Biarritz is a luxurious town by the sea, specifically on the Bay of Biscay on France’s Atlantic coast in the south west. Popular with surfers and other tourists, the town is in Basque territory and you’ll see Basque flags prominently displayed. The city is located in the Aquitaine region in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department. Eleven miles from the border with Spain, it is adjacent to Anglet and Bayonne.
The town was a whaling settlement beginning in the 12th century, and gained prominence in the 18th century when doctors recommended the therapeutic seaside air at Biarritz. But in 1854 the town gained its notable fame when Empress Eugenie, Napoleon III’s wife, had a palace built on the beach. That palace is now the Hotel du Palais. Since Victorian times, the British royal family has taken holidays in Biarritz. In 1901 a casino opened there, ushering in a new wave of tourism.
Despite having great surfing conditions, Biarritz didn’t really have a surf culture until the late 1950s. Today, surfing is a major part of the local culture, and is in fact an emblem of the entire region. Typically, the big surfing crowds don’t arrive in the summer until mid-July. The main surfer beach at Anglet, just to the north of Biarritz does not become crowded until mid-July, and this very long beach contains many surfing schools that provide lessons, boards, and wet suits.
The beaches of Biarritz are considered some of the best in France, and there are many, so you are spoilt for choice there. The Grand Plage, in the heart of the city, is next to the Biarritz casino and the Hôtel du Palais. Miramar Plage boasts views of one of the town’s famous landmarks, the lighthouse. To the south of Biarritz is the lovely Vieux Port Plage. The annual Biarritz Surf Festival takes place at the beaches at Côte des Basques, the area’s most famous surfing beaches.
But even if you don’t surf and don’t intend to learn how, Biarritz is a lovely place for a holiday. Not only are the beaches excellent and scenic, but the night life is unbeatable. Basques have been enjoying a great night life for centuries, it seams, and its reputation only improved with the construction of Empress Eugenie’s Hotel du Palais, attracting some of the world’s most sophisticated vacationers who wanted to relax and have a great time without the bawdier elements from the international society pages.
So if you’re going there in search of celebrity-watching culture, you may be disappointed, but if you’re going there to relax and have a great time among a fairly sophisticated crowd, you’ll love Biarritz. The Basque culture eschews pretension, and is more concerned with sports (including rugby and pelote in addition to surfing) than with setting a tone for international party life.
If you’re in Biarritz to relax, then you won’t feel disappointed and left out. You can find every spa indulgence you can think of in Biarritz, perfect after a day of surfing, or just perfect period. Golfers can enjoy the second-oldest course on mainland Europe at Golf du Phare, close to the centre of Biarritz. Surfing may be king here, but Biarritz knows how to give visitors of all types a vacation they’ll thoroughly enjoy.