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Monte Urgull and Monte Igueldo – two distinct hills – rise from the sea at each end of the crescent-shaped La Concha Bay in San Sebastian Old Town.
Monte Igueldo is popular for the San Sebastian Funicular that transports visitors to the amusement park at the top of the hill; both the cable car and the theme park are top San Sebastian attractions. We, however, were drawn to the green space and meandering paths on Monte Urgull (or Mount Urgull) that lead to Castillo de la Mota San Sebastian.
Monte Urgull: San Sebastian History
Standing at 400 feet (123 meters), Urgull Mountain in San Sebastian has long served as the city’s main point of protection. A fort stood on Mount Urgull as early as the 12th century. The fortifications were enhanced in the 16th century – and the military utilized Urgull throughout the 19th century to defend the city during the Siege of San Sebastian and the Carlist Civil Wars.
During the 1900s, the fortified hill was transformed into a lush park with crisscrossing trails for recreation. Remnants of the past sill dot the landscape and Monte Urgull has become one of the best places for hiking in San Sebastian. In fact, one of the top things to do in San Sebastian is to hike Monte Urgull to the hilltop Mota Castle and Monte Urgull Statue of Christ.
Hiking San Sebastian: Monte Urgull
On our second day visiting the city (and after another night of consuming too many Basque Tapas), we decided to head in the direction of Monte Urgull for a hike and to take in the wonderful San Sebastian views. The forested park is just a short stroll from the Old Town, with several trails for San Sebastian walks.
Rated as an easy to moderate hike, some of the Mt. Urgull trail are stairs, while other sections are paved paths or sidewalks. As we wound our way around the San Sebastian hill to the crowning castle, Castillo de la Mota, we were shaded by large trees and welcomed by the fresh air on the ocean breeze.
Sights On Monte Urgull San Sebastian
While many people are most interested in simply stretching their legs on the hiking San Sebastian trails on Monte Urgull, there are a few not-to-miss sights while exploring the hill.
Castillo de la Mota
The 12th century fortress, Castillo de la Mota, was built to defend San Sebastian – and it’s a fascinating hilltop complex. Today, a museum inside the castle offers visitors a glimpse into San Sebastian history…and a sensational panoramic vista. The Castillo de la Mota Museum is a branch of the much larger San Telmo Museum that sits at the base of the hill.
Cemeterio de los Ingleses San Sebastian
The Monte Urgull Cemeterio de los Ingleses (or English Cemetery) is a bit of a mystery. Headstones stand on the sloping hill, but it is uncertain who exactly is buried there. Many believe it is either English or French soldiers that died in San Sebastian during one of the World Wars.
San Sebastian Statue of Christ
A 40-foot-tall San Sebastian Christ statue, Sagrado Corazon (or Sacred Heart), stands at the tallest point on Monte Urgull. At the base of the statue is a small chapel which can be entered for free.
San Sebastian Viewpoints
The panoramic views from the top of Monte Urgull – and in various places along the paths – are one of the best things to see while hiking in San Sebastian. The viewpoints provide fantastic opportunities to rest and soak in the incredible nature.
From the lookout points, trekkers are treated to San Sebastian Old Town views, stretching sea views and a picture-perfect sight of La Concha Bay and Concha Beach.
Monte Urgull Bar
We think that taking in the stunning views from Monte Urgull is one of the top things to do in San Sebastian – and the Urgulleko Polborina Bar is one of the best places to do it! The elevated cafe with outdoor patio tables is an ideal place to sip a coffee or cocktail while taking in the stunning vistas.
Not all attractions on Mount Urgull require scampering to the top of the hill. The Paseo Nuevo promenade is a sea-level walkway that encircles the hill. Along the route, visitors can see the modern Jorge Oteiza Sculpture (labeled Construccion Vacia on Google Maps), visit the San Sebastian Aquarium and watch the waves crash on the shoreline (which consists of rocks, not beaches!).
Monte Urgull Hike FAQs
- Difficulty: Easy to Moderate; trails are inclined with some stairs.
- Distance: Less than a mile (about 1km) from sea level to castle.
- Time: 30 minutes to castle, but trekkers can easily spend a couple of hours exploring the interconnected walking trails.
Monte Urgull San Sebastian Old Town Map
Use this link to Google Maps to orient yourself with the Best Things To See in San Sebastian. All of our recommended Monte Urgull Sights are marked, as well.
Travel Tips For Your Spain Basque Trip
We’re sure you are now ready to plan that trip to Spain! Hang on a few more minutes and get our top tips and honest advice to help you have a wonderful Spanish vacation!
How To Get To San Sebastian, Spain
We arrived to Basque Country via plane from Madrid. The Basque Country airport we flew into was the San Sebastian Airport (which is actually located in Hondarribia). There are two other Basque region airports: Bilbao and Vitoria. Begin your search for the Best Prices for Flights to San Sebastian on SkyScanner.
San Sebastian Food and Drink
Indulging in Basque-style pintxos is a San Sebastian must-do. However, we recommend going in with a plan, so be sure to read about our San Sebastian Tapas experience first and learn from our mistakes!
Day Trips From San Sebastian
Where To Stay in San Sebastian
There are many San Sebastian Hotels and Airbnb’s the San Sebastian Old Quarter. Read all our advice for Finding The Best Hotels and then start your search for accommodation in San Sebastian on Booking.com.
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