Last Updated on
Biarritz France is a coastal resort located in the Basque Country’s urban community, in the department of the Pyrénées Atlantiques in the New Aquitaine region, in the southwest of France. Less than 25 kilometres from Spain along the Basque coast, it includes 4 kilometres of beaches and coves opening onto the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Biscay.
The Biarritz location, mild climate, beautiful coastline, surfing, golf, architecture, the persistence of the Basque Country’s strong cultural identity, rugby, thalassotherapy and luxury industry make it a popular seaside destination for tourists and celebrities alike. In August 2019, the city even served as a setting for the G7.
The city of Biarritz offers many opportunities for entertainment, visits and swimming, as does the entire Basque-Landes coast, easily accessible by car and public transport. The most famous villages in the hinterland, such as Espelette or Saint Jean Pied de Port, and the Pyrenean mountains are only a few kilometres from pretty picturesque roads.
The best attractions in Biarritz are the Grande Plage and Côte des Basques, the Rocher de la Vierge, the lighthouse and the aquarium of Biarritz, all five located in the centre. There are many other popular attractions in Biarritz outside of these, such as the Fishermen’s Port, the Imperial Chapel or the City of the Ocean.
The presence of these main attractions in the centre makes it the ideal base to visit Biarritz and its surroundings. There are the best hotels, a wide range of restaurants, bars and places to relax.
Below, I tell you about the history of Biarritz, before sharing everything you need to know for an excellent Biarritz holiday with all the best in Biarritz.
Walking along the Biarritz beach is one of our favourite activities, thanks to the diversity of the landscape, the ever-changing colours, the sunsets over the Pyrenees and the sensational panoramic bars and restaurants.
Inhabited since prehistoric times, the town was for a long time a village divided in two: the peasants on the side of the Basta Rock (the footbridge rock opposite the church of Saint Eugénie), the sailors near the port, on the Atalaye and up to the rock of the Virgin. Hence its name Miarritze, the two rocks.
Like many cities in the Basque Country, for a long time people lived there on whaling, which they skin in the creek of Port-Vieux. The disappearance of cetaceans caused the city to decline, until at the end of the 18th century doctors declared the sea baths of the “queen of beaches” as therapeutic . The mentally ill are then thrown into the icy waves, in the hope that the shock will bring them to their senses!
Soon after, tourism replaced medication, attracting aristocrats and common people, French and foreign. One welcomes Napoleon and Josephine, Victor Hugo and Juliette Drouet, Flaubert, Stendhal… and the Montijo family.
In 1854, one of the daughters of this family returned with her husband, Louis Napoléon Bonaparte. It was love at first sight and the couple decided to build their summer residence, Villa Eugénie, now Hotel du Palais and Palace Biarrot. All the court, kings, queens and princes of other countries decided to follow his example and built their own private mansion around the Avenue de l’Impératrice.
In 1870, the city had nearly 10,000 inhabitants and received 50,000 tourists. During the Belle Epoque and the Roaring Twenties, it became “the beach of kings”, welcoming among others the greatest stars of cinema, fashion, finance, literature and the arts, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Windsor. Hotels are getting bigger and more luxurious.
With the stock market crash of 1929 and the great depression that followed, the celebration was over. In the 1950s, the last aristocrats left the city in the face of the advent of mass tourism.
Today, the city has about 25,000 inhabitants, a high proportion of whom are seniors.
You can read more about its story here
Today, if you visit the city, you will find a city centre concentrated around the previous villa Eugénie, beautiful old private mansions and the Grande Plage, and several beaches and coves to the north and south, stretching from the lighthouse to the Côte des Basques. There is a wide choice of accommodations for all budgets such as the fabulous Hotel du Palais or Windsor Grande Plage and plenty of places to relax, have fun and enjoy the beach.
What are the top attractions to visit in Biarritz?
The city has many places to visit, from beaches to churches, a superb Asian museum and more. Discover some of them below.
There is a wide choice of hotels, from luxury hotels with private beaches, thalassotherapy or spa to economy hotels and youth hostels. Read my guides below.
You can find more information on other destinations in the Basque Country across this site