The peculiar tradition of San Sebastian’s Day…

Ayuntamiento SS-OMW

Unsure about booking your flight to San Sebastian during the month of January?

Worried that winter might not be the best time of the year to visit San Sebastian?

Don’t be!

Don’t let a few rain drops and a little chill prevent you from enjoying twenty-four hours of uninterrupted celebrations in a gorgeous city like San Sebastian!

Pack up your backs, jump on the first flight available and join in San Sebastian’s Big Day! The, so called, TAMBORRADA.

Plus, as an added bonus, prepare to shop till you drop at unbeatable prices during the country-wide winter sale!

Good enough reasons to visit San Sebastian in January?

The team at OH MY WALK! certainly thinks so and so do the many customers that join us on our walking tours of San Sebastian, rain or shine!


What is the Tamborrada?

The Tamborrada is a wonderful drum playing celebration that takes place every January in San Sebastian. Hundreds of organized groups and associations prepare for the Big Day throughout the entire year and on the evening of the 19th locals and visitors gather in the iconic Constitution Square to inaugurate the festival and revel for 24 consecutive hours.

From the magic moment when the city’s flag is hoisted and the Gaztelubide society starts playing the “March of San Sebastian”, different bands parade along the streets of our gorgeous city dressed as soldiers and cooks (yes, soldiers and cooks!) to honour San Sebastian’s patron saint with an electrifying drum parade.


Playing the drums in San Sebastian’s day                                              Photo: EITB


Too much drumming? I hear you say…

Too hectic?

Perhaps, but most of the international walkers that join our walking tours on San Sebastian prefer to look at it like a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience an entire city dancing to the rhythm of drums and the perfect backdrop to enjoy San Sebastian’s unique gastronomy and culture!


How did San Sebastian’s Tamborrada came about?

Many Spanish traditions and festivals have hard to trace origins – the Tamborrada is no exception.

Some say we owe today’s Tamborrada to a happy baker who – back in 1720 – started singing as he was fetching water from one of San Sebastian’s three main fountains. Enchanted by his signing, the girls and servants waiting in line to fill their buckets couldn’t help but start banging on their basins to accompany his melody.

Others argue the Tamborrada was born during the city’s XVIII century military sieges when the locals – displaying the cheeky sense of humour we are known for – started mocking the marching enemy soldiers. With time, a youth drumming group was formed to perform in the city’s Carnival festivity. Their first uniforms replicated those worn by the Gipuzkoan battalions during the War of Independence, but soon other bands targeted other professions with uniforms– cooks and chefs being two of them!

Whichever version of events most captures your imagination, the reality is that the people of San Sebastian – due to the city’s strategic militarized position since its foundation in the XII Century – were accustomed to living with soldiers and certainly not as fearful of them as these would have liked to. So, while some like to think that this pre-carnival tradition commemorates a battle, there’s nothing farther from the truth – this festival is, in fact, nothing but a parody of the armies that have repeatedly tried to conquer the city over and over again.

Kutxateka tamborrada 1928

Children’s Tamborrada in 1928.                                                                         Photo: Kutxateka

How do locals live the Tamborrada?

We live it with a lot of joy (yes, despite the low temperatures and the occasional “sirimiri” (light rain))!

In fact, we can’t wait for that incessant sound of drums to hit our streets on the midnight of the 19th of January. As children, we already learn the songs by hard, we rehearse them, we sing them together and we look forward to the magic celebrations that are about to unfold…

Then, on the eve of the Big Day, we wear our blue and white bandanas – the colours of the city’s flag – and we enjoy the luscious dinner that leads to the inauguration and the first strident sound of drums playing of the most renowned and oldest bands (or Tamborradas)…

And for 24 hours, that’s all we do – play drums, sing, eat, and party!

Portada tamborrada SS OMW

San Sebastian turns Blue & White during its Big Day!

Does that sound like a good plan to you?

Great news!

Just one word of caution – if you are planning on visiting us during the Festival of the Tamborradas be prepared for the sound of thousands of drums playing at the same time in all corners of the city!

And if you are planning on enjoying our gastronomy that night, make sure you book in advance!

Other than that, enjoy and immerse yourself in the rhythm of a unique festival that brings every single person in this city of ours to the streets!

Too late to enjoy San Sebastian’s Tamborrada this year?

Not to worry! You can leave that for next year, but you can still join us for our pre-carnival celebrations on the first Saturday of the month of February.

Why is February in San Sebastian worth your while?

Because a few days before carnival begins, you’ll get to meet the ‘Caldereros‘ – the travelling people. Colourful and exuberant, today’s caldereros replicate the arrival of Hungarian tinkers back in the nineteenth century, astonishing the people of to San Sebastian with their never before seen costumes, tools and traditions.

Caldereros à Saint-Sébastien Photo: jose mari lopez

Caldereros in San Sebastian                                          Photo: Jose Mari Lopez


Whether in January or in February – or any other time for that matter-, rejoice with the exhilarating parades, festivals and traditions on the city streets! And while you are here, make sure you join our walking tours of San Sebastian – one of the best ways to understand this colourful jewel in Northern Spain and learn about all those stories you won’t find in any guide book.

Are you keen to try us out?

We’d love to have you!

Get in touch here or book any of our walking tours in San Sebastian here.

Hope to see you soon!