San Sebastian – Most Beautiful City In Spain?

San Sebastian

By Nancy Todd

Staid. Sophisticated. Serene. Scenes that remind you of Paris, can be viewed as you stand on a bridge on the Urumea River. Stately Baroque mansions are graced with Mansard roofs and dormer windows. This is San Sebastian and my Spanish friends tell me they think it is the most beautiful city in Spain.

Queen Maria Cristina summered here in 1893. Adding further PR to San Sebastian were King Alphonso XII and Queen Victoria Eugenia, strolling in their nautical get-up in 1916. Luxury hotels and casinos flourished. Franco had his summer palace here.

The city has been in and out of the bucks over the centuries and is now back in the moolah, thanks, in part, to the wondrous, two mile long beach on the Bay of La Concha. Concha in Spanish means shell, and this curved bay on the Atlantic Ocean is shaped like a round shell. The sweeping harbor at San Sebastian is anchored on both ends by mountains. Plunked in the bay is Santa Clara Island which buffets the sea. You can take a boat there and tan in a cove.

san sebastian

One of Spain‘s best beaches, San Sebastian.

Running for a few miles along the beach is a promenade. At one end, climb to see the iron sculpture by Eduardo Chillida. It is a wild, whipping sculpture like the sea.  Imbedded in stone, it is called the Peine Del Viento, or Wind Comb. On the opposite end of the bay is a huge statue of Jesus in full robe and not looking like he is going surfing any time soon. While few young people go to church anymore, this statue does remind us of the historical influence of the church in Spain, good and bad.

The merry-go-round twirls throughout the year and is located in a park by the ocean

Gentility takes a back seat in the B-mers as string bikinis break loose in July and August. Tourists eat ice cream cones, sandals smack on sidewalks, and sunbathers align like pink gambas on a tapas tray on the beach. Discos blare, the promenade is packed, and children frolic. As a relief from the beach, stroll the city parks which are lush with palms and flowering oleander.  The Scoop is that I will return in an off season month and live it up like a queen.

6 Responses

  1. Kirsten Carpentier says:

    I remember going to San Sebastian in the summer of 1979…it was beautiful, dignified, and strangely empty because of the ETA activities. There were ominous spray-painted graffiti on the walls, and an air of unrest. The fascists with summer homes didn’t want to come up to Basque country from Madrid and risk their lives, no matter that Madrid had numerous bombings in banks and subways that summer. I found San Sebastian both enchanting and haunting then, and it would be interesting to see how it compares now. So much in Spain has changed in those thirty years!! See you soon!

  2. Sandy Lind says:

    I’ve always wanted to travel to San Sebastian! A pristine, unique Basque city harder to reach than most tourist destinations in Spain. Someday soon I’ll find myself tanning on la concha beach, and marveling, engrossed in San Sebastian’s charm!

  3. admin says:

    Good! Call me when you come – I could use another adventure north to San Sebastian.

  4. admin says:

    hi kirsten, thanks for such interesting comments. we always like learning about more history in spain. now i would say San Sebastian is enchanting and not haunting. come back and visit.

  5. Thomas McGinn says:

    Playa De La Concha the nicest beach in Europe?, Sansebastian the Nicest city in Europe?, the Basque people some of the friendliest in Europe, also the Quisine is excellent so why go anywhere else. I will be back again in July 2011. Looking forward to my trip imensly.
    Thomas McGinn.

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