San Sebastián is home to Basque people who are culturally and genetically distinct from other Europeans. They speak Euskara, a language isolate that is unrelated to the Romance languages of the region. Learn a few words, if you're aiming to please: kaixo means "hello," and agur is "good-bye." Basques know how to celebrate their uniqueness—whether with a day dedicated to Euskara, or by partying on Calle San Juan de Bilbao in the Parte Vieja (Old Quarter).
Basques love a good party. The Tamborrada (held on January 20) celebrates the city's patron saint with a 24-hour festival in which participants walk through the city, drumming. Saint Thomas’s Day (December 21) commemorates the day that farmers used to travel to the city to pay their yearly rent; festivities include traditional dress, generous quantities of cider, and the eating of txistorra (a Basque pork sausage). For a more modern cultural event, check out the September film festival, Zinemaldi, which is one of Europe’s most important.