This blog post was originally posted on January 9, 2019 and was updated on January 15, 2020.
The weather may be cold, but with so much going on in San Sebastian in February, you’ll hardly notice the chilly temperatures.
After all, you’ll be busy getting immersed in authentic cultural events, spending quality time with your special someone, or sipping on copious amounts of cider and txakoli! San Sebastian in February is pleasantly uncrowded due to the low season, so you’ll be able to enjoy all of the above and more like a true local. Here’s what’s on our agenda this month—will you be joining us?
Welcome the Caldereros…
On the first Saturday in February, don’t be surprised if you find the streets of the Old Town filled with dozens of people in folkloric costumes banging pots and pans to the tune of traditional songs. This whimsical group is known as the “Caldereros,” and they come with a special mission: to announce the upcoming Carnival!
The tradition stems from the arrival of traveling artisans from Hungary or Turkey (sources vary) prior to Carnival in the 19th century. Today, most participants are San Sebastian locals representing 18 unique groups. Keep your eye out for some of the most important characters in the parade: the Queen, her ladies-in-waiting, the director and his assistants, and even a bear!
2020 date: Saturday, February 1
…then stick around for Inudeak eta Artzaiak!
If you thought the festive fun stopped with the Caldereros, think again. The very next day—the first Sunday in February—the streets come alive yet again with the sights and sounds of the Inudeak eta Artzaiak parade.
“Inudeak eta artzaiak” is Basque for “shepherds and nursemaids,” who are the main characters in this fun celebration. It’s a tongue-in-cheek nod to the courting that went on between the two groups when shepherds came down from the mountains into the city many years ago. Today, 30 shepherd-nursemaid couples make up the parade, along with 60 traditional Basque drummers and an even more extensive cast of characters in period dress.
2020 date: Sunday, February 2
Fall in love with Basque food
It’s the month of love! Here in San Sebastian in February, Valentine’s Day feels even more romantic than ever thanks to the breathtaking surroundings—and, of course, the out-of-this-world food! Head to one of the city’s most romantic restaurants to enjoy an unforgettable meal with your special someone. Throughout course after course of fabulous Basque cuisine and plenty of excellent wine, you’ll fall in love all over again. Cap off the evening with a moonlit stroll along Paseo de la Concha and drink in the peaceful views of the city lit up at night.
Spot (or catch) some waves
With world-class beaches and dozens of kilometers of pristine coastline, San Sebastian is one of Europe’s premier seaside destinations. When visiting San Sebastian in February, you might not be able to lie out on the sand or go for a swim, but the beaches are still plenty active. Waves at this time of year can get up to 10 meters high, making for dramatic and unforgettable views as you watch them break (the Paseo Nuevo walkway is a popular spot among locals to watch this phenomenon). If you’re feeling adventurous, head to Zurriola Beach and grab a board—we’re in the midst of prime surfing season!
Want to avoid the cold? Understandable—San Sebastian in February can get pretty chilly. Luckily, there’s still plenty of ways to experience the best of the city while staying cozy and warm. Visit the world-class San Telmo Museum for an unrivaled look at Basque history and culture that will help you gain a deeper appreciation for the city and its unique way of life. After that, make your way to a charming local cafe and spend some time relaxing with a warm cup of coffee and a good book. Travel is all about the little moments, and there’s no cozier way to immerse yourself in local culture.
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Life is too short to speak one language and stay in one place. In 2015, this philosophy took her from familiar Ohio to sunny southern Spain. Usually drinking tinto de verano, reading Lorca, or attempting to dance flamenco (not all at once). Follow her blog, Viatic Couture, for more.