The Basques have San Sebastian!!!

And so much for my beloved Spain, all over is everything under the Sun! I like to update this post dear to the family and just one older personal picture as plenty on the wonderful San Sebastian in my blog. Hope you enjoy the tour and thanks for reading me over the years! This is like a bit of introduction to the city.

We always went around Somport or Portalet and come more central, but one trip we did it down the ocean from Lacanau in the Médoc of Bordeaux and we went to San Sebastian/Donostia, what a pleasant surprise and plenty of memories for the whole family.  Another wonderful place in my world map and lucky to have been able to visit with the family, my dear late wife Martine love it; my father came looking for chorizo, and we got a mouthful of Basque cuisine, with the beach this is it, la vida es chula en San Sebastian.

San Sebastian, also Donostia in basque, the capital of the province of Gipuzkoa, in the Basque Autonomous community of Spain. Bathed by the waters of the Cantabrian Sea, at the mouth of the Urumea River, it owes much of its fame to its harbour, the Bay of La Concha, framed by two rocky isles, the Igeldo and Urgull mountains, true natural balconies from which one can marvel at a large part of the city, the ocean and the hilly landscapes of the surrounding area.

How to get around San Sebastian other than on foot once in town!

City buses are the main means of municipal public transport in San Sebastian. This service is in place, since 1886, the Compañía du Tranvía de San Sebastian,it has 21 lines that include the whole city. Very well connected town with wonderful autovias or highways such as the A-1 Autovia from the North: Madrid-San Sebastian de los Reyes-Burgos-//-Miranda de Ebro-Armiñón-Vitoria-Gasteiz-San Sebastian; A-8 Autovia of Cantabria: Irun-San Sebastian – Bilbao; N-I Carretera del Norte taken too Madrid-Aranda de Duero-Burgos-Miranda de Ebro-Vitoria-Gasteiz-San Sebastian-Irun-French border; N-634 Carretera del Noroeste Santiago de Compostela-Oviedo-Torrelavega-Bilbao-San Sebastian. The San Sebastian Airport is located in the border town of Hondarribia.

A bit of history I like

The origins of San Sebastian are unknown. The oldest document mentions it in the year 1014. On the other hand, it is more certain that in the 12C, Sancho VI of Navarre, aka the Wise, would have put the monastery of San Sebastian in the hands of the abbot of Leyre and the bishop of Pamplona. This document will be confirmed, in 1201, by King Pedro I. The first written news of San Sebastian refers to a monastery, located in the neighborhood that still today is called San Sebastian el Antiguo (old). This place was primitively known, according to some historians, as Izurum. San Sebastian appears etymologically of the evolution of the word Donebastian (Done (Santo), and Sebastian). This king granted the rights of San Sebastian (a set of laws peculiar to the province), which will mark the chronological beginning of the history of the city.

After two centuries of heroically completing his war mission, king Felipe IV of Spain, in 1662, granted the title of City. Until its foundation there were only small residential areas in the district of the Antiguo (old Quarter), in the old part and in the valley of the Urumea, by undertaking until the 15C a slow process of growth.  In 1719, the city was taken by a strong French army and marshal of Berwick. The citadel is taken on August. The city was occupied by a garrison of two thousand French soldiers, until 25 August 1721, when it was evacuated following the Hague peace. 

During the War of Independence (from France), San Sebastian was occupied in 1808 by the Napoleonic troops. Joseph Bonaparte,(brother of Napoleon I)  ruler of Spain, entered San Sebastian on 9 June, running through Calle Narrica, in which all the windows had remained closed. In June 1813 the Allies, the Anglo-Portuguese troops, under the direct command of Sir Thomas Graham and the General Duke of Wellington, besieged the city. After several days of intense bombardment provoking a widening of the rift (French troops were entered by the latter in 1719), the assault operation formed by a column of volunteers, called the Desperados (outlaws), was started. A fortuitous fire and the explosion of a stockpile of ammunition caused a panic among the French, this event was to take advantage by the assailants obligating the French troops to withdraw to the castle, where they will capitulate on 8 September 1813.

On the death of King Alfonso XII of Spain, in 1885, his widow the Regent Queen Maria-Christina took the court to San Sebastian every summer, residing in the Miramar Palace. The remarkable buildings of the city are all of that timen apart from those of the old town , such as the Cathedral of Buen Pastor or Artzain Ona of San Sebastian, the Escuela de Artes and Oficios (current post Office) and the Instituto Peñaflorida ( then occupied by the Escuela Ingenieros Industriales and nowadays by the Cultural Centre Koldo Mitxelena), the Miramar Palace, the Victoria Eugenia Theater, the María Cristina Hotel, the villas of Paseo de Francia or Frantziako Pasealekua or the North station, as well as the rest of the buildings of the romantic area , all with a French style marked, which gave charm to San Sebastian and its nickname “Little Paris” or “Paris of the South”.

WWI made San Sebastian one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe. In its Casino there were all the personalities of the European highlife: Mata Hari, Léon Trotsky, Maurice Ravel, Romanones, Pastora Imperio, renowned bullfighters, bankers, etc. In the Belle Epoque, San Sebastian received the French operetta company, the Ballets Russes, opera singers and many other famous artists.  In 1930, the city hosted a meeting of Republicans, which was called the San Sebastian Agreement, which will have a significant impact in the later advent of the 2nd Republic in 1931. In fact, the first Republican government will be formed, to a great extent, by the core of politicians participating in the “Agreement”. The election of the capital Donostiarra was due on the one hand to the proximity of the city with the French Republic and to the fact that San Sebastian was the summer capital of the court.  Shortly after the start of the Spanish Civil War, on September 13, 1936, San Sebastian fell, without serious combat, into the hands of the Nationalists. The resort city was residence of Gen Franco in the month of August from 1940 to 1975 in the Palace of Aiete, bought by the City/Town Hall and offered to the head of state. During this period the councils of Ministers are held in this building. In the same building, the full Declaration on peace in the Basque Country will be pronounced on 17 October 2011 at the International Peace Conference in Aiete.

Things to see and do in pretty San Sebastian in my opinion are

The beaches , oh yes indeed, glorious right in town , these are the Ondarreta, La Concha ,and Zurriola, the first two located in the Bay of La Concha and the third on the other side of the Urumea River , which we usually park our car.  La Concha , It is one of the most famous urban beaches of Spain. It has a length of 1 350 meters  and an average width of 40 meters. ,its sand is fine white. It has 38 showers, shelters and beach chairs as well as showers and changing rooms. Close to this beach there is a parking lot (parking Kontxa). On the shores of the beach you will find the spa of La Perla, the former royal house of the Thermal baths (Casa Real de Baños) and the Royal Nautical Club (Real club Náutico), buildings which, with the famous grid along the beach, the elegant streetlights, two large clocks of the beginning of the century and the Palace of Miramar (Palacio de Miramar), which closes by the west, form an elegant and singular beach.  Ondarreta , Situated between the Palace of Miramar (Palacio de Miramar) and Mount Igeldo, it is the smallest of the three beaches. More informal than the Concha, in the promenade that touches it there are gardens in which one can find a statue in honour of Queen María Cristina. It has a length of 600 meters.  Zuriola , with a length of 800 meters , it is the beach most open to the sea and with higher surge, so that it is transformed by the attendance of  the young and the surfers. In 1994, a restructuring of the beach  was carried out with the construction of a dike which reduced the danger of water and with the general improvement of the quality of sand and water. The practice of naturism has been authorised since 2004.  There is a small beach that forms in the island of Santa Clara, to which can be access by boat in the Summer months or swimming, because it is 500 meters from Ondarreta beach at low tide.

Some great activities at the proper time in San Sebastian are

San Sebastian International Film Festival every year in mid-September, one of the world’s most important film festivals. Created in 1953, this festival has been taking place for a few years at the Kursaal, The Festival of Jazz of San Sebastian called also Jazzaldia, this festival created in 1965 is today one of the most important jazz festivals in Europe. This event usually takes place in mid-July. The Tamborrada is one of the city’s major traditional events. From January 19 (+ or-2 days) to midnight, and for 24 hours, marching bands parade through the city streets, in all quarters. The opening and closing of the festivities takes place in the Plaza de la Constitucion, which is, especially for the opening, crowded to such an extent that it is not possible to move there. It’s really something to live for. The characters in these bands are either cooks or soldiers. In parallel with these fanfares, the population participates in the din with the help of small drums.

And of course, the food is glorious, one of the best cuisine of Spain and I will say Europe. We love our eating out at Juanito Kojua, highly recommended.(see post).

Other things to see are

The City/town hall of San Sebastian dependencies are located in the old casino of the city, with the Bay of La Concha. The building was built in 1887 in the gardens of Alderdi-Eder of San Sebastian. Teatro Victoria Eugenia inaugurated in 1912. Here have played some of the most important interpreters of classical or theater music. It was reopened in March 2007. Teatro Principal ,it is the oldest of the theaters of Donostia/San Sebastian. Inaugurated in 1843, it adopted its present appearance at the end of the 19C. In addition to the usual theater works and some of those presented in the Teatro Feria, there are screenings of the Semana de cine Fantástico y de Terror (week of horror and unusual films) ,and Derechos Humanos Festival (Human Rights Festival) and some films from the film Festival.


Aquarium-Museum of the Sea ,located on the Paseo Nuevo/Paseo Berria near the harbor, it has a significant historical maritime collection, as well as a modern extension with giant aquariums and an underwater passage that exposes a large amount of species of fish and other marine animals; Whaling Museum , not far from the Aquarium-Museum of the Sea, this small museum reminds of this traditional and dangerous activity of the Basques, now extinct, but which, before the era of coal and hydrocarbons, has supplied oil to cities and made the fortunes of ship owners;  Museum of Science, on the heights of the city, adapted to children and young people of school age, a complete, interactive, experimental and playful panorama of the main physical, chemical and biological phenomena; A statue of Albert Einstein sitting on a bench welcomes visitors, while the park presents models of the main monuments of the Guipuscoa region;  San Telmo Museum, a municipal property and located in a former convent of the 16C. 

The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd (Catedral del Buen Pastor) was formerly a parish church, built from 1889 to 1897. The former Arena of Atocha  (bullfight arena). They dated from 1876 in demolishing this arena, its materials were used in the construction of the first houses of the district of Egia, the Castle of La Mota (Castillo de la Mota) and the fortifications are a defensive complex located on Mount Urgull.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip , and you must go are:

The San Sebastian tourist office:

the city of San Sebastian on moving about and tourist info:

The Euskadi Basque tourist board on San Sebastian/Donostia:

An unofficial tourism guide ,euskoguide on San Sebastian I found very informative , useful for all in English:

There you have it another jewel in my beloved Spain, you should come to San Sebastian too. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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3 Comments to “The Basques have San Sebastian!!!”

  1. So looking forward to my next visit to San Sebastián

    Liked by 1 person

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