Even on a cloudy day, the first views of San Sebastian from the Camino del Norte were amazing. I had long anticipated visiting the Basque city and couldn’t wait to descend the mountain and walk along the beaches, check out the historic buildings, and have a closer look at the hill of Urgall. My time would be limited, but I was going to enjoy my afternoon and evening in San Sebastian.
I left my last post, Coastal Views Along The Camino del Norte in Spain, Pasajes de San Pedro to San Sebastian, here, after walking along one of the most scenic stretches of the Camino de Santiago. It had been a tiring day, but also one that was memorable for I had met a group of friendly, interesting women, and we would stay together for another day.
San Sebastian, or Donostia in Basque, is the largest city in Basque Country, Euskadi, and has roots as a settlement dating back to Roman times. The city has a rich history that sadly has been influenced by numerous wars and periods of unrest. Since the middle ages, the French, Portuguese, British, and Spanish Nationalists all held the city for periods of time.
After a rich history, the vibrant city was destroyed by Portuguese & British soldiers in 1813. Shelling during the various Carlist Wars damaged the rebuilt city greatly and occupation of the Spanish Nationalists proved disastrous. Much of the city was again destroyed and many of the residents were killed or had to escape to other regions. The rebuilding of San Sebastian began in the early 1950s with major improvements in the 1990s to make the city not only a center of business for the region, but a tourist destination.
The Camino followed a road through a pleasant rural neighbourhood before descending through the forest for a short period.
After the descent, you arrive at the city proper. This church is the Parroquia Mariaren Bihotza.
While the Camino traveled through the downtown, our group first wanted to walk along Zurriola Beach. The hill of Urgull is in the center. As you can tell, the beach on this cool and showery afternoon was rather quiet. Zurriola Beach is 800 meters in length and most cities would be happy to have this beach alone. However, there two more beaches awaiting on the other side of Urgull. We’ll get there soon. Zurriola Beach is known as the “Surf Beach” in San Sebastian and popular with a younger crowd.
Looking back to Zurriola Beach and the mountain we had just descended.
Looking toward Urgull from the bridge over the Río Urumea.
The bridge, Puente del Kursaal, leads us to an vibrant and historic area part of San Sebastian. I’ll cover more of this area as well as the Camino through the city on my next post.
Because of its panoramic view to sea and around San Sebastian, Urgull was a strategic location for military operations dating back to the 12th century. On the top is Mota Castle as well as barracks and former military buildings. The statue you see is of Jesus Christ and was erected in 1950. The time has long passed that Urgull was used for military purposes, and today, the hill is a popular tourist attraction.
Urgull and the historic neighbourhood from the famous beach, Playa de la Concha. At 1.5 kilometers long, this is the most visited beach in San Sebastian and often voted among the top city beaches in the world. Ayuntamiento de San Sebastián is at the center, right.
Part of the attraction along the beaches in San Sebastian is the promenade along the entire length. It was clean and popular. I walked with a group and later, by myself, and never felt threatened. This beautiful clock overlooked Playa de la Concha.
One of the many performers along the promenade.
Facing La Concha Bay, Bahía de la Concha, and Santa Clara Island. In times of plaque, this island housed infected people to keep them away from the healthy in the city. Today, the small island is popular with tourists with a small beach and a bar. Santa Clara Island has its own port and a ferry operates from the city every half hour.
The sun is starting to set.
Someone spent a long time making this below surface level sand castle.
One of the more attractive buildings along the promenade in San Sebastian is Maskor Gain. These luxury apartments overlook Playa de la Concha and some are available for rent.
Playa de Ondarreta is a smaller beach near Monte Igueldo. On a stormy, sunny day, this beach is also popular with surfers and bodyboarders. It was very quiet on this calm, cloudy evening.
Looking toward Monte Igueldo that has a popular lookout and a hotel overlooking the city and Bahía de la Concha.
I’ll stop here at Playa de Ondarreta. My albergue was a few blocks away and I had to get a bed for the night. It had been a long, tiring first day to this point from Irún on the Camino del Norte. I had never calculated the long walk through the city to the albergues. On my next post, An Evening in San Sebastian, Spain, On and off the Camino del Norte, I’ll backtrack through much of the city and show you the exterior of the cathedral, Catedral del Buen Pastor de San Sebastián, and visit the Camino through San Sebastian. With the setting sun, the walk was enjoyable, and the views were magnificent. I hope you enjoyed this post. Thanks for your time.
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