Take the train to San Sebastian!
Several times a day, high-speed TGV trains link Paris Gare Montparnasse with Hendaye on the Spanish border in 5h42 - or just 4h30 from 2 July 2017 when the new Tours-Bordeaux high-speed line opens. Little local Euskotren trains like Hendaye to San Sebastian every 30 minutes, journey 37 minutes. The whole trip can cost as little as 29 and take little more time than flying - yet is far more comfortable, far better for the environment and a lot less hassle. The only catch? If you try to buy tickets from Paris to San Sebastian it won't work - you need to book from Paris to Hendaye, then buy a metro ticket to San Sebastian. This page will explain!
Paris ► San Sebastian
Step 1, take a TGV high-speed train from Paris to Hendaye in around 5h45 (or just 4h30 from 2 July 2017) with fares from just 25. There are various departures every day, all with a cafe-bar and power sockets at all seats. Book your ticket at either www.loco2.com (in or £, can be used by anyone, no booking fee, seat options given) or www.trainline.eu (in , can be used by anyone, no fee, wide range of seating options including forward-facing seats on this particular TGV-Atlantique route). Both sites give print-at-home or collect-at-station tickets.
Step 2, simply walk out of Hendaye station exit and look to your right for the little Euskotren metro station 50 yards away in the corner of the forecourt, branded Metro Donostialdea.
Buy a ticket from the machines or staffed ticket office and go through the automatic gates onto the platform. The ticket machines have a touch screen with English language facility and they accept euro coins and banknotes.
Then hop on the next air-conditioned metro train from Hendaye to San Sebastian Amara, they leave every 30 minutes from early morning till late at night, journey time 37 minutes, fare just a couple of euros, no reservation necessary. There's plenty of room for luggage and these excellent modern metro trains have a toilet & on-board information screens.
There's only one platform and all trains go to San Sebastian-Donostia. The station's full name is San Sebastian-Donostia Amara, usually just shown as San Sebastian-Donostia but the station nameboards simply say Amara. And on ticket machines it could be listed under A, D or S! The final destination of the train is usually shown as Lasarte. You can check fares and times at www.euskotren.es, though you hardly need to.
San Sebastian ► Paris
Step 1, simply pre-book a high-speed TGV from Hendaye to Paris in around 5h45 (or just 4h30 from 2 July 2017) at either www.loco2.com (in or £) or www.trainline.eu (in ) with fares from just 25 upwards if you book well in advance.
You'll find several direct TGVs every day from Hendaye to Paris Montparnasse taking around 5h50 from centre to centre.
If booking a very early train, check that there's an early enough connection from San Sebastian, see step 2 below.
Both sites can be used by anyone from any country, and you'll usually get a print-at-home ticket, or sometimes a collect-at-station ticket. Hendaye is the French border station, just across the border from Spain.
Booking usually opens 92 days ahead, fares work like air fares so book early for the cheaper prices.
Step 2, now simply hop on the little Euskotren Donostia metro from San Sebastian-Donostia Amara station to Hendaye (Hendaia in Spanish). These run every 30 minutes, journey time around 37 minutes, no reservation necessary or possible, just turn up, buy a ticket from the machines or staffed office for around 2.50 and hop on the next train.
You can check times at www.euskotren.es. On weekdays, the first train leaves Amara for Hendaye around 06:00, but later at weekends.
When you get to Hendaye you just walk out of the little Euskotren station and across the car park to the mainline SNCF French Railways station 50 yards away. Just make sure you allow plenty of time for the connection.
1. Paris to Hendaye by TGV...
2. Hendaye to San Sebastian Amara by Euskotren...
There's no check-in, you just board the train any time before it goes.
You simply take your luggage onto the TGV with you and stick it on the racks above your seat or between the seats or at the car ends just inside the entrance doors. For practical purposes there are no luggage limits, if you can carry it, you can take it. Luggage on European trains. On the Euskotren, your bags just go on the floor next to you.
The TGV has a cafe-bar, but feel free to bring your own food and drink if you like - even a bottle of wine, it's allowed on trains.
All seats on the TGV have power sockets, although no WiFi as yet. But mobile data signal is pretty good most of the way.
A table for four is the best option for families - available on the TGV in both classes. For couples in 1st class, a face-to-face table for two is the best option, variously appearing in booking systems as vis-à-vis, face-to-face or club duo. On these TGV Atlantique trains, one 1st class car has conventional open-plan seating, the other two cars have semi-compartments, with tables-for-two all along one side of the aisle and semi-enclosed tables for 4 on the other, as shown in the photo above.
The TGV takes you from Paris to Hendaye via St Pierre des Corps (just outside Tours), Bordeaux, Biarritz & St Jean de Luz. Bordeaux might be the place if you felt like a stopover on the way - just buy separate tickets Paris-Bordeaux and Bordeaux-Hendaye.
Enjoying San Sebastian...
If your budget will stretch, the Hotel de Londres y Inglaterra is a classic. The place has character, and is perfectly located right on the sea front, a few minutes walk from the old town and 10 minutes walk from Amara station. Ask for a room with balcony overlooking the bay... For something rather cheaper but still with great reviews right in the old town, try the Pension Garibai or Pension Alameda.