Skip to main content

Skip to navigation menu


Should we let you know?

If you want us to notify you when we publish a new audio guide, leave us your name and email address.
We will not use your information for commercial purposes or distribute it to third parties.
You can insert this audioguide on your website.
To do this, use the following HTML code:

Skip to navigation menu


Donostia - San Sebastián, Gipuzkoa

Audioguide of the Kursaal

What to see in the Kursaal

Apart from "delicatessen", "nickel" or "kindergarten", there is another word of German origin which is significant here: Kursaal...

read more

Apart from "delicatessen", "nickel" or "kindergarten", there is another word of German origin which is significant here: Kursaal...

This word comes from combining "kur", which means healing and "saal", which means room, so we get "the healing room". The Kursaal in this city is not the only one; it has relatives in the Kursaal in Luxembourg, the Kursaal Theatre in Switzerland or the Kursaal of Melilla...

Although Kursaal may seem to us a peculiar name, in France they also have this type of building under a much more familiar name: Casino. So Kursaal and Casino are the same things.

Going back to this particular Kursaal which you have in front of you, years ago on the same site an excellent pleasure palace was built, containing cinemas, restaurants, a theatre and gaming rooms. It was considered so grand that it was officially named the Great Kursaal, and was opened in 1921 on land which San Sebastian had reclaimed from the sea.

This palace lasted fifty years, but it didn't generate the hoped-for profits. The real money-spinners were the gaming rooms, but two years after its inauguration, the dictator Primo de Rivera banned gambling in Spain. This situation continued until 1977, after the death of another dictator, Francisco Franco. Too long for any business to thrive...

Things went from bad to worse…

 The Great Kursaal was privately owned, and in 1973 the owners decided to demolish the building and try to generate some income from the land it stood on, which became known as Plot K. A sad end and an ugly, empty space left behind…

Like this 20 years went by, until finally the future of Plot K was resolved: a public consortium took over ownership with the intention of financing and building a new auditorium. So, in 1996, 23 years after its disappearance, the Kursaal rose from its ashes. For three years enormous cranes grew on the site, surrounded by armies of labourers and cement mixers, not to mention a group of retired experts who, under the command of the renowned architect Rafael Moneo, built what he called "two enormous rocks washed up at the mouth of the River Urumea". On the 23rd of August 1999, to the glorious sounds of the Basque Symphony Orchestra and the voice of the Basque soprano Ainhoa Arteta, the current building was officially inaugurated.

Inside, there is two auditoriums, galleries, meeting rooms, shops, an underground car park... All year round the Kursaal bustles with exhibitions, trade fairs, concerts, congresses, festivals of cinema and advertising... Sip a drink on the terrace of the excellent bar and restaurant and watch the passers-by, the roller-blading youngsters, and above all the waves of the Cantabrian sea only metres away.


Avenida de Zurriola, 1
20012 Donostia - San Sebastián
943 003 000

Google Map

Other audioguides of places you must see near the Kursaal