France’s ritzy Atlantic resort of Biarritz is famous for many things, among them its love affair with Napoleon III’s wife, Empress Eugenie. On a visit to Biarritz in the 1850’s she fell in love with the city and built a palace on the beach – now the swish Hôtel du Palais – and stayed here frequently. Among her regular guests were Queen Victoria and Edward VII.
Royalty aside, Biarritz is famous for its beautiful rocky coastline, spa therapies, buzzing surf scene and of course its heady fusion of cultures. Its old quarter is simply stunning!
A combination of French, Basque and Spanish lifestyles has created a vibrant hotbed of culture, evident in its mix of cuisine, architecture and local customs. It’s typically associated with wealth, partly due to its noble ties. Over the years the city went from operating prosperous whaling and sea-based industries, to harbouring a growing tourism trade that gathered in popularity from the 18th century onwards.
Today, this beautiful Basque city thrives on tourism. Known as the surfing capital of France, Biarritz attracts a cosmopolitan crowd of beach bums, backpackers and clubbers – along with the archetypal elite. The beaches are pristine and cater for various tastes, while the city’s spa scene continues to attract punters keen to put its Thalasso Therapy secrets to the test.
With rocky beaches, glamorous hotels and a fascinating fusion of cultures, you could easily find yourself blurring the line between French and Spanish life; especially after a glass or two of the locally produced Black Bordeaux. Or is it Rioja?
Biarritz Travel Tip: A Cult Surfing Spot
Biarritz has developed something of a cult following in the surf world, and it’s not hard to see why. Huge Atlantic swells and powerful tube waves are commonplace, making this a surfer’s paradise – especially as several parts of Biarritz’s 6 km coastline is reserved especially for surfing. The sport first emerged here in the 1950’s and left a lasting impression. Today, numerous yearly competitions take place such as the Quiksilver/Roxy Jam tournament, which adds to the buzz and bustle of this chic coastal city.
Whether you’re a tube-riding pro or the grommet of the surf world, everyone is welcome. Anglet is where you’ll find the main surfing beaches, just beyond Pointe St Martin. And for those who don’t know their white-water from a wipeout, there are a number of surfing schools in the area to help you sharpen your skills.
Biarritz Things To Do
1. Treat yourself
In France, Biarritz has long been held as a leading centre of thalassotherapy – also known as seawater treatment. It’s one thing in particular that this coastal city has in abundance, and health experts say November is the perfect time to indulge. Get massaged and soaked spa-style with a range of natural sea water and seaweed treatments, or just relax in warm sea water pools. Several of the top hotels offer spa therapies, or try the likes of Thermes Marins on Rue de Madrid for a more affordable option.
2. Become a beach bum
Of course, no trip to Biarritz is complete without lazing on the beach. La Grande Plage is the main beach and boasts a long stretch of sand with the Point St Martin lighthouse at the end, standing tall in a treacherous rocky outcrop. At the other end is the Rocher de la Vierge and the statue of the Virgin, a symbol of Biarritz, and a network of walkways. If La Grande Plage is crowded, try the beaches at Port Vieux and Milady for a typically quieter ambience.
3. Catch a game
Like many cities in the South West, Biarritz is big on rugby. Really big. So if you have a spare Saturday afternoon and if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a ticket, head to the home ground of Biarritz Olympique Pays Basque at Parc des Sports Aguiléra, and soak up a distinctly red-themed experience.
4. Shop ‘til you drop
Biarritz has a buzzing centre and is home to a seemingly endless array of independent shops and retailers. From fromageries to patisseries, fashion boutiques to chocolateries, the winding streets of central and outer Biarritz are chock-full of wonderful stores to tempt you away from your Euros.
Biarritz Top Restaurants
Our selection of restaurants in Biarritz:
au Port-des-Pêcheurs, 64200 Biarritz
Tel: 00 33 5 59 24 43 84
A highly regarded seafood restaurant in the old fishing port of Port-des-Pêcheurs. Enjoy a vast array of locally-caught seafood such as grilled lobster, paella and shellfish. The menus range between €40 – €65.
1 av. de l’Impératrice, 64200 Biarritz
Tel: 05 59 41 64 00
Enjoy exquisite cuisine in Empress Eugénie’s very own restaurant, located in the famous Hotel du Palais. The Michelin-starred Villa Eugenie is elegant and graceful, serving up a decadent dining experience that’s focused on local seafood and regional produce. Among the typical specialties are sea bass with a Domaine Brana white wine cream, and baby cuttlefish in an Espelette pepper and squid ink sauce. The menu typically ranges from €100 – €130.
4 r. du Port-Vieux, 64200 Biarritz
Tel: 05 59 24 84 65
A contemporary bistro offering fresh, seasonal cuisine with locally produced ingredients that changes on a regular basis. Lunch is typically €15, while evening meals range from €40 – €60.
Biarritz Driving Distances
Driving distances from Biarritz to nearby cities
Bayonne: 8km / 5 miles
San Sebastian (Spain): 50km / 31 miles
Pau: 125km / 77 miles
Bordeaux: 200km / 125 miles
Square d’Ixelles, 64200 Biarritz
Tel: 05 59 22 37 10
Biarritz Property Scene
Biarritz’s Royal heritage has left its mark, and the cost of living here is considered quite expensive – akin to the South Coast of France. Many buildings throughout Biarritz are grand and impressive, designed to give off an air of wealth. On the outskirts, newer developments are generally more accessible, but out here you’ll still find plenty of high-end properties. Being on the coast, the city holds its value well and tourists will always want to holiday here. Prices may be high, but the general consensus is that Biarritz is a sound investment with excellent rental income potential.