Donostia / San Sebastián
Donostia / San Sebastián, just 1 hour and 15 minutes from Bilbao and an hour and a half from Getxo, is the capital of Gizpuzkoa. It is known for its natural settings, its squares and its historical monuments.
What is there to see in Donostia / San Sebastián?
La Concha Beach of Donostia / San Sebastián
La Concha Beach is in the heart of Donostia / San Sebastián, between Mounts Igeldo and Urgull, and is the icon of the capital of Gipuzkoa.
Walking along the elegant and urban La Concha promenade, past its unusual and unmistakable lampposts and railings, is an opportunity to enjoy the best views over La Concha Bay and Santa Clara Island.
Santa Clara Island
Santa Clara Island is in the middle of La Concha Bay and can be reached year round.
It has a small beach that is only visible at low tide and a café bar with magnificent views of the whole city.
Located to the west of La Concha Beach, Ondarreta Beach is known for being one of Donostia / San Sebastián’s quietest beaches, as it is the city’s least known. This beach is popular with families and has a children’s play area on the sand.
It looks out over La Concha Bay and is next to the promenade to Monte Igeldo and the Ondarreta gardens with their brightly-coloured flowers. There are two sculptures amongst the plants:
- The statue of Queen María Cristina. Queen María Cristina, the city’s honorary mayoress, played an essential role in turning Donostia / San Sebastián into a successful tourist destination. This was because she encouraged the construction of stately Belle Époque buildings when she spent the summer in the city. Consequently, the city now has a romantic area.
- Zeharki. It is a concrete sculpture made up of three cylinders. It looks like a modern menhir and took first prize at the Donostia / San Sebastián Sculpture Biennial in the early 1980s.
Peine del Viento (Comb of the Wind)
The Comb of the Wind stands at the end of the Ondarreta beach promenade. It is one of the most famous sculptures by Eduardo Chillida and is made up of three steel shapes welded to the rocks.
The sculptor was one of the artists who managed to revolutionise the artistic scene as they strived to renew art in its different forms. Much of his work is at Chillida Leku, a museum that is itself a great work of art.
There is a series of outlets in the ground and on days of heavy swell, the water is sprayed out through the pipes.
When the sea is very rough, visitors are asked to stay on Mount Igeldo to watch the spectacle of the sea and waves in safety.
Mount Igeldo is at the very start of La Concha Bay. The funicular railway is the most popular means of transport to get to the top. It is over 100 years old, which means it is the oldest in the Basque Country. Its wooden carriages whisk you back to the Belle Époque-
The amusement park, which opened in 1912, is at the top of Mount Igeldo. It still has its traditional fairground attractions, including the wooden rollercoaster, the house of terror and the merry-go-round.
El Torreón is next to the lookout point over La Concha Bay. It is an old wood-fired lighthouse which houses an exhibition on the way of life and customs of the people of San Sebastián.
At the eastern end of La Concha beach, Mount Urgull is another spot to enjoy the views of La Concha beach and ver the whole city.
Back in the past, Donostia / San Sebastián was a military stronghold and Mount Urgull was the strategic spot to watch over and protect the city’s fortifications. Traces of its past can still be seen, such as part of the wall that protected the city.
The Sacred Heart sculpture, standing over 12 metres high, is at the top of Mount Urgull. Built in 1950, it has become one of the symbols of Donostia / San Sebastián,
La Mota Fortress
The Sacred Heart statue looms over La Mota Fortress, built in the 12th century. The remains of the walls from that time can still be seen, along with the cannons that protected the town.
The fortress houses the Urgull History Centre, a museum where you can learn about that traits that have defined the people of Donostia / San Sebastián throughout its history.
Donostia / San Sebastián Old Town
Lying at the foot of Mount Urgull and bordered by La Concha Bay and River Urumean, the Old Town of Donostia / San Sebastián is the most visited part of the city. Its streets are crammed with restaurants, pintxo bars and stores.
On 31 August 1813, the old part of the city was set on fire and razed to the ground. It was walled until 1863, when the walls were demolished for the city expansion.
Plaza de la Constitución
The Plaza de la Constitución square is at the heart of the Old Town of Donostia / San Sebastián. The City Hall used to be here and the building is now the main library.
Throughout the square’s history, right up to the present, it has been and still is one of the main places for the local residents to gather and the setting for the local festivities.
San Telmo Museum
San Telmo Museum is the oldest in the Basque Country and was opened in 1902. Prior to being a gallery, it was a Dominican convent in the 16th century.
Alongside the temporary exhibitions, it has a permanent collection on the challenges of Basque society, the history of the museum itself and on the most important milestones in the development of the Basque Country. There are also items on display from the Basque modernist stage and historical collections from the 15th to 19th centuries.
Church of San Vicente
The Church of San Vicente is the oldest place of worship in Donostia / San Sebastián. It was built in the Basque Gothic style in the early 16th century.
The most iconic work inside the church is the altarpiece in the chancel by Ambrosio de Bengoechea.
Basilica of Santa María del Coro
The Basillica of Santa María del Coro was built between 1743 and 1774 on the site of a Romanesque church.
Even though it is in the Baroque style, it has Gothic, Churrigueresque and Neo-Classical features. The main altarpiece is dedicated to the patron saint of the capital of Gipuzkoa, Our Lady of El Coro.
La Zurriola Beach
La Zurriola beach is to the east of La Concha Bay, next to the Gros neighbourhood. Its fine golden sand and heavy swells means that it is Donostia / San Sebastián’s most popular beach with young people and surfers.
Tabakalera owes its name to the fact that the building was a tobacco factory up until 2013. It is now a contemporary culture centre that operates as a production centre and puts on a programme of the very different activities for the public in different cultural areas.
Donostia / San Sebastián and Getxo have many factors in common, including the beauty of their beaches and their love of Basque cuisine. Thanks to the shuttle service to Donostia / San Sebastián, you can reach the capital of Gipuzkoa from Getxo in two hours.
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