San Sebastian Festivals

There are all kinds of San Sebastian festivals throughout the summer months, some of international renown. Here are the most important annual events in the city’s calendar.

San Sebastian Jazz Festival

(3rd week of July)
This is Spain’s top Jazz Festival which attracts performers from all around the globe. It attracts a lot of visitors including many people on their way home from the Pamplona bullrunning. Some top bands arrange rock concerts to coincide with the festival.

See the San Sebastian Jazz Festival website for the latest news and ticket information.

Semana Grande

Aste Nagusia – Semana Grande

San Sebastian Film Festival

(3rd week of September)
The San Sebastian’s Film Festival has been attracting well known personalities from the film world since its inauguration in 1952. The city is packed out over this period so book hotel rooms well in advance.

Check the San Sebastian Film Festival website for up to date information.

San Sebastian Theatre Festival

The San Sebastian International Theatre Festival is justifiably earning an international reputation that should soon see it considered as important to the city as the the jazz and film festivals.

Aste Nagusia (Semana Grande)

(Around 15th August)
This is San Sebastian’s biggest annual festival with open air concerts, Basque sports events, fabulous daily fireworks and raucous partying.

La Tamborrada

(20 January)
This is the feast of San Sebastian when the people of San Sebastian hit the streets to a crescendo of drum and barrel playing. The action starts in the Parte Vieja (Old Quarter) at midnight on 19th when the city’s mayor raises the city’s flag in Plaza Konstituzioa.

Then the marching starts as adults dressed as cooks and soldiers follow drum playing bands around throughout the night. Most marchers represent one of San Sebastian’s gastronomic societies, many of which only allow male members.

The origin of the festival is unclear. One theory is that it is a reference to the mocking, by local people (particularly chefs), of the French soldiers that occupied the city during the Napoleonic wars. An alternative suggestion is that back in the early 18th century a baker was singing whilst filling his water barrels when some young girls started banging on the barrels to accompany him. A crowd gathered to watch them and La Tamborrada was born. Who knows and who cares? It’s a great day/night to be in the city.

The following morning (20th) the children of San Sebastian wake up to their own version of the festival in which they too dress as soldiers and march around the city (but without the wine consumption of their parents!).

Event Ticket Information

A good source of tickets for cultural events in San Sebastian is the Kutxa Bank Website where you can purchase in English and collect on arrival in the city.

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