top of page

Travel: San Sebastian, a Basque Jewel. Spain 3/29- 4/2/2023

Updated: May 31, 2023

Continuation of the 2023 trip

3/2/2023 - Amsterdam (part 1) 3/18-24/2023 -Tarragona (part6)

3/4-5/2023 - Amsterdam (part 2) 3/26/2023-Tossa el Mar/Costa Brava (part 7)

3/6-12/2023 - London (part 3) 3/27-28/2023 - Girona (part 8)

3/12-16/2023 - Barcelona (part 4) 3/28-29/2023 Zaragoza &Pamplona (part 9)

3/17-18/2023 -Catalan Villages (part 5) 3/31/2023 - Donibane&Hondarrabia (part 10)

Officially known as Donostia / San Sebastián the majestic city on the Cantabrian Sea

San Sebestian definitely begs a full stay and not just a visit. We had passed through town, several years ago, on another trip, but promised ourselves to return and properly vacation here for few days.

A blue sunny sky accompanied by an heat wave , unusual in March, with temperature high at the 30th C , welcomed our stay and lasted for 3 days before the weather turned back to cool, gray and drizzly.

From a medieval fishing harbor the town grew into a trading port,and later as of 1889 during the Belle Époque era where the Spanish Queen Maria Cristina established her royal summer house.,with the construction of the Miramar palace (designed by an English architect Selden Wornum), Since the town transformed into an elegant very popular international summer beach resort,

Basque and folk lore fests, golf and tennis tournaments, racing regattas high fashion,,

as well as a gastronomic center with its Gastronomic Academy" and food clubs, and many many excellent restaurants, (the city alone has 14 Michelin stars spread across 6 restaurants) have all put the town on the international desirable tourist destination

San Sebastian - a town of about 200,000 inhabitants, part of the Basque Autonomous Community, nestles like a jewel in a spectacular setting of circular bay with pristine white sand beaches - Bahia de Conca on the coast of the Bay of Biscay, 20 km ( from the France–Spain border

2 vast gold sand beaches -

La Concha, - unique shell shape the most beautiful urban beach in Europe,

and Ondarrets - calmer and more relaxing at the foot of Mount Igueldo

La Concha Beach

Ondarreta Beach

A beautiful promenade stretches between the 2 beach strips

The 3rd beach

Zurriola,- popular with surfers. is over the mouth of the Urumea river,

The small picturesque Santa Clara Island provides another 4th tiny beach

In the middle of La Concha Bay, nests this lush vegetation small island with its tiny beach, a singular lighthouse building, and a winding hillside path to walk around it

The island is also a great spot for bird-watching and watching views over the Sea

Small boat Taxi to the island with the service Motoras de la Isla. from Mt.Urgull side

The kand beaches are surrounded by gorgeous urban architecture and rugged green mountains, luxurious beachside mansions, and hotels as well as .wide stretching boardwalk lined with an ornate white railing , tended garden and unique lampposts,

The Bay is caped by by hilly landscape:

Mount Urgull adjacent to the old part of the city

Mount Ulia - extendnds east to Pasaia,

Mount Adarra south of the city

Mt Igeldo (overlooking Concha Bay from the west

where the panoramic views to the city and its bay are awe-inspiring.

Funicular to Monte Igeldo - building

It was fun to take the Funicular from the bottom of the Igeldo hill to its summit from which spectacular views of the bay and the coast unfold in full few,

There is an Amusement Park with many attractions on the top, for the young

The Tower at Igeldo Summit

The views from Mt. Igeldo toward the Bay and Town

El Peine del Viento ('The Wind Comb')

a contemporary set of three steel sculptures each weighing over nine tonnes, in front of the sea, next to Ondarreta beach, under the Igeldo


The special rock formation around the sculpture

On the other side of Igeldo Hill

Ships roaming the pastoral hilly landscape

Old Town

The Parte Vieja (Spanish) or Alde Zaharra[ (Basque)Old Town

There were Roman settlements (from around 50-200 AD) in what is now the charming Old Part of the city.

The original old town was devastated by the 1813 fire to town, so what is seen is the reconstitution of the narrow alleys from the previous century.

Still they bear lots of atmosphere and come alive at night offering small restaurants , many many bars and Casino entertainment,

pintxos.(small bites) are the best to be found in the old town,

Old town was surrounded by walls until 1863, when they were demolished in order to occupy the stretch of sand and land, that connected the town to the mainland.

There is a small fishing and recreation port, with two-floor houses lined under the front-wall of mount Urgull.

The 12C monastery of San Sebastián el Antiguo ('the Old') located at Plaza de Alfonso XIII is mentioned in historical documents from the time of the foundation of the city

The current site of the Palacio de Miramar was once occupied by the monastery raised in honor of St. Sebastian

The Hottest central Spot in Town

City Hall

Located in front of Alderdi Eder parkea

and Playa de la Concha

This most emblematic and majestic building occupies the palace building that housed the city’s Gran Casino from 1887 t-1924. where, most influential people from across Spain and Europe came here to gamble their riches at the roulette tables. That is, until the gambling ban in the 1920s brought the casino to a close.

Among the high-profile figures that visited the Casino (now town hall), were the

Shah of Persia, León Trotsky and Baron Rothschild.

During the First World War, the casino building took in not only European political refugees but spies, among them the Dutch exotic dancer Mata Hari.

Elegant Lamppost on the promenade

On Cale Major

Current Casino Kursaal next to 1834 Teatro Principal the oldest in town

Great Bakery on Calle Major

The town is flooded with wonderful pastry and chocolate stores however

this great bakery on Calle Major shouldn't be missed

Galparsoro Okndegia -Great Bakery

On Cale Major 6,, 943 42 10 74

Freshest products and long lines

Plaza de la Constetucion

The alley leading to the quaint square

At the heart of the city is a neoclassical Constitution Square, the original setting for San Sebastian’s bull fighting;

The balconies surrounding the square are numbered as they used to be rented by the City Council that owned the buildings, to spectators.

Line with houses, tall arcades and numbered balconies retained by the Council, are all a reminder of past days when the bull ring and boxes were used and when bullfights were held in the square which is now doted with cafes and bars

The plaza get very lively at night

A 19th C Neo-Gothic impressive structure with towers., surrounded by a garden now bursting in Tulips blossom. .

The Basilica Santa Maria del Coro

Facing it directly on the opposite distant side at the end of

Cale Major, and by the foot of Mt. Urgull, is the 18th C Basilica of

Santa Maria del Coro - framed by two


Cathedral Bsillica

The Post office Building, (which is one of 2 identical structures -the other is a cultural center) is near by the Cathedral.

The Post Office

Miramar Palace, also known as the Royal Country House of Miramar, located above the Pico del Loro

(the dividing point between Playa de la Concha and Ondarreta). With its parks, gardens, buildings and outbuildings the Miramar Palace is the quintessential summer palace.

More belle époque structures

in 1912 the Victoria Eugenia Theater and the María Cristina Hotel were inaugurated , and was attended by Queen María Cristina .

From then on the theater and the hotel formed one of the most outstanding monumental complexes in the city.

Its period of splendor coincided with the San Sebastián's ,expaunsion

Victoria Eugenia Theater

In 1909, the construction of the theater and the hotel began simultaneously. The theater was conceived by the architect Francisco de Urcola ,who was based on other recently built European theaters. The hotel, for its part, was devised by Charles Mewes , author of several Ritz hotels in Europe , such as those in Madrid and Paris, and Urcola directed the project.

The most stylish exclusive hotel in town - Maria Cristina Hotel (Marriott)

Located opposite San Sebastian's Victoria Eugenia Theater, the hotel

opened in 1912 with 29 luxury suites, and was designed in a Belle Époque architecture style,

It is linked to the history and cultural life of San Sebastian and has been the main accommodation for the stars, the rich and famous .that attend the San Sebastián

International Film Festival . Among them were:

The Gothic church of San Vicente and the Museo de San Telemo,- a museum set in a former 16th century convent and dedicated to the evolution of the Basque society are all worthwhile. to see.

The Bretxa Market

Boulevard Zumardia 3

This market has a lot of history behind it: Locals have been doing their grocery shopping here for 150 years! It dates back to 1870 and has been recently refurbished.

The emblematic building was designed by local architect Antonio Cortázar, who is also responsible for designing a big part of the city of San Sebastian, known as the Ensanche (more here)

The modern city which was in large part built on the Urumea river's wetlands during the last two centuries. City centre and other districts lies on the former riverbed, which was diverted to its current canalized course in the first half of the 20th century.[ and now

consists of elegant tall apartments blocks ,promenades fancy shopes and gardens between Mounts Urgull and Igueldo

Beautiful Bridges over the River connecting the historic with to the modern Town

La Zuriola Bridge