Perched on the Bay of Biscay, in the heart of Basque Country, lies San Sebastián, Spain’s renowned gastronomic capital. A relaxed metropolis, San Sebastián comfortably bridges old world and new with its world-class artwork, architectural marvels, vibrant cultural festivals, and modern design.
Just a quick boat trip from the city center and Playa de la Concha, this tiny, uninhabited island in middle of the bay is a popular destination for hiking excursions and festive picnics. Clamber around on its rugged, tree-lined shores, dangle your feet in the water as you snack on local treats, and snap postcard-perfect pictures of the city beyond.
Two cubes of translucent glass rest upon the sandy shores of the Bay of Biscay, reflecting and blending with their natural surroundings. Inside this famed cultural center and event space, auditoriums and exhibition halls witness the crescendo of a symphony orchestra, the pas de deux of ballet dancers, and the quiet hush of a crowd as the opening movie of the San Sebastián International Film Festival begins.
Rising as a protective barrier between San Sebastián’s Parte Vieja and the sea beyond, Mount Urgull has been the heart of the city since a fort was built there it in the 12th century. Hike up to the top to visit artist Federico Coullaut’s 12-meter-high El Sagrado Corazón sculpture – and to admire panoramic views of the harbor below. On the ocean side of the mountain, Paseo Nuevo is a popular seafront promenade for locals.
Known as the Parte Vieja, San Sebastián's tiny Old Quarter was entirely rebuilt after the fire of 1861. Here, narrow, cobbled streets wind between arched colonnades, tiers of balconies overlook the umbrella-shaded cafés of Constitution Square, ruins of ancient walls hide in plain sight, and colorful shops and tapas bars beckon. Be sure to spend an evening on a txikiteo: hopping between the many pintxo bars, sampling the city’s traditional flavors.
Created by the sculptor Eduardo Chillida and the architect Luis Peña Ganchegui, El Peine del Viento embodies San Sebastián’s dedication to public art. Perched on the rocky coast below Mount Igueldo, this modern-art sculpture doubles as an open-air museum and meeting point for both locals and tourists.
Nestled just below San Sebastian's Mount Urgull stands the striking San Telmo Museum, once a 16th-century Gipuzkoan-style Dominican convent. The region's oldest museum devoted to Basque culture, the institution houses a comprehensive permanent collection of archaeological artifacts, alongside paintings and sculptures. A recently opened, eco-conscious annex made of an aluminum-and-lichen exterior was designed by Neito Sobjeano Architects and the artists Leopoldo Ferrán and Agustina.
Facing the Hotel Maria Cristina, this magnificent Belle Époque building seems a picture of old-world San Sebastián, designed by architect Francisco de Urcola in 1912 and adorned with Doric columns and dramatic, Renaissance-inspired bas-reliefs. And yet, its programming is more modern: the theater hosts many of the city’s renowned jazz, film, and theater festivals.
While Playa de la Concha may be San Sebastián’s most famous and popular beach, Zurriola Beach – in the Gros district, adjacent to the old quarter – is where the locals and surfers go. The site of the city’s renowned international surf competition, the beach is a constant center of activity, from beach volleyball and soccer games to sand-castle competitions and surf lessons.
It’s only appropriate that one of the world’s culinary capitals should be home to this three-day conference where Europe’s top chefs participate in lectures, master classes, activities, and more.Learn More
Sample the Guipuzcoa region’s culinary specialties, including txistorra and cider, at this traditional, city-wide, pre-Christmas fair that dates back to the 19th century.Learn More
When the drums sound at midnight, a 24-hour celebration of the feast day of the city’s patron saint kicks off, filling the streets with parades, music, and festivities.Learn More
Held at the magnificent Kursaal, this celebratory tango festival caters to enthusiasts through free classes and demonstrations, as well as musical and dance performances.Learn More
The first film festival focused entirely on surfing, this now iconic event celebrates the intersection of two of San Sebastian’s favorite cultural pastimes.Learn More
One of Europe’s premier jazz festivals, this musical celebration has been attracting world-famous musicians and music lovers to its performances for more than 50 years.Learn More
One of professional cycling’s most popular one-day European races, this mountain-focused ride not long after the Tour de France attracts some of the cycling world’s biggest names.Learn More
One of the world’s premier film festivals and the city’s largest, this festival has hosted major premieres – as well as an impressive lineup of award films, panels, and celebrities – for over 60 years.Learn More
One of the city’s biggest celebrations is this weeklong festival centered around the Feast of the Virgin, held in conjunction with the International Fireworks Competition.Learn More
My favorite spot – the one I return to as a native of Spain, time and time again, to truly savor the natural landscape – is the Paseo Nuevo. Nowhere else in the city will you come into such intimate contact with nature; stroll along the promenade, soak up the atmosphere, and the sounds and smells of the sea and the spray of the grandiose waves will stay with you forever.
Discover the Basque Country's epicurean traditions at our 500-square-foot culinary and wine center, which offers classes in everything from carving jamon Iberico to creating authentic pintxos to pairing wines.Learn More
Sip craft cocktails and mingle with San Sebastian's cognoscenti at DRY Bar, our elegant Art Deco lounge and its breezy plaza-front terrace.Learn More
Stock up on regional Basque culinary specialties at the San Sebastian Gourmet Shop, our very own gourmet grocery, which sources delicacies from local artisans.Learn More