One of San Sebastian’s most famous landmarks is the statue of Christ on top of Monte Urgull that looks over the city. We had a lovely view of it from our hotel room at the Hotel Londres. I had heard that you could walk up the hill to see it and I thought that would be fun to do. I had no idea that Monte Urgull has more to offer than just the statue of Christ and a great view.
So if you get a chance to visit San Sebastian, set aside an afternoon to explore Monte Urgull. Let me tell you what you can expect when you hike Monte Urgull.
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About Monte Urgull
Monte Urgull is the hill by the ocean directly opposite from Monte Igueldo in San Sebastian Spain.
At it’s highest point it is a little over 400 feet above sea level. At the summit you will find the Mota Castle along with a 40-foot sculpture of Jesus Christ that was added in 1950.
The area became a military fortress in the 12th century and its walls were subject to attacks and sieges throughout the years.
Monte Urgull Hike
I would classify the trek up Monte Urgull as an easy hike or moderate walk.
To climb up Mount Urgull, there are several different paths you can choose. Go up one and down another so that you can see more of the area. Start your walk from the Paseo Nuevo, the Plaza de Zuloaga (by the San Telmo Museum), the Paseo de los Curas (behind the Aquarium of San Sebastián) or the Basilica of Santa María.
We chose the trail starts from Mari Street in San Sebastian’s (aka Donostia’s) Old Town Port Area. While the paths are nicely paved, some parts are steep and there are stairs in some places. If you walked up without stopping to explore, it would probably only take 30-45 minutes depending on your speed.
We didn’t do much research beforehand, we had just heard that you could walk up. We figured it would be a good way to burn off some of the calories from our cooking class. While walking up the steep path that zig-zagged up the hill, we couldn’t help but stop and admire the view of the city and La Concha beach.
What to See on Monte Urgull
Monte Urgull is more than a scenic hike, we found a few attractions that are worth seeing too. While hiking Monte Urgull make sure not to miss the castle, statue, cemetery, and sculpture.
San Sebastian’s Castillo de la Mota
At the tallest point on Monte Urgull stands the 40 foot tall San Sebastian Christ statue, Sagrado Corazon (or Sacred Heart) and a castle. I wasn’t expecting to visit a castle because it’s hard to see from the city. The Mota Castle, or Castillo de la Mota, has historical significance, some parts date back to the 12th century and it was conquered by Napoleon’s French Army.
The San Sebastian castle is definitely worth exploring, there were many nooks and crannies to peek into. It’s home to the Casa de la Historia de Urgull, a small museum that shares the story of the Donostian people throughout the city’s 800-plus years of history.
Of course, kids would love this. There are several cannons around the castle too. Also, I can’t say enough about the amazing views!
On top of Monte Urgull, there were several areas with old abandoned buildings in addition to Castillo de la Mota. It was fun to explore and peek inside.
There were also plenty of benches where you could take a break and enjoy the view. You have a fabulous view of La Concha Beach and also the island in the middle of the bay. We were lucky to visit on an absolutely perfect afternoon. If you happen to visit in the summer, there is a place that sells ice cream.
The sculpture of Jesus on top of Monte Urgull is called Sagrado Corazón which translates to “Sacred Heart.” Some people also call it Cristo de la Mota.
It was created by Federico Coullaut in 1950. The sculpture measures 40 feet in height and rests on top of a base which houses a chapel, making the entire monument more than 80 feet tall. It can be seen from four miles away at sea.
San Sebastian’s British Cemetery
You can easily walk past the British Cemetery, also known as El Cementerio de los Ingleses. Keep an eye out for it because it is located on the back side of Monte Urgull.
Dating back to 1836, the graves are aged and blend it a bit with the other rocks and ruins. The Auxiliary British Legion Officers who were killed in the area during the First Carlist War are buried here.
You can find a plaque that lists the names of those buried, although one is a mass grave. I am always moved by military cemeteries (like the American Cemetery I visited in Cambridge, England) because I am thankful for those that risk their lives for liberty and freedom.
We walked down the backside of Monte Urgull and ended up at the far end of the marina close to the Aquarium. As you leave you can’t help but notice the sculpture at the foot of Monte Urgull, called Empty Construction by Jorge Oteiza. It is made with two pieces of steel which make a gate that opens to the sea.
Visually, it is supposed to connect with Eduardo Chillada’s Comb of the Wind sculpture on the other end of the San Sebastian’s bay. Unfortunately, that piece was under renovation during our visit.
Is Hiking Monte Urgull worth it?
I would definitely recommend taking a few hours to do the Monte Urgull hike. There is no entrance fee, so it is free to explore. We expected panoramic views of the city, the San Sebastian beach, and the Christ statue, but we stumbled upon some interesting history too.
Keep in mind that access to Monte Urgull is closed at night. It opens at 8:00 am but closes at 9:00 pm during the summer season and 7:30 pm during the rest of the year.
Have you stumbled upon any history on your travels? I would love to hear about it in the comments.
Pin for Later
Expert Tips for visiting Monte Urgull San Sebastian
- Begin your trip up Monte Urgull from Mari Street in the Old Town Port Area
- In addition to seeing the famous San Sebastian statue, take time to explore the Mota castle and other abandoned buildings on Monte Urgull.
- Don’t miss the British Cemetery (Cementerio de los Ingleses) on the back side of the mountain.
- Be sure to check out Jorge Oteiza’s sculpture Open Construction.
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Last Updated on November 19, 2021
What stunning views … in every photo, they were just all, well, stunning! I would say this was definitely worth the hike, especially on a glorious day which you seemed to have, it just makes everything that little bit more worthwhile 🙂 I also love castle so I would have been the one exploring those nooks and crannies! #TheWeeklyPostcard
Thank you! Yes Angie you would really love it there. We were lucky with the weather and had a great afternoon.
Looks an interesting but not too demanding hike. Loved the view of the city and La Concha beach, your photos are fabulous. Definitely something we would enjoy if visiting this area, have pinned it for future reference. #TheWeeklyPostcard
Thanks so much guys. Glad you enjoyed the photos. Yes it is definitely worth visiting when you go to Basque Country!
Looks like a nice hike with some interesting things to see along the way. Love the art piece near the water!
Thanks Jessica! Yes I really loved the artwork too.
I agree, hikes are great for burning extra calories without the pain of strenuous exercises. Haha! And the beautiful view of the city and the sea is a perfect reward.
Melai – yes that is one of the reasons I love hiking!
Anisa that is giving me both good memories and a queasy feeling in my stomach as I chose to do this hike after a huge tapas and sangria session the night before. Actually it was more a sangria session and I felt terrible but the views were incredible! I was a lot younger then and I can confidently say when I return to San Sebastian I will do the hike much more comfortably 🙂
Haha Katy. I can see how that can happen. We were just stuffed so it felt good to work it off. Tipsy is a whole separate thing. Kudos to you for doing it!
This looks like such a beautiful hike! I’ve always wanted to go to San Sebastian, especially for the film festival – I hope I get to go one day 🙂
Kathi – Yes San Sebastián is wonderful. I hope you get to go.
Looks like a pleasant way to spend an afternoon!
Thanks Becky. We really enjoyed it!