Today we have a treat in store as this is one of the loveliest cities I’ve ever been to. I stumbled across San Sebastian almost by accident, we had gotten tickets to a concert there (Bruce Springsteen, amazing) so we decided to plan a holiday around the concert. As it turned out we were completely bowled over by the city- it seemed like we had discovered Spain’s best kept secret. If you’re searching for a destination wedding location in Spain, I would definitely recommend having a look at San Sebastian. Located in the Basque country of Spain’s north coast (San Sebastian is also known as Donostia) the city is almost on the Spain/France border, and the coast keeps the temperature mild year round here with averages of 21°C/69°F in summer and °9C/47°F in winter.
San Sebastian is really more like a town than a city with pretty much everywhere accessible on foot and an upbeat, festive vibe. There was a lovely Art Nouveau touch to the buildings and the place seemed really clean and well-maintained overall. The Old Town is a must-see with narrow cobbled lanes, street stalls, and is rumored to have more bars for its size than any other city quarter in the world. The shopping area has numerous small boutiques and designer shops- really there is something for everyone here.
San Sebastian is a very cultural city, with a rather amazing array of events happening year-round: drum parades in January, ‘Carnaval’ in February, a food fiesta in April, a beer festival in June, their Jazz festival in July and host to an International Film festival in September, and this is only a few- here is a full list of the San Sebastian’s yearly events. The city is full of little “pensions” (I first came across this word in the The World According to Garp and was very confused. Pensions are little guest houses, usually family-run and kind of like B&Bs except they’ll do lunch and dinner as well and are generally less expensive than a hotel) where wedding party guests could stay- a great way to experience the Old Town. Great nightlife abounds also as San Sebastian is a university town. Bataplán, one of the most popular nightclubs, doesn’t open till 2am!
The main beach, La Concha, is said to be one of the best city beaches in the world, while nearby Zurroloia Beach offers great opportunity for water sports.
San Sebastian food quality is undisputed and the city is a centre of culinary excellence for Spain; the restaurants here boast 13 Michelin stars between them. Delicious pintxos (pronounced “peen-chose”- the Basque equivalent to tapas) and fresh fish are specialities. La Rioja region is nearby so some excellent wines are available.
Wedding receptions are catered by the beautiful Mirador de Ulía (above) which is located on the western slope of Mount Ulía overlooking the city. The Mirador has lovely gardens and a terrace with beautiful views where they host weddings- it is also one of the top restaurants in the city, achieving a Michelin star in 2011.
The impressive San Maria del Coro Basilica (pictured) was built in the 16th century and makes a beautiful wedding ceremony venue.
Other churches that are open daily include San Ignacio Church, Buen Pastor Cathedral (both pictured below) and Santa Teresa Convent.
Hotel Maria Cristina
Completely refurbished recently for the 100th anniversary of its opening, the Maria Cristina is right in the centre of San Sebastian. Decorated in an Art Nouveau style, the hotel has a romantic and decadent feel. There are 107 guest rooms and 29 suites with an indoor pool, sauna and fitness room available. The wedding reception menu is fabulous- on the expensive side at €110 per head and ranging upwards with a lobster course available towards the upper end- but apparently worth it. The Maria Cristina can cater for a wedding party of up to 300.
Hotel Monte Igueldo
We stayed at Monte Igueldo when we visited. The hotel is perched on the top of the mountain overlooking the city so you have an absolutely fabulous view of the town and the beach. I would recommend the hotel for a look- it is definitely worth going up there, however when we were there (about 4 years ago, unbelievably enough!) the decor was a bit dated- it sort of reminded me of an old Bond movie, if that gives you an idea. I think I might be able to put up with this for the view though..
There is a cable car that can take you up the mountain to the hotel, otherwise you’d probably need a taxi. We walked up once, on saying this we’re not really the active types. It’s a pretty large hotel with 125 rooms and they can accommodate 400 for a reception meal, with prices starting at €80 a head. They have a rooftop pool (which as I recall we didn’t use, I think it was March and a bit too cold) and right beside the hotel is a small amusement park, which would provide entertainment for kids in a wedding party.
Hotel de Londres
Constructed in 1865 the Hotel de Londres is decorated in a classical style with bright modern touches. The hotel has 148 rooms and 4 guest lounges and is situated right in the centre of the town, pretty much on the beach. Wedding receptions take place in the ballroom overlooking the main La Concha beach and the hotel can accommodate 220 for a reception with prices starting at about €87 per person for the banquet. Rooms on the ocean side also have a beautiful sea view.
There are no direct flights at the moment from Dublin- we flew to Santander which was a two hour flight and then rented a car, from there it was about a two hour drive to San Sebastian. Flight transfers are available from other Spanish airports, from Barcelona and Madrid the flight is about an hour.
For a peek at some real destinations weddings in San Sebastian, take a look at this gorgeous one from Aaron Delesie and this one from John Schnack. We’d love to hear any reader experiences from the city, we’ll keep this post updated as we go along!
Image credits; Miguel H. Carriço | Trees, San Maria del Coro Basilica Photos and one Hotel Maria Cristina image by Aaron Delesie via Snippet and Ink | Ginette Pico via Pinterest | Daniel Schwabe | Martin Berasategui Restaurant | Mirador de Ulía | Luxury Collection Hotels and Resorts | Wikipedia | Panoramio | Hotel Maria Cristina | Hotel Monte Igueldo | Hotel de Londrès | AussieDingo on Flickr