Biarritz

Travel guide - Biarritz

In the heart of Basque country, the town where Napoleon III and the 19th century elite once spent their holidays now welcomes visitors who come from around the globe to discover this seaside resort on the Bay of Biscay. Biarritz, this city in the southwest of France, has a privileged location along the coastline. It offers a unique setting facing the Atlantic Ocean, a mixture of elegant villas and lush nature surrounded by beaches and cliffs that are sure to delight lovers of walks and other outdoor activities.

Biarritz, the queen of beaches and the seaside

Life in Biarritz is always tied to the ocean. The city’s maritime climate invites you to enjoy the golden beaches and various aquatic activities, from surfing to scuba diving. As the surfing capital of Europe, Biarritz is home to a large community of ocean-lovers, which influences the pace of life in the city. A unique atmosphere reigns here, where surfing culture and Basque lifestyle can be found side by side. Relax beneath the striped tents of La Grande Plage and enjoy the fine sand before taking a dip in the ocean. On the quay, visitors and locals walk along the seaside, enjoying the coastal landscape and the view of the immense boulders sticking up out of the ocean, which are responsible for the waves that have made the region so famous. Facing the sea, the Art Deco-style Biarritz Aquarium is home to nearly 5,000 animals: a prime time to discover the world beneath the ocean’s surface. You can also find thermal baths and spas here; after enjoying some athletic activities and walking along the seashore, treat yourself to a thalassotherapy session.

Unique architectural heritage: sumptuous villas and homes

Biarritz is filled with numerous villas overlooking the ocean. They are a testimony to the glorious, worldly past of the seaside resort that once hosted the 19th century elite, who followed in the footsteps of Napoleon III and his wife Eugénie. Built in 1854, the Villa Eugénie, now the Hôtel du Palais, is a symbol of the prosperous period when the empress transformed the fisherman’s village into a fashionable destination. The Villa Cyrano, built in 1900 then moved, stone by stone, less than ten years later, is one of the most beautiful homes. Decorated with turrets, this house with Art Deco details attests to the radiance of the Belle Epoque. At the end of the Côte des Basques you can find the Villa Belza. This house with turrets and a neo-medieval keep is built in a stunning location atop a large set of rocks. Mysteriously perched on the edge of a cliff, the villa was used as a film set, then later housed a Russian cabaret.

Seaside strolls and lush nature

Biarritz is built on sheer seaside cliffs. Have a seat on one of the benches on the Basque coastline and enjoy the view, soaking up the landscape of sea and mountains. The emblematic Virgin’s Rock is linked to the mainland by an iron footbridge, and a statue of the Virgin Mary stands on the rock’s highest point. Legend has it that local fishermen placed the statue atop the rocks in 1865 as a symbol of their gratitude after a particularly difficult whale hunt. Take a sunset stroll along the Allée Port-des-Pêcheurs, enjoying the ocean mist and the city lights of Biarritz sparkling along the length of the quay. All the way up to the grandiose panorama of the Rocher du Basta with its view of the city, the Basque coastline, sculpted by waves and the salty sea air, offers coastal walks that let you get up close and personal with the city’s natural heritage.

Discovering Basque cuisine

Basque cuisine is best enjoyed while gazing upon the ocean. The terraces of the Port des Pêcheurs are an idyllic setting for visitors to gather among friends and sample the local shellfish, sardines and calamari while watching the sun go down. In the Halles, the covered market, you can discover pintxos, the traditional open sandwiches and tapas dishes of the region. A commercial institution since 1885, the market is the perfect place to find regional products: why not make a picnic of jambon de Bayonne (Bayonne ham) and sheep milk cheese, to take with you to enjoy on the beach? Through a gourmet meal at L’Entre Deux or while tasting wine and pintxos in the wine cellar/restaurant Les Contrebandiers, you can get to know Biarritiz’s cuisine, often flavoured with Espelette chili pepper. In the piperade (a type of casserole) or poulet basquaise (braised chicken in smoky tomato sauce), the vivid red colours in these dishes is the signature of this local spice. You can also treat yourself to a break at the Miremont tea room. Give in to the temptation of the delicious pastries served here, from a three-flavour St. Honoré cake to a wild strawberry tart. This refined establishment was a favourite with illustrious royal visitors such as Edward VII of England.
Biarritz has preserved the splendour and sophistication that have made it a favourite destination for celebrities and affluent people from around the world. Between the Basque lifestyle and the siren call of the sea, enjoy the city’s athletic activities on one of its lovely golf courses or in the stands while you watch a game of Basque pelota or a rugby match.

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