San Sebastian, The Basque Country, Spain Book from

Reviewed by Tom Bell
Once a much-loved cinema, now the coolest hotel in town, with a stylish movie theme that runs throughout
It was only fitting that this venerable old cinema, set in a grand city that hosts one of Europe’s big film festivals, should fall into the hands of cinephiles. In transforming it into a gorgeous hotel, the owners have kept the spirit of film alive: you now find Alfred Hitchcock in reception, a magnificent library dedicated to the silver screen, and a different movie star in every bedroom. It’s a seriously cool place, with a groovy bar and a smart restaurant, and even if film isn’t your bag, you’ll love it here.

You’re south of San Sebastián’s cathedral, close to the river and only a 15-minute stroll to the vibrant Old Town and the city’s gorgeous beaches. It’ll take a little longer to get there, though - you pass lots of interesting shops on your way, so expect to succumb to some window shopping. But you’ll potter along happily, getting to know this fabulous city. Back at the hotel, the 102 rooms have a clean, contemporary style, while bathrooms are gorgeous and the DVD library is hard to beat. Not that you’ll linger - there’s too much fun to be had out on the streets.


  • San Sebastián is the cultural and gastronomic pulse of the Basque Country, a seriously happening place. Don’t miss the September film festival and surfing on Zurriola beach
  • The film theme works really well - authentic, original and far from kitsch
  • The suite is heaven for film buffs, with movie memorabilia, a projector and a large screen
  • The library is set behind walls of glass - beautiful, and full of interest
  • You’re close to the action, but not in the middle of it - a perfect combination


  • We found the food in the restaurant disappointing, but we're assured a new chef has made improvements and, given the multitude of gourmet hotspots in San Sebastián, you'll probably want to eat out anyway
  • You need to specify when booking if you want a non-smoking room, and only the better rooms have bathrobes
  • It's bigger than most i-escape hotels, but quirky touches mean it feels far from faceless
  • This is a cycle-friendly town, but the hotel doesn’t have bikes for guests to use - a shame

Best time to go

This is a vibrant city, whenever you come. The San Sebastián film festival takes place in mid-September - where else to stay then but here? The July jazz festival is one of Europe’s best. Visit between May and September if you want to make the most of the city's fantastic beaches, but expect rain showers at any time of year.

Our top tips

Like your football? Real Sociedad plays at Anoeta, a 10-minute walk from the front door. If you’re in town over the weekend it’s often possible to get a ticket, though big games sell out in advance. The most important match of the year is against Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao.

Great for...

City Style
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 102
  • Restaurant (open daily for lunch; Thurs-Sat for dinner) and bar
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service


Each room pays homage to a different film personality (Tarantino, Ang Lee, Sean Penn, Liv Ullmann), and your own personal star smiles out at you from the wall above the bed. To qualify, the actor or director must have attended San Sebastián’s September film festival. You get several pictures scattered about the room and some text to add a little history; the main image above the bed was taken in San Sebastián. You can also watch your star on celluloid, as each has at least one film in the hotel’s epic DVD library.

Single Rooms are rather wonderful as they all come with small balconies, a lovely touch. They also have bathrooms behind walls of glass, but as you’re the only person in the room, this is unlikely to cause offence. They’re definitely cosy, but you won’t mind for a moment. Just throw open the door and you’re out on your private terrace.

Double or twin Standard Rooms aren’t huge, but nor are they tiny, and if you’re in town for a couple of days you’ll be very happy here. Some are bigger than others, but all have space for big leather armchairs, even a sofa every now and then. The gorgeous bathrooms are behind closed doors, with creamy tiles, power showers, and lovely lotions and potions. There’s a desk with an ADSL internet connection, WiFi, and good storage, too. Three of these rooms have been specially adapted for guests in wheelchairs.

Superior Rooms are bigger, though the biggest Standard and the smallest Superior are pretty much the same size. All have iPod docks and sofas which can turn into extra beds. They also have double sinks and white robes in the bathrooms.

The suite - a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock - is awesome: a separate sitting room filled with film paraphernalia, a wrap-around balcony for the afternoon sun, and a bathroom with a spa bath and a separate walk-in shower. There’s even a projector and screen in the bedroom on which to watch your favourite movie.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet


Breakfast (extra cost) is a help-yourself affair: jugs of fruit juice, sliced pineapple, rolls and toast, cereals and yoghurts. If you want an omelette or a scrambled egg, you can order from the waitress.

The snack bar is open all day, every day. Contemporary in design, it has blond wood, hanging lampshades and windows onto the street; there’s even a small pavement terrace. You can drop in for pintxos (tapas) and a beer all day long. Simple dishes are also available via room service from 8-10.30pm: soup, pasta, grilled rib-eye steak, hamburgers, local cheeses. It’s all reasonably priced.

The hotel’s restaurant is open every day for lunch, then from Thursday to Saturday for dinner. We ate here and thought the food - a mixture of fish dishes, stewed meats and pasta - quite average. Not that this really matters: you’re in the gastronomic capital of Spain, with more Michelin stars per head of population than any other city in the world, so you'll probably want to eat out anyway.

If you want something substantial, you won’t have trouble finding it - food tourism is big business here and people flock to the city's 3 most famous restaurants, each with 3 Michelin stars. Arzak is a place of gastronomic pilgrimage, 3km away across town, while Restaurante Akelarre is 3km west of La Concha beach. Martín Berasategui is a very swish operation 10km outside town.

For something more casual try one of the seafood restaurants around the old port or the many pintxos bars in the Old Town - see our local guide for recommendations. Pintxos is fantastic food served in single portions, often on a slice of baguette. Some dishes are displayed on the bar, others are cooked to order. The tradition is to stop at each bar, drink a small beer, scoff one dish, then move on to the next place. If you don’t eat pintxos in San Sebastián, then you haven’t been to San Sebastián; it’s a great way to spend an evening.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
Activity: La Concha


  • Spend a day on La Concha, one of the most beautiful beaches you’ll find in the middle of a city. The blue and white sun shades can be hired by the day, the week, the month or the season, and you can potter around to the old port for lunch

  • Want to ride some waves? Then head over to Zurriola beach and surf in the heart of the city. You can hire all the kit at the surf school, and the water is always busy with locals

  • Climb Monte Urgull up to the statue of Christ for big views of the city and coast. Then roll back down into the Old Town for a cooling drink in Plaza de la Constitución

  • Check out the town hall, which was once a casino. Bring your roller skates and blade along the seafront, then sip a coffee above the beach and watch the world pass by

  • Pack up a picnic and take a boat across to Santa Clara, the island in the middle of the bay. Or hire kayaks from the old port and paddle across instead

  • Wander round the western flank of La Concha and find Eduardo Chillida’s Comb of the Winds sculpture. Then take the funicular up to the top of Monte Igueldo - as well as great views, you’ll find a carousel and some bumper cars

  • Check out the cathedral in all its neo-Gothic glory. It’s in the centre of town, surrounded by cool shops

  • San Sebastián is a cultural hub. Highlights include the film festival in September, the classical music festival in August and the legendary jazz festival in July

  • Come in January, the 19th to be precise, for Tamborrada, the feast of San Sebastián. Bands of drummers parade through town making as much noise as possible, but not enough to silence the fireworks that are exploding all around

  • Head west on the motorway and drop in to see the Guggenheim in Bilbao. It’s about an hour by car. While you’re there, head up to Getxo and check out the oldest transport bridge in the world. You can cross it in gondolas, quite some journey

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Festivals
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Kayaking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Shopping / markets
  • Surfing
  • Swimming


Children are welcome, but there are no facilities dedicated to kids. Extra beds and baby cots can be added to most rooms, and the Superior Rooms and the suite have sofabeds. Some rooms interconnect.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Our guests' ratings...


{{ review.firstName }}{{ review.countryName ? ', '+ review.countryName : '' }},
Feedback is only from guests who have booked and stayed through i-escape

Rates for Astoria7