Top Events

Día de San Sebastián, January

Olatu Talka, May

Heineken Jazzaldia, July

Semana Grande, August

San Sebastián International Film Festival, September

January

The cold, short days of winter don't stop the city from celebrating, especially on 20 January, when San Sebastián fetes its favourite saint.

Día de San Sebastián

The city celebrates its patron saint (St Sebastian of course) with fervour. The big event is the Tamborrada, when thousands of drummers wearing 19th-century military dress parade through the city. The fest runs for exactly 24 hours from midnight to midnight (late evening of the 19th to late evening of the 20th) and ends at the Plaza de la Constitución.

February

The temperatures are cold but the foreign crowds are thin, meaning you can score some great accommodation deals in February. Locals hit the cider houses in the countryside for sparkling refreshment.

Carnaval

Carnaval is a big event in San Sebastián, and features parades with wild costumes and live music on the streets. It runs for six days, from the Thursday before Ash Wednesday to Shrove Tuesday, though the biggest events happen on the weekend. Nearby Tolosa also has a famed Carnaval celebration.

March

It's still cold and rainy in San Sebastián, though the days are getting longer, and spring is on the horizon. There are also far fewer crowds and better prices than in summertime.

April

Spring is a lovely time to be in San Sebastián, with gardens in bloom and more pleasant days filling the month. Tourism picks up, especially around Easter, when it can be quite crowded.

May

With warming weather and fewer rainy days (particularly toward the end of the month), May is a fine time to take advantage of outdoor activities.

Olatu Talka

Launched back in 2010, this three-day festival in May is a multi-faceted celebration featuring concerts, plays, street theatre, poetry readings, dance performances, markets and art exhibitions. The action happens all around town.

June

Beach days arrive in San Sebastian, with long, sunny days (though rain is still possible) and dining and sipping at outdoor bars and eateries. Prices are higher and the old town crowds can be thick.

July

It's high season in San Sebástian, with loads of visitors in town and high hotel prices (book well in advance). The warm weather ensures ample beach days.

Heineken Jazzaldia

This long-running music festival has been around for more than 50 years, and features world-class performers playing jazz and world music at over a dozen stages around town. The event runs for five to six days, typically in late July, with many free shows. The 1800-seat Kursaal stages some of the bigger acts.

August

Peak season extends to August, with limited lodging and summertime visitors aplenty. Despite the crowds, it's a great time to visit, with several excellent festivals this month.

Quincena Musical de San Sebastián

The so-called 'Musical Fortnight of San Sebastián' no longer runs just two weeks, but rather the entire month of August, and features symphony, ballet, opera and chamber music, with top groups and soloists from Europe and North America. The big events happen in the Kursaal and the Victoria Eugenia Theatre, as well as in smaller venues around town.

Semana Grande

Semana Grande, or Aste Nagusia in Basque, is the big summer festival and features an action-packed line-up of street parties, concerts and fireworks, plus rural sports, an ambitious swim race (from Getaria to San Sebastián), children's activities and parades with giants and big heads. To see the city at its liveliest, the Semana Grande is hard to top.

September

The weather is still lovely, and the worst of the summer crowds begin to dissipate (at least towards the end of the month). September also brings on some excellent festivals.

Bandera de la Concha

The Basque Country has a long and deep connection to the sea, which is apparent in this popular rowing race that draws over 100,000 spectators to the races held on the first two Sundays in September. Nearly two dozen different teams from across the region compete, each with 13 rowers and the coxswain. Watch it happen from the Playa de la Concha.

Kutxa Kultur Festibala

Over one weekend in early September, the young and hip (at heart) come together for an outdoor extravaganza of indie rock and DJs. The Hives, the Jesus & Mary Chain, and Hercules & Love Affair have played in the past. It's currently held in the Hipódromo de San Sebastián, around 10km southwest of the city centre.

San Sebastián International Film Festival

The world-renowned, two-week film festival has been an annual fixture in the second half of September since the 1950s. It usually features an excellent line-up of films from Europe, the USA and Latin America, with a few big premieres. Definitely one not to miss for film buffs.

October

Accommodation prices begin to dip as the weather begins to cool and the tourist throngs noticeably thin. It's a great time to take advantage of autumn's culinary arrivals, like wild mushrooms.

San Sebastián Gastronomika

In early October, one of the world's great culinary destinations takes things up a notch with a four-day culinary fair. Expect presentations and guest appearances from some of the world's top chefs, and heavenly food and wine tastings. Usually happens in the Kursaal.

November

November tends to be rainier than other months, though you can also get lucky with sunny, mild days in between showers. With the lack of crowds and lower prices, it's a fine month to explore the city.

Maraton de San Sebastián

The 42km race draws some 4000 runners to this flat and fast course (runners must finish within five hours), which takes in some lovely scenery along the shoreline. If you're not up for the full 42km, there are also races of 21km and 10km.

December

Although the weather can be dreary (chilly and drizzly), it doesn't dampen the holiday spirit, with festive markets and pre-Christmas excitement building in the air.

Feria de Santo Tomás

For one day in December, the streets of San Sebastián transform into something of a country fair, with folk music, rural produce for sale and livestock exhibitions. The food, however, is the star of the show, with stalls selling chorizo, cheeses, cider, txakoli and many other temptations.