With an international film festival, rich history and incredible devotion to food, it's no shock that San Sebastian is European Capital of Culture 2016.
Many visitors come to dine in its Michelin-starred restaurants - there are no less than six of these in the city centre. You'll also find a large number of traditional bars serving up the Basque Country’s famed pintxos - local specialties, similar to tapas. Choose from dozens of varieties, featuring prawns, lobster, fried fish or chorizo. Spain’s excellent wines, particularly the local vintages, are the perfect accompaniment to the food and lively atmosphere.
Make sure you find time to wander the gentle tangle of streets to discover the town’s rich history before emerging onto the lush garden boardwalk framing the famed La Concha beach. There are also cafés, children’s play areas and the beautiful beach to tempt.
In the late 19th century the seaside town on the southern point of the Bay of Biscay became a magnet for royalty; it had passed from being a sleepy fishing village into a thriving cosmopolitan town requiring luxurious, modern facilities to meet the demands of its discerning guests.
The Hotel Maria Cristina opened in 1912 to meet that demand. Its namesake, Spain’s regent Maria Cristina, was the first person to cross the threshold, setting a pattern of celebrity guests which continues to this day with residents like Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Woody Allen, Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Brad Pitt and Susan Sarandon.
Just like them, you will experience gracious hospitality on a grand scale in the hotel’s 136 rooms and suites. Decorated in a sophisticated palette of greys and white, with highlights in purple, taupe and green, the rooms are a quiet haven of luxury. Style, grace, modern technology and a dazzling range of services combined, make for a restful and memorable stay.
In a city where haute cuisine is one of the principal attractions Hotel Maria Cristina is at the forefront in providing exquisite dining venues where you can discover the Basque and international haute cuisine.
But there is an alternative: the Cookery School.
Enjoy a variety of cooking classes at the new school, where you will be welcomed by chefs with a passion and fascination for authentic Basque Cuisine and its culinary heritage, and a desire to share the expertise with you.
The full list of classes is available online, but we've selected some to give you a taster of the wonders that await.
BASQUE COOKING CLASS: FRANCE, NAVARRA & LA RIOJA
The culinary traditions of French Basque Country, Navarre, and La Rioja Alavesa taste of smoky spices, earthy stews, and the freshest of vegetables. In this culinary journey, you will learn to prepare the famous Basque dishes from Southern France to the mountains of Navarre to the vineyards of La Rioja Alavesa. Bring the history and traditions of Basque Country to life in this hands-on cooking class, which includes:
Each Basque Cooking class ends with a delicious lunch and carefully chosen wine pairings.
SPANISH COOKING: PAELLA & MORE
Learn how to make all the greatest hits of one of Europe’s greatest foodie countries, Spain. You will glean the tips & tricks to the perfect paella, but the chefs will also guide you through lesser-known yet equally iconic dishes, like Galician octopus, Spanish omelette, refreshing gazpacho and warming stews. Capture the bright, dramatic flavours of Spanish cuisine and take the techniques home with you. Includes:
Each Spanish Cooking class ends with a delicious lunch and carefully chosen wine pairings.
PINTXO COOKING CLASS: PINTXOS OF THE OLD TOWN
This is one of the most popular courses, a masterclass in making the tiny, delectable bites that line the bar tops of San Sebastian: pintxos.
Finding (and eating) the best pintxos in town is a local sport, and in this class, home cooks learn how to replicate these sophisticated snacks at home. Be taken on a cooking journey through the recipes of the most famous streets and bars of San Sebastián’s Old Town, and learn how to replicate its most talked-about pintxos, from the shrimp kebab at Goiz Argi to the beef cheek at Borda Berri. Includes:
Each Pintxo Cooking class ends with a delicious lunch and carefully chosen wine pairings.
MICHELIN STAR SECRETS CLASS
San Sebastian is as star-studded as a city can get. With the most Michelin stars per capita, this city carves out a special place for avant-garde cuisine. Learn the latest techniques and secrets of what is happening NOW in these award-winning kitchens. Play with your food, from spherification to foams to modern platings, you will be surprised by how easy it is to replicate haute cuisine at home. Includes:
Each Michelin Star Secrets class ends with a delicious lunch and carefully chosen wine pairings. You will gather around our rustic wooden table to enjoy what you and your fellow classmates have created using your newly acquired techniques.
Those cookery courses are complemented by a superb delicatessen, opened within the hotel recently. Local produce, lush aromas and Basque and Spanish products are available to take home, keeping alive those memories of your gourmet dream holiday.