San Sebastián

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The city

  • Summer resort of the European aristocracy

    San Sebastián is a small city of just 183,000 inhabitants and a remarkably high level of cultural activity for its size. Over the last two centuries the beauty of its bay, known as the Pearl of the Cantabrian, with both the sea and mountain just steps away, as well as the city’s quality of life and world-renowned cuisine have turned San Sebastián into a world-class tourist destination.

    Some consider San Sebastián, this balanced combination of small hills, stately buildings and sea, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, because the Cantabrian Sea is almost just another Donostiarran (native of San Sebastián). The city is sheltered by La Concha Bay, protected from waves by the island of Santa Clara and embraced by Mount Urgull and Igeldo. The changing colours of the bay and its bordering beaches of La Concha and Ondarreta are always a dazzling sight.

    San Sebastián began as a typical Basque fishing village that grew as a market town and military fort with the invasion by Napoleon’s troops; after being almost completely destroyed in 1813 in the city’s battle against the Anglo-Portuguese troops it was chosen by Queen Isabel II as the Royal Family’s summer residence and began to flourish again as a commercial city.

    The splendour of Donostia-San Sebastián during its “Belle Époque”, when it was used as a summer resort by the European aristocracy, left its mark on the city with beautiful buildings like the Grand Casino (now the City Hall), the Miramar Palace, summer residence of the Spanish Court, as well as the bridges over the Urumea.

    Cultural activity grew at the same pace as tourist activity, so that today the city boasts a superb performing arts and cultural programme. The International Film Festival, Jazzaldia Jazz Festival and Music Fortnight are the highlights of San Sebastián’s year-round events, which also include themed film festivals such as the Surfilm Festival and the Human Rights Film Festival, as well as performing arts events like the dFeria Theatre Festival.

    San Sebastián is world famous as a food tourism destination - the city boasts more Michelin stars per square metre than any other spot in the world and is the birthplace of the “new Basque cuisine” movement. The quality of its ingredients and its world famous pintxos (Basque word for tapas) are enjoyed by both locals and visitors year round.  
    Its strategic location and its large number of roads and transport infrastructures have made San Sebastián into an easily accessible city well connected to the rest of the world.

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