San Sebastian – a Basque city

San Sebastian (Donostia in Basque) is on the northern coast of Spain in the Basque country, about 12 miles from France.  

We began a walking tour with a few of the bridges crossing the Urumea River. 

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The very ornate Puente de Maria Cristina

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DSC08647 C Puente de María Cristina (450x600) DSC08659 C (450x600)

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The simple Puente de Sta. Catalina.  This is the city’s seal, a ship with three masts.

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And the Puente de Zirrola

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DSC08674 C Puente de la Zurriola (600x450)  DSC08675 C (450x600)

The river channels into the ocean on the other side of this bridge.  It can be quite rough here as the mouth of the river is affected by the tides.

DSC08561 C Urumea River (600x450)

Facing the river, the “Teatro” Victoria Eugenia, built in 1912, was recently renovated and reopened in 2007.

DSC08562 C Theatre Victoria Eugenia (600x450)

The Regional Council Headquarters of Gipuzkoa was built in 1885.  The busts along the roof top are popular sailors from this region of Spain.

DSC08564 C Conseil Regional (600x450)

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The Plaza de Gipuzkoa is a pretty park in front of the government building. 

This is a meteorological pergola. 

DSC08568 C Weather Station (450x600)  DSC08567 C Plaza de Gipuzkoa (600x450)

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This is a clock-table made of white marmol.

DSC08572 C Marble Table Clock (600x450)

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Next we headed into the old town, Parte Vieja, located on a peninsula between the river and the bay.  Early San Sebastian was easily defended, with the bay, ocean, and river protecting three sides, and a wall across the fourth side.  Most current buildings in old town were rebuilt in the 19th century after the town was demolished in 1813 as English and Portuguese troops fought to push Napoleon out of Spain and Portugal.

DSC08545 C Plaza de la Constitucion (600x450)

Plaza de la Constitucion, built in 1817, is the Old Town’s main square.  Town Hall, currently the library, was built in 1832. 

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Bull fights used to be held here.  You can see the seat numbering on the balconies.

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The seal of San Sebastian.

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Iglesia de San Vicente, in the heart of old town, is considered the oldest church in the city.  It was built in the early 16th century in the Basque Gothic style.  The towers and portico were added in the 17th century. 

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This modern “pieta” is on an outside wall..

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Most of the streets of the old town are pedestrian only, lined with shops, restaurants and tapas bars.

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This is the oldest building in town.  It escaped fire and war destruction.

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DSC08597 C Private Eating Club (600x450)

San Sebastian has over 100 Gastronomy Clubs.  They are private clubs where, historically, men would cook for themselves and enjoy a meal with friends.  Instead of entertaining in your home you invite your friends to your club where there is a big kitchen and dining area.  Membership could be inherited from father to son or bought if the candidate got the approval of all the club members.   Many clubs are changing their strict rules and are now accepting women. 

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DSC08615-6 Stitch C Eglise Santa Maria (257x600)  DSC08598 C Eglise Santa Maria (450x600)

Santa Maria del Coro (1764) is tucked into the base of Monte Urgull.  It was attached to the city’s fortification walls.

They’ve added some unique modern art.

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Notice the seal of San Sebastian again, the ship with three masts.

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The Grand Casino was built in 1887 and turned into City Hall in 1947.

DSC08621 C Town Hall (600x450)

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This park is located between Alameda de Boulevard and Aldapa Boulevard.  The long planting bed marks where the old city wall was located.

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La Concha Beach forms a lazy horse-shoe around La Concha Bay.

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The island in the middle is Santa Clara.  Monte Igueldo, the high spot behind it, is the west sentry of the opening to the Atlantic Ocean.  Monte Urgull is on the east side.

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DSC08611 -2 Stitch C La Concha Beach (600x277)

There’s a wonderful 2 mile long promenade along the beach.

DSC08632 C (600x450)  DSC08633 C Paseo de la Concha (600x450)

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In 1845, Queen Isabel II’s doctor recommended she bathe in the sea to treat her skin problems.  She chose San Sebastian because of its fine beach and soon the Spanish nobility and the diplomatic corps opened summer homes here.  The Miramar Palace was built in 1893 and enlarged in 1920.  The residence of the Royal Family is currently the head office of Musikene (Basque Country musical studies).

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Monte Urgull is a large park.  You can walk around the base of the mountain on a paved coastal walkway.

DSC08724 C (600x450)  DSC08725 C walk around Mont Urgull (450x600)

This piece is called Empty Construction.

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I thought this was an interesting sculpture too.

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It was bathrooms!

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La Mota Castle is on the top of Monte Urgull.

DSC08605 C Christ on Mont Urgull (600x450)

Back in town, we went to the Museum of San Telmo.  This Basque culture museum is part modern building and part 16th century Dominican convent with cloisters. 

DSC08737 C San Telmo Museum (600x450)  DSC08738 C (600x450)

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DSC08739 C Cloister (600x450)  DSC08754 C (450x600)

DSC08742 C Convent church (450x600)  DSC08741 C (450x600)

These varnish on metal paintings were made for this space in 1929 when it was converted into a museum.  The artist was Jose Maria Sert.

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Basque tools and cowbells.

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Bretxa Public Market is a modern shopping complex, with a farmers’ produce market and fish and meat markets.

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The main train station in San Sebastian is the Estacion del Norte.  The canopy covering the platforms was designed by Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame.

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The best part of Spain – Pintxos!

DSC08693 C Pinxtos (600x450)

Our apartment in San Sebastian was in the Centro neighborhood, south of old town.  Cathedral Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd) was just down the street.

DSC08559 C Cathedrale Buen Pastor (450x600)  DSC08560 C (450x600)

A modern grocery store was nearby and it was an easy walk into the old town.

DSC08769 C grocery store (600x450)  DSC08640 -2 Stitch C (600x581)

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WP_20160410_005 C (600x338)  WP_20160410_004 C Our apt (600x338)

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Views from the apartment…..

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These carillon bells, on the roof across the street, rang several times a day.

DSC08622 C Across the street from apt (600x450)

San Sebastian is a lovely city and it was a great place to wrap up our visit to Spain.  

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About graciamc

Gracia's Travels is a photo blog. I always take too many pictures on trips so I justify my compulsion with this blog! The blog is mostly photos - they tell the best part of the story. Please contact me if you would like to use any of my photos.
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6 Responses to San Sebastian – a Basque city

  1. Catherine McCabe says:

    What a contrast between the complex symmetry of the Guggenheim and the intricate ornateness of San Sebastian — you lived it all. Thank you so much for sharing everything!

  2. Janet Freeman says:

    What a great blog Gracia. what is “marmol”? I looked it up in my Webster’s and it is not in there. Also beautiful “Pieta”. Thanks.

    • graciamc says:

      At first I thought it was a misprint in one of my tour books but after clicking around on the internet I found that Marmol is a porcelain tile made to look like stone. Thanks for asking. I should have included that.

  3. Lisa Harding says:

    Love it!! On our list for next year! 🙂

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