San Sebastian – pearl of the Cantabrian Sea

August 15, 2019

Donostia/San Sebastian is a city that is perched above the sea. It is a daily dance between its
inhabitants and the ever-changing Cantabrian waters. Donostia/San Sebastian is world-famous cuisine
which is continuously updated and comes and goes on the finest dining tables and the popular pintxo
(tapa) bars. It is a movie at the Zinemaldia, the “International Film Festival”, It is a song at one of
the famous music festivals that come here every year to change our view of the world. And it is any
of the cultural events held in the city every year for all audiences.

The moment you arrive in San Sebastián, La Concha beach invites you for a dip or a pleasant stroll along the shore, even in winter. The elegance of the bay, framed by the massif of Igueldo and the island of Santa Clara, is known the world over.

The city has two other fine urban beaches: if you like walking you can start your stroll on Zurriola beach, frequented by surfing enthusiasts, then skirt round Monte Urgull along the Paseo Nuevo and then go right across the bay to finish on Ondarreta beach. There you are awaited by the Peine del Viento, an impressive large-scale sculpture by Eduardo Chillida and Peña Gantxegi which speaks of
the ferocity of the Bay of Biscay.

The Concha Bay is the image par excellence of San Sebastián: it is the most classic, the most photographed, the most visited of them all… The Concha Beach stands right in the centre of the city and stretches from the City Hall to the Pico del Loro (Parrot’s Beak). Its 1,500 metres of white sand are elegant and cosmopolitan (it will come as no surprise that the Concha is considered to be one of the best city beaches in Europe).

The other major feature of the bay is the Isla Santa Clara. Few cities can lay claim to an island smack bang in the centre of their bays and San Sebastián is one of them. The island has a small beach, walks to its unusual lighthouse, paths with picnic tables and a bar on the seaside terrace. Being so close to the bay means that you can swim out to the island all year round.

Once the walls had been demolished in the late 19th century, successive work carried out on the new part of San Sebastián gradually gave the city its layout as we know it today. The new town was very carefully planned, with an extremely elegant 19th century design and eclectic style.The most remarkable aspect of the new town is the feeling of unity barely interrupted by a handful of modern buildings. Outstanding among these are the San Sebastián City Hall, opened as a casino in 1897 which attracted important personalities such as Mata Hari, Rothschild, the King of Belgium and the Shah of Iran to its fiestas, until 1924, when gambling was forbidden. On 20th January 1947 the building became the city’s Casa Consistorial, another name for the city hall, when its headquarters were moved from the Plaza de la Constitución. Standing right on the Concha Bay, with the non-stop hustle and bustle of the Old Town behind it and facing the quiet Alderdi Eder gardens, the City Hall is well worth a look.

In July 1912 Queen Maria Cristina opened the hotel named after her. In its more than hundred years of life, the elegant and sumptuous rooms of this hotel have served as accommodation for aristocracy and royalty from the start of the century to the latest Hollywood stars, not to mention musicians, writers and myriad personalities of international fame.
The Victoria Eugenia Theatre, opened one week after the Maria Cristina Hotel, is a Renaissance sandstone building. Ever since the first performance of “The Sun has Set in Flanders» by the María Guerrero company, the theatre has housed the city’s major cultural events, including the San Sebastian International Film Festival.
From 2001 to 2007 the theatre was completely refurbished to give it greater stage space and a more modern appearance while endeavouring to preserve its original essence.

Hotel with the best location in the city is Arrizul Congress Hotel. Hotel Arrizul Congress is a luxury hotel with 46 rooms, opened at the beginning of 2017 in the  centre of San Sebastián, next to Concha and Zurriola beaches, the Donostia surfing beach. 

This excellent location provides immediate access on foot to the renowned donostiarras restaurants, the shopping area, pintxos (tapas) bars, and Kursaal Congress Centre.

For travellers arriving by train or bus, its location is perfect: a quick 10-minute walk from both San Sebastián Train Station , and the new Bus station, destination of the airport buses for Loiu-Bilbao, San Sebastián-Fuenterrabía and Biarritz airports. And if you arrive in Donostia by car, Hotel have spaces available at the hotel’s private car park.