Last Updated on 10 March 2021 by Stephanie Langlet
Welcome to biarritz Travel Guide!
You will make the most of this guide on Biarritz if you want to know the top things to do in Biarritz, the best tips to discover this beautiful coastal town of the Basque Country and/or want to discover its true soul.
This guide is designed to describe what makes it an attractive city, its fascinating history, places to visit, the best hotels and restaurants, when and how to get there, and so on.
Please come back regularly for new information and updates.
Combine this information with your own experience and you will enjoy the city and the Basque Country like a local.
Although many festivals will not be held in 2021, you will find them on the downloadable calendar below. It is indeed a perpetual calendar. Festivals are sorted by month and only fixed-date festivals have their exact dates indicated. So you will be able to use it from one year to the next without difficulty!
Where is Biarritz France located?
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.
Best things to do in Biarritz.
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 to enjoy the best in Biarritz: places to see, where to stay, when to come, etc.
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.
Chapter 1: What to do in Biarritz?
The city has many places to visit, from beaches to churches, a superb Asian museum and more. Discover some of them below.
Rocher de la Vierge
Côte des Basques Beach
Biarritz main beach
Chapter 2: Where to stay in Biarritz?
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.
Best luxury hotels
Chapter 3: How to go to/from Biarritz?
You will find here some articles about Biarritz airport and Biarritz train station.
Chapter 4: How to go from Biarritz to…
In this chapter, I compare the modes of transport for each destination. You will know if you should choose between the plane, train or bus.
Chapter 5: Places to visit near Biarritz.
The travel guides below are for cities near Biarritz.
SAINT JEAN DE LUZ
Chapter 6: Best time to visit Biarritz.
If I were you, I would avoid the French holidays, especially July and August, when the beaches are crowded.
Biarritz can be visited all year round but the best way to enjoy both a beautiful weather and a quiet atmosphere is in May-June or in September-October.
Christmas time is also one of my favourite time as Biarritz organize a magnificent Sound and Light Show called “Biarritz en lumière”. Each year, the program can be found here.
Keep in mind that Biarritz is the town in France where it rains the most, even more than Brittany that is reputated for its rain. See how our Basque Country is beautifully green and how many famous golf courses we have!
Warning regarding covid-19.
Approximately 1 in 5 people work in the tourism sector in the Basque Country. Tourism represents more than 20% of the area’s GDP. It is also the main economic resource…
This being said, the Basque Country is inevitably very affected economically by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, what affects and traumatizes the locals the most at the moment is the attitude of some disrespectful, insulting and irresponsible tourists.
Not only they don’t wear any mask, move in groups and don’t respect social distances, but the locals are regularly insulted by these same people.
So no, the people who live in the Basque Country have nothing against tourists. Yes, we will be happy to welcome you as soon as we can do it safely, for you and for us. But no, we don’t need you to throw your money in our faces and tell us to shut up and that we’re happy for you to support us. If that’s what you think, I strongly advise you not to come to our region, not now, not later. You would be extremely badly received, and with good reason…
Do I need a visa?
Depending on your nationality, you may need a visa. Check below. It’s free, fast and easy!
Do I need to read the whole guide?
If you are visiting Biarritz soon and want to know the top things to do in Biarritz and around, I recommend that you read this guide from beginning to end. You will find all the practical information you need to organize your trip, presented in a concise and simple way.
Otherwise, you can choose the chapters or articles corresponding to your current need.
If you don’t have the time to organize your trip, don’t be discouraged; with my partner travel agency, we can help you with tailor-made tours and excursions that match your personality and desires.
You can find more information on other destinations in the Basque Country across this site