European Capital of Culture 2016(Part 1) - San Sebastain
With its scenic setting, gothic style old town, Basque heritage and an amazing programme of festivals and events to choose from it’s no surprise that, along with Wroclaw, Poland, the Spanish coastal city of San Sebastian has been named as European Capital of Culture for 2016.
Located in the Basque Autonomous Community of Spain, San Sebastian lies just 12 miles from the border with France on the coast of the Bay of Biscay. The city, called Donostia in Basque, mixes coast and country seamlessly as while it is situated on the beautiful Bay of La Concha, it is also surrounded by several mountains and hills including Urgull, Mount Ulia and Mount Adarra.
The Flexicover Teams takes an in-depth look at this stunning city by the sea and provides some highlights to savour should you choose to visit this year.
For several centuries Donostia was merely a small fishing village but in late 1100 it was self-governing governing status by the kingdom of Navarra. Over the following centuries however, the city witnessed several wars as well as two ruinous fires including one in 1489 which resulted in a new renaissance for the city with rebuilding work using stone rather than timber. The other major fire took place on 31 August 1813 after Anglo-Portuguese troops, who had besieged and assaulted the city, lit a blaze so fierce it saw the city destroyed, apart from one street which is now called 31 August Street. Following the devastation, the city was again rebuilt but in the neoclassical style that now abounds.
With a plethora of Pintxos bars located in the old town eating Pintxos is a fundamental component of the local culture that’s not to be missed. Pintxos are small snacks which are skewered with a toothpick often to a piece of bread, hence the name Pintxos which means ‘spike’ or ‘thorn’. There is a strong social element to this cuisine as they are usually eaten while enjoying the company of friends or family along with a beer (zurito) or a glass of young white wine (txikito). The toothpick also provides a way to count the number of Pintxos a person has eaten and Donostian’s believe that the more littered the floor is with tissues and toothpicks, the better the Pintxos bar is.
The beaches of San Sebastian are certainly a major part of its attraction. With its 1.5km of fine sand, La Concha is often rated as one of the world’s best urban beaches. The other beaches to choose from are Ondarreta, which is separated from La Concha by a stone outcrop. While Zurriola beach offers the perfect place to either try out or hone your surfing skills. Also from the Bay you can take a short trip over to the small and peaceful Santa Clara Island where you can walk to its lighthouse, swim in its natural saltwater pool or just relax with a picnic in a shady spot.
San Sebastian is a stunning city and places to put on your visit list include San Vicente Church, Santa Maria Basilica and Constitution Square (or the “Consti” as it’s known by the locals) where major festivities are now held but which was previously a bullfighting arena. Need proof? Look for the numbers above the windows which mark out where the boxes of the bullring used to be. There’s the San Telmo museum which is housed in an old Dominican monastery and is home to a myriad of paintings and artefacts. Around the Bay take a walk along the promenade and take in the ornate City Hall and the charming Miramar Palace. Then hop on board the Mount Igueldo funicular railway for some truly spectacular views when you reach the top.
Festivals and Events
San Sebastian was selected as European Capital of Culture with the motto “Waves of people’s energy” and this city certainly harnesses energy and vitality in droves as it plays host to a huge range of festivals and events every year. dFeria Theatre Fair is a nationally renowned destination for performing arts professionals and enthusiasts. For jazz lovers there’s Jazzaldia, which is the longest, continuously running jazz festival in Europe, held at the end of July. This is then followed by Musical Fortnight with its classical music concerts. While September sees the renowned San Sebastian International Film Festival which is held in the beautiful Victoria Eugenia Theatre and the Kursaal.
With such a diverse range of activities held across the year there really are too many to mention here so make sure you check out what’s on offer before you book. Plus with all the sights to see and the Basque culture to immerse yourself in you certainly won’t be bored in San Sebastian.
And don’t forget Flexicover are committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.