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Art & culture in Donostia/San Sebastián

Museums, galleries and cultural centres

San Telmo Museum

Symbolising the city’s desire to combine tradition and modernity, the Museo San Telmo is one of the must-sees in Donostia/San Sebastián. Following three years of renovation and expansion, it reopened in 2011 to showcase the successful integration of the original building (a 16th-century Dominican convent) with the new part. The latter is made up of a facade that combines a wall of vegetation with holes that play with both interior and exterior light. Inside the museum, in addition to taking a virtual stroll through Basque history, you can gawk at the vast, breathtaking frescoes by Catalan painter and decorator Josep Maria Sert. Note that, although the museum is closed on Mondays, it does make an exception and opens its doors on bank holiday Mondays.

Casa de la cultura de Okendo

Donostia/San Sebastián enjoys an especially rich and lively cultural life for such a small city. Apart from the international festivals and large arena events that take place, there is a whole network of cultural institutes that aim to transmit different types of artistic expression on a local level. If you want insight into this side of the city’s culture then Okendo is a must-see. It’s made up of a superbly preserved 16th-century caserío and an additional modern construction built into the Ulia hill.

En el Estudio

After six years in Orio and five in Zarautz, Helena Hernandez and Iñigo Manterol  moved to the capital of Gipuzcoa in 2009. With a unique approach to gallery management, they organise only a few select exhibitions every year.
Opening hours: May-Sep: Mon-Fri 5pm-8pm; Sat 11am-1pm.

Maritime Museum

This is a centre dedicated to the conservation and study of the history of Basque maritime heritage. The building, built in the 18th century, is all that remains of the former Consulate of Donostia/San Sebastián.
Opening hours: Tue-Sat: 10am-2pm, 4pm-7pm; Sun and bank holidays: 11am-2pm. Closed Monday. Price: €1.20; concessions for students & pensioners €0.60; free for children under 10; free for the general public on Thursday.

Eureka! Zientzia Museoa

Set in stunning natural surroundings, the Eureka! Zientzia Museoa is an interactive science museum that employs innovative displays, hands-on exhibits and do-it-yourself experiments to stimulate kids’ interest in the worlds of science and technology. The museum houses a 140-seat planetarium with a 14.5-metre screen, which shows educational films as well as real-time explorations of the sky above.
The Txikiklik section, especially designed for four- to nine-year-olds, features areas exploring the five senses, and the space also involves younger children in the building of a city and a model of forest life. There is also a children’s planetarium, and those immune to motion sickness will enjoy the simulator hall, with virtual reality rides reproducing the G-forces of everything from spaceflight to Formula One racing.
Opening hours: 10am-8pm. Ticket prices: museum: €9/adult, €7/child & over 65, under 3 free; planetarium: €3.50/adult per session, €2.50/child & over 65; simulators: €2.50-€8.

Basque Culinary Center

As the birthplace of one of the most highly respected and most award-winning cuisines in the world, Donostia/San Sebastián is the natural home for this innovative centre that opened for the 2011-2012 academic year. The objective of the Basque Culinary Centre is to promote training, research, innovation and the exchange of knowledge and technology in the different areas of gastronomic science.
The foundation came into being in collaboration with the University of Mondragón, Basque chefs and public institutions.
The Basque Culinary Center offers undergraduate degrees in Gastronomy and Culinary Arts, master’s degrees in Innovation in Restaurant Management, and Culinary Techniques and Products, along with other professional development courses. Up to now, the centre has run 22 courses for food lovers, with more than 300 participants. They have recently launched 18 practical courses, with a very hands-on approach, aimed at cooking enthusiasts.

Kubo Hall Kursaal Convention Centre

An art gallery integrated within the emblematic architectural complex of the Kursaal centre, designed for the city by Rafael Moneo, and located next to Zurriola beach. It has a rolling programme of temporary exhibitions of international scope.
Opening hours: Tue- Sun 11.30am-1.30pm, 5pm-9pm.
Price: Free


The Aquarium-Palacio del Mar de Donostia/San Sebastián was the first museum devoted to natural sciences founded in Spain, and it’s currently one of the most modern in all of Europe. Open daily during the summer, it is one of the main attractions for visiting families. It opened in 1928, backed by the Oceanography Society of Gipuzkoa (SOG). Its facilities include a superb aquarium traversed by a transparent 360-degree tunnel. The aquarium is home to sharks, rays, turtles and more than 5,000 marine species. The centre presents thematic exhibitions throughout the year, as well as night tours. In addition to its playful character, the Aquarium also has a scientific and pedagogical side – it offers a European Master’s Degree in marine biology – and is committed to the protection of the marine environment.

Ekain Arte Lanak

Innovative, creative and set in the heart of the old town, this is a great place to discover local and international artists. Since 2001, a multitude of exhibitions have been held here featuring many great names including Chillida, Oteiza, Balerdi, Zumeta, Tàpies, Manolo Valdés, Vicente Amestoy, Koldobika Jauregi and Cristina Iglesias.
Opening hours: 11.30am-1.30pm, 5.30pm-9pm. Closed: Sunday and Monday.


Culture lovers interested in the creative process who want to be more than just spectators will find in Arteleku one of the most stimulating art centres in the Basque Country. Its programme includes workshops, screenings and conferences, as well as exhibitions, and this July the schedule promises conferences on feminist art. Its Mediateka offers access to documents relating to all the fields of contemporary art. It’s the perfect introduction to what’s happening artwise in Gipuzkoa.

Back to 101 things to do in Donostia/San Sebastián


Hergen v
Hergen v

There is a cool unknown almost secret little shop in the old part of San Sebastian called Let's get Basque!, where you can dress up in traditional Basque costumes and have your picture taken. It is a lot of fun and the owners are extremely welcoming and nice and speak insanely many languages. Too bad it is not in this magazine, they deserve a little more attention.