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Nestled on the coast of the Basque Country, this enchanting city is renowned for its rich cultural heritage and fervent celebration of arts and traditions. From the exuberant festivities of San Sebastian Day to the soul-stirring melodies of Jazzaldia, the dynamic energy of Semana Grande, and the allure of Zinemaldia, San Sebastian's festival calendar offers an unforgettable tapestry of experiences for locals and visitors alike.


Having lived in the city for 6 years, I explain the best and most important festivals celebrated during the year. If you happen to be in the city during one of these festivals, it’s a great way to immerse yourself in a symphony of sights, sounds and flavours that will leave you forever enchanted by the allure of Donostia’s festivals.


Los Reyes (Three Kings Day)

6 January


Los Reyes Festival is a beloved celebration that takes place throughout Spain and marks the first major festival after ringing in the new year. This event is particularly special for children as it commemorates the arrival of the Three Wise Men (or the three kings, as they are known in Spanish). With colourful parades winding through the streets and the exchanging of gifts, Los Reyes Festival is a perfect way to keep the festive spirit alive before returning to school. My favourite part is tucking into the Rosco de Reyes - a crown-shaped dessert with a layer of cream, and a hidden toy inside! If you happen to eat the piece with the plastic Christ, you will have luck for the rest of the year!


San Sebastian Day

20 January

The proudest day in the calendar for “Donostiarras”, the residents of San Sebastian and one of the best festivals in San Sebastián. This day honors the city's patron saint, Saint Sebastian, and holds a special place in the calendar. The anticipation builds for weeks leading up to this grand celebration, and as the clock strikes midnight, the city comes alive with the rhythmic beats of drums and enchanting melodies. Thrilling parades fill the streets as groups of Donostiarras, spanning all age groups, unite to sing traditional songs and play captivating music that resonates throughout the city. The atmosphere is nothing short of extraordinary, offering a unique and unforgettable experience that immerses visitors in the vibrant spirit of San Sebastian.


Carnival

Feburary (dates vary)

8 - 18 February 2024


While the main epicenter of carnival festivities is in Tolosa, a town just 30 minutes away from San Sebastián, the locals of the latter eagerly embrace the opportunity to participate in the fun. The essence of these celebrations lies in the freedom to dress up in any imaginative costume and immerse oneself in pure festivity. Whether you choose to embody the spirit of the '80s or transform into a beloved superhero, the streets and nightclubs become a kaleidoscope of vibrant characters, creating an atmosphere brimming with surprises and encounters. So join in, for on this day, the boundaries blur, and you never know who you'll encounter as you become a part of this lively carnival tapestry.


San Juan (St John's Day)

Eve of 24 June


As the academic year ends and the excitement of summer holidays approach, Spaniards embrace the vibrant San Juan festival by igniting fires along the beaches on its eve. This lively celebration revolves around the age-old tradition of leaping over the flickering flames, symbolising the shedding of the old and welcoming the new. San Juan (Saint John) is a mesmerising festival of bonfires, where the crackling embers illuminate the night sky with a magical glow. Amidst the festivities, you might even witness newly liberated students bidding farewell to their academic past by ceremoniously burning their books in the fiery blaze, marking the end of an era and embracing the joys of newfound freedom. Head to La Zurriola beach and let the warmth of the flames and the spirit of San Juan ignite your own sense of renewal and excitement for the adventures that lie ahead.

Jazzaldia

mid-late July

Even if jazz isn't your go-to genre, the electrifying atmosphere of Jazzaldia is bound to lure you in as it envelops the city for an entire week. San Sebastián becomes a haven for music enthusiasts, and it's hard not to be swept away. Concerts are held in diverse venues throughout the city, including pop-up stages on the sands of La Zurriola beach, where you can bask in the glorious music free of charge, and, if you're lucky, under the warm sunshine. Secure your accommodation well in advance to avoid any potential disappointment for the the best music festival in San Sebastián. So come, join the infectious rhythm and embrace the joyous spirit of Jazzaldia, where the magic of music transcends boundaries and creates moments of pure bliss.


Semana Grande (Big Week)

August - the week surrounding 15th


Prepare to be swept away by the vibrant festivities that engulf San Sebastián during the much-anticipated Semana Grande (the Big Week). This eight-day extravaganza offers a medley of cultural experiences for all. Marvel at the awe-inspiring parades, participate in engaging family activities, and lose yourself in the melodies of outdoor concerts. Witness the thrilling boat races on the iconic La Concha beach and be mesmerized by nightly firework displays that paint the sky with brilliant hues.



The city's streets come alive with an exhilarating buzz, and restaurants brim with energy, so it's advisable to book ahead or opt for takeaway to savor a delicious picnic amidst the splendid weather. Semana Grande is a time of boundless joy and shared experiences, ensuring there's something to delight every visitor. Come and immerse yourself in this unforgettable celebration that showcases the vibrant spirit of San Sebastián.


Zinemaldia

Last week of September


Imagine a San Sebastián edition of Cannes, where the city becomes a hub of glitz and glamour. Zinemaldia, the renowned film festival, has graced San Sebastián with the presence of esteemed stars like Javier Bardem, Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Stewart, and Robert Pattinson, as they step on the red carpet. This week-long cinematic event showcases films from various genres and countries, delighting audiences in the city's cinemas. Securing tickets is typically hassle-free, allowing movie enthusiasts to indulge in new films from all over the world. For those eager to catch a glimpse of their favourite actors, head towards the red carpet or the vicinity of the iconic Kursaal, where you might witness photo shoots or catch actors making their way to premieres. Zinemaldia offers a captivating blend of cinematic excellence and star-studded allure, so prepare to be dazzled as San Sebastián shines as a beacon of film culture during this exciting event.


Santo Tomas (St Thomas' Day)

21 December

The tradition of St. Thomas’ Day has been celebrated in San Sebastián and surrounding towns since the mid-19th century. The roots of this event trace back to when villagers would journey into town to pay their annual rent, using the opportunity to sell their local produce. Nowadays, the festival is marked by locals donning traditional outfits, enjoying dance performances and indulging in traditional delicacies such as talos (corn tortillas) and txistorra (fast-cure sausage). This interesting festival offers a glimpse into the region's cultural heritage. For those without children, the festival typically serves as a delightful excuse for a day of leisurely day-drinking and partying. Join the locals in celebrating this enchanting event, and immerse yourself in the authentic spirit of San Sebastián's cultural traditions.


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