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San Sebastian (in basque: Donostia), the capital of the province Guipuzcoa, is only 20 kilometers off the French border and is located in the bay "Bahia de La Concha" (Bay of the Conch). Its beautiful architecture in the style of the "Belle Époque", its excellent gastronomy, and many cultural events such as the "International Film-Festival of San Sebastian" or the Jazz-Festival, have made San Sebastian famous internationally.

Already Queen Maria Cristina chose San Sebastian as her summer residence in the late 19th century and had for herself and her suite the Royal Palace of Miramar.

The presence of the Queen of course attracted many other celebrities of the era, and with the construction of the Casino in 1887 San Sebastian established itself definitely as a luxury holiday resort.

Many hotels, palaces and villas were built, and around 1914 San Sebastian was the perhaps most cosmopolitan city of Europe, with visitors such as Mata Hari, Trotsky, Maurice Ravel, Romanones and Pastora Imperio.
Major Attractions
The most emblematic buildings in the style of the "Belle Époque" are situated in the center of San Sebastian, in an area along the river called "Área Romántica": "Diputación Foral de Guipuzcoa" , a building which was clearly inspired by the Opera of Paris, the cathedral "Catedral del Buen Pastor", the post office, the cultural center "Koldo Mitxelena", and the former Casino, which today is the town-hall of San Sebastian .

Notable buildings from older epochs are the museum "San Telmo" , the church "Iglesia de Santa Maria" and the parish church "Parroquia de San Vicente", all of which are located in the Old Town.

At the mouth of the river there are the theater "Victoria Eugenia" and the Hotel Maria Cristina , where every year the invited guests of the Film Festival are accommodated.

The river is crossed by the beautiful bridge Puente de Maria Cristina which leads us to the northern train station and a quarter with villas in french style.

At the end of the bay, next to the beach "Playa de Ondarreta", we reach the sculptures complex Peine del Viento by the artist Eduardo Chillida.

In the west of it there is the Royal Palace Palacio de Miramar . The gardens of the palace, which are public today, offer slendid views over the bay. Splendid views you may enjoy as well from the leisure park located on the mountain Monte Igueldo.
Playa de la Concha is the best known and most elegant beach of San Sebastian. Here you also find some of the most emblematic buildings: the health resort "La Perla", the former Royal bath house "Casa Real de Baños" and the "Real Club Nautico" (Royal Nautical Club). Together with the typical balustrade , two watches from the beginning of the 20th Century, and the nearby palace Miramar, they give an exclusive ambience to the beach.

The beach Ondarreta is located between the palace of Miramar and the mountain Monte Igueldo. It is the smallest of the three beaches of San Sebastian and is lined with a promenade and gardens. Some 500 meters off Ondarreta beach there is the island Santa Clara, which also disposes of a small beach.

The beach Zurriola is open to the sea, so the waves are stronger here. Here you will find sportsmen, surfers, and in some sections nudists.
Festivals and Culture
The International Film Festival of San Sebastian is held every year in September and is among the most important festivals of this kind. Within more than half of a century, countless stars of the cinema world have attended, just to name a few: Alfred Hitchcock, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Steven Spielberg, Luis Buñuel, Bette Davis, Gregory Peck, Al Pacino, Michael Douglas, Francis Ford Coppola, Anthony Hopkins, Robert De Niro, Bernardo Bertolucci and Woody Allen.

Many of these mentioned have received the award "Premio Donostia" in recognition of their life's work.

The Jazz Festival of San Sebastian, which takes place in July, is one of the most important jazz festivals in Europe and at the same time the oldest in Spain.

The festival of classical music, Quincena Musical de San Sebastian in August, was held for the first time in 1939 and is the oldest event of this kind in Spain.
The Basque cuisine has in enjoyed an excellent reputation for generations in Spain, and now this is confirmed by international food critics.

It may be said that in San Sebastian there is the highest number of Michelin stars per square meter, and despite its comparatively small size, San Sebastian is apart of Paris the only city in which there are three restaurants with the maximum rating of three stars.

However, you do not need to visit award-winning restaurants in order to enjoy gastronomic highlights: also the "Pintxos" - small snacks which are served in many bars especially in the Old Town "Parte Vieja" - are real masterpieces of culinary art.

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