Elegant and aristocratic, the famous seaside resort of Biarritz enjoys a beautiful setting on the Bay of Biscay in France’s Basque Country. Biarritz was a favorite summer destination of the Empress Eugénie (wife of Napoleon III) who transformed the sleepy fishing village into a trendy seaside resort. To entertain her court, the Empress built a grand palace, which is now a luxurious hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant. Beyond this beautiful seaside villa, the names of the streets in Biarritz refer to the city’s royal past: the Avenue de l’Impératrice, Avenue de la Reine Victoria and Esplanade Elizabeth II. Handsome mansions decorated with turrets and bay windows recall the 19th-century splendor of the city.
Although Biarritz’s palatial influence has faded, the city still draws visitors looking for a classic summer getaway. Pristine sandy beaches, beautiful coastal villas and stylish restaurants offer a sophisticated ambiance. Wide sea promenades and well placed benches allow visitors to enjoy the beautiful natural scenery. Biarritz is also the capital of surfing in Europe.
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1 Large Beach
The Grande Plage, one of the largest beaches in Biarritz, has attracted a large number of holidaymakers since the Belle Epoque. This beautiful wide sandy beach starts at Bellevue near the Boulevard du Général de Gaulle and extends to the Hôtel du Palais. In the summer, the beach is covered with sunbathers and their colorful striped cabanas. However, it is important to note that this beach has heavy waves and water safety is posted daily. During certain periods of strong currents, bathing, swimming and surfing are prohibited. Along the beach, the Quai de la Plagepromenade is perfect for taking a relaxing scenic walk. This wide pedestrian walkway offers great views of the breaking waves and the Biarritz Lighthouse in the distance. There are also many upscale restaurants and cafes nearby. Situated on a headland at the end of the Grande Plage is the spectacular Hôtel du Palais. Built by Emperor Napoleon III for his wife Eugénie, this beautiful palace is a national monument that exemplifies the style of the Grand Second Empire. Since 1893, the building has been used as a hotel. The luxurious five-star hotel features a golf course and an elegant Michelin-starred restaurant. The Villa Eugénie dining room is an opulent space with beautiful chandeliers and sensational ocean views. Guests are treated to the finest Basque cuisine while watching the surf crash against the shore.
2 Miramar Beach
This beautiful beach is a place to relax and enjoy the refreshing atmosphere by the sea. Stretching from the Hôtel du Palais to the Pointe Saint-Martin, the Plage du Miramar has breathtaking scenery and impressive waves breaking the shore. While the sheltered beach offers a sense of tranquility, rough seas and strong currents (including riptides) make swimming dangerous. The state of the waves and currents should be considered before entering the water. Surfing is prohibited. The beach mainly attracts sunbathers and spa-goers who often visit Thalassa Sea & SpaCentre. Less touristy than the Grande Plage, Miramar Beach has all the charm of an old-world seaside resort – especially in summer when vintage-style striped beach bars appear. Located just to the north is the Roche Ronde en Plage Bernain , a protected natural area for coastal birds (which is strictly off limits to visitors for safety reasons).
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3 Musee de la Mer (Museum of the Sea)
This exceptional marine museum, one of the main tourist attractions in Biarritz, is located opposite the Rocher de la Vierge. The idea for the museum was conceived by the scientist Marquis de Folin in the 1880s after he launched a scientific discovery of the Bay of Biscay around Biarritz. The museum opened in 1935 with a focus on marine life in the Bay of Biscay while striving to educate visitors about the importance of the ocean waters. The museum features a natural history collection and an impressive saltwater aquarium filled with the nearby ocean. The museum has a panoramic terrace with a seal bath and the seal feeding time is a popular tourist attraction. There is also a touch pool where visitors can pick up a starfish, tickle a fish or sting a sea anemone. Other highlights include a special shark exhibit that showcases their hunting and feeding habits.
Addresses: Plateau Atalaye, Biarritz
Official site: https://www.aquariumbiarritz.com/en
4 Biarritz Lighthouse
The emblem of the historic seaside town, the Biarritz Lighthouse has an essential location overlooking the Cape Hainsart coastline. Built in 1834, the lighthouse stands at the tip of the Pointe Saint-Martin, which forms a border between the sandy beaches of the Landes coast in the south and the rocky coastline of the Basque Country in the north. Visitors can climb the lighthouse’s 248 steps to admire the scenery from this incredible vantage point. The 73 meter high lighthouse offers an exceptional panoramic view of Biarritz and the Basque countryside.
5 Miremont Tearoom
Housed in an elegant 17th-century building, this historic tearoom is one of the oldest establishments in Biarritz. The Miremont is known for its classic patisserie such as éclairs, Gateau Saint-Honoré and strawberry tart, as well as its selection of rare teas. Founded in 1872, the Miremont was frequented by royalty during Biarritz’s heyday. The Spanish King Alphonso XIII enjoyed having lunch here. King Edward VII of England appreciated the Miremont’s refined French pastries. Queen Nathalie of Serbia often bought caramels, a house specialty, for her friends, and Queen Amelia of Portugal used to take her tea in a window seat with the best view. The Miremont tea room offers a beautiful view of the Grand Plagebeach and the Hôtel du Palais . Upstairs, the pretty parlor features pastel pink decor and seems perfectly set up for a gathering place of aristocratic ladies. Tourists can taste the pastries or have lunch in the tea room. The treats are also available and the shop sells gift boxes of bonbons, fudge and other sweets.
Address: 1 Bis, Place Clémenceau, Biarritz
Official site: https://www.miremont-biarritz.com/en/tearoom.html
6 Rocher de la Vierge (Virgin of the Rock)
The Rocher de la Vierge is one of Biarrtiz’s most dramatic sites, perched on a steep, narrow rock in the ocean. The site is reached by an iron bridge built by the Gustave Eiffel workshops. As a focal point, a statue of the Virgin Mary stands on top of the rock and looks out to sea. From this monument, visitors can enjoy a beautiful panorama of the coastline stretching from the mouth of the Adour River to the Spanish border. Other exceptional vantage points are available nearby at the Esplanade du Rocher-de-la-Vièrge and at the Esplanade du Port-Vieux, where you can enjoy a magnificent view of the Côte des Basques fringed cliffs, exposed to the full force of the surf , reaching all the way to the hills of Spain.
7 Imperial Chapel
When Empress Eugénie arrived in Biarritz, she requested that an Imperial Chapel be built for her spiritual worship. Built in 1864, this intimate chapel has an enchanting Byzantine and Moorish interior with beautiful gilded mosaics. The chapel is dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe (the Mexican Black Madonna). Visitors can take a guided tour to learn more about the chapel’s history and inspiration.
Address: Avenue de la Reine Victoria, Biarritz
8 child-friendly beaches
Le Port Vieux beach is the best choice for families with children. This small, sheltered beach is located in the rocky cove of the Port Vieux (Old Port) near the town centre. Because the beach is in a protected bay, the waves are gentle and the water here is safer than at the Grande Plage and especially the Plage du Miramar. The waters are usually calm and offer the best conditions for swimming. The shallow areas are safe enough for children to bathe and splash around, with supervision. As Le Port Vieux is small and less crowded than other beaches in Biarritz, it is ideal for relaxing in the summer. Another great beach for kids is the Plage de la Milady, with a beach promenade and a playground. Bathing and swimming is allowed, except when the water is rough. A word of warning: the guard zone increases at low tide. The Plage de Milady is very popular with locals and bodyboarders.
9 Surfing Beaches
The Côte des Basques is the most famous surfing beach in Biarritz. The powerful waves provide ideal conditions for surfing, and many competitions are held here. Safety Information: Novice surfers should be advised on how and when to enter and exit the water to avoid hitting the stones. Swimming is allowed, except when prohibited during high tide. This beach is also a wonderful place to walk along the ocean, while enjoying the exceptional view of the coast. Next to the Côte des Basques, the Plage de Marbellais another favorite of surfers and bodyboarders for its powerful waves. The beautiful sandy beach is also a good choice for nature lovers. This beach is wild and rugged and only accessible via a steep staircase. Access is difficult for people with reduced mobility.
10 Elegant boulevards and squares
Biarritz’s elegant boulevards, streets and squares are exemplary of the city’s aristocratic heritage. The urban center of Biarritz is the grand Place Georges-Clemenceau , at the convergence of the city’s main avenues. From here it is a short distance to the picturesque Place Bellevue , a beautiful semi-circular plaza with a panoramic view of the beach and the ocean. South of the Place Bellevue is another nature reserve of Biarritz along the Boulevard Maréchal-Leclerc. Nestled in the steep rocky cove between the Rocher du Basta and Cap Atalaye, above the old fishing port, this coastal promenade offers sensational views. This boulevard is a wonderful starting point for a nice walk along the coast of Biarritz.
The history of chocolate is closely linked to the history of Biarritz. This museum introduces visitors to the heritage of chocolate in France, from its discovery in the New World to its development into a sophisticated drink and confection. The museum has a short educational video and a collection of antique chocolatier objects. Visitors have the chance to taste traditional hot chocolate made in the old-fashioned rich European style. The museum also offers chocolate making workshops and pastry classes for children and adults.
Address: 14 Avenue Beaurivage, Biarritz
Official Site: https://www.planetemuseeduchocolat.com
12 Musée Asiatica (Museum of Oriental Art)
This surprising museum displays one of Europe’s top collections of Asian art. There are over 1,000 works of art spanning the history from prehistoric times to modern times. The collections also represent the work of various countries, including China, India, Nepal and Tibet.
Address: 1 Rue Guy Petit, Biarritz
Official site: https://www.museeasiatica.com
13 Historical Museum
In a former Anglican church, the History Museum of Biarritz was opened in 1986 by the Association des amis du musée historique de Biarritz (Association of Friends of the History Museum). The museum has an extensive collection of documents, antiques and works of art. Notable items include a handwritten letter from Empress Eugénie and a painting by Emperor Napoleon III, as well as medals and jewellery. There are also educational videos that offer more insight into the culture and history of Biarritz. The collections share Biarritz’s history from its beginnings as a fishing village to the fashionable Belle Epoque resort that became known as “the resort of kings and the king of resorts.” Tours are available every third Saturday of the month.
Address: Eglise St. Andrews, Rue Broquedis, Biarritz
14 Orthodox Church
This beautiful Byzantine-style church was designed by the famous Biarritz architect Tisnés and built in 1892. The jewel box of a church is decorated with icons from Saint Petersburg, Russia. Visitors will be awestruck by the intricate details of the interior.
Address: 8 Avenue de l’Impératrice, Biarritz
Where to stay in Biarritz for sightseeing
We recommend these wonderful hotels in Biarritz near the beach and the city:
- Hotel du Palais: luxury hotel on the beach, former palace, good food, several swimming pools, beautiful spa.
- Hotel Saint-Julien: mid-range boutique hotel, great location, welcoming owners and staff, charming decor.
- Best Western Plus Karitza: 3-star hotel, modern decor, heated outdoor pool, secure underground parking.
- Le Petit Hotel: budget hotel, convenient location, friendly staff, clean rooms.
Day trips from Biarritz
Espelette is a picturesque Basque village known for its red peppers. The town’s traditional Basque houses are brightly decorated with neatly lined rows of dried peppers. Designated with an AOC label indicating its geographical origin and quality, the famous Piment d’Espelette is a key ingredient in Basque cuisine. In late October, the town of Espelette hosts the Pepper Festival . During this festival, farmers sell their products and visitors enjoy music, dance and local food.
This spectacular coastal town offers one of the best coastal panoramas on the Basque coastline. From a viewpoint on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, visitors can easily see all the way to the hills on the border of Spain.
Another Basque village worth a visit is Saint Jean Pied de Port. Located at an altitude of 1300 meters, this medieval town was an important stop on the route to Santiago de Compostela, and was considered one of the most difficult stages of the pilgrimage. The historic old quarter is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has charming cobbled streets and an important church, the Eglise Notre Dame du Bout du Pont.
Saint Jean de Luz
A quaint fishing village with traditional Basque character, Saint-Jean-de-Luz is steeped in history. Tourists will enjoy the lively atmosphere, authentic culture and delicious food. Also a popular summer destination, Saint-Jean-de-Luz has beautiful sandy beaches with soft waters (thanks to the protection of the ocean by a seawall). The beaches are ideal for swimming and attractive for families with children.
A short drive east of Biarritz is the Salins-les-Thermes, a spa town perched on a beautiful wooded hillside. The spa with its thermal baths is known as a place that improves health. The salty waters of the thermal spring treat specific medical conditions. Surrounded by a pleasant landscape, Salins-les-Thermes is also an ideal place for walks and relaxation in nature.
Less than an hour’s drive from Biarritz is the lively coastal town of San Sebastian in Spain. Famous for its vibrant atmosphere, elegant architecture, beautiful beaches and gourmet tapas, San Sebastian offers a tantalizing taste of Spain’s Basque Country.