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Explore holidays in Biarritz & The Basque Country

Steeped in Basque traditions as old as the hills, this destination reflects a very different take on ‘Frenchness’: one that’s also imbued with the colours of Spain just a short drive away. And if swimming, sunbathing, surfing and sandy beaches don’t appeal, you can try a thalassotherapy spa session, watch an adrenaline-fuelled game of Basque pelote or flex your cultural muscle along the narrow streets of ancient towns and pristine villages where museums, galleries and restaurants are in plentiful supply.

Visit our collection of handpicked villas or boutique hotels in Biarritz & The Basque Country to complete your luxury holiday on the Aquitaine Coast.

Read our guide to Biarritz & The Basque Country

Our guide to Biarritz & The Basque Country

Introduction to Biarritz & The Basque Country

Your invitation back to nature

Rubbings shoulders with Spain, its rolling hills and forests the mediators between lofty peaks and a dramatic coastline, the unspoilt Basque region brings all holiday experiences back to the great outdoors. Around its borders, small beaches and coves, calm seas and surf breaks share the spotlight with the national heritage site of La Rhune, a sacred site in Basque mythology and a doorway to the adventures that await you around the foothills of the Pyrénées. Try canyoning, white-water rafting and pony trekking and nature trails – or take the funicular near Sare up to the 905m-high summit and be swept away by the views.

Perfectly civilised

For more cultivated pleasures, you’ll find nature tamed into the perfect greens of Biarritz’s Le Phare golf course, the second oldest in France, as well as thalassotherapy spas and the healing springs of Cambo-les-Bains – or learn how to navigate the waves with a surfing lesson. There are also countless opportunities to dig a little deeper among the region’s cultural roots in its museums, galleries and exhibitions, or to dine out on its culinary heritage, a combination of fine French cuisine and rustic Basque recipes, handed down from a people as old as the hills and with a hundred stories to tell.

Celebrating ‘Basque-ness’

Said to have been the first Europeans, Basque people embrace tradition like a close friend. They have their own language, Euskera, and their picturesque towns and villages are the embodiment of fierce pride. Each pristine, half-timbered, chalet-style house has a name not a number and is painted dark blue, green or oxblood red, as regulated by the parish. You can learn about their culture in the Bayonne museum or, even better, live it through their food, music, festivals and, most dramatically, their sports: Force Basque, a local take on the Highland games, and the adrenaline rush that is Basque pelote: squash on steroids and the fastest ball game in the world!

The richness of Biarritz

Tradition wears a more glamorous mantle in stylish Biarritz, a darling of the Belle Époque, but also a town where the sea remains a vibrant part of the collective consciousness. Surfboards are as commonplace as designer shopping bags and the beautiful coastal walk between the lighthouse and the Côte des Basques remains the best, and most romantic way to get your bearings. But despite the opulence of the 19th-century Hotel du Palais and the striking art deco casino overlooking the golden Grand Plage, it has its feet on the ground thanks to a new generation of entrepreneurs opening shops, bars and restaurants made for the 21st century.

For tots, teens and inbetweens

From crab fishing at the Port des Pêcheurs to shark watching at the aquarium, Biarritz is a seaside playground complete with chocolate pastries for breakfast. And if a real surfing lesson feels a bit much, there’s a virtual alternative on offer at the wave-shaped Cité de l’Océan. For organised fun in a parent-friendly setting, the children’s beach clubs of St Jean de Luz stand out from the crowd – or, for a day without sea, try a tree-top adventure in Anglet’s Chiberta pine forest or a bounce on the giant inflatable at Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle lake and banish even the thought of a dull moment.

 

At a glance

Currency
Euro (€)
Flight Time
2 hours
Time difference
+1 hour
Language
French
Visa required
Not for UK citizens

Map and other regions

Food & drink

A taste of Biarritz and the Pays Basque

Basque cuisine features Atlantic fish and seafood in abundance, but look out for axoa (a hearty veal stew), Bayonne ham, and Espelette’s famous sun-dried red peppers (le piment). Sheep’s milk cheeses from the mountains are a proud tradition with Petit Basque a particularly mild version, and authentic Basque tapas or pintxos are a must, particularly if you’re visiting Spain’s culinary capital of San Sebastián or nearby Hondarribia– they’re cheaper over the border too!

The covered food markets of Biarritz and St-Jean-de-Luz (Les Halles) are full to overflowing with local produce, and it’s normal to see the locals turning up around 11am for oysters, prawns and sea snails, accompanied by a good glass of wine. Tours and tastings are available – talk to our local representative – and there are plenty of restaurants in the streets nearby. In fact, you’re spoilt for choice wherever you are, although for a sunset supper, try the west-facing restaurants of Bidart, Guéthary and Ilbarritz.

If you have a sweet tooth, the ubiquitous Gâteau Basque, a cake served with black cherry or vanilla cream, is so revered it has its own museum in Sare. Or there’s chocolate. Bayonne is home to some of the most established chocolatiers in France and, along its historic streets, you’ll find shops with an extremely generous free-tastings policy!

Biarritz & Pays Basque tipples

Cider is a popular Basque choice, served, most authentically, straight from the barrel with a cod omelette or steak on the side. Try it for yourself in one of the cider houses near San Sebastián. Wine lovers should look out for the lightly sparkling Txakoli wine or, from the north of the region, a red Irouléguy. And for something a little quirkier, try Egiategia (‘the workshop of truth’), an innovative white aged in barrels under the sea near St-Jean-de-Luz!

And a quick tip if you’re spending an evening in Biarritz… For a more luxurious take on your holiday sundowner, both the terrace of the five-star Hotel du Palais and the rooftop bar of the Radisson Blu Hotel welcome visitors for early evening drinks.

Beaches

Things to do

Events

Throughout the summer

Force Basque events are held in every town and village, a kind of Highland games for the Basque Country with various feats of stamina and endurance, including tug of war and cart lifting.

What's on in May

End of April, beginning of May

The Fêtes de Bibi Beaurivage in Biarritz carries you from one event to the next: Basque dances to omelette competitions; farmers markets to a vintage car show.

What's on in June

Mid June

For fans of motorcycles, surfing and retro culture, Wheels and Waves has plenty of community spirit with races, concerts and exhibitions. Find out more at www.wheels-and-waves.com/en/

Mid June

The Fête de la Musique takes place in multiple venues across France, although, in this particular area, Bayonne takes the lead with a line-up of rock, pop, jazz, classical and hip-hop as well as traditional acts.

21 June

Amid a sea of black and red, the colours of the town’s patron saint, the Fête de la Saint Jean de Luz is a lively celebration with concerts, street food, pelota basque and the toro de fuego (bull of fire).

What's on in July

Thursdays in July and August

The free, family-friendly Jeudis de l’Océan takes place in the gardens of Biarritz’s Cité de l’Océan and features theatre, circus performers, dancers and open-air cinema and concerts. Take a picnic.

Early July

The Festival of the Tuna in St Jean de Luz sees the streets come alive with music and dancing in the traditional Basque way, with stalls selling freshly cooked tuna steaks.

Early July

If you can make your way to Bilbao, the BBK Live Music Festival makes it worth your while with international rock and pop acts performing in the mountains.

Early July

St Jean de Luz’s Night of the Sardines begins with a communal meal of very cheap food and wine accompanied by traditional live music and becomes increasingly less sedate as the evening progresses!

14 July

Bastille Day commemorates the storming of the Bastille, a turning point in the French Revolution. In Biarritz fireworks are set off from the main beach and there’s music and plenty of food and wine.

Mid July

The Biarritz Surf Festival brings the international surfing community together to compete in a variety of events and generally put on a show. It includes spectacles such as tandem surfing and paddle-board racing, against a background of live music.

End of July

The riotous five-day Fête de Bayonne is the largest city celebration in France and a lively celebration of local traditions with music and dancing. Wear red and white!

What’s on in August

Week of 15 August

Eight days of dedicated partying, the Semana Grande San Sebastian includes activities for adults and children, concerts, horse races and bull fights – with a traditional cannon shot fired to kick start the festivities.

The Saturday nearest 15 August

The second Night of the Sardine in St Jean de Luz (see July).

What’s on in September

End of September

During the Fête de la Corniche, for one day only, the 7km road between Socoa and Hendaye is closed to cars so you can walk or cycle it and enjoy a few activities en route.

End of September

Held on the roof of the Biarritz casino, the Festival d’Amérique Latine is a celebration of all things Latin America, with photography, concerts, cinema and traditional cuisine.

The Road Less Travelled

Visit ‘Chocolate Street’ in Bayonne

Bayonne has a rich heritage of chocolate trading and the shops here are home to some of the oldest chocolatiers in France. A visual delight, there’s always a little something standing by to sample - but beware, it’s a highly addictive occupation.

Enjoy an aperitif at the Hotel du Palais

This grand palace dating back to 1855 was once the home of Napoleon III. Now Biarritz’s most famous hotel opens its doors to guests, and what better way to sample the refined atmosphere than with a little livener on the terrace?

Have a family adventure at WOW Park!

Set in 18 hectares of botanical gardens between St Jean de Luz and Hendaye, this magical world of forest adventures offers aerial walkways, tree-top hideouts, trampolines, archery and more. Perfect for children and the young at heart.

Take a hike

The Aquitaine Coast has a south west coast path to rival the UK’s. Admire the geology of la Corniche, stroll through the botanical gardens of St Jean de Luz and finish at the old chapel of Bidart. We recommend enjoying the hike over two separate days.

Paddle board on St Jean de Luz bay.

Leave the bustle of the town and beach behind and glide across the gentle waters of the bay on a paddle board. And if you’d rather sit than stand, take the weight off your feet and hire a kayak instead.

Towns & Villages