2016 was a blast for the city of San Sebastián-Donostia, which was declared the year’s European Capital of Culture 2016 along with the magical Polish city of Wrocław. Driven by the community spirit of a nation that wants to open to the world, the Basque Country, or more specifically San Sebastián, has indeed welcomed a great number of gastronomy enthusiasts and travellers to its romantic late-night streets.
From December 26 to January 22, San Sebastián 2016 closed out this intense chapter with an exhibition in Tabakalera (Andre zigarrogileen Plaza, 1). But just because the Capital of Culture year is over, fret not because San Sebastián is moving forward into a new year of infinite possibilities and will continue satisfying the citizens’ lust for culture. This is a small cultural agenda we have prepared so that you can make the make of your stay in the city.
Three Wise Men Parade (January 5)
Christmas is not over until the Three Wise Men — your majesties Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltasar — come asking for the children’s letters filled with wishes for presents. They’ll come bearing gifts at night and the following morning, everyone eats some lovely king’s cake.
Your majesties arrive to La Concha at 11am and later on parade through the different neighbourhoods on their way to city hall, riding in a fancy convertible car. The reason they won’t ride camels this year is because of last year’s little accident, when Melchor fell from his rebellious mount twice. Therefore, the Three Wise Men from the East have decided to take it easy this time.
The parade will begin around 11:30 in Miramar St. just by Cervantes Square and the gigantic Christmas ball near Londres Hotel. Your majesties will visit the different districts and will arrive at city hall by 2pm. The children who want to hand their letters to the wise men will be received in San Sebastián City Hall from 3:30 to 5:30pm. Finally, there will be a night parade before Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltasar get ready to work on their yearly gift delivery.
Craftwork Fair (December 16 – January 5)
If you happen to be around, you must have realised the annual craftwork fair, Feria de Artesanía, is back with a huge variety of handmade products. This is a fair for all tastes, featuring jewellery, leather, wood carving and sculptures, toys and puppets, pottery, textiles, and even bio-cosmetic products. Trust us, you can find anything you might be looking for in the various stands of the fair.
Ending on this Thursday, the craftwork fair will be located in Urdaneta Street by Buen Pastor Cathedral and Koldo Mitxelena Library (10:30am to 2pm).
Christmas Market (December 6 – January 8)
It’s still not too late to feel festive! Have you seen the charming Christmas Market down River Urumea? We encourage you to have a look at the 30 stands selling all Christmas products, and be sure to grab a ticket for a thrilling carousel ride.
You can visit San Sebastián’s first Christmas Market daily in Frantzia Pasalekua, between Santa Catalina and Maria Cristina bridges (10am to 11pm).
Dekolore Flower Fair (January 14)
The Basque Country cannot be truly understood without honouring the great outdoors, and because Basques love natural beauty, locals in Gros celebrate a flower fair every second Saturday of the month. Add this to your list if you want to get lost in the beautiful scent of nature.
As always, the Dekolore Flower Fair will have several stands and expositions with copious flowers and plants to embellish gardens and balconies. Floral art is the focal point of this event but you can also buy all sorts of natural accessories, culinary plants or any seeds you lay your hands on.
You can find it in Plaza Cataluña (9am to 2pm), and if you go, you will be surprised by the colourful flora as well as fascinating natural cosmetic and health products.
San Sebastián Day (January 20)
It is inevitable, we are all patiently waiting for San Sebastián Day. Locals describe this tradition as something so beautiful, it is simply indescribable. San Sebastián Day is the most important celebration in the city, and consists of more than 150 companies parading with their drums and keeping the city alive with noise and music for 24 hours. During this day, from midnight January 19 to midnight January 20, it is nearly impossible not to come across at least one drum parade.
It is very common that locals get the day off to participate in this tradition and they’ll wear their traditional garments, which generally resemble military uniforms dating back to the Independence War and the French occupation of San Sebastián. Chefs are also included, since gastronomy is the heart of our culture and has contributed to the evolution of this celebration. The members of the Gaztelubide gastronomy club will perform the first drum piece by Raimundo Sarriegi. It will be happening in Constitution Square (Old Town) after the flag of San Sebastián is raised in order to honour our patron.
In the morning, the children’s drum parade is a thrill for the families. First, thousands of local schoolchildren meet in San Sebastián City Hall to see the main drummer and his ladies greet the mayor. Next, when the clock says it’s midday, the great drummer will initiate the parade and the companies will leave Alderdi Eder to play all over the city centre until the flag is lowered by La Unión Artesana gastronomy club.
Did you know…? The children’s drum parade, as well as the raising and hauling down of the flag, is broadcasted on TV and radio. On San Sebastián Day 2016, Wrocław, the European Capital of Culture in Poland, passionately joined the celebration by broadcasting Polish children playing the drums and singing the melodies in perfect Basque. The live broadcast was displayed at city hall and it was one of the delights of the day. As always, you can watch the parades by tuning in to the Teledonostia TV channel.
Discover the oh-so-local way of life in Basque country on a San Sebastian tour, with a local guide. With our tours you can take to the hills and discover the gorgeous coastline of the St. James Way, or get to know Basque food by tucking into some delicious pintxos. When it comes to San Sebastian travel, we’ve got you covered!