I came to San Sebastián for only one purpose, and that was to eat. San Sebastián has the reputation for having the most Michelin starred restaurants per capita in the world. Yes, it is a beach town with a lovely old quarter, but this was not even on my radar. I was told there wasn’t a decent hotel in town, but that the Maria Cristina was the lesser of all evils. I am happy to report that this is so far from the truth. After a large renovation, I found the Maria Cristina to be the grande dame of San Sebastián. A landmark hotel, it has been transformed and restored to its former glory. Architectural details like the marble floors and columns were lovingly maintained, with the addition of lush carpeting, updated large bedrooms, and bathrooms with all the modern conveniences. The design is done in a palette of soft mauves and greys. There are 136 rooms, 28 of them being suites. The gym was adequate but, unfortunately, the only thing lacking was a pool and spa. However, the concierge could arrange an in-room massage or a nearby spa. There is an in-house culinary school as well as a great store off the lobby that sold wonderful spices, oils, Spanish wines, and cooking related gifts and utensils.
The location can’t be beat – on the banks of Urumea river, between two famous beaches and a short walk from the old quarter where you can bar hop to try the worlds best pintxos (find the best spots in my recent review), and drink some Cava or beer as you go. On the other side is the new city where you can find shopping, although, San Sebastián is not the place for designer duds. It is also near the sites and the sea. The town is quite casual, and even the three star Michelin restaurants do not require a jacket or tie.
I was impressed to find the staff to be professional and not snooty. They were also capable of making any arrangements for you easily. This was quite surprising being in such a small town. The hotel exudes a Belle Époque glamour from another era – true old work elegance.
The hotel bar always seemed to be a buzz. There is an Asian inspired restaurant called Saigon. While we were staying there was also a pop-up three-star Michelin female chef in residence who has been awarded the world’s best female chef award.
The hotel is a luxury, five-star Starwood hotel. They have 24-hour room service, top notch staff, and a great location, it’s also a wonderfully quiet hotel, and is quite elegant.
The Maria Cristina was a lovely surprise.