Like the Parte Vieja next door, the Centro neighbourhood of San Sebastián is delimited by La Concha Bay to the west and the mouth of the River Urumea to the east. Both neighbourhoods are therefore in a prime location, separated by the busy and lively Boulevard Zumardia.
Despite being so close to one another, each of these two neighbourhoods has a markedly different layout. Centro was the result of a residential expansion programme sponsored by the local council in 1863, following the demolition of the city walls that kept the old town contained. The new neighbourhood was a network of wider streets than those in the old town, among them the 35-metre-wide Avenida de la Libertad.
New and elegant buildings raised between the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th gave the area a touch of style and sophistication. The wealthiest families decided to set up their homes in Centro while the poorest moved to the Parte Vieja.
Among the most important buildings in Centro is the Town Hall, an eclectic construction raised in 1897 as the city’s Gran Casino, built in the image of the casino in Montecarlo. Following closure of the casino in 1924 after gambling was outlawed by the Primo de Rivera dictatorship, the local authorities decided to move their headquarters from the Plaza de la Constitución to the casino building in 1947.
The Town Hall looks out onto Alderdi Eder, a beautiful park overlooking La Concha Bay filled with the tamarix trees which have become a symbol of the city. Take a ride on the park’s beautiful two-tier vintage carousel and admire the replicas of works by Van Gogh, Cezanne and Monet.
Barely 100 metres from the Alderdi Eder gardens is another large green area: the Plaza de Gipuzkoa. Stop in the plaza to admire the Neoclassical facade and beautiful porticos of the local government building, not to mention the sculptures of famous Basque sailors such as Elcano, Legazpi and Lezo.
Continue along Calle Bengoetxea until you reach the Teatro Victoria Eugenia, one of the best examples of the urban and architectural renewal that took place in San Sebastián after the city became the favoured summer spot of Queen Maria Christina. The historical 20th-century theatre sits in sharp contrast to the cutting-edge aesthetic of the Kursaal, designed by Rafael Moneo and sitting on the other bank of the river.
A visit to the Centro neighbourhood wouldn’t be complete without stopping by the city’s largest and most important religious building: the Catedral del Buen Pastor. Opened in 1897, this Neogothic cathedral has three naves and an impressive 70-metre-high spire which is visible from many points in the city. Its facade is emblazoned with a sculpture by the famous Basque artist Eduardo Chillida: La cruz de la paz (The Cross of Peace).
The Town Tall of San Sebastián occupies the magnificent Gran Casino building that was once a magnet for the European aristocracy.
Sitting under the proud gaze of the Local Government building, the Plaza de Gipuzkoa is one of the most beautiful and symbolic spaces in San Sebastián.
A carousel, a pond, fountains and a range of different plants right opposite the Town Hall and La Concha bay.