The name of this area of San Sebastián (translating to ‘ancient’ in English) speaks volumes about its history. In fact, it existed before the city was founded. According to the history books, the current site of the Palacio de Miramar was once occupied by a monastery raised in honour of St. Sebastian. The name of this saint would later be conferred upon the Basque settlement when it was founded in the late 12th century.
Our route around Antiguo begins at the Palacio de Miramar. Queen Maria Christina fell in love with San Sebastián and ordered that a palace be built in 1893. It sits on an exceptional site that separates Playa de la Concha from Playa de Ondarreta, and its gardens have breathtaking views over the bay. The building was designed by English architect Selden Womun and construction was overseen by José Goikoa. Womun’s British influences, and the similarities between this spectacular brick and sandstone building and the typical country houses of the English nobility, are clear to see.
The palace served for a long time as the summer residence of the Spanish monarchy but is now owned by the Local Council of San Sebastián and is free to visit. Running beneath the gardens is the MiramArt Tunnel with its sea-themed artwork. It’s the only walkway between the two beaches during high tide.
Playa de Ondarreta may be smaller than neighbouring La Concha, and the waves may be much gentler than at Zurriola (the preferred surf beach), but it’s pleasant and more peaceful and a great choice for a family beach day. Keen swimmers can tackle the 500 metres from Ondarreta to Santa Clara Island. The distance is more manageable if you stop to rest on one of the floating platforms (known locally as gabarrones) anchored in the bay in summer – children and big kids alike will enjoy the slides and diving boards.
The star of the Antiguo neighbourhood is undoubtedly the set of sculptures at the end of the promenade, called the Peine del Viento, or Comb of the Wind. The sculptures were installed in 1977 and are the result of a collaboration between the sculptor Eduardo Chillida and the architect Luis Peña Ganchegui. The pieces sit in beautiful dialogue with nature and are particularly impressive when the wild Cantabrian Sea is battering the shore. The three steel sculptures constantly disappear and reappear amid the crashing waves, and powerful jets of water spew out of small holes in the granite terraces that jut out over the water’s edge. It’s a fascinating natural and artistic experience when the conditions are right.
Finish your stroll through Antiguo in Calle Matia, the neighbourhood’s main shopping street and the place with the best pintxo bars. Thursdays from 8 p.m. is pintxo pote, when bars offer a pintxo and drink for a fixed price. What better way to end your day.
Surrounded by gardens, the peace and tranquillity of Playa de Ondarreta is something truly special.
Miramar Palace is based on an English architectural design and affords sweeping panaoramic views across the city of San Sebastián.
The Peine del Viento or Comb of the Wind is Eduardo Chillida’s most famous and spectacular sculpture. Make sure you visit this iconic piece during your stay in San Sebastián.