Pop quiz: is this Hull or San Sebastian?
Pop quiz: is this Hull or San Sebastian?

Hull vs San Sebastian: Which city of culture is better?

How does the UK City of Culture 2017 compare with the European co-Capital of Culture 2016?

Friday 23 September 2016 18:54

Hull has unveiled its cultural calendar for next year, as UK City of Culture 2017. Coincidentally, one of the current European Capitals of Culture is another mid-sized maritime city: San Sebastian in Spain. So how do the two compare on a range of measures?


San Sebastian: 186,000

Hull: 256,000

What Lonely Planet says about it …

San Sebastian: "It’s impossible to lay eyes on San Sebastian and not fall madly in love. This stunning city is cool, svelte and flirtatious by night, charming and well mannered by day."

Hull: "Though it’s not going to win any prizes for prettiness, the city has a gritty appeal for those who appreciate Britain’s industrial past and enjoy getting away from the beaten tourist path."

East Park in Hull

Average high temperature in January/July

San Sebastian: 13C/25C

Hull: 3C/16C


San Sebastian: The handsome Aquarium, opened in 1928, features sea creatures that are not (yet) on the menu of the city's many renowned restaurants.

Hull: The Deep is the city’s prime tourist attraction, a spectacular Millennium project that soars above the confluence of the Hull and Humber rivers — and focuses on aquatic enlightenment.

The Deep, Hull's impressive aquarium


San Sebastian: “The scallop-shaped bay of La Concha (‘The Shell’) protects a long, broad, safe and sandy beach.” (The Independent)

Hull: The nearby beach of Withernsea “is part of a strip of sand and shingle that stretches for miles in both directions”. (RNLI)

Notable football team fact

San Sebastian: The name of the local team, Real Sociedad de Futbol, translates as “Royal Society of Football”.

Hull: The only top-flight English team whose name has no letters you can colour in is Hull City.

Pintxos are the signature dish of San Sebastian

Local dish

San Sebastian: Pintxos, the Basque take on tapas, such as bites of steak or tuna in heavenly sauces.

Hull: The Hull pattie: mashed potato with a pinch of sage, deep-fried in batter (or sometimes breadcrumbs).

Local drink

San Sebastian: The rough-edged local cider, sagardoa.

Hull: Uncertainty Principle IPA, brewed by Atom Beers.

Notable twin town

San Sebastian: Plymouth, Devon

Hull: Szczecin, Poland

Access from the capital

San Sebastian: Six flights daily from Madrid airport.

Hull: Eight trains daily from London King’s Cross.

Philip Larkin was University Librarian at the University of Hull

Notable resident

San Sebastian: Queen Isabel II, who was chased away in the Glorious Revolution of 1868, leaving the property to serve as a casino, then a hospital, and now the Hotel de Londres y Inglaterra.

Hull: The poet, Philip Larkin, whose statue greets new arrivals at Hull’s Paragon railway station, and who wrote: “Sexual intercourse began in nineteen sixty-three (which was rather late for me)."

Last featured in The Independent’s 48 Hours series

San Sebastian: June 2016

Hull: Never

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