Photo: Oscar Alonso Algote

With the beginning of this new year, San Sebastián has proudly become the European Capital of Culture 2016 (DSS2016EU). This year is going to be a great time to visit San Sebastian! The already culturally rich city is going to be injected with even more culture this year with the help from a myriad of special events centering around art, music, gastronomy and many more themes.

The official start date for San Sebastian’s reign as European Capital of Culture will begin on January 20th, coinciding with the city’s Tamborrada festival which is also known as San Sebastian Day. As with every year, thousands of drums will be played throughout the city starting at midnight on the 20th and continue on, non-stop for another 24 hours, just as it has been done for centuries.

Although the Tamborrada only lasts 24 hours, this year will be different. The drums will stop but the celebrations will continue on with a full program of cultural activities such as concerts, theater, exhibitions and much more. Finally, on January 23rd, the opening ceremony for the European Capital of Culture will take place, during which spectators will be able to enjoy a very special and unique visual show around the Urola River and the Maria Cristina Bridge.

One of the reasons that San Sebastian was selected for the title of European Capital of Culture is because of its Basque identity. While the Basque people are eager to learn from the multiculturalism of today’s world, it is also very important for them not to forget their Basque traditions and roots. This balance is something that can be difficult for any society to achieve but it is something that Donostiarras (locals of San Sebastian) have excelled in. Showing how San Sebastian is able to mix tradition into a modern city will be one of the main messages of this year’s events.

Nice video about San Sebastián, the European Capital of Culture 2016

Apart from many art exhibitions, forums and discussions, theater, music concerts, etc., the Basque language will have a special place during the DSS2016EU. There will be several activities dedicated to promote both the Basque language as well as other “small” languages such as Irish, Slovenian and Macedonian. With Basque being the last remaining descendent of the pre-indo-european languages, San Sebastian wants to use this opportunity to show the immense value of diversity and why it is so important to keep each of these minority languages alive.

There will also be various events related to Basque gastronomy, highlighting the importance of food as part of the society – something that Basques are experts in, since gastronomy is at the core of their lives. A specific activity called “Creativity in the kitchen” will develop around the importance of saving recipes from generation to generation, connecting younger generations with older ones, but always allowing some room for creativity. This isn’t new for the Basque people either since it is something that they have been practicing for quite a while. The best proof of the local creative cuisine can been seen in the incredible amount of Michelin stars spread throughout the region. San Sebastian alone has two restaurants ranked in the top 20 of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and, in addition, has 15 Michelin stars divided among 8 restaurants.

The Basque Country is also well known for its gorgeous coastline and lush mountainous landscapes of the interior. Hiking is a common hobby here and taking the kids to spend some time in the mountains, whether it’s just walking or foraging for mushrooms, chestnuts, etc., is something very common. With the slogan “culture is made by walking,” the Donostiarras want to share this hobby with all of the nature lovers visiting San Sebastian this year. Every Sunday beginning on March 27th until October 30th of 2016, everyone will be invited to join in a stage of a long trek that will cross the Spanish Basque Country, Navarre and the French Basque Country. In total, these 32 stages add up to almost 600 km!

Culture is made by walking, San Sebastian 2016Culture is made by walking, San Sebastian 2016

There will be many many more activities, such as the Stop War Music Festival (March 25th – 27th), the World Puppet Festival (May 28th – June 5th) and the Improvised Singing Festival (July 9th – 16th). One thing is for sure, if you were looking for an excuse to visit San Sebastian, the complete and diverse program of the DSS2016EU is the perfect excuse. Come and experience the European Capital of Culture 2016 first hand!

For more information about the city of San Sebastian, visit our San Sebastian Travel Guide.

For more information about the program of San Sebastian as the European Capital of Culture 2016: click here

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