San Sebastian Travel Guide
The captivating city of San Sebastián (known as Donostia in Basque) is revered as ‘the pearl of the Cantabrian coast’ for its perfect shell-shaped bay, flawless beaches and extraordinary gastronomy. Spectacularly positioned at the verdant foothills of the Pyrenees, the city was historically the summer residence of the Spanish royal family and still retains a refined ambience and strong traditional heart.
Stroll along stately boulevards lined with lavish Belle Époque buildings, which reflect San Sebastián’s affluence and modernisation at the turn of the 20th century. The city’s architecture is an intriguing synthesis of historical monuments and contemporary design, from the imposing neo-Gothic cathedral and the Baroque Santa María del Coro church to the futuristic cubes of the Kursaal Congress Centre. In the heart of the Parte Vieja (old town), the prominent Plaza de la Constitución is a majestic square used as a bullring during the Middle Ages.
An epicurean paradise, the food culture in San Sebastián has a long history of farmers and fisherman, with local markets overflowing with fresh seafood and regional produce of the highest quality. Renowned for its refined Basque cuisine, San Sebastián is celebrated for its innovative molecular preparations and delicate, flavourful dishes, boasting some of the finest Michelin-starred restaurants in the country.
The Basque version of tapas is pintxos - a word you’ll soon become enamoured of as you meander through the warren of cobbled streets in Parte Vieja. The custom of bar-hopping through innumerable pintxos bars laid out with plates of irresistible appetisers is a cultural and culinary experience that should not be missed.
San Sebastián has three esteemed beaches in the heart of the city. The pristine crescent of Playa de la Concha, with inviting white sand and crystal clear waters - perfect for swimming and sunbathing, the sun-drenched Playa de Ondarreta - popular with families and the lively Playa de la Zurriola - frequented by surfers and a lively beach crowd.
A lovely promenade skirts the bay and is a beautiful place for a romantic evening stroll, with the iconic sculpture ‘El Peine del Viento’ (the Wind Comb) by Eduardo Chillida anchored at the western end. Luxury hotels, chic bars and top nightclubs can also be found alongside the promenade.
San Sebastián’s cultural calendar is populated with all kinds of festivals, exhibitions, concerts and fiestas throughout the year, including highlights such as the Jazzaldia Jazz Festival and the International Film Festival. There are also many fascinating galleries and museums to be discovered, particularly the impressive Chillida-Leku sculpture park. Take the funicular to the summit of Mount Igueldo for stunning sunsets and a spectacular panoramic view.
Boasting a dazzling selection of first-class hotels and boutique shops complemented by exceptional cuisine and enchanting natural surroundings, the elegance of San Sebastián will endure as a truly memorable holiday destination.