Turn-of-the-century elegance in San Sebastian, Spain
During our holiday in France’s Pays basque, we also enjoyed crossing into Spain’s Pais vasco. I’ve already written about the regions’s Bilbao and its Guggenheim Museum.
We also had an enjoyable tome visiting beautiful San Sebastian – or Donastia, in the Basque language.
This elegant city is close to the French border, and was the watering hole of the well-heeled at the turn of the 19th/20th century.
Like many of the towns along the coast of France’s Basque region, the mild climate, pleasant beaches and exciting casinos made San Sebastian a favored resort for wealthy visitors at the end of the 19th century, beginning of the 20th century – prior to the outbreak of World War I.
The turn of the century elegance is evident along the beach walk. Strangely, the town “benefitted” from a fire in 1813, which destroyed large segments of the town and led to a massive urban renewal. Much of the city was reconstructed, in a neoclassical style, but in deference to the medieval style that still prevails in the barrio viejo.
As in much of Europe, this mishmash of styles work. We enjoyed an excellent description of the seemingly haphazard urban planning that led to the mishmash of styles that characterizes the modern city at the museum located at the panoramic Urgul Mountain, which offers a panoramic view over the coastal town.
There were also enjoyable documentaries about how this jet set beach town of the early 20th century, impacted the locals.
We arrived super early in the morning from our outpost in Guethary, to find a slumbering city. Anyone who has visited Spain understands the difficulty of finding an open café on the Spanish peninsula in the early morning hours. San Sebastian resembled a ghost town, but we did eventually manage to find a source of caffeine in the deserted streets.
We enjoyed a quiet walk up to the fortress, with its views over the town and exhibit about San Sebastian’s history.
We also enjoyed seeing the town coming to life, as we no longer had the streets and pathways to ourselves – but shared with the late-waking crowds.
We were lucky that during our stay, the grey haze eventually lifted and we enjoyed a spectacular, sunny afternoon.
It was perfect for a little relaxation on the crowded beach, and some dips in the gentle waves of the bay.
When you are in the beautiful Pays basque/Pais vasco, don’t miss out on a visit to seaside San Sebastian.
Great post 😃