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World's Most Cultured Beach Cities

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© Courtesy of Hotel de Londres

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San Sebastián, Spain

San Sebastián’s Basque people have famously preserved their culture, most notably in the Euskera language that peppers the street signs and in their food, demonstrated by the pintxos and sparkling txakoli wine bars in the city’s Parte Vieja. This scene helped pave the way for half of Spain’s Michelin three-star restaurants to set up shop around San Sebastián. The Belle Epoque city’s culinary appeal is bolstered by the white sand crescent along the Bay of Biscay, particularly at La Concha—whose panorama of mountains and water can be enjoyed from most of the rooms at Hotel de Londres (rooms, from $160; Zubieta 2; 34-943/440-770; hlondres.com). More adventurous urbanites can run through rush-hour and university crowds, past the Rafael Moneo–designed Kursaal Congress Centre (kursaal.com.es) to Playa de La Zurriola, home to world-class surfing.

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