Mark Read

San Sebastián

Framed by golden beaches and lush hillsides, San Sebastián has undeniable allure, from its venerable dining scene to its grand architecture and packed cultural calendar.

Culinary Superstar

San Sebastián has a justly deserved reputation as one of the world’s great dining destinations. This is a city that celebrates the art of eating well in all its many forms – whether snacking on fresh oysters and txakoli (a lightly sparkling white wine) at a seaside cafe or lingering over a decadent, multi-course feast in a Michelin-starred dining room. Pintxos (Basque tapas) bars litter the streets of San Sebastián, and showcase first-rate ingredients from the surrounding coast and countryside combined with the culinary creativity of Basque chefs. When it comes to cooking, no other city quite compares.

Seaside Setting

Spain’s culinary capital is also blessed with an alluring coastline. The long Playa de la Concha is the city’s great backyard, a picturesque sweep of sandy beach that fronts gently lapping seas. Surfers head one beach over to the powerful waves that roll in off of Playa de la Zurriola, just behind the hipster enclave of Gros. Just offshore of the old town lies Isla de Santa Clara, a small hilly island that makes a fine getaway on a steamy afternoon. The city has some fine vantage points to gaze over its coastline, including the hilltop heights of Monte Urgull and Monte Igueldo.

Captivating Culture

For a city of its size, San Sebastian has a staggering array of festivals and cultural events. The International Film Festival, which happens in September, brings European and Hollywood stars to town, while the Semana Grande in August features a week of street parties and revelry. There’s also music festivals, massive culinary fairs and folk fests that celebrate Basque culture in its myriad forms. Big events aside, there’s always something happening in San Sebastián, with performances at the cutting-edge Kursaal, the belle époque Teatro Victoria Eugenia or the Tabakalera – the city’s newest arts space.

A Grand Design

Once a favourite destination for Spanish royalty, San Sebastián has lost none of its lustre over the years. Elegant art nouveau buildings, ornate bridges and beautifully manicured parks and plazas create a captivating backdrop to this seaside city. Far from being mere set pieces, the grand architecture remains an integral part of San Sebastián, from the lavish Hotel Maria Cristina to the belle époque spa perched over the shoreline. Meanwhile, the old buildings lining the cobblestone streets of the Parte Vieja have been given new life with charming guesthouses, colourful boutiques and buzzing pintxos bars all part of the great and vibrant mix that is San Sebastián.

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If you eat one thing in... San Sebastián, Spain

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