It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (in San Sebastian)…It’s Jazzaldia Time.
It’s summertime, blessed summer time in San Sebastian, a town which devours the sunshine as much as it does good food. And although the potentially stormy winter months don’t hold back the locals from taking to the streets to socialize, the summer is entirely about seizing the day. Town plazas are filled with gregarious children and chatty retirees, the streets with eager, barefoot surfers gingerly making their way to the beach, the trails with nature roamers and mountain runners, the terraces with sippers of vermouth. Then comes Jazzaldia and the town that already seems like paradise somehow gets infinitely better. The ultimate days of summer for Donostierras (the Basque word for the people of San Sebastian) are those final days of July (this year the 20-25th) when light still lingers long into the evening and the sounds of jazz, blues and the odd rock’n roll riff float on the breeze alongside soaring seagulls and sparrows. Here are a few tips on how to make the most out of your days spent in the city during Jazzaldia based our past enjoyment of this festival.
First off, inform yourself about who's playing on the Jazzaldia website; http://heinekenjazzaldia.com/en . If there is someone or some band that you are intrigued to see and it specifies ‘tickets’, then best to reserve your spot as soon as possible. Be sure that you are not overlapping with any important restaurant reservations you may already have : )
Open Air Concerts and Leaving Room for Spontaneity:
There are dozens of fabulous free concerts in the open air during the festival. You’d be hard pressed to find better music anywhere without having to pay a euro! Investigate the free concerts that interest you by looking up the available ‘Stages’ on the website. Those stages that offer free concerts do so the entire festival and venue descriptions will specify this. You can also simply pass by the stages at a whim to enjoy the ambience, no matter who is playing. If you want to be close to the stage, best to arrive early. However, the combination of live projecting screens as well as the incredibly beautiful outdoor surroundings means that the ambience is fabulous whether you watch from near or far! In and around La Kursaal on Zurriola beach for example, you have almost half a dozen free outdoor stages within a minute walk of each other as well as tents which sell typical Spanish food and drinks; Heineken Terrace, Coca-Cola Space, Frigo Space, FNAC Space, Green Heineken Stage. Your evening will fly by!
Perhaps no group or artist in particular has caught your attention, well so be it. However, a musical event might be the perfect excuse to enjoy time spent in a very cool space of the city that you might not otherwise make time to appreciate. Here are a few suggestions;
- The Victoria Eugenia Theatre is a splendid stage and setting, all in all a beautiful piece of architecture along the city’s Urmea River. Arrive early and have a drink in the theatre wine bar to the left of the main entrance, outside or in. You must reserve tickets.
- Maria Cristina Terraza is the terrace of the city’s 5 Star luxury hotel where all the stars stay while in town (ie Hollywood during the autumn Film Festival and the boys of the Barcelona and Real Madrid Football Club). The terrace is a great place to go on any fine day and relax and sip on a pricey but well built gin and tonic or martini and during Jazzaldia listen to a D.J or musician play away. Your trip may intentionally exclude 5 Star accommodations, however, this is a good way to get an insiders view of one of the city’s most historically valuable and beautiful hotels. Without fitting the bill for the room of course! No entrance fee.
- Mercado San Martin is one of the downtown area’s beloved markets. On the designated evenings it is turned into a pintxo market. Instead of purchasing your fresh beef and vegetables to take home and cook, you can buy dishes prepared in bite-size servings with regional wines to accompany them. All the while a band jams amongst the crowd. No entrance fee, can be crowded.
- The San Telmo Museum is one of the city’s greatest museum spaces dedicated to everything that is Basque and it sits right near the spectacular Paseo Nuevo. If you don’t have time to spend rummaging through the many incredible dimensions of the museum’s exhibitions, you might want to simply enjoy a concert there. Indoor or outdoor. Reserve tickets in advance.
- Altxerri is the town’s go-to for live jazz and blues music all year round. It’s one of those great basement bars where you’d expect to find some brilliant, yet no-name trombone player holed up. And during Jazzaldia, you absolutely could be right. Right near the Bretxa market. Entrance fee.