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Donostia, European Capital of Culture 2016

If you are an arts or culture lover, or need any extra reason to plan a visit, now is an excellent time to go to San Sebastian (SS), on the elegant Cote Basque. As well as relaxing on the stunning La Concha beach – rated as one of the world's finest city beaches – and enjoying the exquisite 13 Michelin-star restaurants, this year you can experience San Sebastian as the European Capital of Culture.

San Sebastian, or Donostia, its name in Basque, is making this year a chance to celebrate the city's thriving cultural life. With local and international artists working alongside San Sebastian residents, the European Capital of Culture events are designed to develop a society that learns to solve its conflicts through culture and the arts. If this isn't enough, San Sebastian aims to become an international beacon of creative processes and culture. This will also provide an excellent opportunity to get to know the city and its region, the verdant province of Guipuzcoa, through the eyes of locals.

San Sebastian has been a holiday destination for more than a century, and the spectacular bay surrounded by green hills is the perfect backdrop for a journey into its arts, culture and gastronomy. While SS has long been associated with the arts, the 2016 programme has a wider social aim to support the challenges faced by the Basque region and Europe in general. The events focus around the Tabakalera a huge old tobacco factory was being restored for the last two years to become a centre for culture, offering artists' space, public events and a 'creation library' for residents. The year of was launched back in January with an opening ceremony and installation by Hansel Cereza, of Cirque du Soleil fame,which spanned he two banks of the River Urumea. There is an exhibition entitled 'Women and the Sea'; a staging of Gabon Txirrita by Xabier Lete and a new play by Bernardo Atxaga. In May, San Sebastian will host Emusik 2016: the European Festival of Young Musicians with 10,500 musicians from 26 countries, who will give hundreds of performances over five days. 

Between June 21 and July 24, Donostia  will stage a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Cristina Enea Park, where the audience will join in the wedding feast of Hermia and Demetrius. But the Capital of Culture events don't just focus on more traditional art and cultures: they bring in cutting-edge developments with electronic music, audiovisuals, performance, jazz, film festivals, rock music, and pretty much anything else you can imagine. 

Bob Geldof (Dún Laoghaire, Ireland, 1951) is a multi-talented artist, but not a name you may have associated with San Sebastian. A lot of time has passed since he shot to fame as the leader of the Boomtown Rats, and today he is also an activist, philanthropist, radio DJ and someone who stirs our conscience. He'll be calling for an end to war with a concert which will take place on 26 March at the María Cristina Bridge as part of the European Capital of Culture 2016 events. His vision demonstrates the idea of resolving conflict with art, and the concert will be a must-see.

For happenings during the year you will be able to find information about the Capital in four languages from the office in Alderdi Eder which will be open from 10am to 8pm daily. Events will focus on the following 12 themes that emphasize what is unique about San Sebastian/Donostia:

  • Architecture
  • Gastronomy
  • Nature
  • Music
  • Art
  • Maritime culture
  • The magic of the night
  • Cinema
  • The scenic arts
  • Literature
  • Basque language and culture

See here for more information on the events. For information on our services for guests who are keen to explore the culture of San Sebastian, see here.  


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