San Sebastian is a small city of 183,000 inhabitants, with a remarkably high level of cultural activity for its size. The beauty of its Bay, known as the Pearl of the Cantabrian Sea; its situation in a natural amphitheatre facing the sea and protected by mountains; its quality of life, and its famous gastronomy have turned it during the past two centuries into a world-class tourist destination.
Shaped by history, it started out as a fishing village; grew as a market town and military fort, with the invasion by Napoleon’s troops; and after being almost completely destroyed in 1813 by the garrison’s battle against the Anglo-Portuguese, it was chosen by Queen Isabel II as the Royal Family’s summer residence and began to flourish as a services city.
It was in the late 19th and early 20th century that San Sebastian emerged as a city of culture, full of amenities and Northern Spain’s tourist destination par excellence. Its majestic buildings and their eclectic style, which reflected the contemporary tastes of the Royal Family and bourgeoisie, give it a stately character that has adapted well to changing times.
Cultural activity grew at the same pace as tourist activity, so that today the city boasts a top quality performing arts and cultural programme. The International Film Festival, The ‘Jazzaldia’ Jazz Festival and Music Fortnight are the highlights of its year-round programme, which also includes themed film festivals such as the ‘Surfilm’ Surfing Film Festival and the Film and Human Rights Festival, and performing arts events such as the ‘dFeria’ Theatre Festival.
San Sebastian is world famous as a food tourism destination, since it’s collected more Michelin stars per square metre of its territory than anywhere else in the world; and, as the birthplace of the “new Basque cuisine” movement, it’s nurtured the renaissance of Basque gastronomy. The quality of its ingredients and its world famous “pintxos” give much pleasure to both local people and visitors all year round.
Because of its gastronomy, culture, beauty and maturity as a tourist destination, along with accommodation and tourist resources of great variety and exceptional quality, San Sebastian is one of Spain’s principal tourist destinations, welcoming over 400,000 visitors per year.