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City Hall

Donostia - San Sebastián, Gipuzkoa

This beautiful building in neo-renaissance style, which presides over the gardens of Alderdi Eder, beautiful place in Basque, has not always housed the city council. The area where it is, it was an army training ground, which later became a leisure garden and then...wait, close your eyes a moment, and imagine a ballroom, from which the music of waltzes and foxtrots floats out...

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This beautiful building in neo-renaissance style, which presides over the gardens of Alderdi Eder, beautiful place in Basque, has not always housed the city council. The area where it is, it was an army training ground, which later became a leisure garden and then...wait, close your eyes a moment, and imagine a ballroom, from which the music of waltzes and foxtrots floats out...

Gathered here are royalty, the aristocracy and the fabulously wealthy. The gracious rooms are awash with banquets and champagne.

Imagine Rothschild gazing out over the bay from one of these windows. Maybe the Shah of Persia asked the name of that little island over there… If the walls of this building could talk, what stories they would tell!... How they have witnessed elegant vamps smoking long Turkish cigarettes, seen legendary maharajahs and mythical actresses such as Raquel Mellor and Pastora Imperio... not to mention the famous spy Mata Hari. Legend has it that, between games of roulette and baccarat in this building, she received instructions for the mission that would lead to her detention and later execution in the Parisian forest of Vincennes.

Yes, this building started life as a casino, one of the best in Europe. Designed by Adolfo Morales de los Ríos and Luis Aladrén, the Grand Casino opened its doors on the first of July 1887.

And the story goes on... the temple of Our Lady of the Roulette wheel, as it was called by some Donostiarras, was a nest of British and German spies during the First World War, a meeting place for heads of state, ambassadors and politicians of all persuasions. For San Sebastian, it was a permanent source of revenue which enabled the city to carry out many cultural, charitable and urbanistic works.

But in a sudden twist of fate, gambling was prohibited in 1923 with the arrival of the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. For San Sebastian, this signaled the start of a financial crisis which it would not recover from for several decades.

So, the building became a hospital for soldiers injured in the Morrocan war, then, between 1928 and 1936, it was used to celebrate festivals, theatrical works and musicals. Finally, on the 20th of January 1947, its 60-year license as a casino expired, and the municipal council took possession of the building, turning it into the city hall, which it has remained up to this day.


City Hall

Ijentea Kalea, 1
20003 Donostia - San Sebastián
(+34) 943 48 10 00

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Tags: Eclecticism

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