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Blick auf die wunderschöne Bucht von San Sebastian, Bild: S-F / shutterstock

San Sebastián – Pure romance in the Basque Country

The capital of the province of Gipuzkoa is considered one of the most beautiful port cities on the Basque coast. While it was initially the important buildings that made San Sebastián worth seeing, the city has now developed into a trendy destination due to its gourmet cuisine. Magnificent beaches, luxurious boutiques and an international film festival are further highlights for a discerning audience.

La Poncha beach is located in a bay overlooking the enchanting island of Santa Clara. Take a walk along La Zurrila beach and watch the surfers go about their business. The rest of the way leads you to Ondarreta beach, where you can admire gigantic sculptures. The old town of San Sebastián with its Belle Époque-style buildings offers a delight for the eyes of culture lovers and history buffs.

A walk through the old town of San Sebastián

Take a trip back in time and visit the historic district below Mount Urgull, between the mouth of the Urumea River and the port. An imposing sight is the Buen Pastor Cathedral, whose outer tower measures a height of 75 meters. The walls of the sacred building are made of sandstone blocks from the quarries of Monte Igueldo. Another attraction is the Miramar Palace, the summer residence of Queen Maria Christina.

It is surrounded by a romantic park and is now a popular place for congresses and other events. If you had traveled to San Sebastián in the 50s, you could have looked forward to an evening at the casino. Since the gambling ban, the building has been used as the city’s town hall. Another place steeped in history is the Plaza de la Constitución in front of the City Hall, the largest square in the old town. Don’t be surprised that the balconies are numbered towards the square.

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It used to be used as a bullring and visitors were supposed to find their seats based on the numbers. Today, the gastronomy around the square ensures a lively life and hustle and bustle. Enjoy the delights of Basque cuisine here, San Sebastián is known for its density of Michelin-starred restaurants and has also been the world capital of gastronomy.

Culture in San Sebastián – Films and Drums

If you visit the city in September, you can watch the international film festival, which has been held since 1953. In the Municipal Theatre of San Sebastián you can admire the stars and starlets. At the Festival Internacional de Cine de San Sebastián, the Golden and Silver Shells are awarded for Best Film and Best Director. They are intended to remind us of the bay of La Concha. In addition, the Donostia Prize is awarded for the lifetime achievement of well-known personalities from the world of film. Another highlight is the Tamborrada festival – the drum festival, which takes place every year on January 20, the day of Saint Sebastián. As a starting signal, the flag of the city is hoisted at midnight at the Plaza de la Constitución, then the sounds of the drums sound for 24 hours.

What to see in San Sebastián

Monte Igueldo Cogwheel Railway, San Sebastian
With the cogwheel train to Monte Igueldo, Image: Alvaro German Vilela / shutterstock

Since 1912, the old cogwheel railway has been taking holidaymakers to Monte Igueldo so that they can enjoy the unique panoramic view over the city. The mountain is a popular destination next to the city with attractions such as an amusement park and a lighthouse. Monte Urgull is also worth a visit, it can be reached through various paths that wind up to the summit. There you will be rewarded with a view of the old town and the bay with the island of Santa Clara. The city’s Historical Museum and the Christ the Redeemer statue are also worth seeing.

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If you are interested in marine animals, you should not miss the Donostia-San Sebastián Aquarium. It is one of the most visited attractions in the Basque Country and is housed in a historic building at the end of the port. In addition to more than 200 native marine animals, there are also exhibits from the time of the seafarers to marvel at. In the panoramic tunnel, you can watch the bull sharks swim majestically overhead.

A romantic destination for a walk along the Urumea River is the Maria Cristina Bridge, which is made of wood. In each corner, 18-meter-high obelisks can be seen, framed by numerous groups of sculptures. A beautiful sight! At the mouth of the Urumea River is Palacio de Congresos y Auditorio Kursaal, one of the most modern sights in the city. The building was designed in 1999 by the Spanish architect Rafael Moneo and forms an interesting contrast to the historic buildings of San Sebastián.