Photography - Ivan Andrejic
Donostia/San Sebastian 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 â€œInternational Film Festivalâ€?, 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. Every wave that reaches here is a part of Donostia/ San Sebastian. With every wave, the cityâ€™s ideas and ways change. And they are also changed by every visitor, with every look, with every experience in the city.
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. If the natural settings of San Sebastián are wonderful, the good taste of its inhabitants meant that its bridges, squares and buildings had to be even more so. You’ll feel as if you’re revisiting the Belle Époque when you pass in front of the Victoria Eugenia theatre, the Hotel Maria Cristina or the spa hotel of La Perla. Every September San Sebastián becomes a setting for film. International stars fly in daily for the city’s International Film Festival. As the European Capital of Culture 2016, San Sebastián is rich in culture and the arts, with jazz and classical music festivals as well as a range of up to the minute museums such as that of San Telmo. The city is also a world capital for food, particularly its pintxos, for which every bar in its Old Town is a treasure trove.
The Concha Bay 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 Concha promenade is punctuated with several elements famous in their own right and well known beyond the city: the Concha railing (one of the most universal icons of the city, unmistakable for its design), the lamp posts (replicated in the Film Festival awards, “los relojes” (“the clocks”, main access to the beach), the area around La Perla (with its variety of spa options, bars & restaurants, sports clubs, etc.). All of these elements make a stroll round the Concha (whether by the beach or the promenade) an essential activity for locals and tourists alike. You can continue your walk round the bay by taking the Paseo Nuevo promenade round the bottom of Monte Urgull and heading along the Zurriola Beach until coming to Sagüés in a spectacular city stroll covering around 6 kilometres
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. Santa Clara’s little beach is proficient in the art of disappearing tricks. Being no more than 30 metres in length leaves this tiny beach at the mercy of the tide, but it also makes it delightfully charming. Just because it’s tiny doesn’t mean it has nothing to offer, quite the opposite. The island beach offers all kinds of services, from a bar and terrace to a first aid post, and even its own natural swimming pool with sea water. Rumour has it that you can walk out to the island from the Peine del Viento when the autumn spring tides are at their lowest
San Sebastian Old Town The most visited place in San Sebastian is doubtlessly the Old Town. It is the second oldest neighbourhood in the city after Antiguo. It lies at the foot of Mount Urgull, protected by the sea on one side and the River Urumea on the other. Delving into the Old Town shows you the real social centre of San Sebastián; its streets are crammed full of bars offering the best pintxos in the city and its emblematic buildings such as the Basilica of St Mary of the Chorus and St Vincent’s Church are both attractive and interesting. The Plaza de la Constitución, one of the most famous squares in the Gipuzkoa capital, also lies in this part of San Sebastián. It is brimming with life and takes a starring role in the best-known local festivals such as the Tamborrada drumming festival. A visit to the Old Town is therefore a «must» for tourists in San Sebastián as it gives us the chance to enjoy this area of the city with all our senses. The Old Town, as its name suggests, is the embryo of today’s city. It is bordered by three natural elements: Monte Urgull, the Rio Urumea and the The Concha Bay. It was also surrounded by a city wall until 1863, when it was demolished to make way for the new town.
Belle Époque architecture 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. The Plaza de Gipuzkoa is a real oasis in the city centre, with its duck pond and imposing Neo-classical building, home to the Provincial Government of Gipuzkoa.
The year 1912, outstanding in the history of local tourist development, saw the opening of the Victoria Eugenia Theatre, the María Cristina Hotel, the new spa La Perla (which replaced the former wooden building), the Monte Igeldo funicular railway and the “mole” (railway linking San Sebastián to Irún). 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.
Monte Igeldo Monte Igeldo is located at the end of La Concha Bay, marking the limit between the city and the sea. This is a place where the past meets the present, where you can relive your childhood years by visiting a picturesque fairground cfrom yesteryear. Here, you can travel back to the past in a 1912 funicular railway, , while enjoying the most iconic views of the city. At the summit, you will be able to make out all of the city as well as part of the Gipuzkoan coastline and the immense Cantabrian Sea. Enjoy the tranquil atmosphere of the Bay, as well as the impressive power of the waves breaking against the cliffs. This place guards a special secret: a fairgroundthat captures the essence of the â€œBelle EpoqueÂť.
Monte Urgull Monte Urgull is located at one end of La Concha Bay, watching over the city’s Old Quarter. It is one of the three major lungs of the city: a natural area that will envelop you in an atmosphere of calm, with tarmac walkways flanked by exotic vegetation which lead to lookout spots with picture-perfect panoramic views of San Sebastián. A place to observe the city and the sea. The different paths around the area enable you to enjoy unique views of the city, and scenic lookout points that are hidden between leafy patches allow you to observe Donostia/San Sebastián from a different perspective. There is also a passage that will lead you to the summit, where the impressive Sagrado Corazón statue and the fortifications and cannons of the Castillo de la Mota.
Ondarreta beach El Antiguo -named precisely for being the original nucleus of the city- lies adjacent to Ondarreta Beach and Mount Igeldo. It is a residential, peaceful and elegant area, home to some of the city’s biggest and most exclusive tourist attractions: the Palacio Miramar -residence of Queen María Cristina offering impressive views of the Concha Bay, Ondarreta Beach and the Wind Comb, admirable work of the sculptor Eduardo Chillida and today one of the city’s most iconic and beautiful corners.
The Wind Comb El Peine del Viento (‘The Wind Comb’) is a collection of three steel sculptures each weighing over nine tonnes. These pieces have been positioned in the place where the city ends and the sea begins, where the waves embrace the stark escarpments of Monte Igeldo. Eduardo Chillida anchored the three sculptures to the rocks, so that the incoming wind would be continually ‘combed’ at La Concha Bay. This is a place where the wind and the sea beat together, whipping the rocks with a sense of abandon. Nature and art blend together and appear as one, and the positioning of the sculpture pieces makes them appear to emerge from the rocks themselves, almost as if they were a part of them.
Zurriola Beach Waves, surf and youngsters. These are the main features of the Zurriola Beach, San Sebastián’s liveliest and vibiest stretch of sand. Located in the district of Gros, between the Kursaal and Monte Ulía, ever since it was remodelled 15 years ago the Zurriola Beach has become a favourite with surfers and youngsters who come from all over the world in search of fun and new acquaintances