Maria Cristina – Grand riverfront hotel frequented by monarchs and Hollywood superstars.
Purpose-built in 1912, the hotel is an awesome example of San Sebastián’s famous Belle Époque architecture with its ornate balconies, high ceilings, and arched windows. Since its inauguration by the eponymous queen, it has been considered the accommodation option in town. As part of the Marriott Luxury Collection, the hotel’s décor has been updated with modern touches like elegant bathrooms, colorful modern art and photography on the walls, and a great bar. While the Maria Cristina is an excellent choice year round thanks to its downtown location, it really comes to life in the summer months when the huge ground floor windows are thrown open for dining and drinking on its wraparound riverside terrace. The hotel is big enough to feel buzzy, but not so big that guests get overlooked. Even the smallest rooms are huge, and all accommodations feature bathtubs and rain showers.
- Best Hotels for Families in San Sebastián
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- Where to Stay in San Sebastián
Maria Cristina – Location
- Address: Paseo República Argentina 4.
- Nearest Bus: For local buses, head to Plaza Gipuzkoa, a 3-minute walk (0.2 mile) away.
- Area: Maria Cristina has a fantastic location in the city center, specifically in the part known as the Área Romántica (for its graceful Belle Époque architecture), on the riverfront, and a couple of minutes’ walk from the sea. It’s one block away from the Parte Vieja, just across the river from the Kursaal, and equidistant from Playa de Zurriola or Playa de la Concha.
- How to Get There: From San Sebastián Airport, the hotel is approximately 25 minutes (13 miles) via car or 40 minutes via public transport. From Bilbao Airport, the hotel is approximately 90 minutes (64 miles) via car or public transport. If taking public transport, you’ll either come into the main bus station (Donostiako Autobus Geltokia) and the long-distance (Renfe) Donostia-San Sebastián train station (0.5 mile), which are beside each other on the east side of the River Urumea, or the Amara regional train station (0.7 mile) just south of the Área Romántica.
- Handy to: La Concha & Zurriola beaches, Parte Vieja (for pintxos), Monte Urgull.
Maria Cristina – The Basics
- Ages: The hotel attracts all age groups and is very family-friendly.
- View: The best rooms have views that take in the river, sea, and Monte Ulía, as well as Monte Urgull and the Parte Vieja. Notable buildings you’ll see from the hotel include the Kursaal, the Teatro Victoria Eugenia, and the Tabakalera.
- Private Pools/Jacuzzis: No private pools or jacuzzis.
- Laundry: Full laundry services are available (extra cost).
- Parking: There is a public car park underneath the hotel with spaces reserved for guests (€41/day). Valet parking is available, as is electric car charging.
- Extras: Breakfast and newspapers delivered to rooms on request. Concierge, luggage liaison, and porter services. On-site gourmet deli and business center in the lobby with printing and photocopying facilities. Kids activity bags, in-room cable TV with 35 international channels, and turndown service. One pet per room allowed for €33.
- When to Book: Book well ahead (3-4 months) if you’re planning on coming during one of the city’s major festivals (January, August, September, December), during high season (May-October), or over Christmas.
- How to Book: Booking.com will have the best rates.
- Phone: +34 943 437 600
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: marriott.co.uk
Maria Cristina – Amenities
- Pool: No pool.
- Spa: No spa, but in-room treatments can be organized on request.
- Fitness Center: The hotel has a fitness center with a good range of cardio equipment, open to guests 24/7. Personal trainers are available on request.
- For Disabled Guests: The hotel has 3 elevators and rooms that are fully wheelchair accessible. There are also kits and features for guests with hearing impairments, such as flashing door knockers and TTY/TTD.
- For Families: Families receive a complimentary breakfast, including a children’s breakfast buffet. Slippers are provided for both adults and children, as are toiletries. Kids are also given a book about the hotel, an activity book, and a toy. Rollaway beds and baby cots are provided at an extra cost.
- Activities: From food and drink tours (see below under tours) to cooking classes, the Mimo Cooking School in the hotel’s basement offers a wide range of gastronomic experiences.
Maria Cristina – Food and Drink
- Restaurant: Café Saigón offers high-quality pan-Asian cuisine in a space filled with romantic booths and moody lighting. The tasting menu, at €39, is especially good value. Open 1-3:30 pm and 8–11 pm. $$-$$$$. The hotel hosts regular pop-ups by guest chefs from around the world, and the bar also offers a great food selection.
- Lounge/Bar: Dry Bar is opulently styled with more than a nod to Bette Davis, who made her last public appearance at this hotel. It serves classic and signature cocktails which were developed especially for the hotel by award-winning mixologist Javier de las Muelas. There’s also an inventive English-style afternoon tea, and a bar food menu which includes Spanish tapas or main courses. Open 10:30 am-2 am daily.
- Breakfast: A full buffet is served in a grand room on the ground floor with access to the terrace, which allows for al fresco dining in the summer months (€39.60 euros, 7-11 am). It features fruits, Basque cheeses, smoked salmon, and freshly baked bread, cakes, and pastries, among other classic breakfast options, as well as hot dishes cooked to order.
- Room Service: Available 24 hours.
Maria Cristina – Rooms
Most of the room categories, including suites, are offered as Double (King) or Twin.
- Room Types: Classic (Single/Queen) ● Deluxe ● Premium ● Family ● Junior ● Garden View Suite ● River View Suite ● Terrace Suite ● Royal Suite ● Bette Davis Suite ● Royal Terrace • List of all Rooms
- Smoking Rooms: Maria Cristina is 100% non-smoking.
- Best Room: The Royal Terrace Suite features 2 bedrooms – Presidential and King – a living area, and 2 terraces across over 1,000 sqft of floor space. The roof terraces, which benefit from sea and river views, are decked out with sun loungers and a dining area. The Presidential bathroom is enormous, with a separate tub and shower, double vanity, and Acqua di Parma toiletries. In the living space there’s a Bose sound system, curved sofa, 55” TV, plush velvet armchairs, and an elliptical marble coffee table.
- Family Rooms: Family rooms comprise a King-sized bed and a single bed, with space for an extra rollaway bed/crib (extra cost).
Maria Cristina – Local Transport
- Walking: San Sebastián is excellent for walking and Maria Cristina is well placed to explore most of the main attractions on foot. Within a 15-minute walk, you can get to everywhere in the Parte Vieja and Área Romántica, and as far away as the Aquarium on Monte Urgull, Kursaal in Gros, and Tabakalera in Egia.
- Tram/Bus: The city is served by local buses known as D-Bus and regional buses known as Lurraldebus, as well as long-distance coaches. Many D-Bus and Lurraldebus lines can be caught from the Plaza Gipuzkoa (0.2 mile). Long-distance and international buses can be caught from the main bus station (Donostiako Autobus Geltokia), just east of the River Urumea at the María Cristina Bridge (0.5 mile).
- Train: Regional trains come into Amara Station (0.7 mile), while long-distance (Renfe) and international trains come into the main station on the east side of the River Urumea (0.5 mile).
- Taxis, Uber, Lyft: Taxis are well regulated in the city; there is an official tariff and only licensed companies are allowed to operate. Taxi ranks are numerous and there is one close to the hotel one block south of the Plaza Gipuzkoa, at the corner of Askatasunaren and Idiaquez (0.2 mile). If you need to book in advance, try Taxi Donosti, which offers a 24-hour service (+34 943 46 46 46).
Maria Cristina – What’s Nearby?
Recommended Nearby Tours
- Mimo – This reputable company, located in the hotel’s basement, offers several high-end gastronomic experiences, including pintxo tours, wine tours, and private cooking classes.
- Electric Bike Tour – As San Sebastián sprawls along the coast (and over a few hills), electric bikes are a fantastic way to get around. The company, Go Local, offers free walking tours and bike rentals from their office in Plaza Sarriegi, right by La Bretxa Market, behind the main tourist office on the Boulevard. (0.3 mile).
- Pintxos Like a Local – This guided tour of the historic center’s best pintxo bars is fabulous, with tons of fun facts and a good range of bars and local delicacies included in the price; the same company also does cider tours if you fancy getting out of the city. Tours set out from the cathedral, a 9-minute walk (0.4 mile) from the hotel.
Best Nearby Pintxo Bars
There are hundreds of bars in this city and nearly all of them serve some sort of pintxo (pin-cho), aka the Basque version of tapas. Whether they come hot or cold, from the kitchen, pre-prepared on the bar, or grilled on skewers, the pintxos here are second to none; every local has their favorite place. Some are bar-restaurants, some are more like fast-food joints, while others are bars with snacks, but all of the picks below will offer amazing tapas washed down with good drinks. Pintxos are cheap, but eating several (plus drinks) can soon add up, so look out for pintxo-pote offers, where a drink plus tapas will set you back just €1 or €2.
- Antonio Bar – A humble-looking place whose freshly-made pintxos delight. (0.2 mile).
- Borda Berri – A local favorite for its changing menus of fresh cooked small plates. Pretty much everything is great, but the risottos (actually made from orzo pasta rather than rice) are fantastic. (0.3 mile).
- Bar Sport – A really traditional haunt and favorite among locals, who rightfully love the fried foie gras and txangurro (spider crab) crepes. (0.3 mile).
- MendaurBerria – Don’t let the somewhat sterile interiors put you off: the flavors this place packs into its small plates are wonderful. (0.3 mile).
- Txepetxa – Anchovies, anchovies, and more anchovies served dozens of ways on a slice of baguette. A fish lover’s paradise. (0.3 mile).
- La Espiga – This place might look slick and modern, with its distinctive wood and muralled interior, but it is in fact one of the city’s oldest bars and its food carries the mark of a generations-old family-run business. (0.4 mile).
- La Mejillonera – This place is unmissable for its fresh mussels and patatas bravas washed down with a beer or wine. (0.5 mile).
- Atari – Bar-restaurant outside the basilica with exceptional pintxos like artichokes with duck. Make sure to try the seasonal specials. (0.5 mile).
- Rojo y Negro – Unlike many other places that only open for lunch and dinner, this place is open all day everyday (7 am-midnight) and serves pintxos as well as heartier mains and breakfasts. (0.5 mile).
- The New Sansse – Contemporary pintxos as well as grilled meats and burgers in a trendy modern space. (0.5 mile).
- A Fuego Negro – Michelin-recommended trendy and avante garde pintxos; bookings and tasting menus available. (0.5 mile).
- Casa Valles – This place claims to have invented the ubiquitous gilda pintxo (a stick with green peppers, an anchovy, and an olive, named for the famous film), but don’t miss its other offerings; all are excellent value. (0.5 mile).
Best Nearby Restaurants
The area is known for its extraordinary and creative high cuisine, and there are a handful of world-famous restaurants that have 2 or 3 Michelin Stars ($$$$) a short distance out of San Sebastián, including: Arzak (2.5 miles), Martín Berasategui (8 miles), Akelaŕe (5 miles), and Mugaritz (7 miles). But even if you can’t travel, there are several 1-star options in the city, including Amelia (0.6 mile) and Kokotxa (0.5 mile). Reservations are recommended at all restaurants in San Sebastián, especially when there are views involved.
- Kata4 Oyster Bar – Specializes in oysters and champagne, but offers delectable entrées and desserts, too. $$-$$$. (150m).
- Ni Neu – In the Kursaal, this place has a superb location and is a great place to dine any time of day. $-$$$. (0.2 mile).
- Astelena 1997 – Wonderful, refined Basque cuisine in a romantic modern dining room. $$$-$$$$. (0.2 mile).
- Bodegón Alejandro – Outstanding basement restaurant that does hearty Basque dishes with the best ingredients. Informal and friendly. The lunch menu is extremely good value. $$-$$$$. (0.3 mile).
- Gerald’s Bar – Convivial wine bar with wood paneling, nautical flourishes, and absolutely fantastic back-to-basics food. $-$$. (0.3 mile).
- Casa Urola – While this restaurant has been an old-town staple since the 1950s, it is only in the last decade that its plates have become artistic masterpieces thanks to Chef Pablo Loureiro Rodil. $$-$$$. (0.4 mile).
- Iturrioz – Classic city café-restaurant on the Plaza del Buen Pastor, opposite the cathedral. Pintxos as well as main meals and breakfasts. $-$$. (0.4 mile).
- La Fabrica – Chic, contemporary fine dining with a daily menu, tasting menu, and a la carte dishes amid exposed brick and copper walls. $$-$$$$. (0.5 mile).
- Chutney Gastrobar – Hip Asian-fusion food with a focus on fresh produce and spices, just by Amara station. $-$$. (0.6 mile).
Nearby Cafes, Bakeries, & Confectioners
- Koh Tao – Quirk, cozy café with graffiti on the walls, good brunch-style food, and excellent coffee. The kind of place freelancers love. (0.1 mile).
- Botanika – Hidden café on the riverfront full of plants, with a great menu that focuses on healthy and plant-based foods (plus great cocktails). (0.4 mile).
- Galparsoro – Artisanal bakery in the old town where delicious bread, croissants, and local specialties roll out of the ovens. Arrive as close as possible to opening hours (8 am & 4:30 pm) to get the best as there are often lines out the door. (0.4 mile).
- Otaegui – Historic confectionery, founded in 1886 and specializing in blocks of marzipan turrón and pantxineta, a Basque layered almond cream cake. The original store is in the Parte Vieja (0.3 mile) and there’s a café in the Plaza del Buen Pastor (0.4 mile).
- Cafe IruBi – Traditional Italian café and patisserie with a wonderful array of baked goods and sweet treats. (0.5 mile).
Best Nearby Bars
Had your fill of pintxos bars? Try one of the “regular” bars or clubs below.
- Altxerri JazzBar – Cozy jazz bar in a cave-like basement. Live music, great cocktails, and late closing. (0.2 mile).
- Gu – In the iconic boat-shaped building on the harbor, Gu’s focus in the early evening is delectable cocktails – perfect for a sundowner looking over La Concha – before it turns up the music to party into the early hours. (0.4 mile).
- Dioni’s – This so-called “Coffee Bar and Disco Pub” has been a stalwart of the Sanse scene for decades. Go for a gentle drink and pintxo on the terrace during the day, or party until the early hours every weekend. (0.4 mile).
- Bar Pokhara – Friendly, well-established bar with regular DJ sets. Opens in the afternoon and closes around 2 am every day. (0.5 mile).
- Pub Drop – Anyone into craft beer should look no further than this place, seconds from the cathedral, where there are up to 20 beers on tap (and dozens more bottled), many of them from the Basque country. (0.5 mile).
Nearby Shopping & Cool Shops
The 2 main shopping hotspots are Parte Vieja, especially Calle Mayor, and Área Romántica, in the streets around the Mercado San Martín (see below, under Markets). It’s worth bearing in mind that many shops – especially in the Parte Vieja – close for lunch from around noon-4 pm. Many places shut altogether on Sundays and holidays.
- Mimo San Sebastian Gourmet Shop – This gourmet food shop inside the hotel is one of the best places in town to find high-end delicacies to take home with you or savor as they are, as well as English-language books on pintxos. The same company runs tours and experiences too (see above under tours).
- SKFK – Sustainable and ethical womenswear brand that offers chic urban garments made from recycled fibers. (0.2 mile).
- auka – Concept store selling fine things, be they clothing, perfumes, children’s toys, accessories, or simply objects of lust. (0.2 mile).
- Chocolates de Mendaro – Selling the wares of master chocolatiers from Mendaro, a town about halfway between Bilbao and San Sebastián, this place specializes in handmade truffles. (0.2 mile).
- Perfumería Benegas – Run by the Benegas family since 1908, this must be one of the loveliest perfume stores in the world. As well as international brands, their own line of toiletries is covetable. (0.2 mile).
- Casa Ponsol – If you want to get the San Sebastián look and don a hat (preferably a beret), look no further than this beautiful old store founded in the 1830s. (0.3 mile).
- Pohorylle – Beautifully crafted and chic, these unisex canvas and leather bags are handmade in the Basque country from Spanish materials and natural dyes. (0.3 mile).
- Alboka Artesania – For every weird and wonderful Basque souvenir you could hope for. Right on the Plaza de la Constitución. (0.4 mile).
- Loreak Mendian – This cult brand was born in San Sebastián, and there are separate womenswear and menswear stores. It shuns seasonal fashion by developing high-quality basics with a twist: bold zippers, odd materials like neoprene, luminous colors, and oversized scarves. Both stores are a short walk. Store 1: 0.2 mile. Store 2: 0.3 mile.
- Pukas – These guys have been hand-crafting surfboards and beach bum apparel in San Sebastián since the 1970s and have a store in the Parte Vieja (0.4 mile) and a surf school/board rental shop in Gros (0.4 mile).
- Ezeiza Vinos y Licores – Wonderfully characterful old store that should be your first stop if you want to explore Basque wines and liquors. (0.4 mile).
- Room 278 – Trendy San Sebastián related graphic design slapped onto prints, canvas bags, mugs, and more in Área Romántica. (0.5 mile).
- Parte Vieja: The city’s most charismatic neighborhood offers a grid of narrow pedestrianized lanes which create a convivial atmosphere for the city’s favorite pastime: pintxo-bar-hopping. The best streets for this are 31 de Agosto/Abuztuaren 31 and Fermín Calbetón, although there are places with wonderful food on almost every street in this part of the city, including on the magnificent Plaza de la Constitución, where you can see the original Ayuntamiento building, as well as the balconies-cum-viewing platforms from the days when bullfights used to be held here. The square is at its best (and busiest) during one of the city’s many festivals. Near the plaza are 2 of San Sebastián’s loveliest churches: the baroque Basílica de Santa María del Coro, with its unmistakable statue of the city’s eponymous martyr, Saint Sebastian, has a cavernous interior and interesting sculptures, especially the cross by Eduardo Chillida; and the Iglesia de San Vicente, from the early 16th century, which used to form part of the city wall. Its altarpiece from 1586 is overwhelmingly tall and the church is renowned for its stained glass. The San Telmo Museoa offers an in-depth look at Basque culture, which can feel impenetrable to the uninitiated, and there’s a fabulous restaurant inside. A couple of blocks from the museum is Mercado de la Bretxa, which dates back to the 1870s. Today, it’s split into different areas including a food market (see markets, below) and a mini-mall in one of the historic buildings. Everything in the Parte Vieja can be reached within a 10-minute walk.
- Área Romántica: The so-called Romantic Area is the real heart of the city. It houses most of the administrative buildings, banks, chain stores, and traditional plazas for which the Spanish are famed, and on top of this, it has a graceful unified look, thanks to the excellent town planning and architecture built in this zone during the Belle Époque. To see this area in its full glory, simply stroll along the beachside promenade around Bahía de la Concha, where there is ornate ironwork and the beautiful Cafe del Mar, La Perla Spa, strangely exotic Parque Alderdi Eder, and Ayuntamiento (city hall). On the River Urumea side, there’s the wonderfully symmetrical Teatro Victoria Eugenia next to the hotel as well as the resplendent Puente María Cristina (Maria Christina Bridge). Don’t miss the 2 main plazas in this neighborhood: Plaza del Buen Pastor, which features the neo-gothic Catedral del Buen Pastor and the Basque culture center, Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea, which has regular exhibitions; and Plaza Gipuzkoa, which features a verdant central square – complete with a duck pond – the regional council headquarters, and shops and bars sheltered under colonnaded sidewalks. Everything in the Área Romántica is less than an 11-minute walk from the hotel.
- Kursaal & Playa Zurriola: On the eastern side of the River Urumea is Zurriola Beach, where the winds whip up brutal waves, making the city a mecca for surfing. If this is why you are in town, head straight to one of the surf schools on the seafront to rent a board or find a teacher. Unmissable is the uber-modern Kursaal, designed by Rafael Moneo. It always has great programming for concerts, from opera and ballet to jazz and pop, as well as a tasty restaurant. Further east, you’ll come to the Sagüés sea wall, the Dove of Peace statue, and after a hike up Monte Ulía, the Michelin-starred restaurant Mirador de Ulía at a gorgeous look-out point. Mount Ulía also marks the start of a stunning coastal park covering some 32 hectares, which includes a section of the Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James) pilgrimage hike. It’s a 5-minute walk (0.2 mile) to the Kursaal, from where it’s a further 12-minute walk (0.6 mile) along the beach to the base of Mount Ulía.
- Tabakalera & Around: If you arrived by public transport, you may have already seen the city’s premier culture destination, the Tabakalera, as it is right by the main national and international train station as well as the bus terminal. Set in a sensitively renovated old tobacco factory, the huge building not only houses free exhibitions and events, but also stores, cafes, and a rooftop lookout point with fabulous views. It’s set next to the Parque Cristina Enea with its rolling hills, exotic plants, and a dramatic pedestrian bridge over the train tracks. It’s a 12-minute walk (0.6 mile) from the hotel to the Tabakalera via the stunning Puente María Cristina (Maria Christina Bridge).
- Puerto & Monte Urgull: On the peninsula jutting out of the middle of the city stands Monte (mount) Urgull, with the port cradled in its south-western corner. There are several routes up to the top of the hill but most people approach it via the path behind the San Telmo Museoa, the passageway beside the basilica, or via the puerto (port/harbor), where there are fantastic seafood restaurants, and the world-class Aquarium with its walkthrough ocean tunnel (complete with sand tiger sharks). Approaching Monte Urgull from here will not only give you the chance to check out the schedules for boat trips to Isla Santa Clara (the little island in the middle of the bay), but it will also bring you to Jorge Oteiza’s magnificent contemporary sculpture Construcción Vacía (Empty Construction). Up Urgull itself is a tangle of trails flanked with exotic fauna that lead to a fortified castle, Castillo de la Mota, which houses the Casa de la Historia, a city museum. There’s also a 40-foot statue of Christ, a chapel, and an ‘English Cemetery’. From the hotel, it’s a 10-minute walk (0.5 mile) to the San Telmo Museum or a 16-minute walk (0.8 mile) to the Aquarium; then, from either, it’s a further 10-15 minutes to Monte Urgull’s summit.
- Bahía de la Concha: The wide yellow crescent of La Concha Bay calls you as soon as you orientate yourself in the city: it is unmistakable and unmissable. If it’s a nice day, head straight to Playa de la Concha (La Concha Beach), which usually has crystalline aqua waters. A stroll west from the hotel along the glorious Belle Èpoque promenade will take you past La Perla Spa to Palacio Miramar (with its lovely gardens) and on to Ondarreta Beach in the Antiguo neighborhood (see below) via a dramatic pedestrian foot tunnel. Meanwhile, walking east will take you through the Parque Alderdi Eder, the de facto main town square, to the grand Ayuntamiento (city hall) and beyond to the Parte Vieja and the puerto (port/harbor). It’s an 8-minute walk (0.4 mile) to the beach, a 14-minute walk (0.7 mile) to La Perla, a 25-minute walk (1 mile) to Miramar Palace, and an 11-minute (0.5 mile) walk to the port via the park.
- Playa de Ondarreta & Monte Igueldo: A walk around La Concha Bay to the neighborhood of Antiguo is a must for any trip to this city. The first place you’ll come to is the whimsical English-style Palacio Miramar with its lovely gardens – a favorite hangout spot for locals. From here you can either wander into Antiguo town, where there are plenty of bars, cafes, and restaurants clustered around Calle Matia, or head down to the beach. Walk west towards Mount Igueldo to experience the hair-raising antique funicular railway which zips up to the top of the hill for spectacular views, a couple of bars, and a small amusement park. Or, continue on the seafront path to get round to Eduardo Chillida’s Peine del Viento (Wind Comb), a wonderful cluster of statues that during rough seas really do appear to interact with the elements. It’s around a 30-minute walk to all these places.
Nearby Markets or Grocery Stores
- Mercado de la Bretxa – These days, the market features a few dozen stalls in and under Plaza la Bretxa, but there’s evidence all around the plaza of its former splendor. The subterranean part of the market also houses a Lidl for anyone needing basic supplies. Stores around the plaza, like Aitor Lasa and Solbes, offer gourmet produce, specialty ingredients, and locally made preserves. (0.2 mile).
- Mercado San Martín – While there has been a market on this spot since 1884, the modern mall is functional rather than fascinating. Nevertheless, there’s an FNAC department store as well as a food hall with stalls selling fresh produce alongside cured meats, cheeses, street food, and smoothies. There’s also a supermarket in the basement. (0.4 mile).
Maria Cristina – The Hotel
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