In the past, Donosti used to be a place where the Spanish monarchy spent the summer. For many years, the Royal Family chose San Sebastián for their holidays because of its beaches and climate. First, it was Queen Isabel II who decided to spend her summer holidays in Donosti, so as to bathe in the Cantabrian sea as much as she liked. Later, Queen María Cristina reinforced this bond between the Royal Family and San Sebastián: after she became a widow –when Alfonso XII died- she decided to come to the city every summer.
Miramar Palace, the Royal Family residence
The Royal Family did not have an official residence where they could live during their stays in San Sebastián, so they made the decision to purchase an uptown-located property with enviable views from the Count of Moriana, which even had the old San Sebastián monastery inside. This country house was supplemented with some pieces of land where the old Antiguo church was placed, so it had to be moved to its present location, right at the beginning of the street known today as Matía Street at Alfonso XIII Square. Apart from these two large plots, the residence was completed by adding other small acquisitions. The main building was entrusted to architect Selden Wornum.
The palace was finally inaugurated in the year 1893, and it underwent enlargement work in 1920. The total area of its gardens, which nearly reach the sea, made it necessary to build a tunnel that connected the Antiguo quarter with the rest of the city. The tunnel was made so that the city tram could go through it, but today it is the main road that goes across the whole La Concha Promenade towards the Antiguo quarter what occupies it.
In 1929, after the death of Queen María Cristina, Alfonso XIII inherited the palace, which was confiscated two years later and became property of the San Sebastián local government, under the condition that it would only serve as a residence for the president of the Republic when he visited the city.
During the years of the Franco regime, the Miramar Palace was returned to the Royal Family, specifically to the offspring of AlfonsoXII, and mainly to his son Juan de Borbón. Out of the total area occupied by the palace, several plots were sold in different periods for the construction of housing, so it finally kept only 34.136 square metres out of the 80.000 square metres it had at the start.
In the year 1972, the plot was bought from Don Juan by the local government, and it is nowadays a public space for all the citizens to enjoy, just as if it was one of the public parks in the city. The building which used to be the residence of the Royal Family is currently the head office of Musikene (the centre of upper musical studies of the Basque Country) and venue for the summer courses organised by the Basque Country University.