Grand Hotel Thalasso

Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France | C.1900

Photo Credit: Josie Bartolomé

The history of the Grand Hotel Thalasso dates back to the 19th century when Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a natural harbor in the southeast of the Bay of Biscay , specialized in whaling and cod fishing. This area gradually transitioned from a blue collar worker town to a luxurious resort destination.

Saint-Jean-de-Luz is the only sheltered bay between Arcachon and Spain. Thanks to its strong sea walls that protect the town from the Atlantic Ocean, it has become a favorite for sea bathers across the Basque Coast. Although the seaside resort is relatively new, the port itself is several centuries old, having overseen the marriage of King Louis XIV and the Spanish princess Maria Teresa in 1660.

The area became more that a simple seaside port around the mid-1800s, when Napoleon III and Eugenie began hosting royalty from around the world. The imperial couple funded the construction of the city’s protective dikes. However, Saint-Jean-de-Luz’s tourism facilities would not be built until the late 19th century, after a sizable British colony had developed in the bay.

One of the hotels built at the time, L’ Hotel Terminus, dominated one end of the city. Nestled in the beach’s dunes, this structure was the ancestor of the Grand Hotel that stands today. The Hotel Terminus was destroyed by a fire in 1904 and had to be entirely rebuilt. It was transformed into a larger and more luxurious establishment and was named the Modern Hotel, which served visitors for almost eight decades.

Eventually, in 1982, the Modern Hotel was put up for sale and underwent significant transformations. The upper floors were renovated into apartments, the lobby and facilities were rehabilitated to exude its classical charm and the hotel was renamed Le Grand Hotel. A seawater spa, Loreamar Thalasso & Spa, was added to the hotel in 2007 as a nod to the old bathhouses of Saint-Jean-de-Luz. This quaint establishment continues to house visitors today.

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