San Sebastian, Spain
San Sebastián (Basque: Donostia) has been holding court on the shores of the beautiful, crescent-shaped Bahía de La Concha for a very long time and shows no sign of losing any of its poise or its subtle flavour of high camp. This is no Grande Dame either; more a cool, svelte, diva who has seen them all, from belle époque blue bloods, to 21st-century international rock stars. It’s here too that the gourmet subculture of the pintxo underpins Michelin-starred cuisine. Thirteen Michelin stars fret the San Sebastián firmament of classy eateries, a galaxy matched only by central Paris.
There are no great cultural icons in San Sebastián, but the city entertains you at every turn not least because of its cheerful, upbeat atmosphere. La Concha beach is one of the world’s most beautiful city beaches and across the river is Playa de la Zurriola (Zurriola Beach), also known as Playa de Gros, less glamorous and with a strong surfing appeal. Add to this the atmospheric Parte Vieja (Old Town), said to have more bars than any other quartier (neighbourhood) in the known world, and the Centro Romántic, with its pedestrianised shopping streets, lined with the handsome façades of Art Nouveau buildings.
The city is also exuberantly Basque by nature and is the event capital of Europe’s Atlantic Arc, with cultural and corporate happenings around every corner. These include the annual San Sebastián Jazz Festival and International Film Festival.