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There are a thousand reasons to visit San Sebastian. Nature, its breathtaking beaches, its wonderful location in amongst the mountains, the beauty of its monuments and streets all in Belle-Époque style, the animated cultural life and spirit of leisure make this the perfect destination for a get away.
Here we suggest a few ideal activities and interesting places to visit in the city:
Exquisite culinary offerings are idiosyncratic to the city of San Sebastian. High quality of its gastronomy is recognised and applauded at an international level and has accumulated as many as 16 Michelin stars, the highest number obtained by one city per metre squared than any other place in the world.
The bustling historic part of San Sebastian is the social and commercial centre of the city, offering a never-ending array of leisure activities. It is a must see for visitors, who will learn of how the locals live as they pass through the winding, cobbled streets and squares. Going out to restaurants in the historic centre is the done thing, hopping from bar to bar sampling the famous "pinxtos", one of the gastronomic treasures of San Sebastian, which are small bites, from sliced bread with toppings to small creations of high quality Basque cooking.
The architecture of San Sebastian reflects its rich history as a city. Each building represents a period with co-existent classic constructions demonstrating works of the French court, along with Belle-Epoque style avant-garde buildings.
Church of San Vicente
Located in the Historic Zone of San Sebastian, the church of San Vicente is the oldest temple in the city. Built during the second half of the 14th Century in gothic style, it contains within its walls one of the most impressive roman alter-pieces, the work of Ambrosio de Bengoechea and Juan de Iriarte. (Calle Narrica, 26)
Basilica of Santa Maria
The Basilica of Santa Maria, built between 1743 and 1774, is a striking 18th Century baroque work located on the Calle Mayor. Most outstanding is the baroque façade with Churrigueresque (artistic movement relating to the work of José Benito de Churriguera) nuances. As well as the baptismal font one can contemplate the sculpture of the Eduardo Chillida cross. The main door of the Basilica is a few steps away from the Catedral de El Buen Pastor. (Calle 31 de Agosto, 46)
Catedral del Buen Pastor
This is the largest church in San Sebastian with its 11,915 metres squared and was constructed in the 19th Century, inaugurated in 1897. Its Ogive style aesthetic is inspired by the medieval churches of France and Germany. Proof of this inspiration is seen in the sharp spire that crowns the building, granting it the honour of being the tallest building in the city. On the main façade "La Cruz de la Paz" sculpted by Eduardo Chillida (The Cross of Peace) majestically stands out. (Calle Plaza del Buen Pastor)
Plaza de la Constitución (Constitution Square)
The heart of the historic zone is composed mainly by the Plaza de la Constitución. The central building was the San Sebastian Town Hall up until the 1940s. Its past reminds us of its previous function as a bullring, however today the Plaza de la Constitución is place full of life and protagonistic area with regards to the most important local celebrations.
El Ayuntamiento (The Town Hall)
The Ayuntamiento of San Sebastian, since its inauguration in 1897 was the Gran Casino of San Sebastian in which politicians, writers and artists of the Belle-Époque used to entertain themselves, until its closure in 1924 due to the prohibition of gambling. In 1947 it was converted into the Casa Consistorial (Town hall) of the city, which had changed location from the Plaza de la Constitución. Its finds itself directly in Concha Bay, with never-ending ambience of the Historic zone at its back and the tranquillity of the Alderdi Eder gardens in front. (Calle Ijentea, 1)
The Victoria Eugenia Theatre
With a typical Belle Époque style yet a more current day spirit, this theatre is situated right in the centre, with views of the Kursaal and the banks of the Urumea river, offering its visitors the most varied of programmes. Built in stone with decorative plateresque motifs and Spanish renaissance forms, the building was created by the architect Francisco de Urcola in the year 1912. On the façade of the building, above the Doric pillars, are four sculptural groupings representing opera, tragedy, comedy and drama. (Pº de la República Argentina, 2)
This palace was created for the summer stays of Queen María Cristina and the Royal Family, who decided to establish royal summers in San Sebastian, from the year 1887 onwards. Its views of the two beaches of the bay and the Isla de Santa Clara, which is located directly opposite, are outstanding. The Mirimar Palace was constructed in a ‘Queen Ana English cottage' style under the direction of the English architect Seldon Wornum, who also designed other palaces in Biarritz and San Juan de Luz. It was built in brick and stone with wooden framework. Its gardens are the work of the masterful gardener Pierre Ducasse, creator also of the gardens of the Aiete Palace and the Plaza de Gipuskoa (Calle Paseo de Miraconcha, 48)
One of the great contemporary architectural expressions and landmarks of San Sebastian, El Kuursal is a palace of congress that houses many celebrations from festivals to the most colourful fairs. It was designed by Rafael Moneo and offers infinite possibilities for every day of the year. (Av. De la Zurriola 1)
The Royal Boating Club of San Sebastian
It is a rationalist building that reproduces a boat moored on the pier. It was constructed in 1928 by the architects José Manuel Aizpurua and Joaquín Labayen and is a most important work in the context of modern Spanish architecture. It has recently been declared as being of high cultural interest, categorized as a monument. (Calle Injentea, 9)
|San Sebastian is a work of art outdoors, which allows visitors to enjoy the beauty of its landscapes and their unique works.|
El Peine del Viento
Created by the sculptor Eduard Chillida and the architect Luis Peña Ganchegui, el Peine del Viento is an impressive sculpture of modern art and a tranquil meeting point for locals and tourists.
Located on the Paseo Nuevo, this sculpture by the artist Jorge Oteiza was awarded at the Beinal de Sao Paolo half a century ago and is today a reference to the world of contemporary art.
El Sagrado Corazón
From the peak of the Urgull mountain the Sagrado Corazón sculpture majestically emerges over the city of San Sebastian. The work, carried out by the artist Federico Coullaut in 1950, measures more than 12 metres in height and can be seen from a distance of 4 miles out at sea.
BEACHES OF SAN SEBASTIAN
|San Sebastian's beaches are one of the main attractions in the summer and have been recognized worldwide for its beauty.|
La Concha Beach
Located in the centre of the city, this is the most admired beach in San Sebastian and is considered one of the most beautiful urban beaches in all of Europe. It grew under the wing of the Royal Summers at the beginning of the 20th Century and is known as the Pearl of the Cantabrian Sea.
Paseo de la Concha runs along for more than 5 km, passing by the Concha and Ondarreta beaches. The zone designated for the promenade is completely pedestrian, with benches that invite you to rest and enjoy the views of the Cantabrian sea. From time to time, small trees known as tamarines or tamarindos give the promenade a green touch. While walking along, the visitor stops and leans on the symbolic white railings, characteristic of the Donostian city, separating the land and sea. These railings, the work of Mariano Arrieta, run along the entirety of the promenade and are a symbol of the city.
Located between the Igeldo Mountain and the gardens of the Mirimar Palace, this beach is over 1 km in length with a width of about 100 metres of sand, perfect for sunbathing.
Waves, surf and youth. These are the principle components of Zurriola Beach, the most animated beach in San Sebastian. Located right in the Gros district, it has been converted, since its remodelling 15 years ago, into the favourite destination for youths and surfers from all over the world, set on having fun and meeting people. This dynamic is exactly why this beach is so attractive. Surfing tournaments and constant lessons, volley ball, football matches, and of course buckets and spades!
La Isla Santa Clara
Few cities can boast of having an island right across the bay and San Sebastian is one of them. You can enjoy its small beach, its walkways to and from the lighthouse, its paths along which you'll find small outdoor kiosks, cafes and terraces. During the summer a motor boat service leaves every half an hour from the port to the island.
San Sebastian is surrounded by mountains that embrace and protect the city, giving it a beautiful and picturesque appearance.
El Torreón de Igueldo (The Tower of Igueldo)
This tower, that offers the best views over city, is a look-out point on the Igueldo Mountain, and is a place for fun and enjoyment thanks to its quaint fun fair. It's advisable to take the cable-car, the oldest in the Basque country, in order to observe and photograph the city from this spectacular perspective.
Of special note is the lighthouse, on the west side of the mountain, built in 1885 by the architect Manuel Peironcely to enjoy the beauty of the sea and the cliffs of Igueldo.
The situation of this mountain was what won its status as a military fort in the 12th Century and its walls have suffered countless attacks and sieges over the years. The Urgull Mountain bore witness in 1794 to the first capitulation of the city by the hands of the French as well as to the fire caused by the battle between French troops and the anglo-portuguese army that destroyed the city in 1813.
Ulia Mountain is a nature park right in the centre of the city comprised of an extensive zone of greenery, 318,249 metres squared in size.
At the beginning of the 20th Century it was established as a recreational park for the aristocracy and, today, it is the most important hiking zone of the city. The Peña del Ballenero and the Peña del Rey, large rocks used as look-out points, its picnic areas, the reformed Albergue de Ulía (Ulia House) and the unique views of the city are a few of its attractions.
PARKS AND GARDENS
San Sebastian has an enormous number of urban parks. This small "green lungs" provide welcoming natural spaces for walking without having to leave the city.
Located next to the Tabakalera building, very close to the North Train Station, 37,824 metres squared in size, Cristina Enea the perfect place to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the city, without actually having leave it. The exoticism of the trees, the romanticism provided by swans and peacocks that inhabit it and the architecture of its central building remind us that this park was an oasis of peace, a gift from the Duque de Mandas to his wife.
With privileged views of Concha Bay, the Mirimar Park is necessary stop for all coastal promenades in San Sebastian. Reined over by the spectacular palace inspired by English countryside cottages, the Mirimar gardens descend smoothly down towards the sea, with winding gravel paths and meticulously maintained flowers.
Located in the hills that surround the city, its most striking aspects are its gardens and of course the palace. Its walls bore witness to the comings and goings of aristocracy including Queen Isabel II, Queen Victoria of England, Queen María Cristina, King Alfonso XIII who chose this place a their summer holiday residence. Today, however, it is on the brink of being converted into a cultural centre brimming with creative activity. Its gardens, designed by Pierre Ducasse, hide away small enclaves and ponds whose romanticism helps the visitor to disconnect with the reality of daily life.