A Long Weekend in San Sebastian, City of Culture 2016


It’s official! The Spanish city with one of the best beaches in the world is this year’s City of Culture (along with Wroclaw, Poland).

Which means there’s never been a better time to go if you haven’t explored San Sebastian before.

Originally a Spanish naval port just a few miles from the French border, San Sebastian lies at the edge of a natural harbour connected to the Bay of Biscay.

This is a city of business, art, good food and great surfers, who make the most of the swell that rises up from the river Urumea in autumn and winter.  Sometimes it’s so strong that the bridge linking the two halves of the city get damaged.

San Sebastian’s year as the City of Culture 2016 begins on 23 January.  Over four hundred projects are in the pipeline and part of the celebrations will include an ongoing homage to the city’s unique Basque language.

One of the focal points of the year long celebrations will be conversations about peace, uniting different cultures through art, dance and music.

It’s the perfect city for a long weekend, as San Sebastian offers a unique mix of history, culture, food, art, music, shopping and the beach, with a different flavour to Barcelona and a charm all its own.

The art of food is one of the local pastimes.  With its proliferation of Michelin starred restaurants, pintxo (tapas) bars and chefs whose creative streaks know no bounds, San Sebastian offers a different gourmet experience to that of Paris, thanks to its coastal location so fresh seafood is a speciality.

The Beach

Playa de la Concha is legendary.  San Sebastian frequently tops the world’s best city for food lists, but it’s also famed for its huge, horseshoe shaped bay.  This beach easily rivals any of the best city beaches in Europe, while Playa de Gros (aka Playa de la Zurriola) is a surf favourite. 

San Sebastian is a city of many parts.  The lively old town, Parte Vieja, is where you’ll find most of its most popular pintxo bars where many locals eat and drink after work. South of here you’ll find the commercial and shopping district with the Centro Romantico stretching from behind Playa de la Concha to the banks of the River Urumea. 

East of the river lies Gros, which has  beach – aptly named Playa de Gros – popular with surfers for its chilled feel and good waves. The five star beach of Playa de Ondarreta is home to San Sebastian’s “posh” neighbourhood which locals call the millionaires’ belt because of the number of luxury holiday homes there.

Don’t miss…

The Mercado de la Bretxa, on the east side of the Parte Vieja – this is where the Michelin award winning chefs pick up fresh supplies for their daily kitchen creations.  It’s a wonderful place to come for food if you’re cooking at home or planning a beach picnic, full of life and fabulous produce! 

Foodies will also love The Gourmet Shop, a destination in its own right. To find it, locate the chic Hotel Maria Cristina and it’s inside the lobby.  This is where those in the know pick up their food and wine.  If you’re looking for gifts, they also do wonderful hampers, foodie souvenirs, chic kitchen ware and gourmet gifts.

Last but not least, one must-visit place…

The brilliant Aquarium San Sebastian where you can ogle the sharks behind thick glass – there are cinema screen sized deep ocean and coral reef exhibits and lots of large fish to gaze at! You’ll want to allow well over and hour to get the most out of your visit.

Tweet us your San Sebastian travel tips at @GoTimeshare.  There’s going to be a lot of buzz around this city this year, so 2016 is a great year to go!

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