Imagine a mountain range, the Pyrenees, which rises from an ocean of waves ridden by surfers — French surf was born in Biarritz. The Basque coast also means sandals (espadrilles), chocolate and spices, and seaside resorts renowned since the Belle-Epoque. It is a way of life, that of a people loyal to its culture and traditions. It is also the colors red and white, which are worn particularly for celebrations. And a unique language: Ongi ettori (Welcome)!
Would you rather enjoy a hot chocolate under the arches? Cocoa beans reached Europe through Bayonne in the 17th century. A historical city with a port tradition, there are many architectural curiosities to see, both Basque and Gascon. It has been classified as a City of Art and History, and it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Way of Saint James.
At the very heart of the town centre, in a 17th century Bayonne house, the Maison Dagourette, the unique Basque ethnological centre will explain the history of this unique region to you. Come to discover traditional objects and works of art that testify to the identity and traditions of an indomitable people.
A museum recounting the love affair between Bayonne and chocolate since the 17th century, as well as a shop, L’Atelier du Chocolat is a must-see for all chocaholics! Taste new flavors and learn about the history of techniques used to make this guilty pleasure.
Anglet, a paradise for nature and sport lovers, particularly surf sports! Dive into the waves with your surf or bodyboard. For those who are not yet initiated, you can follow a course at a surf schools. And as a spectator, watch a surf competition and enjoy the atmosphere. You can walk, jog and even push a pushchair along the coast. Meet at the Chambre d’Amour, a cave on the Amour Beach, or in the Chiberta neighbourhood: beautiful villas and a golf course with a view over the ocean.
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Biarritz was only a small fishing village when Empress Eugénie de Montijo – wide of Napoleon III – chose it as a summer residence. Now an internationally renowned resort, Biarritz still has traces of this brilliant past. Biarritz and high society, palace of thalassotherapy and surf, is also very attached to culture, and organizes events all year round.
A tip for visiting Biarritz: take a good pair of shoes and if the season is right, a swimming costume. You will be able to enjoy swimming and discover the heritage: majestic or picturesque villas, an aquarium in a typical Art-Deco building, the lighthouse and the Rocher de la Vierge. Gulp in the sea air from the sea front and the fishing port, where you will find welcoming restaurant terraces where you can delight in local cuisine.
The Cité de l’Océan, with its wave-shaped roof, is home to a museum dedicated to this vast and precious environment. Thanks to a clever mix of technologies and passionate guides, you will learn while having fun. For example, you will be able to dive into the abysses in the bathyscaphe to explore the submarine canyon known here as the Gouf de Capbreton.
Enjoy the gentle life in this seaside resort, contemplate the sailing and fishing boats heading to the horizon, towards the Fort of Socoa, or coming back into port. Saint-Jean-de-Luz is also a former Corsair city, the city where the Sun King wed the Infante of Spain, and where composer Maurice Ravel was born. It’s typical of the Basque coast, with traditions (pelota, chocolate, linen, etc) and more modern occupations such as the current favorite, thalassotherapy.
A visit to the town’s historical centre must include the Place Louis XIV, the house of Infante Marie Teresa of Spain, and the Saint-Jean-Baptiste church with its beautiful baroque altarpiece. Don’t pass by a surprising Dutch house, on the other side of the port in Ciboure: it is where composer Maurice Ravel was born. Then explore the pretty Basque linen shops, or those filled with local specialities (macaroons, chocolate, cured meats, etc) in the pedestrian streets lined with traditional red and white Basque houses.
A large beach and twin rocks await by a marina at the mouth of river Bidassoa, which marks the border with Spain, and which you can cross by boat. Here you are in Hendaye, a family-friendly seaside resort. Enjoy the benefits of the ocean, and be pampered during a thalassotherapy session in one of the centers on the Atlantic coast.
Climb up to the Domaine d’Abbadia, the observatory castle built by Viollet-Leduc in a neo-gothic style for his friend, the scientist Antoine d’Abbadie in the mid-19th century. Facing the ocean, this nature reserve is a great place to explore, and often inspires resident artists.
This itinerary is compliments of Visit Aquitaine.
To book a suitable hotel or other accommodation in, or near Biarritz, you can use the map below, which shows current prices for hotels and apartments. To book further afield, then just enlarge the map (+/-) to see more properties or, if you are headed for a particular part of the coast, enter your preferred resort/town/village in the ‘Where are you going?’ box.