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There are many cities in Europe that captivate visitors with their charm and hospitality, but none like San Sebastian. It’s hard to find a place with the graciousness of this Spanish city known as “the Pearl of the Cantabrian Sea,” a quiet and charming place, located in the Bay of Biscay.
The city’s appeal seduced the Spanish royal family. In the late 19th century, the royals chose it as their favorite destination to enjoy the summer months.
San Sebastian has only 183,000 inhabitants. It was founded as a small fishing village. Later, it becomes a commercial port and a military fortress after being virtually destroyed by Napoleon‘s troops in 1813.
By the end of the 19th century and the dawn of the 20th, San Sebastián had become a place for culture and the favorite tourist destination in northern Spain. Its majestic buildings and eclectic style reflected the tastes of the royal family and the bourgeoisie of the time. Thus, the noble character that has lasted until today, making it unique and extraordinary.
With a level of cultural activity which is rare for a city of its size, San Sebastian boasts one of the most renowned film festivals in Europe. The event attracts famous actors like Brad Pitt, Robert DeNiro, Meryl Streep, and George Clooney. The annual jazz festival is another great spectacle that unites the best musicians and singers on the international scene.
San Sebastian is also a favorite destination for lovers of avant-garde gastronomy as it is one of the areas with the largest concentration of Michelin stars per square foot in the world. Celebrity chefs such as Martin Berasategui, Pedro Subijana, Juan Mari Arzak, and Andoni Luis Aduriz—to name only the best known—have their restaurants in San Sebastián and its surroundings. These chefs are passionate about modern gastronomy, always respectful of tradition and using only products of exceptional quality.
San Sebastián is also famous for its bars and taverns, where patrons can taste the famous pintxos (Basque-style tapas) small and refined culinary creations that may leave your head spinning, and which always come accompanied by excellent Spanish wines.
During the summer months, the traveler can enjoy the sea, the surf, the sun, and long walks along the Bay of Biscay. Art exhibits abound in open and accessible spaces. On the elegant promenade, you can admire the works of artists like Eduardo Chillida and Jorge Oteiza, pieces that blend into the urban landscape establishing a comprehensive dialogue with their natural surroundings. The Wind Comb is an iron sculpture that challenges the sea, and the Empty Building by Oteiza faces the force of the waves breaking on the Paseo Nuevo.
I earnestly recommend the Hotel Maria Cristina for your stay. It is the most emblematic accommodation in San Sebastian and the only with five stars. It stands out for its spacious Belle Époque rooms and is the perfect place to enjoy the enchanting setting of such an elegant, suggestive and hospitable city. ■