Distinctly English in style, this palace, which would be anyone's dream holiday home, was conceived as precisely that. In 1893, the Spanish Queen Maria Cristina had this whimsical palace built as a place to stay when she visited San Sebastian in summer.
The Miramar Palace had a curious beginning: before choosing this site, other places were considered, such as the marshes where the neighbourhood of Amara stands today, the Aiete Palace, or the fort on Mount Urgull. This last was the favoured option, as it was surrounded by woodland and therefore very discreet. But the queen thought it was too out of the way, so finally they opted for the small mount next to the Bay of La Concha, where there was a monastery. The only problem? Not enough space, so after buying the land from the Count of Moriana, other plots were added to it... they even moved the monastery to make more space, relegating it to a church at the beginning of Matia Street in the nearby neighbourhood of El Antiguo.
The job was assigned to the English architect Selden Wornum, who had designed other palaces in Biarritz and San Juan de Luz, building in brick and sandstone, with a wooden framework. The gardens were assigned to the most popular landscapist of the time, Pierre Ducasse, who was also responsible for the gardens of the Aiete Palace and Gipuzkoa Square.
To be able to carry out the project, a tunnel had to be built to divert the tram and the road that crossed the mount. This was built at the lowest point, through the rock formation known as the Parrot's Beak, which also serves as a dividing line between the beaches of La Concha and Ondarreta.
Years later, at the death of Queen Maria Cristina, the palace passed into the hands of King Alfonso XIII, but two years later, in 1931, it was expropriated by the state. Two years after that, it became the property of the city council of San Sebastian, on condition that the President of the Republic could continue using it as his summer residence, at the same time as certain parts of the building were set aside for cultural and educational purposes.
With the arrival of the Franco regime, the palace returned to the hands of the Spanish crown, and for five years was used as a college for the then prince, who later became King Juan Carlos I.
Between 1958 and 1963, some plots were sold off in order to build what is now the residential area of the Paseo de Pio Baroja, its original 80 thousand square meters being reduced to the 30 thousand it consists of today.
On the 10th August 1972, the Palace became once again the property of the city council at the cost of the equivalent of 600,000 euros, which was paid to the then owner, his Highness Don Juan de Borbon and Battenburg, Count of Barcelona.
The building still retains some of its original rooms, such as the Music Room, the Wooden Room, the Small Lounge, the White Lounge, the Library and the Royal Dining room. Others have been remodelled to provide more functional spaces, as nowadays the rooms and also the grounds can be hired for events, celebrations and such like.
Currently, access to the grounds is free, so we recommend a visit to sit on one of the benches in the garden, from where you can gaze, dream and enjoy the contrasts between its history, its gardens and the blue sea.