San Sebastián (Spanish: [san seβasˈtjan]) or Donostia (Basque: [doˈnos̺tia], French: Saint-Sébastien) is a coastal city and municipality located in the Basque Autonomous Community, Spain. It lies on the coast of the Bay of Biscay, 20 km (12 miles) from the French border. The capital city of Gipuzkoa, the municipality's population is 186,095 as of 2015, with its metropolitan area reaching 436,500 in 2010. Locals call themselves donostiarra (singular), both in Spanish and Basque.
Donostia (in Basque)
|Donostia / San Sebastián|
San Sebastián as seen from the air
Coat of arms
Ganadas por fidelidad, Nobleza y lealtad
(Spanish for "Earned by Fidelity, Nobility and Loyalty")
San Sebastián (Spain)
|Coordinates: 43°19′17″N 1°59′8″W|
|• Mayor||Eneko Goia Laso (EAJ-PNV)|
|• Land||60.89 km2 (23.51 sq mi)|
|Elevation||6 m (20 ft)|
|• Density||3,686.16/km2 (9,547.1/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+1 (CET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+2 (CEST)|
|Area code(s)||+34 943 (Gipuzkoa)|
The main economic activities are commerce and tourism, and it is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Spain. Despite the city's small size, events such as the San Sebastián International Film Festival have given it an international dimension. San Sebastián, along with Wrocław, Poland, was the European Capital of Culture in 2016.
In spite of appearances, both the Basque form Donostia and the Spanish form San Sebastián have the same meaning of Saint Sebastian. The dona/done/doni element in Basque place-names signifies "saint" and is derived from Latin domine; the second part of Donostia contains a shortened form of the saint's name. There are two hypotheses regarding the evolution of the Basque name: one says it was *Done Sebastiáne > Donasa(b)astiai > Donasastia > Donastia > Donostia, the other one says it was *Done Sebastiane > *Done Sebastiae > *Done Sebastie > *Donesebastia > *Donasastia > *Donastia > Donostia.
The city is located in the north of the Basque Autonomous Community, on the southern coast of the Bay of Biscay. San Sebastián's three beaches, Concha, Ondarreta, and Zurriola, make it a popular resort. The town is surrounded by easily accessible hilly areas: Urgull (adjacent to the old part of the city), Mount Ulia (extending east to Pasaia), Mount Adarra (south of the city) and Igeldo (overlooking Concha Bay from the west).
The city sits at the mouth of the River Urumea, Donostia was built to a large extent on the river's wetlands over the last two centuries. In fact, the city centre and the districts of Amara Berri and Riberas de Loiola lie on the former bed of the river, which was diverted to its current canalized course in the first half of the 20th century.
San Sebastián features an oceanic climate (Köppen Cfb) with warm summers and cool winters. Like many cities with this climate, San Sebastián typically experiences cloudy or overcast conditions for the majority of the year, typically with some precipitation. The city averages roughly 1,650 mm (65 in) of precipitation annually, which is fairly evenly spread throughout the year. However, the city is somewhat drier and noticeably sunnier in the summer months, experiencing on average approximately 100 mm (3.94 in) of precipitation during those months. Average temperatures range from 8.9 °C (48.0 °F) in January to 21.5 °C (70.7 °F) in August.
|Climate data for San Sebastián Airport Hondarribia, (15 km (9 miles) east of San Sebastian) (1981–2010)|
|Record high °C (°F)||24.6
|Average high °C (°F)||13.1
|Daily mean °C (°F)||8.9
|Average low °C (°F)||4.7
|Record low °C (°F)||−12.0
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||157
|Average precipitation days (≥ 1 mm)||13||12||12||14||12||10||9||10||10||12||13||12||138|
|Average snowy days||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2|
|Average relative humidity (%)||75||72||70||71||72||73||74||75||75||75||76||75||74|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||88||108||141||159||182||188||198||197||170||134||96||81||1,750|
|Source: Agencia Estatal de Meteorología|
The first evidence of human stationary presence in the current city is the settlement of Ametzagaña, between South Intxaurrondo and Astigarraga. The unearthed remains, such as carved stone used as knives to cut animal skin, date from 24,000 to 22,000 BC. The open-air findings of the Upper Paleolithic have revealed that the settlers were hunters and Homo sapiens, besides pointing to a much colder climate at the time.
San Sebastián is thought to have been in the territory of the Varduli in Roman times. 10 km (6 mi) east of the current city lay the Basque Roman town of Oiasso (Irun), which was for a long time wrongly identified with San Sebastián.
After a long period of silence in evidence, in 1014 the monastery of St. Sebastián with its apple orchards (for cider), located in the term of Hernani, is donated to the Abbey of Leire by Sancho III of Pamplona. By 1181, the city is chartered (given fuero) by king Sancho VI of Pamplona on the site of Izurum, having jurisdiction over all the territory between the rivers Oria and Bidasoa.
In 1200, the city was conquered by Castile, whose king Alfonso VIII, confirmed its charter (fuero), but the Kingdom of Navarre was deprived of its main direct access out to the sea. Perhaps as soon as 1204 (or earlier), the city nucleus at the foot of Urgull started to be populated with Gascon-speaking colonizers from Bayonne and beyond, who left an important imprint in the city's identity in the centuries to come.
In 1265, the use of the city as a seaport is granted to Navarre as part of a wedding pact. The large quantity of Gascons inhabiting the town favoured the development of trade with other European ports and Gascony. The city steered clear of the destructive War of the Bands in Gipuzkoa, the only town in doing so in that territory. In fact, the town only joined Gipuzkoa in 1459 after the war came to an end. Up to the 16th century, Donostia remained mostly out of wars, but by the beginning of the 15th century, a line of walls of simple construction is attested encircling the town. The last chapter of the town in the Middle Ages was brought about by a fire that devastated Donostia in 1489. After burning to the ground, the town began a new renaissance by building up mainly with stone instead of bare timber.
The advent of the Modern Age brought a period of instability and war for the city. New state boundaries were drawn that left Donostia located close to Spain's border with France; thicker and more sophisticated walls were erected, with the town becoming involved in the 1521–1524 military campaigns that formed part of the Spanish conquest of Navarre. The town provided critical naval help to Emperor Charles V during the siege of Hondarribia, which earned the town the titles "Muy Noble y Muy Leal", recorded on its coat of arms. The town also aided the monarch by sending a party to the Battle of Noain and providing help to quash the Revolt of the Comuneros in 1521.
After these events, Gascons, who had played a leading role in the political and economic life of the town since its foundation, began to be excluded from influential public positions by means of a string of regional sentences upheld by royal decision (regional diets of Zestoa 1527, Hondarribia 1557, Bergara 1558, Tolosa 1604 and Deba 1662). Meanwhile, the climate of war and disease left the town in a poor condition that drove many fishermen and traders to take to the sea as corsairs as a way of getting a living, most of the times under the auspices of the king Philip II of Spain, who benefited from the disruption caused to and wealth obtained from the French and Dutch trade ships.
In 1656, the city was used as the royal headquarters during the marriage of the Infanta to Louis XIV at Saint-Jean-de-Luz nearby. After a relatively peaceful 17th century, the town was besieged and taken over by the troops of the French Duke of Berwick up to 1721. However, San Sebastián was not spared by shelling in the French assault and many urban structures were reconstructed, e.g. a new opening in the middle of the town, the Plaza Berria (that was to become the current Konstituzio Plaza).
In 1728, the Guipuzcoan Company of Caracas was founded and boosted commerce with the Americas. Thanks to the profit the company generated, the town underwent some urban reforms and improvements and the new Santa Maria Church was erected by subscription. This period of wealth and development was to last up to the end of 18th century.:56/58
In 1808, Napoleonic forces captured San Sebastián in the Peninsular War. In 1813, after a siege of various weeks, on 28 August, during the night, a landing party from a British Royal Navy squadron captured Santa Clara Island, in the bay. Situated on a narrow promontory that jutted out into the sea between the waters of the Bay of Biscay and the broad estuary of the Urumea River, the town was hard to get at and well fortified – "it was the strongest fortification I ever saw, Gibraltar excepted", wrote William Dent. Three days later, on 31 August, British and Portuguese troops besieging San Sebastián assaulted the town. The relieving troops ransacked and burnt the city to the ground. Only the street at the foot of the hill (now called 31 August Street) remained.
After these destructive events, reconstruction of the city was commenced in the original location with a slightly altered layout. A modern octagonal layout as drafted by the architect P.M. Ugartemendia was turned down and eventually M. Gogorza's blueprint was approved, then supervised and implemented by the Ugartemendia. This area, the old town, has a neoclassical, austere and systematic style of architectural construction. Constitution Square was built in 1817 and the town hall (currently a library) between 1828 and 1832.:100 Housing in the old town was built gradually alongside the rest of the area.
The liberal and bourgeois San Sebastián became the capital of Gipuzkoa (instead of Tolosa) until 1823, when absolutists attacked the town again (only 200 inhabitants remained in the town when the offensive troops entered). It was designated again as the capital in 1854. In 1833, British volunteers under Sir George de Lacy Evans defended the town against Carlist attack, and those who died were buried in the English Cemetery on Mount Urgull.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the local government was still ruled by the principle of nobility, while inhabitants of foreign origin or descent had always been ubiquitous in the town, especially among the trading community. Although San Sebastián benefited greatly from the charts system established in the Southern Basque Country (foruak, with borders in the Ebro river and no duties for overseas goods), the town was at odds with the more traditional Gipuzkoa, even requesting secession from the province and annexation to Navarre in 1841.
In 1863, the defensive walls of the town were demolished (their remains are visible in the underground car park on the Boulevard) and an expansion of the town began in an attempt to move on from its previous military function. Jose Goicoa and Ramon Cortazar were appointed to oversee the work. They modelled the new city according to an orthogonal shape in a neoclassical Parisian style, and Goicoa designed several elegant buildings, such as the Miramar Palace and La Concha Promenade.:145–146 The city was chosen by the Spanish monarchy as a summer retreat following the French example of nearby Biarritz, and Spanish nobility and the diplomatic corps opened residences in the town. As the "wave baths" at La Concha were in conflict with nearby shipbuilding activity, the shipyards relocated to Pasaia, a nearby bay that had formerly been part of San Sebastián.
However, in 1875, war came to the town again, and in 1876 shelling over the city by Carlists claimed the life of acclaimed the poet Bilintx. From 1885, King Alfonso XII of Spain's widow Maria Cristina spent every summer in Donostia along with her retinue, staying at the Miramar Palace. In 1887, a casino was built, which eventually became the current city hall, and some time later the Regional Government building was completed in Plaza Gipuzkoa following Jose Goicoa's design. Cultural life thrived in this period, giving rise to various events still popular in the city, such as the Caldereros or the Tamborrada, and journalistic and literary works in both Spanish and Basque.
After much debate in the city over whether to pursue an economy based on tourism or manufacturing, Donostia developed into a fully-fledged seaside resort, but some industry developed in the district of Antiguo and on the outskirts of the city. Following the outbreak of World War I, San Sebastián became a destination for renowned international figures of culture and politics, including Mata Hari, Leon Trotsky, Maurice Ravel, and Romanones.
Various rationalist architectural works, typically white or light-coloured, were built in the 1920s and 1930s, such as La Equitativa, Nautico, and Easo. In 1924–1926, canalisation work was carried out on the Urumea river at the southern edge of the city. However, after the city's Belle Epoque in the European wartime, repression under Miguel Primo de Rivera's dictatorship was not favourable for the city. In 1924, gambling was prohibited by the authoritarian regime, causing existential problems for the Grand Casino and the Kursaal (1921).
In 1930, Spanish republican forces signed up to the Pact of San Sebastián, leading to the Second Spanish Republic. Unrest and repression did not stop with the new political regime, and large-scale industrial action was called several times by the growing anarchist, communist and socialist unions. The 1936 military coup was initially defeated by the resistance, led by the Basque Nationalists,:226 anarchists and communists, but later that same year the province fell to Spanish Nationalist forces during the Northern Campaign.:397 The occupation proved disastrous for the city's residents. Between 1936 and 1943, 485 people were executed as a result of show trials by the Spanish Nationalists (Requetés and Falangists).:431 It has been estimated that extrajudicial executions (paseos) by the occupying military forces accounted for over 600 murders in the area during the first months of occupation.:431 Many children were evacuated to temporary safety in Bilbao, with the city's population falling by an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 inhabitants.
In the aftermath of war, the city was stricken by poverty, famine and repression, coupled with a thriving smuggling trade. Many republican detainees were held at the beach-side Ondarreta Prison in grim and humid conditions, until the building was demolished in 1948. However, industrial development paved the way for urban expansion in the Egia and Amara Berri districts, on the marshes and riverbed of the Urumea, at the end of the 1940s and beginning of the 1950s.
In 1943, the first Basque language schools were established by Elvira Zipitria, who taught in Basque from her home in the Old Town. In 1947, the Grand Casino was converted into the City Hall.:95 In 1953, city businessmen organised the first San Sebastián International Film Festival to stimulate the economic life and profile of the city.
Mass immigration from other parts of Spain, spurred by growing industrial production, greatly increased the population, initiating rapid and chaotic urban development on the outskirts of the city (Altza, Intxaurrondo, Herrera, Bidebieta), yet social, cultural and political injustices followed, setting the scene for popular dissatisfaction. A general climate of protest and street demonstrations followed, driven by Basque nationalists (especially the armed separatist organisation ETA) and various underground unions, triggering the first state of emergency in Gipuzkoa in 1968. Several more were imposed by the Francoist authorities in the period immediately preceding Franco's death in 1975.
Amid the fragile economic situation and real estate speculation, the Kursaal and the Chofre bullring in Gros were demolished in 1973. From 1975-77, sculptor Eduardo Chillida and architect Luis Peña Ganchegui's landmark The Comb of the Winds was built at the western tip of the bay. The 1970s to the mid-1980s were years of general urban and social decay marked by social and political unrest and violence.
In 1979, the first democratic municipal elections were held, won by the Basque Nationalist Party, who held office along with splinter party Eusko Alkartasuna (Basque Solidarity) until 1991. The Spanish Socialist Workers' Party's Odon Elorza took over as mayor from 1991 until 2011, when he was defeated unexpectedly by Juan Carlos Izagirre (Bildu) in elections.
From the 1990s, a major makeover of the city centre began, aimed at enhancing and revamping the neoclassical and modernist side of San Sebastián's architecture. Other regeneration projects included the reshaping and enlargement of Zurriola beach and promenade, the opening of the Kursaal Palace cubes (1999), the new university campus and technology facilities in Ibaeta, the creation of a wide network of cycle lanes, underground car-parks and significant improvements to public transport. Districts of cutting-edge design have been erected, such as Ibaeta and Riberas de Loiola, while some other major public works are still pending confirmation of funding and approval.
Districts of the city
As a result of Donostia's sprawling in all directions, first into the flatlands shaped by the river Urumea and later up the hills, new districts arose after the walls of the city were demolished in 1863. The first expansion of the old town stretched out to the river's mouth, on the old quarter called Zurriola (a name later given by Council decision to the sand area and the avenue across the river).:13, 322
The orthogonal layout nowadays making up the city centre (the Cortazar development) was built up to 1914 (first phase finished) much in tune with a Parisian Haussmannian style. The arcades of the Buen Pastor square were fashioned after the ones of the Rue de Rivoli, with the Maria Cristina Bridge being inspired by the Pont Alexandre III that spans the Seine.:257 The Estación del Norte train station standing right across the bridge was inaugurated in 1864 just after the arrival of the railway to San Sebastián, with its metallic roof being designed by Gustave Eiffel. Donostia's central bus station is located underground adjacent to the train station.
Parte Vieja / Alde Zaharra
The Parte Vieja (Spanish) or Alde Zaharra (Basque) — Old Town – is the traditional core area of the city, and was surrounded by walls up to 1863, when they were demolished so as to occupy the stretch of sand and land that connected the town to the mainland (a stretch of the walls still limits the Old Part on its exit to the port through the Portaletas gate). The Old Town is divided in two parishes relating to the Santa Maria and San Vicente churches, the inhabitants belonging to the former being dubbed traditionally joxemaritarrak, while those attached to the latter are referred to as koxkeroak. Historically, the koxkeroak up to the early 18th century were largely Gascon speaking inhabitants. Especially after the end of Franco's dictatorship, scores of bars sprang up all over the Old Part which are very popular with the youth and the tourists, although not as much with the local residents. Most current buildings trace back to the 19th century, erected thanks to the concerted effort and determination of the town dwellers after the 1813 destruction of the town by the allied Anglo-Portuguese troops.:73–75, 81–89
There is a small fishing and recreation port, with two-floor houses lined under the front-wall of the mount Urgull. Yet these houses are relatively new, resulting from the demilitarization of the hill,:218 sold to the city council by the Ministry of War in 1924.
This part stands at the west side of the city beyond the Miramar Palace. It is arguably the first population nucleus, even before the land at the foot of Urgull (Old Part) was settled. A monastery of San Sebastián el Antiguo ('the Old') is attested in documents at the time of the foundation (12th century).:35 At the mid 19th century, industry developed (Cervezas El León, Suchard, Lizarriturry), the nucleus coming to be populated by workers. Industry has since been replaced by services and the tourist sector. The Matia kalea provides the main axis for the district.
Or Old Amara, named after the farmhouse Amara.:30 It has eventually merged with the city centre to a large extent, since former Amara lay on the marshes at the left of the River Urumea. The core of this district is the Easo plaza, with the railway terminal of Euskotren closing the square at its south.
This city expansion to the south came about as of the 1940s, after the works to canalize the river were achieved.:30–31, 92 Nowadays the name Amara usually applies to this sector, the newer district having overshadowed the original nucleus both in size and population. The district harbours the main road entrance to the city. Facilities of many state run agencies were established here and presently Amara's buildings house many business offices. The district revolves around the axis of Avenida Sancho el Sabio and Avenida de Madrid.
The district is built on the sandy terrain across the river. The Gros or Zurriola surf beach by the river's mouth bears witness to that type of soil. In the 19th century, shanties and workshops started to dot the area, Tomas Gros being one of its main proprietors as well as providing the name for this part of the city.:148–149 The area held the former monumental bullring Chofre demolished in 1973, on a site currently occupied by a housing estate. The district shows a dynamic commercial activity, recently boosted by the presence of the Kursaal Congress Centre by the beach.
One of the newest parts in the city, it kept a rural air until not long ago.:60–61 The postwar city council bought the quaint compound of the Aiete Palace for the use of Francisco Franco in 1940, right after the conclusion of the Civil War. The place in turn became the summer residence for the dictator up to 1975.:62 Nowadays home to the Bakearen Etxea or Peace Memorial House.
Egia, stemming from (H)Egia (Basque for either bank/shore or hill), is a popular district of Donostia on the right side of the Urumea beyond the train station. At the beginning of the 20th century, a patch of land by the railway started to be used as a football pitch, eventually turning into the official stadium of the local team Real Sociedad before it was transferred in the 1990s to Anoeta,:111 south of Amara Berri (nowadays the site harbours houses). The former tobacco factory building Tabakalera, which has been converted into a Contemporary Culture Centre, conjures up the former industrial past of the area,.:111 Right opposite to this building lies the Cristina Enea park, a public compound with a botanic vocation. Egia holds the city cemetery, Polloe, at the north-east fringes of the district, stretching out to South Intxaurrondo.
This part (meaning 'walnut tree' in Basque) is a large district to the east of the city. The original nucleus lies between the railway and the Ategorrieta Avenue, where still today the farmhouse Intxaurrondo Zar, declared "National Monument", is situated since the mid-17th century. The railway cuts across the district, the southern side being the fruit of the heavy development undergone in the area during the immigration years of the 1950s and 1960s. In addition, further housing estates have been built up more recently souther beyond the N-1 E-5 E-80 E-70 ring road (South Intxaurrondo). The police force Guardia Civil runs controversial barracks there (works for new housing are underway).
Altza (Basque for alder tree) is the easternmost district of San Sebastián along with Bidebieta and Trintxerpe. It was but a quaint village comprising scattered farmhouses and a small nucleus a century ago (2,683 inhabitants in 1910), yet on the arrival of thousands of immigrants in the 1960s and 1970s a rapid and chaotic housing and building activity ensued, resulting in a maze of grey landscape of skyscrapers and 32,531 inhabitants crammed in them (data of 1970), the figure is 20,000 as of 2013.
Ibaeta stands on the former location for various factories (e.g., Cervezas El León) of San Sebastián, with the buildings of the old industrial estate being demolished in the late 20th century. The levelling of this large flat area paved the ground for a carefully planned modern and elegant housing estate, featuring a new university campus for the public University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU) and institutions such as the Donostia International Physics Center or the Nanotechnology Center. A stream called Konporta flows down along the eastern side of the area, but it was canalized under the ground almost all along to its mouth on the bay pushed by urban building pressure.
It lies by the Urumea at the south-east end of the city. It comprises a small patch of detached houses (Ciudad Jardín) and a core area of 6-odd floor buildings. The district has recently gone through a major makeover, with works finishing in 2008. The road axis coming from important industrial areas (Astigarraga-Hernani) crosses the district heading downtown. A military base stands across the river, home to an uprising in 1936. Attempts by the city council to close it have been unsuccessful so far.
Riberas de Loiola
New modern district erected in the 2000s next to the city's inner bypass and south road entrance to Donostia. A pedestrian bridge spans the Urumea river onto the Cristina Enea Park.
The Martutene district bordering to the south on the town of Astigarraga comes next to Loiola in the south direction. This part of the city features an industrial area, a football pitch for lower leagues, a disused vocational training building and enclosure as well as a prison, much in decay and due to be transferred soon to a new location, probably in the municipality's exclave of Zubieta, while this option is coming in for much opposition.
This part stands on the east side of the city at the foot of the Mount Ulia Park, on the left hand side of the road heading from Donostia to Pasaia and Irun. It consists of a residential area, besides holding a number of educational institutions, culture and sports centres built since 1980. The Park of Nurseries of Ulia sits at the base of the road leading to Mount Ulia, with its name deriving from its function as a nursery of plants for the public gardens of Donostia during all the 20th century and until 2008. It includes two ancient water-tanks, architectonic elements, and specific flora and fauna.
The exclave Zubieta (meaning 'place of bridges') was an village up to recent years, with a number of houses, a handball pitch (on account of its single wall as opposed to the regular two) and a church. Yet it has undergone a great urban development, which has rendered the location a built-up area with paved streets and due equipment. Two contested projects are under way to build a solid-waste incinerator and a prison nearby. Historically, neighbours from Donostia held a meeting at a house in the former village in the wake of the 1813 burning, in order to decide the reconstruction of the town.
Culture and events
San Sebastián shows a dynamic cultural scene, where grass-roots initiative based on different parts of the city and the concerted private and public synergy have paved the ground for a rich range of possibilities and events catering to the tastes of a wide and selected public alike. The city was selected as European Capital of Culture for 2016 (shared with Wrocław, Poland) with a basic motto, "Waves of people's energy", summarizing a clear message: people and movements of citizens are the real driving force behind transformations and changes in the world.
Events ranging from traditional city festivals to music, theatre or cinema take place all year round, while they specially thrive in summer. In the last week of July, San Sebastián's Jazz Festival (Jazzaldia), the longest, continuously running Jazz Festival in Europe is held. In different spots of the city gigs are staged, sometimes with free admission. The Musical Fortnight comes next extending for at least fifteen days well into August and featuring classical music concerts. In September, the San Sebastián International Film Festival comes to the spotlight, an event with more than 50 years revolving around the venues of Kursaal and the Victoria Eugenia Theatre. The city is also home to the San Telmo Museoa, a major cultural institution with an ethnographic, artistic and civic vocation.
Sticking to the cinematic language but lacking its echo, Street Zinema is an international audiovisual festival exploring contemporary art and urban cultures. Other rising and popular events include the Horror and Fantasy Festival in October (21st edition in 2010) and the Surfilm Festibal, a cinema festival featuring surfing footage, especially shorts. During centuries, the city has been open to many influences that have left a trace, often mingling with the local customs and traditions and eventually resulting in festivals and new customs.
San Sebastián Day
Every year on 20 January (the feast of Saint Sebastian), the people of San Sebastián celebrate a festival known as the "Tamborrada". At midnight, in the Konstituzio plaza in the "Alde Zaharra/Parte Vieja" (Old Part), the mayor raises the flag of San Sebastián (see in the infobox). For 24 hours, the entire city is awash with the sound of drums. The adults, dressed as cooks and soldiers, march around the city. They march all night with their cook hats and white aprons with the March of San Sebastián.
On this day a procession was held in the early 19th century from the Santa Maria Church in the Old Part to the San Sebastián Church in the district of Antiguo, while later limited on the grounds of weather conditions to the in-wall area. The event finished with a popular dancing accompanied on the military band's flutes and drums. In addition, every day a soldier parade took place to change the guards at the town's southern walls. Since the San Sebastián Day was the first festival heralding the upcoming Carnival, it's no surprise that some youths in Carnival mood followed them aping their martial manners and drumrolls, using for the purpose the buckets left at the fountains.:107 In the period spanning the 1860s and 1880s the celebrations started to shape as we know them today with proper military style outfits and parades and the tunes fashioned by music composer Raimundo Sarriegui.:110
Adults usually have dinner in txokos ("gourmet clubs"), who traditionally admitted only males, but nowadays even the strictest ones allow women on the "Noche de la Tamborrada". They eat sophisticated meals cooked by themselves, mostly composed of seafood (traditionally elvers, now no longer served due to its exorbitant price) and drink the best wines. For "Donostiarras" this is the most celebrated festival of the year.
La Semana Grande/Aste Nagusia
A festival, La Semana Grande in Spanish and Aste Nagusia in Basque ("The Big/Main Week"), is held every year in mid-August. A major international fireworks competition is held during the festival, in which teams representing various countries and cities put on a fireworks display each night over the bay, with the winner of the contest announced at the end. The displays are sometimes accompanied by a full live orchestra performing on the boardwalk. Attendees often claim spots along the beach and bay hours in advance. The festival also includes a parade of giants and big-heads every afternoon.
This decades long festivity taking place at the beginning of September features events related to Basque culture, such as performances of traditional improvising poets (bertsolaris), Basque pelota games, stone lifting contests, oxen wagers, dance exhibitions or the cider tasting festival. Yet the main highlight may be the rowing boat competition, where teams from different towns of the Bay of Biscay contend for the Flag of La Concha. Thousands of supporters coming from these coastal locations pour into the city's streets and promenades overlooking the bay to follow the event, especially on the Sunday of the final race. All day long the streets of the Old Part play host to droves of youths clad in their team colours who party there in a cheerful atmosphere.
Santa Ageda Bezpera
Saint Agatha's Eve is a traditional event taking place at the beginning of February or end of January in many spots of the Basque Country. It holds a small but cherished slot in the city's run-up to the Carnival. Groups dressed up in Basque traditional farmer costume march across the neighbourhood singing and wielding a characteristic stick beaten on the ground to the rhythm of the traditional Saint Agatha's tune. The singers ask for a small donation, which can be money, a drink or something to eat.
This is a local festival held on the first Saturday of February linked to the upcoming Carnival, where different groups of people dressed in Romani (Gypsy) tinkers attire take to the streets banging rhythmically a hammer or spoon against a pot or pan, and usually bar-hop while they sing the traditional songs for the occasion. They were just male voices some time ago, but women participate and sing currently too, and the main event is at the City Hall, where the city band plays marches while the crowds bang the pots and pans. The festival began in 1884.
This popular festival takes place on 21 December, a date frequently shrouded in winter cold. From early in the morning, stalls are arranged across the city centre and people from all Gipuzkoa flock to the streets of the centre and the Old Part, with crowds of people often dressed in traditional Basque "farmer" outfit turning out and filling the area. Traditional and typical produce is showcased and sold on the stalls, while the main drink is cider and the most popular snacks are txistorra (a type of thin, uncured chorizo) wrapped in talos (flatbread). A large pig is on display in the Konstituzio Plaza, which is raffled off during the festival.
As in other Basque cities, towns and villages, on Christmas Eve the Olentzero and the accompanying carol singers usually dressed in Basque farmer costume take over the streets, especially in the city centre, asking for small donations in bars, shops and banks after singing their repertoire. Sometimes Olentzero choirs roam around the streets in later dates, on the 31st for example, and are often related to cultural, social or political associations and demands.
Economy and industry
The international technology organisation Ikusi is based in San Sebastián.
The city is served by Euskotren Trena, the main Basque rail operator. Euskotren Trena operates trains to Bilbao and other destinations, as well as the Metro Donostialdea and Cercanías San Sebastián within the San Sebastián metropolitan area. There are frequent trains via San Sebastián railway station from Madrid to Hendaye in France, which is connected to the French rail network. The city is also served by San Sebastián Airport in the nearby municipality of Hondarribia. San Sebastián Airport currently has no international destinations. Biarritz Airport in France is located about 50 km from San Sebastian.
Donostia is renowned for its Basque cuisine. San Sebastián and its surrounding area is home to a high concentration of restaurants boasting Michelin stars including Arzak (San Sebastián), Berasategi (Lasarte), Akelarre (district Igeldo) and Mugaritz (Errenteria), to mention but a few. It is the city with the second most Michelin stars per capita in the world, only behind Kyoto, Japan. Additionally, based on the 2013 ranking, two of the world's top ten best restaurants can be found here. Adding to these cooking highlights, the city features tasty snacks similar to tapas called pintxos, which may be found at the bars of the Old Quarter.
It is also the birthplace of Basque gastronomical societies, with the oldest recorded mention of such a txoko back in 1870. In addition, it boasts the first institution to offer a university degree in Gastronomy, Basque Culinary Center.
Donostia-San Sebastián has become an important University town. Four universities and a superior conservatory are present in the city:
- University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU): San Sebastián hosts the Gipuzkoa Campus of the public university.
- University of Navarra: The private university has an engineering-centered campus, Tecnun, in San Sebastián.
- Universidad de Deusto: Built in 1956, the San Sebastián campus of the private university offers different university degrees.
- Mondragon University: The pioneering Faculty of Gastronomic Sciences of this private university is located in San Sebastián.
- Musikene: The Higher School of Music of the Basque Country is located in San Sebastián.
The secondary studies activity is having an increasing impact on social, cultural, technological and economical levels of the city and surroundings. With its pushing innovative and research centers and its research strategies it is becoming one of Spain's main Science production locations, along with Barcelona, Madrid, Bilbao, Seville and Valencia, among others. Donostia-San Sebastian's Scientific production covers areas like Materials Science, Cancer Research, Alzheimer and Parkinson, Architecture, Polymer Science, Biomaterials, Nanotechnology, Robotics or Informatics.
The principal football club in the city is Real Sociedad. After three seasons in the Segunda División, the club won promotion back to La Liga after winning the 2009–10 Segunda División. Real Sociedad was one of the founding members of the top division in Spanish football, La Liga. They enjoyed a particularly successful period of history in the early 1980s when they were Spanish champions for two years running (1980–81, 1981–82). In May 2019, Real Sociedad's female team won the Queen's Cup for the first time. The city's Anoeta Stadium located at the Anoeta Sports Complex is home to the Real Sociedad and also hosts rugby union matches featuring Biarritz Olympique or Aviron Bayonnais.
Each summer the city plays host to a well known cycling race, the one-day Clásica de San Sebastián ("San Sebastián Classic"). Cycling races are extremely popular in Spain, and the Clásica de San Sebastián professional is held during early August. It has been held annually in San Sebastián since 1981. The race is part of the UCI World Tour and was previously part of its predecessors UCI ProTour and UCI Road World Cup. A women's version of the race has been held since 2019.
- Aritz Aduriz (1981–), footballer for Athletic Bilbao and winner of the 2015 Zarra Trophy as best Spanish goalscorer in La Liga.
- Xabi Alonso (1981–), former professional footballer born in Tolosa but raised in San Sebastián. Part of the World Cup winning Spanish National Team.
- José Luis Álvarez Enparantza "Txillardegi" (1929–2012), Basque linguist, politician and writer.
- Gretel Ammann (1947–2000), philosopher, essayist, activist, radical feminist, lesbian separatist.
- Luis Miguel Arconada Etxarri, (born 26 June 1954) is a former Real Sociedad and Spain's team footballer, as goalkeeper.
- Mikel Arteta (1982–), former professional footballer, formerly of local team Real Sociedad and Scottish Premier League team Rangers who most recently played for English Premier League club Arsenal.
- Serafin Baroja (1840–1912), writer, Basque culture advocate and liberal. Father of Pio Baroja.
- Pio Baroja (1872–1956), writer belonging to the Generation of '98.
- Carlos Bea, (born 18 April 1934), United States federal judge for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
- Alvaro Bermejo (born 1 August 1959) writer and journalist, author of best sellers like The Tibetan Gospel or The Labyrint of Atlantis.
- Indalezio Bizkarrondo "Bilintx" (1831–1876), a romantic poet and bertsolari closely attached to the city. Died after being hit by Carlist shelling.
- Achille Broutin (1860–1918), fencer and collector of weapons.
- Emmanuel Broutin (1826–1883), fencer.
- Eduardo Chillida (1924–2002), sculptor, notable for his monumental abstract works.
- Rafael Echagüe y Bermingham, governor of Puerto Rico and Philippines.
- Catalina de Erauso (1585 or 1592–1650), former nun who travelled around Spain and the Americas as a man.
- Alfredo Goyeneche, president of Spanish Olympic committee.
- Alberto Iglesias (1955–), music composer.
- Mikel Laboa (1934–2008), Basque singer-songwriter.
- Ramon Lazkano (1968–), composer.
- Jesús María de Leizaola (1896–1989), President of the Basque Government in exile after 1960.
- Rebeca Linares (1983–), Spanish pornographic actress
- Sir Gilbert Mackereth (1892–1962), British World War I hero, holder of Military Cross for gallantry. Retired to live in San Sebastián and died there 1962, interred at San Sebastián.
- Iker Martínez de Lizarduy Lizarribar (1977–), Olympic sailor.
- Julio Medem (1958–), film director.
- Miguel Muñoa Pagadizabal (1868–1953), philanthropist.
- Mercedes Quesada Etxaide (1919–2006), mother of the former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox.
- Alex Ubago (1981–), pop songwriter and singer. Born in Vitoria but raised in San Sebastián.
- Julio Urquijo Ibarra (1871–1950), Basque linguist.
- Duncan Dhu, pop rock band.
- La Oreja de Van Gogh, famous pop rock band.
Twin towns – sister cities
San Sebastián is twinned with:
- The title of La bella Easo ("beautiful Easo") comes from a 19th-century identification of the town as the Roman port of Oiasso. But following the archaeological findings at the end of the 20th century, Irun, some 18 km (11 mi) east, has been identified as the location of Oiasso.
- (in Spanish)
- "Municipal Register of Spain 2018". National Statistics Institute. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
- Donostia (Basque) / San Sebastián (Spanish), El Diario Vasco, Thursday 29 December 2011. (in Spanish)
- "Instituto Nacional de Estadística. (Spanish Statistical Institute)". www.ine.es. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
- Proyecto Audes. Archived 22 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- Donostiarra. Diccionario de la Real Academia Española.
- "Geography and Economy of Donostia-San Sebastián". Retrieved 3 July 2011.
- European Commission of Culture (28 June 2011). "Donostia-San Sebastián to be the European Capital of Culture in Spain in 2016". Retrieved 3 July 2011.
- Trask, L. The History of Basque Routledge: 1997 ISBN 0-415-13116-2
- (in Spanish) Koldo Mitxelena: Apellidos vascos, 1955, page 96.
- (in Spanish) «Donostia-San Sebastián: Onomástica», Auñamendi Eusko Entziklopedia.
- Sada, Javier Maria; Sada, Asier (2007). San Sebastián: La Historia de la Ciudad a través de sus Calles, Plazas, Barrios, Montes y Caminos (3rd ed.). Andoain: Txertoa. p. 92. ISBN 978-84-7148-399-7.
- "VValores climatológicos normales. Hondarribia, Malkarroa". November 2015.
- "Hallan un centenar de objetos de hace 22.000 años en el parque de Ametzagaina". El Diario Vasco. 23 March 2007. Article in Spanish
- "LOS GASCONES EN GUIPÚZCOA" (in Spanish). IMPRENTA DE LA DIPUTACION DE GUIPUZCOA. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
- Sadaba, Javier; Sadaba, Javier (1995). Historia de San Sebastián. San Sebastián: Editorial Txertoa. ISBN 84-7148-318-1. Book in Spanish
- L. Woodford (ed.), A Young Surgeon in Wellingtons Army: the Letters of William Dent (Old Woking, 1976), p. 39.
- Berruso Barés, Pedro. "San Sebastián en los Siglos XIX y XX". Geografía e historia de Donostia-San Sebastián. Ingeba. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
- Gomez Piñeiro, Javier. "La Estructura Urbana". Geografía e historia de Donostia-San Sebastián. Ingeba. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
- Hugh Thomas (2001). Spanish Civil War.
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- Paul Preston (2013). The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain. London, UK: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-00-638695-7.
- Paul Preston (2013).
- EiTB. "Inaugurada la nueva estación de autobuses de Donostia". www.eitb.eus (in Spanish). Retrieved 10 December 2016.
- Segurola Lázaro, Carmen. "La Actividad Económica". GEOGRAFIA E HISTORIA DE DONOSTIA-SAN SEBASTIAN. Ingeba. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
- "Auzoak eta Herriak: Altza". Donostiako Udala – Ayuntamiento de San Sebastián. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
- Saez Garcia, Juan Antonio. "La Tamborrada y otras Fiestas". Geografía e historia de Donostia-San Sebastián. Ingeba. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
- "Donostia-San Sebastián Michelin restaurants". Via Michelin. 2013. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
- "The 20 Most Michelin-Starred Cities in the World (PHOTOS)". The Huffington Post. 16 August 2011.
- "The World's 50 Best Restaurants (1–10)". The World's 50 Best Restaurants. William Reed Business Media Ltd. 2013. Archived from the original on 7 June 2013. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
- "Home – Basque Culinary Center". bculinary.com.
- "Real Sociedad & Levante Promoted To Primera Liga". Goal.com. 13 June 2010. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
- "A historic feat: Real Sociedad wins the Copa de la Reina | tellerreport.com". www.tellerreport.com. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
- LLC, Helix Consulting. "Stepanakert, Donostia sign cooperation agreement". www.panorama.am.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to San Sebastián.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for San Sebastián.|
- Official website
- Tourist information
- Official website of the candidature to European Capital of Culture 2016
- Images of San Sebastián in 1909
- San Sebastian Donostia Tourist Information
- Photos of San Sebastián
- Donostia photos
- "Donostia" group on Flickr
- DONOSTIA in the Bernardo Estornés Lasa – Auñamendi Encyclopedia (Euskomedia Fundazioa) (in Spanish)
- Tourism in the Basque Country
- University in San Sebastian
- Donostia Fairtrade Town Profile