What is the Best Place to Stay in Basque Country?

Biarritz main beach

Derniere mise a jour 22 Nov 2021 a 05:05 pm

Are you wondering what is the best place to stay in Basque Country, Biarritz or Saint Jean de Luz?

This is one of the questions my readers regularly ask me, even though the two cities are very close geographically.

Then read this article, where I answer it, depending on the purpose of your trip, the period and your tastes!

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What is the best place to stay in Basque Country

Stay in Saint Jean de Luz to optimize your moves.

If you are planning to visit the Northern Basque Country (French side) and the Southern Basque Country (Spanish side), Saint Jean de Luz will allow you to optimize your travel time, since you will be about halfway between Bayonne and Saint Sebastian.

Saint Jean de Luz is also a quicker way to get to La Rhune for a hike or the cogwheel train.

If you want to stock up on meat, cigarettes, alcohol and gasoline in Spain, Saint Jean de Luz is also ideal as Spain is cheaper for these goods.

You will also be able to get to the villages of Aïnhoa, Sare and the witches’ village of Zugarramurdi more quickly, and be closer to the mountains for hiking.

Typical house from Navarre Basque province
Zugarramurdi

Saint Jean de Luz if you come by train.

Unlike Biarritz station, which is located off-center in the Negresse district, the Saint Jean de Luz station is in the center of the city.

The port is right next door, the pedestrian streets too, the waterfront less than 5 minutes walk away.

The platforms of the station also benefit from a superb view of the Rhune.

The station has an Avis office. If you want to rent a car, you can pick it up directly from the train.

There is no more auto-train service between Paris and Biarritz (abolished since 2017).

Biarritz if you arrive by plane.

The airport for the Northern Basque Country is located in the municipalities of Anglet and Biarritz.

The airport of Biarritz Pays Basque is obviously not in the city center but it is nevertheless located in the city, at approximately 2kms from the train station.

You can rent a car there.

Saint Jean de Luz if you want to move only on foot and by public transport.

The train station in Saint Jean de Luz is more convenient than the airport in Biarritz, since you can go directly to your pre-booked hotel in the center.

The bus station is located in front of the station and you can also take the train to go to Bayonne, Hendaye, or even Pasaia and San Sebastian by taking the Euskotren – nicknamed Topo – to the right on the square when leaving the station of Hendaye.

Saint Sebastian panorama from Igueldo Mount
Saint Sebastian panorama from Igueldo Mount

Saint Jean de Luz if you want to go to Spain several times.

I have already talked about it above for the optimization of the travels: Saint Jean de Luz is the ideal base to go to Spain.

Both for walks along the waterfront.

Biarritz and Saint Jean de Luz both benefit from an exceptional seafront, with magnificent views of the coast, the Pyrenees and Spain.

In Biarritz, you can walk from the lighthouse to the beach of the Côte des Basques, passing by the Grande Plage, the fishermen’s port, Port-Vieux and the Rocher de la Vierge.

The beach of La Milady – and its neighbor Ilbarritz – is also worth a visit. From the center, you will have to go there by car or by bus.

In Saint Jean de Luz, the waterfront in the center is smaller but more authentic. You can easily walk to the other side of the harbor, to Ciboure, to the Fort of Socoa and to the road of the Corniche.

The harbour of Saint Jean de Luz and Ciboure
The harbour of Saint Jean de Luz and Ciboure

Saint Jean de Luz for the Route de la Corniche.

The most beautiful part of the Basque coastline on the French side is the route de la Corniche.

Although now closed to hiking on this part of the coastal path, you can drive along it, between flysch cliffs plunging into the ocean on one side and the Pyrenees on the other. Don’t hesitate to park your car in the parking lots provided to enjoy the view and take pictures.

Do not venture on the old coastal path: the cliff is collapsing and that is why this part of the path is now closed.

View of the ocean and cliffs from Cornish road
The Cornish road

Both for the sunsets.

In Biarritz, my favorite place to enjoy the sunset is the Rocher du Basta.

In Saint Jean de Luz, it is the road of the Corniche.

Both for the views of the Pyrenees.

We can see the Rhune better from Saint Jean de Luz, but the 3 Crowns are more visible and photogenic from Biarritz.

Sunset on Pyrenees mountains
Sunset on Pyrenees mountains 3 Couronnes

Biarritz or St Jean de Luz for swimming with children ?

Saint Jean de Luz !

The bay is well protected by two dikes, that of Artha and that of the Fort of Socoa.

It makes the ocean calmer than in Biarritz.

St Jean de Luz beach and Pyrenees
St Jean de Luz beach and Pyrenees

Biarritz or Saint Jean de Luz for surfing?

Biarritz for sure!

Did you know that surfing was first introduced in France in Biarritz? On the beach of the Côte des Basques to be exact.

Biarritz for rugby.

To support Biarritz Olympique, it is of course Biarritz… for the moment…

Saint Jean de Luz for Cesta Punta.

If you are interested in the Cesta Punta, the Internationals of this sport take place every year during the summer in Saint Jean de Luz.

Both for golf.

Both cities and their surroundings offer several beautiful golf courses.

Biarritz for the nightlife.

Biarritz is more suitable for “party people”.

Saint Jean de Luz for Basque food.

Due to its history and development, Saint Jean de Luz has remained anchored in the Basque culture, much more than the heteroclite Biarritz.

The city has many culinary specialties: the chipiron à la Luzienne, the Adam macaroon (created for the wedding of Louis XIV), the ttoro (kind of fish soup).

The best ttoro is eaten at “Chez Mattin” in Ciboure.

The city being a tuna and sardine port, these two fish are used in many preparations and have their annual festival.

Grilled squids on a plate
Chipirons

Saint Jean de Luz for the Basque churches.

In Saint Jean de Luz, there is the church of Saint Jean-Baptiste, in which Louis XIV was married.

The church of Ciboure is also very pretty, with its typical Basque architecture – galleries, as in Saint Jean de Luz – and its bell tower visible from Saint Jean de Luz.

The Sainte-Eugénie church in Biarritz, although very pretty, does not have a gallery. The same goes for the very beautiful Imperial Chapel of Biarritz or the Russian Orthodox Church, of Russian style as its name indicates!

Outside Ciboure church
Ciboure church

Biarritz for the cultural activity (theater, museums).

Biarritz has several interesting museums, such as the Asiatica Museum, my favorite museum in the area.

Saint Jean de Luz for the Basque traditions.

Saint Jean de Luz organizes several purely Basque festivals: Udaberria dantzan (dance festival of the 7 Basque provinces), Saint John’s Day with the Corsairs’ mass, Fête Dieu,…

Biarritz for Christmas.

Every year at Christmas time, Biarritz highlights its most beautiful monuments during Biarritz en lumière, a magnificent sound and light show.

Rocher de la Vierge illuminated during Biarritz en lumiere Christmas show in 2017
Rocher de la Vierge

Saint Jean de Luz in June.

If you come in June, choose Saint Jean de Luz as your base. At this time Udaberria Dantzan and the festivals of Saint Jean de Luz take place.

Depending on the dates of your stay, you can also go to Irun for its famous alarde (military parade in Napoleonic dress).

What to do in Saint Jean de Luz : Udaberria dance festival
Zamalzain, the Basque horseman

Biarritz for a stay in a palace.

The Villa Eugenie, originally built by Napoleon III for Empress Eugenie, and rebuilt after the fire that ravaged it, is now one of the few French palaces: the Hotel du Palais.

Check availabilities here

Best luxury hotels in Biarritz France
Hôtel du Palais

Both for the references to the history of France.

Both cities have a rich historical past, both related to their maritime facade – whalers in Biarritz, privateers in Saint Jean de Luz – and to their place in French history.

Saint Jean de Luz for the fans of Louis XIV.

King Louis XIV was married in the church of Saint Jean-Baptiste in Saint Jean de Luz.

The Infanta of Spain, Maria Theresa of Austria, slept the night before the wedding in the Venetian-style house of a wealthy shipowner of the time, now called Maison de l’Infante. As for the King, he stayed in the large white house with turrets of another shipowner, now called Maison Louis XIV. This is where the wedding night took place.

Biarritz for fans of Napoleon III.

Before Napoleon III built the Villa Eugenie for his wife, Biarritz was essentially a small village of fishermen and farmers, where the practice of therapeutic sea bathing had begun.

With the construction of the Villa Eugenie, many great people of the kingdom and neighboring kingdoms decided to build their own private mansion in Biarritz. This explains the heterogeneous nature of the architecture in Biarritz.

Are you a travel agency or tour operator looking for a bilingual French-English guide for your next tour in the Basque Country?

Contact me! In addition to being a seasoned traveler, I have worked for 19 years in the field of passenger customer relations, conflict management and connection breakdowns in international stations in the Basque Country. You can learn more and take a direct phone appointment with me on my guiding page, contact me via LinkedIn (link in the sidebar) or via the contact form (link in the bottom menu).

Conclusion – Best Place to Stay in Basque Country.

With these tips, you should now know the best place to stay in Basque Country, Biarritz or Saint Jean de Luz, according to your needs and tastes.

Have you ever visited the Basque Country and what is your favorite Basque city? Tell us all about it in comments!

You can read my complete guide to Biarritz here and to Saint Jean de Luz here

Share this article with your family or friends who are planning their next trip to the South of France.

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Is Biarritz or Saint Jean de Luz the best place to stay in Basque Country

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