As you know by now, I love a good train adventure. When I was planning my trip to the Basque Country in Spain, I decided to see if I could travel by train to San Sebastian the Netherlands. And it turned out to be a very easy and amazing train trip to the northwest of Spain. I loved the journey to Paris, through France, and into the Basque Country Spain.
In case you might want to take the same journey as I did, I’m here to help you with an easy step-by-step guide on how to arrange your trip by train to San Sebastian from London or Amsterdam. We’ll discuss routes, tickets, prices, and the journey itself. Hop on board!
I paid for everything in full myself. I was not paid or sponsored. All my opinions and experiences are my own.
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Prices and information are valid at the time of writing. Always check timetables and prices for your specific day and time in advance.
San Sebastian Spain
On a previous trip, earlier this year, I got to see a glimpse of San Sebastian. I joined a day trip from Bilbao, around the Basque Country, and also visited San Sebastian.
And I loved it! I knew I wanted to come back and explore more. On my 2nd trip to the Basque Country, I had a little bit more time and decided to see if I could travel to San Sebastian by train!
Travel to San Sebastian by train
If your international flight arrives in Barcelona or Madrid, it is easy to take a train to San Sebastian (Donostia). You’ll travel by high-speed train, across Spain to San Sebastian/Donostiá train station.
The train to San Sebastian from Madrid takes 5 to 7 hours (depending on which train you choose) and the train to San Sebastian from Barcelona can take 5.45 hours to a whopping 12 hours. So make sure to check trains and ticket options at the RENFE website.
If you want to travel by train to San Sebastian from France, the UK, Belgium, The Netherlands, or Germany, things are not so straightforward. I usually pop in my journey on the Rome2Rio website, but I experienced it was not easy to find a quick route.
Things to know about finding the right train route to San Sebastian
Normally, I have no problem with finding a good, fast, direct train route. But now all the search results came back with a transfer in Barcelona.
Or no options found at all! This is what you need to know when researching your train route to San Sebastian.
- San Sebastian is the English/Spanish name of the place. In the local language Basque, you’ll need to look for Donostia. Or San Sebastian/Donostia or Donostia/San Sebastian
- There are many San Sebastian places in the world. I found it most useful to start with Donostia and see what comes up in the searches.
- San Sebastian is located only 22 km (14 miles) from the French border. The local train Euskotren is not integrated with the European railway network. That is why most ticket offices and railway ticket search engines cannot book a direct train to San Sebastian (from France).
- It is best to search for either Hendaye in France or Irun in Spain. These are border towns and their train stations are connected to the San Sebastian/Donostia train station.
Once I figured this out. It was easy to search for times and tickets for my trip to San Sebastian Spain by train. Below, I’ll describe in more detail each step of my train journey to San Sebastian.
My trip by train to San Sebastian from the Netherlands
I booked at the end of August for a trip in the first half of October. Quite close to the travel date in terms of booking ahead. I traveled solo and because the price difference was small, I upgraded my train tickets to 1st class.
Because of the above-mentioned issues, I searched for a train ticket from my hometown to Hendaye in the South of France. From there, I had not reserved a train ticket, but would just show up and take the Euskotren to San Sebastian.
My journey to San Sebastian by train:
- Dutch train station to Antwerp via International train
- Antwerp to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar train
- Metro in Paris from Paris Gare du Nord to Paris Montparnasse
- TGV train from Paris Montparnasse to Hendaye in the south of France
- Walked from Hendaye train station to Euskotren station Hendaie (1 min)
- Euskotren from Hendaie (France) to San Sebastian “Amara Donostia” station
Train to San Sebastian from London
The same journey I took, can be applied to any trip from London. The only difference is, that you’ll take the Eurostar from London to Paris Gare du Nord. From there, you can follow the same steps by train to San Sebastian.
If you travel from Germany or Switzerland, it is still easier and faster to travel to Paris and follow the same route to San Sebastian by train.
London or Amsterdam to Paris by Eurostar Train
If you travel from the Netherlands to Belgium, France, Portugal, or Spain, it always seems cheaper, faster, and more relaxed to take the Eurostar train to Paris (previously Thalys train).
The high-speed train to Paris travels from Amsterdam, Amsterdam Schiphol, Rotterdam, Antwerp, and Brussels to Paris Gare du Nord in 2,5 to 3 hours. If you book well in advance, tickets can be as cheap as €35 but usually the best times and connections are priced higher.
If you travel from any other train station in the Netherlands, the ticket is included in the price and you can book the whole journey via the Dutch NS International website.
When you travel from London, you’ll leave St. Pancras Station and head straight to Paris Gare du Nord on the Eurostar.
Metro in Paris
I’m not a fan of switching train stations in a big city like Paris. But if you want to travel to the east, west, or south of France, you have no choice. Each train station in Paris serves different routes and regions.
The trains to the south, like trains to Bordeaux or Hendaye, leave from Paris Montparnasse.
You can call a taxi, which will take you and your luggage from Paris Gare du Nord to Paris Montparnasse. But this is the most expensive option (and not the quickest).
The cheapest and perhaps fastest option is to take the metro.
Step-by-step guide for changing trains in Paris by metro
The metro in Paris is very efficient and runs every 3 minutes. If you follow my tips, it will be a smooth journey
- Buy your Paris metro tickets aboard the Eurostar train at the carriage with the bar.
- The price is €2.00. Keep it after you’ve validated it, you need it to exit the metro station.
- Disembark the Eurostar train at Paris Nord, and walk to the main central hall.
- Follow signs for (M) Metro (escalator down) and follow the purple line (M)(4)
- You’ll take the Metro 4 (purple) in the direction of Mairie de Montrouge
- Get off at Montparnasse Bienvenüe stop
- Follow signs for “Trains Grandes Lignes / Sortie” (Big train lines/exit) to reach the train station
- Take the escalators up to reach the main train hall where you’ll find the departure platform for the train to Bordeaux/Hendaye
You need to calculate at least 1 hour for the journey from Paris Nord to Paris Montparnasse by metro. Better make it 1.5 hours if you want to grab some lunch, or fresh coffee and buy some of the most delicious croissants in Paris (as I did).
You can purchase Paris Metro tickets at the stations and vending machines but the queues are long! I recommend buying them onboard the Eurostar train in advance, so you don’t have to worry about it. The price is the same (€2.00) per journey.
Paris Montparnasse to Hendaye France
Once in Montparnasse, it was quite chaotic. The train arrived late and hundreds of people were already waiting to board the train. First, all the people had to disembark and then, we could board the train.
It was the afternoon combined train to Bordeaux and Hendaye. The first part would be disconnected in Bordeaux St. Jean and the second half of the train would continue to Hendaye with stops at Dax, Bayonne, Biarritz, and Saint-Jean-de-Luz-Ciboure.
It was almost a 15-minute walk along the platform to reach the end/start of the train. I was seated in a solo seat by the window. The seat has a power outlet and a working station. Toilets are in every carriage and overall, the journey was smooth and easy.
It took us only 2 hours to reach Bordeaux. From there, it was another 2,5 hours, with more stops, to reach Hendaye. I was just relaxing, watching Netflix on my phone, looking out of the window and just enjoying the ride.
Hendaia to San Sebastian via Euskotren
Once the train arrived in Hendaye, it was late afternoon. There were only a few people left. I left the Hendaye train station and headed to my right. After only a 1-minute walk you’ll find the Hendaia Euskotren train station.
As the gauge is different, they have a different station, but it is super easy to find. I was able to buy a one-way ticket to San Sebastian for €2.75 at the ticket machine.
I waited a couple of minutes and the ‘train’ to San Sebastian arrived. It is more like a metro train or tram-like train. The journey took 45 minutes as the train stopped everywhere. But I had fun watching the schoolchildren, workers, and other people get on and off the train.
Finally, we arrived in San Sebastian. The station is called Amara Donostia and is located in San Sebastian. It is located at Easo Plaza, 9. Don’t be confused by the name Amara, this is also a neighborhood in San Sebastian.
Bus to Bilbao
From San Sebastian, you can easily continue your journey through the Basque Country and onwards to Bilbao. Of course, you can head over to the San Sebastian/Donostia train station and take the train to Bilbao. However, the train takes much longer than the bus.
Busses are easy, frequent, and cheap. The main bus station is next to the San Sebastian/Donostia train station. You can reach it by walking 15 minutes from the Amara/Donostia train station.
Frequently asked questions about the train to San Sebastian
Because I wasn’t able to book the full train journey to San Sebastian in advance, I was a bit anxious if all would go well. Seeing train schedules on the internet is not the same thing as trains running in actual life.
But it turned out to be a super relaxed and easy journey! I arrived rested, relaxed, and happy in San Sebastian and couldn’t wait for my trip around the Basque Country to begin.
But I can imagine you might have some additional questions. I’ll do my best to answer them below. In case you have other questions, do let me know in the comment section below!
How long does the train to Spain take?
It took me exactly 10 hours to reach San Sebastian. Of course, this depends on the place you live or the train station you depart.
I left at 7.42 in the morning and arrived at 17.42 in the evening (5.42 pm). Not too bad for a 1200 km (750 mile) distance. By car, it would take well over 12 hours of driving time but you have to take stops and traffic into consideration.
How much does the train to San Sebastian cost?
I paid €299 for my one-way first-class ticket from the Netherlands to Hendaye and €2.75 for the Euskotren ticket to San Sebastian.
In total, it was €301.75
I booked less than 6 weeks in advance. You can book tickets as well in advance as 90 days (3 months). Of course, economy is cheaper than first-class tickets (in my case, the difference was €20).
If I check now, for 90 days ahead, I can buy tickets for €109.50 for the same journey in 2nd class. That is already quite a price difference!
Train tickets via Eurostar and TGV through France, work the same as flights. The higher the demand, the higher the prices. As the direct TGV from Paris to Hendaye is very popular, especially in the afternoon at the end of the week, it actually can sell out quickly. Both times I took this train, it was fully booked to capacity. So, book ahead!
Is it easy to arrange?
Once I discovered I didn’t have to go through Barcelona and could go via Hendaye, it was easy to arrange. I booked a train ticket from my station in the Netherlands direct to Hendaye. Once in Hendaye, I purchased the final ticket by the ticket machine.
As I live in the Netherlands and leave from the Netherlands, I was able to book my train ticket to Hendaye via the Dutch train website.
Click here to purchase your train ticket from NL to Hendaye online.
If you travel by train to San Sebastian from London, or from Belgium, or anywhere else in France, you can also book via the same website. Just add the place you want to depart: London for the UK or Antwerp or Brussels for Belgium.
Is it easy to take the train?
I found the journey very straightforward and easy. It might seem like a lot of changes, but if you depart from Amsterdam or Rotterdam, or London, you only have to switch trains in Paris and Hendaye.
I had a reserved seat, the trains ran on time and you had to get off the train at the end of the line.
The switch by metro in Paris was a bit tiresome as you need to walk quite a bit in the underground network, and you might worry that you’ll miss your train.
But if you buy your metro ticket in advance, and allocate enough time for the change, there is nothing to worry about.
What can you bring on the train to Spain?
One of the main advantages of taking the train to Spain instead of flying is you don’t have to worry that much about luggage. Of course, you still have to make sure you can carry your own luggage.
And there are luggage guidelines on the Eurostar train, but in my experience, they are not as strict as at airports. You can bring all the liquids and shampoo bottles you want and there is enough space on both the Eurostar train to Paris and on the TGV to Hendaye.
The metro ride in Paris and the Euskotren train to San Sebastian have limited luggage space, so do pack smart.
Where do you buy tickets?
As mentioned before, I live in the Netherlands and leave from the Netherlands. I purchased my ticket via the Dutch train website and bought 1 ticket, for the whole journey from the Netherlands to San Sebastian.
The same website works if you travel from London to San Sebastian or Antwerps.
The ticket from Hendaye to San Sebastian with Euskotren can be bought at the ticket booth (cash only) or at the ticket machines (cash and cards) in the main hall of the Euskotren station.
Can we use Interrail or Eurail for this trip?
If you plan to use Interrail or Eurail to travel across Europe by train, you can travel to San Sebastian with Interrail. However, the Euskotren train from Hendaye to San Sebastian is not included.
As it is only €2.75 for a single journey, this is not really a problem. You can use your Interrail travel day to travel from London to Paris and Hendaye, however, be aware that the Eurostar needs a prior reservation. And also some TGV-trains need reservation and are only bookable with a fee.
Maybe booking ahead in advance is even cheaper than using your Interrail card.
Practical tips for the journey by train to San Sebastian
I hope I was able to show you the train trip to San Sebastian is not as daunting as you might expect. I found it super easy and relaxed and I’m glad I took the journey.
If you want to book the same journey, here are some practical tips and links:
- Book your train ticket here.
- Find and compare hotels, apartments, and holiday rentals here.
- Hendaye (FR) train station is called Gare de Hendaye
- The train station in Hendaye where the Euskotren leaves is called Hendaie / Eusko Tren Topo
- For lines and timetables, check the Euskotren website.
- The train station in San Sebastian for RENFE trains is called San Sebastian/Donostiá (at De Francia Ibilbidea, 22)
- The train station in San Sebastian for Euskotren trains is called Amara/Donostia (at Easo Plaza, 9)
I hope that next time you consider a trip to the Basque Country and San Sebastian, you consider taking the train! It is a fun and relaxed way to travel and super easy.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments. You can drop them in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you!