San Sebastian is full of public parks, one of the attractions of the city, which is becoming greener every day and has more natural spaces. Perhaps the best known park is the gardens of the Miramar Palace, in the middle of La Concha Bay. But there are many more, and the largest of them all is the Cristina Enea Park.
History of Cristina Enea
Cristina Enea, translated from Basque as “Cristina’s House”, was not actually built as a park, but as the place of residence of the Duke and Duchess of Mandas, Fermín Lasala and, obviously, Cristina Brunetti. Fermín was a businessman and politician from an important family in San Sebastian and Cristina was a duchess of Italian origin whose family had settled in Madrid.
He became a duke by marriage and became Spanish ambassador to Paris and London and Minister of Public Works. He was one of the driving forces behind the Madrid-Irun railway line and the Port of Pasajes. Together with his wife, they were the architects of the union between King Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia de Battenberg.
Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for us, they died without offspring, so they bequeathed all their possessions to the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa and to the city of San Sebastian. Their estate included a library of 18,000 volumes and the park and palace of Cristina Enea. The latter on the condition that they were to be used as a public park so that all citizens could enjoy them. And so it is that we have this beautiful park just a few steps from the centre of San Sebastian.
Location of Cristina Enea
Cristina Enea Park is located in the Egia neighbourhood, on the other side of the river and the train tracks from the centre, to the south of the Gros neighbourhood. It is situated on a mound surrounded by the meander of the River Urumea and covers an area of almost 95,000 square metres. At the top of the mound is the palace of the Dukes of Mandas, surrounded by beautiful English-style gardens decorated with plants brought from all over the world.
The main entrance to the park is next to Tabakalera, but there are two other secondary entrances. One is across the Mikel Laboa bridge from Riberas de Loyola, and the other is across the Gladys del Estal footbridge over the railway tracks near the Mundaiz bridge.
What to see in Cristina Enea Park
In Cristina Enea Park you can enjoy nature without going too far from San Sebastian. With plants from all over the world, such as palm trees, sequoias, bamboo, giant ferns and flowers, the park is a wonderful place to visit in spring. We always try to cross it even if it is on foot on our electric bike tours.
On the other hand, the Cristina Enea Foundation, located in the palace, offers temporary exhibitions, workshops and guided tours of the park. The exhibitions are offered both in the caretaker’s house next to the main gate and in the palace. This makes it possible to visit the former residence of the dukes, in case you are curious. The building is also used as a library, so you could say that the park is a perfect place to read.
Finally, there is some wildlife in the park. Next to the palace is a pond full of ducks (sometimes ducklings), turtles and a swan. If you’re lucky you might spot some squirrels, brought to the park a few years ago. And then there are the peacocks. The lords and masters of Cristina Enea, they can usually be found in the vicinity of the palace, and if you come during the mating season (spring/early summer) you will be able to see them showing their beautiful tails to the females, but also to any passer-by or animal that happens to be passing by. If you come a little later you can see peacock chicks. They are the size of a hen and are brown like the females.
Opening hours of Cristina Enea
The park is open every day from 06:30 to 22:30 (except if there is a windstorm, in which case it is closed for safety reasons), as it is used as a transit area between the different neighbourhoods on both sides of the river, so you have many hours to enjoy it. However, the palace has shorter opening hours, as follows:
- Monday-Friday: 09:30-18:00*
- Sábados: 10:00-14:00/15:00-19:00
- Sundays: 10:00-14:00
*In the months of June, July, August and September it’s open 1 hour longer.