San Sebastián (Donostia in Basque, 181.700 inhabitants) is the capital of the province of Guipúzcoa, on the Cantabrian sea, just a few miles away from the border with France. Due to its proximity with the French border and the coast, and thanks to its privileged position on the way of St. James, the town enjoyed a florid development.
About 100 km from Bilbao, San Sebastian is a renowned tourist resort, which boasts the presence of the Spanish court (like Queen Isable II) and the aristocracy. It is mostly appreciated for its beaches, the picturesque sea promenade and the tasty cuisine. San Sebastian is the world capital of pintxo, the Basque version of tapas. San Sebastián is a successful mix of tradition and modernity, a man sized city which can be discovered by bicycle or on foot. Alternatively you can count on an efficient public transport network, including cable cars, catamarans and trains.
If you decide to move by public transport, the best thing to do is to purchase the San Sebastián Card, which gives access to several discounted fares. The urban area of San Sebastian develops around the Baia della Concha, with Mount Igeldo and Mount Urgull delimiting it. On the slopes of Mount Igeldo stretches out Punta Torrepea, with the towering sculpture “Pettine dei Venti” by the famous Basque artist Eduardo Chillida. Stretched between the lovely gardens and mount Pico de Loro (1300 m), the beautiful beach Ondarreta fascinates the amazed visitor.
The city centre is full of numerous cultural and artistic testimonies: San Sebastian is in fact a real open air museum, dominated by the statue of the Sagrado Corazón. With a height of 12 metres, the statue made by Federico Coullaut is situated on top of Mount Urgull.
Walking around the picturesque narrow streets of the old town, in Calle Narrica, you can admire the Iglesia de San Vicente, built in the XVI century in gothic style. It represents the oldest church in town, famous for the sculpture “The Pity” by Jorge Oteiza. Also, in the old town you can see the Basílica de Santa María, an impressive Baroque building dating from the XVIII century. Not far from the Basilica lies another important religious building: the Cathedral del Buen Pastor.
Built in slate and inaugurated in 1897, the cathedral is characterised by a medieval architectonic style and the big cross placed on the façade (La Cruz de la Paz”), a work by the sculptor Eduardo Chillida. It is the biggest church in town.
The Avenida de Espaňa is the main street of the new town. Now cross Guipuzkoa square and you will reach the monumental Saint Catherine’s Bridge, situated near the Victoria Theatre and the monument to the Admiral Oquendo.
Worthy of mention is also the Ayuntamiento. Dating back to 1887, this building was a casino until 1924, when it was converted into the Town Hall. Also to be admired the majestic Palacio De Miramar, the royal summer residence of Queen Maria Cristina.
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