Discover the Innovation and Beauty of San Sebastián: A Sustainable Gem in the Basque Country


Robert Eduard Antal » Urban Innovation » Sustainability Goals: San Sebastián's Green Urban Initiatives

Contributions and Roles of Member Cities in the Eurocities Network: San Sebastián, Spain

Innovation and Sustainability

Commitment to Sustainability and Innovation

As a member of the Eurocities network, San Sebastián is dedicated to advancing sustainability and innovation. The city has set ambitious goals to reduce CO2 emissions and promote green technology. By integrating renewable energy sources and fostering sustainable urban mobility, San Sebastián aims to create a more sustainable urban environment for current and future generations.

Smart City Initiatives

Leveraging Technology for Urban Life Improvement

San Sebastián is at the forefront of leveraging technology to enhance urban life. The city is implementing various smart city initiatives that focus on areas such as environmental monitoring, smart transportation, and citizen engagement. These initiatives aim to create a more efficient, connected, and livable city.

Examples of Smart City Projects

  • Installation of smart sensors to monitor air quality and noise pollution.
  • Development of a smart grid to optimize energy distribution and reduce waste.
  • Deployment of intelligent traffic management systems to reduce congestion.
  • Use of IoT devices to monitor and maintain public infrastructure.
  • Implementation of a digital healthcare platform to enhance medical services.

Cultural and Social Projects

Engagement in Cultural and Social Initiatives

San Sebastián actively engages in cultural and social projects to support vulnerable groups and promote cultural diversity. The city works on creating inclusive spaces and providing resources to foster community engagement and social cohesion.

Official City Website:

Examples of Cultural and Social Initiatives

  • Organization of cultural festivals to celebrate local heritage and diversity.
  • Development of social programs to support the homeless and low-income families.
  • Establishment of community centers to provide educational and recreational activities.
  • Promotion of art and cultural projects to engage youth and underserved populations.
  • Partnerships with NGOs to support refugees and immigrants in the community.

Urban Planning and Development

Significant Urban Development Projects

San Sebastián is committed to enhancing livability through thoughtful urban planning and development. The city focuses on creating resilient infrastructure and public spaces that address climate change and improve quality of life for residents.

Examples of Urban Development Projects

  • Redevelopment of waterfront areas to create green space and recreational facilities.
  • Expansion of public transportation networks to reduce reliance on private cars.
  • Construction of energy-efficient buildings to lower carbon footprints.
  • Implementation of green roofs and walls to combat urban heat islands.
  • Development of pedestrian-friendly zones to enhance walkability.

Youth and Education

Creating Vibrant Environments for Students and Young Professionals

San Sebastián prioritizes creating vibrant environments that foster education, innovation, and career opportunities for students and young professionals. The city supports educational institutions, promotes vocational training, and encourages entrepreneurial endeavors.

Examples of Youth and Education Initiatives

  • Scholarship programs for higher education and research initiatives.
  • Collaboration with universities to promote STEM education and innovation.
  • Development of coworking spaces for young entrepreneurs.
  • Organization of job fairs and career workshops for recent graduates.
  • Provision of after-school programs to support academic and personal development.

Benefits of Participation in Eurocities

Participation in the Eurocities network offers numerous benefits to San Sebastián. These include access to best practices and innovative solutions from other member cities, increased opportunities for funding and collaboration on EU projects, and a platform to influence European policies affecting urban areas. Additionally, the network fosters transnational cooperation, enhancing San Sebastián’s capacity to address local challenges through shared knowledge and resources.

San Sebastián, Spain


San Sebastián, also known as Donostia in Basque, is located in the Basque Country in northern Spain, along the coast of the Bay of Biscay. The city is situated near the French border and is surrounded by lush mountains and picturesque beaches, most notably La Concha beach. Its geographic coordinates are approximately 43.3204° N latitude and 1.9817° W longitude.


San Sebastián has a population of approximately 186,000 residents. The city enjoys a diverse demographic, with a mix of native Basque speakers and Spanish speakers. It also attracts a significant number of international tourists and expatriates, adding to its multicultural atmosphere.

Economic Overview

The economy of San Sebastián is primarily driven by tourism, gastronomy, and small-scale industries. The city is renowned for its culinary scene, boasting several Michelin-starred restaurants. It also serves as a hub for the service sector, including education, healthcare, and commerce. San Sebastián’s GDP per capita is higher than the national average, reflecting its affluent status.

Historical Significance

San Sebastián has a rich history dating back to its founding in the 12th century. It became an important port and fortress throughout the medieval period. The city faced significant destruction during the Peninsular War in the early 19th century but was rebuilt and transformed during the Belle Époque era, becoming a favored destination for European royalty and aristocracy.

Cultural Attractions

  • Kursaal Congress Centre and Auditorium: A notable venue for music concerts, film screenings, and cultural events.
  • San Telmo Museum: Showcasing Basque society’s historical, artistic, and cultural heritage.
  • International Film Festival (SSIFF): One of the most prestigious film festivals in Europe, held annually in September.
  • La Concha Beach: One of Spain’s most famous urban beaches, known for its pristine sand and crescent shape.
  • Old Town (Parte Vieja): Home to historic buildings, narrow streets, pintxos bars, and cultural landmarks.

Education System

San Sebastián offers a robust education system, with numerous public and private primary and secondary schools. The city hosts the University of the Basque Country (University of Deusto), which provides higher education in various fields. The Basque Culinary Center offers specialized education in gastronomy and culinary arts.

Transportation Infrastructure

  • Public Transit: The city has an efficient bus network operated by Dbus, as well as a bike-sharing program called dbizi.
  • Railway: The central train station, Estación del Norte, connects San Sebastián to major cities in Spain and France.
  • Airport: San Sebastián Airport (EAS) provides domestic flights, while Bilbao Airport, located about 100 km away, offers international connections.
  • Roads: Well-connected by the AP-8 and A-1 highways, facilitating easy access to neighboring regions and countries.

Urban Development Projects

San Sebastián is engaged in several urban development projects aimed at enhancing sustainability and quality of life. Key initiatives include the redevelopment of the waterfront, increasing green spaces, and constructing energy-efficient buildings. The city’s General Urban Plan focuses on creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment and reducing traffic congestion.

Environmental Initiatives

San Sebastián promotes various environmental sustainability efforts, such as the Agenda 21 program, which focuses on local environmental action plans. The city has implemented recycling programs, sustainable urban mobility strategies, and initiatives to protect its natural landscapes, including its beaches and parks.

Quality of Living

San Sebastián is known for its high quality of living, offering excellent healthcare facilities, low crime rates, and a range of amenities. The city provides a vibrant cultural scene, beautiful natural surroundings, and an overall healthy lifestyle, making it an attractive place to reside.

Quality of Life Indexes

San Sebastián consistently ranks high in various quality of life indexes. It is considered one of the most livable cities in Spain and Europe. The city’s livability ranking is bolstered by its clean environment, efficient public services, and rich cultural offerings.

Mayor Profile: Eneko Goia


Eneko Goia

Current Position

Mayor of San Sebastián, Spain

Political Affiliation

Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ-PNV)


  • Bachelor’s Degree in Law, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)
  • Master’s Degree in European Law, University of Deusto

Professional Background

Before becoming the Mayor of San Sebastián, Eneko Goia built a significant career both in local government and the private sector:

  • Member of the Basque Parliament (2009-2013)
  • Vice President of the Gipuzkoa Provincial Council’s Department of Citizen Participation (2013-2015)
  • Legal Advisor for various private companies in the Basque region

Achievements as Mayor

Since his election as Mayor of San Sebastián in 2015, Eneko Goia has overseen a number of key initiatives and projects:


  • Implementation of a comprehensive Urban Mobility Plan aimed at reducing carbon emissions and promoting public transport.
  • Introduction of the “Green Belt” project to enhance urban green spaces and biodiversity.

Urban Development

  • Revitalization of the Ondarreta and Zurriola beaches, improving both infrastructure and accessibility.
  • Expansion of affordable housing programs to address the city’s housing shortage.

Technological Advancements

  • Initiation of the ‘Smart Donostia’ project for implementing smart city technologies to improve public services and urban living.
  • Development of free Wi-Fi zones across major public areas in the city.

Vision for the Future

Mayor Goia’s plans and goals for the future development of San Sebastián are centered on several key areas:

  • Smart City Initiatives: Expansion of the ‘Smart Donostia’ project to include advanced data analytics for urban management and traffic flow optimization.
  • Environmental Sustainability: Continuation of efforts to reduce the city’s carbon footprint through renewable energy projects and increased recycling programs.
  • Community Engagement: Enhancement of citizen participation in decision-making processes through digital platforms and regular town hall meetings.

Personal Life

Outside of his political career, Eneko Goia is known for his active engagement in various community and environmental activities:

  • Enjoys hiking and exploring the natural beauty of the Basque region.
  • Committed supporter of local cultural and sports events, often seen participating in community festivals and athletics.
  • Volunteers with local charities focused on social equity and environmental conservation.

Awards and Honors

  • San Sebastián Environmental Leadership Award (2018) for his efforts in promoting urban sustainability.
  • Basque Government’s Cultural Promotion Award (2021) for his contributions to preserving and enhancing Basque culture.

San Sebastián: Quality of Life and Cost of Living

Quality of Life


San Sebastián is recognized for its exceptional safety, boasting a safety index of 76.23. This high safety rating reflects low crime rates and a secure environment, contributing to the city’s overall high quality of life.


With a healthcare quality index of 86.35, San Sebastián offers top-tier healthcare services. The city’s healthcare system is well-regarded for its efficiency and quality, ensuring residents have access to excellent medical care.


The city maintains a commendable pollution index of 25.19. This low pollution level highlights San Sebastián’s commitment to cleanliness and sustainability, making it an attractive place to live.


San Sebastián’s transportation system is well-developed and reliable, with a transport index of 67.25. The city offers various public transportation options, including buses and trains, providing residents with efficient and convenient travel solutions.


San Sebastián is home to excellent educational institutions. Notably, the University of the Basque Country is renowned for its high academic standards, contributing to the city’s reputation for educational excellence.

Cost of Living


The cost of housing in San Sebastián can be high. Renting a 1-bedroom apartment in the city center averages around €896.92 per month, indicating a significant expense for residents.

Groceries and Dining

  • Monthly grocery costs for a single person generally amount to approximately €200.
  • Dining out in San Sebastián typically costs around €15 per meal, reflecting the city’s mid-to-high range dining expenses.


For an 85m2 apartment, monthly utility costs are around €136.27. This includes expenses for electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage services, contributing to the overall living costs.


The cost of a monthly public transport pass in San Sebastián is about €45. Given the city’s efficient transportation system, this expense offers good value for money despite being relatively high.


  • Fitness clubs: Approximately €40 per month.
  • Cinema tickets: Around €8 per ticket.

Entertainment costs add to the high cost of living in San Sebastián, but they offer residents ample opportunities to enjoy leisure activities.

Source: Numbeo

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