San Sebastian is the capital of Guipuzcoa, a province in the Basque Country. It is located on the Bay of Biscay, just 20 kilometres away from France.
It has 186,126 (2014) inhabitants and its economy is mainly based on commerce and tourism. It is one of the most famous and exclusive tourist resorts in the whole of Spain.
The scenery, dominated by La Concha Bay, and the modern architectural development, which has shaped up the city like a French middle-class town, have made it possible for San Sebastian to be known all over the world. This in turn has helped to develop internationally a very strong tourist activity.
San Sebastian was already known as a tourist destination in the 19th Century when the Spanish Royal Family chose it as their summer residence. It has kept over the years its elegance and gorgeous architectural style, at the same time as evolving as a modern city.
It is a peaceful place and being reasonably small, it is also very easy to go all over on foot, by bus or by bike, giving the visitor the possibility to make the most of his holidays.
Both Spanish and Basque are oficial languages in the city.
San Sebastian enjoys the best of the ocean climate, which is warm and pleasant with mild temperatures and frequent rainfalls. The weather in the winter is moderate and in the summer fresh. The average temperature all year round is 15º degrees Celcious.
As in any other city situated by the sea, the humidity level is quite high, around 70%-80%, being of course in the summer months at its highest level.
It rains the most during the autumn and it is very rare to get any snow at all during the winter.
The type of rain you may get on a rainy day is very fine, and it is known as “xirimiri”.
Its official name in Spanish is San Sebastián and it comes from a Monastery dedicated to Saint Sebastian, which was situated where the Palacio de Miramar (Miramar Palace) is nowadays.
On the other hand, the Basque name for the city is Donostia, which according to the most popular version, it comes from the Basque name of the Patron Saint, Done Sebastiane.
Main City Festivals
La Tamborrada or San Sebastian's Day (January 20th): The big celebration starts at midnight on January 19th, when the flag is risen at the Plaza de la Constitución. Gaztelubide, a gastronomic society, together with other “tamborradas' representatives” start playing Raimundo Sarriegui's San Sebastian`s March and other musical pieces, “Diana”, “Retreta”, “Tatiago”, “Iriyarena”, “Caballería de viejas”, etc. Around one hundred musical companies made up of 20-50 drummers and 50-100 barrels march all over the city during January 20th. These companies go together with a band.
Santo Tomás (Saint Tomas Day) (December 21st): This celebration dates from mid 19th Century, when most of the land was cultivated by farmers renting it and passing the lease on from one generation to the next. The rent would be paid on Saint Martin's day although often it was delayed up until Saint Tomas'. During those days, the farmers would come down to San sebastian in order to pay the rent. At the same time, they would buy some goods they didn't have in their village or even sell their own products. And this is how Saint Tomas' Fair started, being celebrated in the first few years in Plaza de la Constitución.
San Sebastian's Big Week (August): This is one of the main celebrations in Donostia and always takes place during the week of August 15th, from one Saturday to the next. It could be said that the whole city gets decked out and hundreds of activities are carried out, none of them going unnoticed. Among all the International Firework Competition stands out. Every night a competitor carries out its performance from around the Town Hall.
August 31st: On that day we remember the destruction of the city by the fire which took place in 1813. It was in this street of the Old Town that just a few buildings were saved from the flames, and that's the reason behind the name of the street. In the year 2013 we celebrated the 200 years' anniversary.