San Sebastián (Donostia) is a vibrant cosmopolitan city located on the north coast of Spain overlooking the Bay of Biscay. Visitors are attracted by the sandy beaches, beautiful seaside promenade, and historic Old Town. It is also recognized as a food lover’s paradise, with one of the highest concentrations of Michelin star restaurants in the world. San Sebastián is also well known for the International Film Festival that has been hosted annually since 1953. Every year at the end of September filmmakers, producers and famous actors from all over the world descend upon this charming city to celebrate the films that have been selected for inclusion in the festival.
The city’s most prominent feature is the picture-perfect La Concha Beach, named after its seashell shape. But there’s more to San Sebastián than just a beach. Visitors can stroll through the pedestrian-friendly Parte Vieja (Old Town), lined with restaurants, bars and shops. Food lovers can enjoy the wide range of pintxos bars that offer traditional Basque food and wine. Pintxos are the Basque version of tapas, and both locals and visitors can be found going from bar to bar sampling the amazing dishes offered as a type of culinary “pintxos crawl” in the Old Town in the evenings.
Located on either end of La Concha are two mountains that anchor the beach like bookends. On the western side of town is Monte Igueldo. It can be accessed via a funicular and offers panoramic views of the bay from its hilltop. Visitors will also find an old fashioned amusement park and a 16th C. tower (El Torreón) at the peak. On the opposite eastern side of town, close to the Old Town, is Monte Urgull, home to the 12th C. Mota Castle that hosts the History House Museum.
The following is a list of some of the things to see in San Sebastián:
- La Concha Beach – the centerpiece of the city is considered one of Europe’s most beautiful urban shorelines
- Ondarreta Beach (a favorite of families) and Zurriola Beach (popular surfer’s beach)
- Parte Vieja (Old Town) – pedestrian-friendly area filled with historic buildings, restaurants, pintxos bars and shops
- Miramar Royal Palace – built as a vacation home for the Spanish royal family; overlooks the bay next to Ondaretta Beach
- Monte Igueldo – mountain on the western side of La Concha, accessed via funicular, with old fashioned amusement park and a 16th C. tower (El Torreón)
- Monte Urgull – mountain on the eastern side of La Concha, near the Old Town, with 12th C. Mota Castle and History House Museum
- Ayuntamiento de San Sebastián – beautiful City Hall building
- Museo de San Telmo – museum for Basque history from prehistoric times to modernity
- Catedral del Buen Pastor – influenced by the style of medieval German and French churches, inaugurated in 1897
- Basílica de Santa Maria del Coro – 18th C. Baroque church in the Center of the Old Town
- Santa Clara Island – located in the bay; accessed via ferry from May to August
- Aquarium – located at the foot of Monte Urgull
Photo credit: Generalpoteito / Photo of Miramar Royal Palace
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