San Sebastian’s Monte Urgull is Worth the Hike!

Christ Statue on top of Monte Urgull in San Sebastian
by Anisa // 14 Comments

If you find yourself in San Sebastian, Spain, you can’t miss one of its most famous landmarks – the statue of Christ atop Monte Urgull. My hotel room at the Hotel Londres had the perfect view of it, and it got me thinking, “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to hike up and see it up close?”

But boy, was I in for a surprise! Monte Urgull has so much more to offer than just the statue and the stunning view. Trust me, you won’t regret setting aside an afternoon to explore this hill.

Let me fill you in on what you can expect while hiking Monte Urgull.

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The statue of Christ on top of the castle.
The statue of Christ on top of the castle.

About Monte Urgull

Monte Urgull is a hill located across the bay from Monte Igueldo in San Sebastian, Spain. Rising over 400 feet above sea level, it offers breathtaking views of the city and the coastline.

At the summit, you will come across the Mota Castle, which has stood tall for centuries, along with a towering 40-foot sculpture of Jesus Christ that was added in 1950. As you explore this historic site, you’ll learn that the area served as a military fortress dating back to the 12th century, and its walls have endured countless attacks and sieges over the years.

Overall, Monte Urgull is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting San Sebastian. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to witness its rich history and natural beauty.


Monte Urgull Hike

Climbing Monte Urgull can be considered either an easy hike or a moderate walk, depending on your fitness level. 

There are several different paths that lead to the top.  You can 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 recommend going up one and down another so you get to see more of the area. 

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.

The views are stunning any direction you look.
The views are stunning any direction you look.

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. After exploring all the top of Monte Urgull has to offer, we went down towards the Paseo de los Curas (behind the Aquarium of San Sebastián).

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What to See on Monte Urgull

Monte Urgull has numerous attractions that are worth exploring beyond its scenic hiking trails. Some of the must-see sites include the Mota Castle, a 40-foot statue of Jesus Christ, a cemetery with a rich history, and an impressive sculpture.

If you plan on hiking Monte Urgull, make sure to visit these exciting attractions to get a complete experience. Allow me to elaborate on these fascinating sites and what makes them so special.

The view of the city of San Sebastian and La Concha beach from Monte Urgull.
The view of the city of San Sebastian and La Concha beach from Monte Urgull.

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.  

Some of the canons in the castle.
Some of the canons in the castle.

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!   

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From the castle on top, Russell had a great view of the city and the mountains in the distance.
From the castle on top, Russell had a great view of the city and the mountains.

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.

Russell exploring more of the old buildings on Monte Urgull. -"San Sebastian's Monte Urgull is Worth the Hike!" - Two Traveling Texans
Russell exploring more of the old buildings on Monte Urgull.

Sagrado Corazón

The impressive sculpture of Jesus that stands atop Monte Urgull is known as Sagrado Corazón, which translates to “Sacred Heart,” or sometimes as Cristo de la Mota. This masterpiece was created by Federico Coullaut in 1950 and stands at an impressive height of 40 feet, resting on a base that houses a chapel, making the entire monument more than 80 feet tall. Its size and location make it visible from up to 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.  

The ruins of the British Cemetery can easily be missed if you are not looking for it. -"San Sebastian's Monte Urgull is Worth the Hike!" - Two Traveling Texans
The ruins of the British Cemetery can easily be missed if you are not looking for it.

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.

Empty Construction

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.  

Sculpture called Open Construction by Jorge Oteiza. -"San Sebastian's Monte Urgull is Worth the Hike!" - Two Traveling Texans
I was impressed by this sculpture called Open Construction by Jorge Oteiza.

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 of artwork was under renovation during our visit.

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Can you spot Anisa exploring the abandoned building?
Can you spot Anisa exploring the abandoned building?

Is it Free to Visit Monte Urgull?

Yes, there is no admission fee.  You don’t have to book a ticket either.

When is Monte Urgull open?

It is open year round but the hours do vary.  It always 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.  You cannot visit Monte Urgull at night.

How Long Does it Take to Hike Monte Urgull?

It depends on how much you want to stop and explore.  If you are tight on time, you could probably walk up and down in less than an hour and a half.  I would recommend allowing around 3 hours so that you can see some of the attractions and have time to enjoy the view.

Is Hiking Monte Urgull worth it?

Yes, hiking Monte Urgull is definitely worth it! The trek offers beautiful views of San Sebastian and its surrounding areas, along with historical landmarks such as the Mota Castle, cemetery, and sculpture of Jesus Christ.  Plus it is free to visit.

Additionally, the hike is relatively easy and there are several different paths to choose from, making it a great activity for people of all ages and abilities. So, if you’re visiting San Sebastian, hiking Monte Urgull is a must-do activity.

We expected panoramic views of the city, the San Sebastian beach, and the Christ statue, but we stumbled upon some interesting history too.  Have you stumbled upon any history on your travels? I would love to hear about it in the comments.


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pictures of the view from monte urgull and things you can see on the monte urgull hike (castle and art installation) with text overlay "San Sebastian's Monte Urgull - Worth the Hike!)

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 May 22, 2023

About the Author

Anisa is an experienced international traveler with extra pages in her passport and stamps from 41 different countries across 5 continents (and counting). She was born and raised in Texas. After a 13 year stint in NYC, she moved to England to live with her husband.