Biarritz is a festive seaside destination located in southwestern France and nicknamed “the pearl of the Atlantic.” Biarritz has become a promised land for golfers, surfers, rugby players, as well as for devotees of sea water spa therapy, fitness and relaxation. Its mild climate and the beauty of its coastline make Biarritz a unique destination to discover at any time of year.
A Generous Land
Biarritz is a French municipality located in the Basque Country, in the Pyrénées Atlantiques department and Aquitaine region. Only 18 kilometers from Spain, the city has been built along the coast and combines beautiful beaches, a lovely Mediterranean climate and powerful waves from the Atlantic Ocean which make it a world renowned surf spot.
The Basque Culture
The Basque Country, which is divided into two parts in Spain and France, has a very strong culture. The architecture of the Basque House is characterized by a white color with red stripes, and usually mixes stone and wood in an old-school, authentic design. The region includes traditional sports such as the ball game Basque Pelota, as well as games of strength and rugby union. Last but not least, the Basque language is very specific and its teaching has become a political issue in a country with a centralized system. Whatever the situation in daily life, be sure to note a strong local identity in a very welcoming atmosphere.
Young and Dynamic
Biarritz combines the characteristics of the Basque culture and all you can expect to find in such a world class destination – accommodations of exception, luxury shops and outstanding restaurants. Find your way to the main beach ‘La Grande Plage’ and enjoy a relaxing walk to the hilltops with well preserved nature. The destination is also popular for its array of sports (golf, surfing, rugby union) and thalassotherapy. Whatever your favorite activity is, Biarritz has the best to offer!
The Age of Whaling
Biarritz’s history dates back to the 11th century when it was a whaling village inhabited by Basque and Gascon people. The two centers of settlement were the surroundings of Saint-Martin’s church and the fishing port. Under the English domination, a castle was built on the foundations of a Roman building to defend the port. With the end of the Hundred Years’ War, Labourd and Soule passed to the Crown of France as autonomous provinces and enjoyed autonomy until the French Revolution which suppressed it radically.
“The Beach of the Kings”
In the 18th century doctors determined that the ocean at Biarritz had therapeutic properties, inspiring patients to make pilgrimages to the beach for alleged cures for their ailments.
Biarritz became more renowned from the late 18th century with the sea bathing trend that Napoleon Bonaparte contributed to keep popular when he bathed in 1808. In 1854 Empress Eugenie had a palace built on the beach by her husband Napoleon III. Today it is the Hôtel du Palais. European royalty, including British monarchs Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, started to visit the city which was nicknamed “the queen of the beaches and the beach of the kings.” In 1865, Napoleon III hosted the German statesman Bismarck in Biarritz.
The thermal baths opened in 1893 followed by the casino in 1901, which participated in making the city a notable tourist center for Europeans and North Americans. In 1894, the luxury fashion temple “Biarritz Bonheur” opened, followed by Chanel in 1915.
I want You for the US Army
In 1940, a major command post was installed by the German navy headquarters. In 1944 the city was accidentally bombed by the Royal Air Force although no landing was planned. At the end of World War II, the U.S. Army’s Information and Educational Branch was ordered to establish an overseas university campus for demobilized American service men and women in Biarritz.
The hotels and casinos were converted into quarters, labs and class spaces for U.S. service personnel. The University opened in August of 1945 and approximately 10,000 students attended an 8 week term. This campus was set up to provide a transition between army life and subsequent attendance at a university in the USA, and therefore students attended for just one term.
A Modern Dynamic Resort
After the war, Biarritz started again to host somptuous parties with the elite from all around the world. Nightlife made the reputation of the city. In the late fifties, the trend of surfing began in Biarritz due to the quality and power of the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. In the eighties the city began offering health tourism with thalassotherapia and thermal baths. Today, Biarritz has become a world-class city with a young and dynamic reputation – sport events, luxury shops, and outstanding sights have given it a worldwide dimension.
” Les Océanes “
The event traditionally marks the start of summer. There are many ocean themed animations, as well as art exhibitions, dancing shows, gastronomy contests, the Basque game of strength, concerts, activities for the youth, sports initiation and water sports.
Roxy Jam is a major female longboarding championship on the ASP Association of Surfing Professionals circuit held over five days in mid-July. In addition to the championship, Roxy Jam features spin-off events such as concerts and dancing parties.
” Plein feux” in Biarritz
Between July 14th, the National French Day, and August 15th, come and enjoy more than fireworks – there will be five amazing pyrotechnic shows inspired by cultures of the world.
Since 1997, the Brouillarta has been gathering one hundred selected painters, watercolorists and sculptors, in the frame of the sea gardens overlooking Grande Plage beach. For the artists, the festival is both a display for their work and a venue to interact with the public.
Biarritz with lights
” Biarritz en Lumière ” is a very popular festival of lights which features creative light projects all around the city. During twelve days, architecture and streets are amazingly used to create a magical atmosphere that captivates audiences of all ages.
The Saint-Martin Point Lighthouse
With 248 steps, the 73-meter lighthouse offers outstanding views over the Basque coast, the inner lands, and even the Pyrenees on fine days. Built between 1830 and 1832, the lighthouse is located on the Saint-Martin Point, a rocky outcrop which dominates the city.
Rocher de la Vierge
The ‘Rocher de la Vierge’ (Rock of the Virgin) is a hull-shaped rock located at the end of Atalaye Point, named after its white statue of the Virgin and child. The rock used to be a peninsula but in the late 19th century Napoleon III made drill a 75-meter hole in it to build a dike and a sheltered port. After that, a viaduct was built to link it to the coast and the Virgin statue was established. The project of building a port was abandoned soon after due to violent storms which regularly broke parts of the dike.
The Russian Orthodox Church
Also named ‘Alexandre Newsky church’ after the Russian Prince and Saint of the Russian Orthodox Church, it was built in 1890 by and for the Russian aristocrats who frequented Biarritz until the early 20th century. It features a Byzantine style with an amazing blue-tinted dome and icons from Saint-Petersbourg.
Mainly called “The Hotel of the Palais”, the villa Eugénie was built in 1855 for Empress Eugénie as a summer villa. It was damaged by a fire in 1903 but rebuilt and enlarged after that. In 1880 the villa was sold and made into a luxury hotel which welcomed the elite from all over the world, especially European aristocrats in the early 20th century. With a neo Louis XIII style, the villa has a main building and three perpendicular wings. Today, the hotel includes top of the range restaurants, a bar, a pool, and 124 rooms and 30 suites decorated with period-style.
The idea for a museum came from Marquis Alexandre Guillaume Léopold de Folin in the late 19th century, but the construction of the art deco building only began in 1930 and finished in 1933. Its aim was to present the seabed, the role of the sea in the formation of the continents and show the exploration and exploitation of water resources. In 1992 the museum was renovated and is now equipped with state of the art technology. In 2011, the museum was extended and continues to feature the most modern equipment.