping into an alternate universe. The city’s ubiquitous Latin and electronic soundtrack is replaced by the live plucking of an upright bass or the soulful notes of the saxophone. Live acts are advertised on the board outside, and if someone’s playing be sure to enter. With its stone walls and speakeasy vibe, Altxerri is also quite a romantic spot to finish up the evening.
Contact: 00 34 943 42 16 93; baraltxerri.blogspot.com
Opening times: Tues-Sat, 7pm-4am; Sun, 7pm-12am
Museo del Whisky
Half bar, half attraction, the Museo del Whisky’s walls are lined with the owner’s personal collection of whisky bottles (more than 3000!). The dark wooden booths on the first floor are perfect for conversing, while the basement is where the more active clientele spend the evening. Live piano music is an almost daily feature, and after the concert the music takes a turn towards the danceable and the atmosphere gets a bit rowdier.
Contact: 00 34 943 42 64 78
Opening times: Mon-Sat, 3:30pm-3:30am
Pokhara is tucked away on a side street of San Sebastián’s Reyes Católicos neighbourhood. It is a quintessential European café bar, down to its marble bar top and brass detailing. The drinks are classic too, although the carajillo (a shot of espresso with whiskey or rum and heavy cream) is particularly well prepared. There are crowds all day long, but at night the terrace comes alive and a real buzz sets in on its quiet corner. Starting Thursdays, DJs spin until closing time.
Contact: 00 34 943 45 50 23
Opening times: Mon-Fri, 7:30am-2:30am; Sat-Sun, 3pm-2:30am
This club is buried in the basement of the Belle Epoque Victoria Eugenia theatre. The entrance doubles as a pintxo bar and aperitif spot during the day, but from midnight it can be distinguished by the lines outside the door. Expect to pay an entry fee, albeit one that includes a free drink. Also expect to dance to a mix of electronic, reggaeton and pop music in a crowded scene with a wide variety of ages and profiles. This is one of the best late-night options in town.
Contact: 00 34 943 42 03 44; victoriacafe.es
Opening times: Tues-Thurs, 9:30am-10:30pm; Fri-Sun, 10pm-6:30am