Belle Époque Opulence in San Sebastian

Hotel María Cristina


Since the inauguration of the San Sebastian International Film Festival in 1953, global stars including Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Woody Allen, Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Brad Pitt and Susan Sarandon have enjoyed the stylish grandeur of the Hotel María Cristina.

The hotel was opened in 1912 and over the past century it has been intimately linked to the history and cultural life of San Sebastian. Located on the southern point of the Bay of Biscay, in the late 19th century the seaside town had become a favourite destination for royalty and aristocrats, attracted by the sunshine, the newly-recognised therapeutic properties of sea bathing, and the opportunity to see and be seen on a traditional afternoon stroll along the boardwalk. Cafés and open-air terraces were filled with the high society, and San Sebastian was transformed from a sleepy fishing village into a thriving cosmopolitan town that soon required luxurious, modern facilities to meet the demands of discerning guests.

This all occurred at the height of the Belle Époque era, and 100 years on most of the buildings flanking La Concha beach – including the city hall, Victoria Eugenia Theatre and Hotel María Cristina – are constructed in this style.

Majestically designed by architect Charles Mewes, also responsible for the Ritz in Madrid and Paris, and offering an exceptional river setting and sea views, the hotel quickly became a must-stay for the crème de la crème, with the hotel’s namesake, Spanish regent María Cristina, the first person to cross the threshold.

3Its sumptuous Belle Époque interior is filled with soaring columns, 19th-century portraits, rich silk brocades and glorious chandeliers; business travellers can take advantage of four well-appointed function rooms; and the Basque Country’s internationally renowned cuisine, together with delicacies from further afield, is served to guests in the hotel’s lavishly decorated and graciously hospitable dining rooms.

These include the Easo restaurant for breakfast and morning snacks, the DRY Bar offering a selection of local tapas-style dishes known as pintxos, and other light gourmet offerings complemented by a full range of premium beverages.

Decorated in a sophisticated palette of greys and white, the 136 rooms provide guests with a tranquil haven of luxury, style and modern technology.

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