Experiences in Donostia-San Sebastián
SANSEbay stands by the entrance to Mount Urgull, a beautiful natural area and formerly home to the last bastion of French resistance during the 1813 siege, where remains and fortifications of the time can still be found. A place not to be missed for anyone visiting Donostia for the first time.
In fact San Sebastián is a city full of corners and experiences just waiting to be lived, with so many indispensable visits that it’s hard to choose only one. Idyllic strolls round La Concha Bay, the charms of the streets of its Old Town and its famous pintxos, or the incredible views of Mount Igeldo are some of the attractions of a city unique in the world.
A city with history
San Sebastián is a city with a long history of almost a thousand years. Founded in 1180 by the King of Navarre, Sancho the Wise, to serve as the kingdom’s maritime port, it takes its name from a monastery ( Izurum ) in the neighbourhood known today as San Sebastián El Antiguo . The name of the city, whether as San Sebastián in Spanish or as Donostia in Basque, has its etymological origin in the term Donestebian , meaning Done or Domine = Saint, and Sebastián.
From the 13th century onwards, San Sebastián became part of the Kingdom of Castile under Alfonso VIII , serving the monarchy as an access to the sea, and significantly increasing the commercial expansion of Donostia. A trading centre which, for the next two centuries, suffered as many as 6 fires which reduced the town to ashes time and again and which finally meant that it had to be rebuilt in stone.
Later, from the 15th century, the town changed from being a commercial zone to become a walled town while Pasajes, its main port, began operating as a naval base, fighting numerous battles against the Dutch, the French and the British .
Mount Urgull, a unique natural landscape
San Sebastián suffered a number of sieges over the years, as can be seen from the remains of the walls still standing on Mount Urgull . In 1719 Donostia was besieged by the French army and, as a result of the subsequent battle between the Gauls and the English-Portuguese army, suffered yet another devastating fire that razed the city to the ground.
La Mota Castle , built in the 12th century and standing at the top of Mount Urgull, still has numerous defensive canons and loopholes, impassable witness of the bloody battles fought over the years. The English Cemetery also bears witness to the time spent in San Sebastián by people from that country.
Also on Mount Urgull is the House of History , an audiovisual museum and exhibition explaining the intricate life of the city’s more than 800 years of existence. And at the top, the iconic sculpture of the Sacred Heart or Christ of La Mota, measuring more than 12 metres in height, made by the artist Federico Coullaut in 1950.
Skirting the hill, you can enjoy a pleasant promenade making its way from the Port to the Calle Salamanca, opened in 1916 and famous for its spectacular views of enormous waves crashing against the walls on days when the sea is rough. All without forgetting the emblematic Aquarium with more than 200 maritime species, or the sculpture Empty Construction (work of Jorge Oteiza), located at the end of the Paseo Nuevo, a benchmark of contemporary art.