Plan your trip to the capital of Gipuzkoa during the Aste Nagusia, or Semana Grande, the most important festival in San Sebastián Donostia. You’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the fantastic atmosphere that fills the streets, with a variety of shows to suit all tastes. There will be endless entertainment options to enjoy from morning until late at night.
When does the San Sebastián festival begin?
The San Sebastián festival is launched with the traditional cannon fire on 19 August outside the city hall. The main artilleryman will light the fuse in front of the key figures of the beginning of the festival, along with all the members of the local authority, while hundreds of people await the explosion.
After the powerful boom, which will be heard throughout all the neighbourhoods of San Sebastián, everyone will sing Artillero dale fuego together. From the city centre to Gros, Antiguo, Amara and the Old Town, this is the signal for everyone to begin enjoying the festivities over the next seven days, with a programme of activities that gets better year after year.
Wear a blue scarf around your neck to join those who will be gathering in the Alderdi Eder gardens. There will also be a shower of confetti and a parade of giants and big heads, along with music played by the Illunbe band, which will liven up the first few minutes of Aste Nagusia. You will also hear applause and shouts of joy from the audience, where there will be a batucada (dance percussion group) to get all the kids and adults dancing to their beat.
After a few minutes, the spectators will leave the area and head to other squares, where there will be a wide range of entertainment to ensure that the fun never ends. There’s no time to waste!
What happens at the San Sebastián festival?
The main San Sebastián festival invites people of all ages to enjoy seven days full of exciting activities. One of the most popular of which is the event that takes place every night, where the nighttime festivities come to a halt for a few minutes so everyone can enjoy the firework display.
Pyrotechnics companies from various countries travel to San Sebastián to show off their creations and compete in the renowned international competition. La Concha bay serves as the backdrop for this spectacular display of lights, sound and colour. Find a strategic location to watch it, such as the main beach or the Miramar Palace gardens, and don’t forget to buy an artisanal ice cream to enjoy during the show, as the residents of the capital of Gipuzkoa like to do.
Another of the most popular events also takes place at night, just a few metres from La Zurriola square: the Sagüés concerts. Here you will have the chance to see some of your favourite artists play live.
Some of the other main events that are part of the festival programme include theatrical performances, sports competitions and herri kirolak, a local rural sport. The festival continues until 19 August. There will be time for everything but boredom.
Activities scheduled for the San Sebastián festival
Now that you know when the San Sebastián festival is taking place, it is time to find out more about the event programme. After the cannon fire there are DJ sets, dancing and a txistulari performance, among other activities that continue until midnight.
Over the following days you’ll be able to enjoy various other traditional Semana Grande activities as well. To start with there is the Festara. The Gaztelubide choir will perform this and other songs in the old town, at the doors of the culinary society to which it owes its name. Be sure to also attend the traditional La Salve mass, which takes place on the Víspera de la Virgen (eve of the virgin) at the Basilica of Santa María.
La Concha bay will be taken over by kids during the Pirate Boarding, an event where numerous boats made by their own crews depart from the port for a fun journey that takes them to La Concha beach. Follow them from the iconic white-painted metal handrail. They will encounter mutinies, tidal waves, shipwrecks and other adventures along their journey to the sandy beach.
The programme also includes competitions, such as the Spanish omelette contest, a rowing boat regatta and a pelota tournament. There are over 400 activities planned in total, the same as the previous year.
Visit San Sebastián during Semana Grande
If you have decided to visit this city, come during Semana Grande to make your stay even more special. It is without a doubt the best way to discover the city and to enjoy a unique programme of entertainment and activities throughout the year.