Happiness comes in many shapes and boarding a plane on a Saturday morning with two travel comrades by my side to one of Europe’s prime surf destinations, is unquestionably one of them.
We have not visited France’s iconic southwestern town, and we have not marvelled at its iconic sandy beaches hemmed in by cliffs, yet somehow we loved it already.
Maybe Biarritz has been addressing us personally and whispering endearments trough travel and surf magazine pages we’ve read over the years. Or, perhaps it’s the charm of its rugged coast and prospect of relishing mild climate as the summer season is short-lived in Ireland.
Sunshine was definitely one of the primary reasons we were so joyous about our upcoming trip to Biarritz but so was the ocean – we longed to surf and watch sunsets. We longed to see it, taste it and feel it because the ocean always makes us pause, think and dream. It sets our hearts free in a way there’s no match for it.
We also yearned to explore rocky inlets, and we wanted to get up early to watch the sun make its way into a new day.
Once in Biarritz, we quickly settled into a pattern; early morning breakfast on the balcony, followed by the walk to the beach where local surf schools were getting ready for a busy day ahead. On most days, the early morning air was so fresh it made our cheeks turn healthy pink.
You, me, Ericeira and the ocean was my best-loved part of our seven-day trip to France, and my most-liked memories were about the people we met and spoke to along the way.
I was looking forward to these little and unpredictable chit chats with complete strangers, were we pause for a few minutes, share our stories and wish each other good day and then part away.
Your ultimate guide to planning the best Biarritz holiday in France
We started with knowing so little about this Basque country and were surprised how much we learned in just a week by exploring, surfing and interacting with locals. In this blog post, we would like to provide valuable tips for planning a trip to Biarritz.
We certainly don’t claim to be experts because there is so much more to see and learn about this corner of France then a week could cover but here are useful insights on visiting Biarritz.
How to get to and around Biarritz
By plane / There are direct flights with budget carrier Ryanair from Ireland, United Kingdom and Belgium as well as with Flybe from Belfast, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. You can also travel to Biarritz from nearby Spanish towns such as San Sebastian and Pamplona.
Biarritz Airport / Located only 4 kilometres from towns centre means Biarritz is an ideal place for a weekend break. There is a regular and very convenient bus service, number 14, costing 1 euro one way or 2 euro for a 24-hour pass. You’ll find the bus stop just outside the Biarritz Airport, and it runs every half an hour.
By train / You can also arrive in Biarritz Train station from places like Morcenx, Lourdes, and Dax. The train station is located 3 kilometres from the town centre and is served by night, regional as well as high-speed TGV trains.
Getting around / Public transport in Biarritz is inexpensive and well-developed. Buses frequently run throughout the city from early morning till late at night, connecting airport, train station and nearby towns. However, we found Biarritz to be a very compact and walkable city where all the major attractions can be reached on foot.
Where to eat in Biarritz
If you love a good meal than you have come to a perfect place because Basques certainly know how to cook and enjoy the food. There is no shortage of restaurants specialising in authentic Basque cuisine providing an overwhelming feast for the senses from the fresh fish caught in the Bay of Biscay to the famous red and green peppers, roasted, peeled and sauteed in herbs and garlic.
Biarritz is scattered with cosy cafes and lovely bakeries where you can indulge in fresh pastries, cakes, macaroons, and state of the art chocolates. While you will possibly gawk at the price of some of them, the textures, flavours and fillings are perfectly combined to give your taste buds real satisfaction. Check out our tried and tested favourites below.
- Le Surfing / brilliant place right at the bottom of the Côte des Basque. Food and drinks at Le Surfing are a little bit pricey, but the ocean views at the sunset and a funky surf interior are tough to beat.
- Tea room and patisserie Miremont is the oldest cafe in Biarritz, operating since 1880, overlooking the beach, where you can get a brilliant selection of cakes and ice creams. Just like most things in Biarritz, it is not cheap, but the views over the Grande Plage beach and the pastries are well worth it.
- The Beach House / We loved this place for its organic food, cosy fireplace, the pool bar and stylish wooden decks. If you fancy spending a relaxed afternoon to soak up its idyllic vibe, get in touch with The Beach House, located in Anglet, to make a reservation.
- For fresh bread and pastries / We went to the best boulangeries in our neighbourhood. This “little one on the corner” bakery sells fresh sandwiches, croissants, little pizzas and the line during the lunchtime is usually out the door.
Chez Albert / Located in the old fishing port, Chez Albert serves fresh seafood and wild fish including crabs, grilled sardines, oysters and clams, which you can enjoy on a lovely outdoor patio.
Les Rosiers / To sample traditional Basque cuisine stop at Les Rosiers, located on 32 Avenue Beau Soleil, to sample simple yet delicious meals, selection of cheeses, wild shrimp and unforgettable desserts.
Top attractions in Biarritz
Biarritz is a beautiful city that’s jam-packed with so many unusual things to see and do that it merely requires a repeat visit and there is so much to share and write about it that I just can’t find a way to do it briefly.
There are a good few landmarks and sites to see in the town – you’ll love Place Sainte-Eugenie square where beautiful- inside and out – Sainte Eugenie church and a good few restaurants are located.
Also worth to mention is Biarritz Aquarium, that is home to blacktip reef shark and loggerhead turtle and The City of the Ocean where you can learn through interactive experiences about the blue planet; perfect for those travelling with young kids.
#1. Biarritz Lighthouse
Biarritz lighthouse, built in 1834, marks a place where the ocean meets the land and the view from the top of it deliver fantastic views of its beaches and orange rooftops.
This slender lighthouse clings to the cliff 73 meters above sea level, and you have to climb over 200 steps to the very top for the all-embracing coastal views. The spiral staircase is tiny, and if it is busy, you have to patiently wait in a queue for your turn as the number of visitors is limited due to small space.
Lighthouse is surrounded by a lovely tree-lined park with wooden benches scattered throughout so you can sit down and enjoy fantastic sea views. Free parking is available on site, and there is a lovely cafe next door as well as a small food truck serving beverages and food.
#2. Les Halles food Market
A vast collection of gourmet food counters with regional cheeses, pastries, oysters, fresh fruit, and vegetables are on sale in Les Halles food market. We could not resist returning every morning to pick up lunch essential and to chat with locals. Les Halles food market opens early every day, and you can even join a local market tour that offers food tasting and insights into culinary traditions.
#3. Biarritz beaches
Slow down and soak up the warm rays of the sun during the day or settle and enjoy an explosion of colour for those few minutes before the sun goes down after a long day of sightseeing on one of the soft sand beaches in Biarritz. If the main beaches are too crowded than go for a walk to the Miariam beach or head out further afield where you can find miles and miles of dunes.
Great day trips from Biarritz
One of the remarkable things about Biarritz is its exceptional coastal location, situated between the Atlantic ocean, Pyrenness and not too far from the Spanish border. Why not take advantage and go for a drive through the mountains or visit one of many fishing villages along the coast?
- San Sebastian / as the driving distance from Biarritz to San Sebastian is only 50 kilometres, a quick road trip to this beautiful Spanish city is a no-brainer. France and Spain are part of the Schengen zone, so there is no natural border between the Irun and Hendaye. Besides perfect long sandy beaches and a thriving surfing scene, in this charming place, you will find the biggest museum in Basque history, Santa Clara Island and the beautiful old town.
- Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port / is 55 kilometres from Biarritz. Don’t overlook this beautiful place located in the foothills of the majestic Pyrenees. Saint-Jean-Pied-Port is a charming, little French town, known to be the traditional starting point of Camino Frances.
- Bayonne / One of the most accessible day trips from Biarritz has to be to nearby Bayonne located at the confluence of the Nive and Adour rivers. You can catch a bus from Aillet to Lachepaillet and the average journey time is just 20 minutes. The best things to do in Bayonne include Bayonne Cathedral, Petite Bayonne and Japanese-inspired Botanical Garden.
Where to surf in Biarritz
It is said that surfing in Europe began in the 1950s on the beaches of Biarritz, and American screenwriter Peter Viertel was the first to ride the waves.
Did you know that today doctors in Biarritz are prescribing surfing and paddleboarding lessons as a cure for various illnesses, including depression and arthritis? In some cases, sessions replace all medication. Because of large amounts of seaweed, which adds iodine to the water, it becomes healing. How incredibly genius, yet simple and life-changing is this idea?
If you are planning on riding the waves, there are numerous locations you have to check out. Biarritz offers a great variety of consistent waves. Spring and autumn season is best for uncrowded lineups while winter brings in powerful waves.
- The Grande Plage / is the main beach, located in the heart of Biarritz. This is where you will find the towering Casino and the famous Hotel du Palais. When it comes to surfing its the most popular spot, so it can get very crowded.
- La Côte des Basques / exposed, untamed and framed by rugged cliffs, this beach is great for beginners at low tide. There are plenty of surf schools offering surf lessons and equipment rental for reasonable prices. In the summertime, when the conditions are rights, it is the ideal place for longboarders. However, watch out for the high tide, it is when the water comes all the way up to the rocks, make sure you do not get caught up.
- Marbella Beach / is beautiful sandy and scenic beach located to the south of La Côte des Basques. Generally less crowded, Marbella Beach is popular with swimmers, bodyboarders, and surfers. There is no surf school nearby, so you have to bring your equipment.
Where to stay in Biarritz
We stayed in a rented one-bedroom Airbnb apartment, which was lovely and spacious enough for the three of us. In addition to the great location, close to the beach, funky restaurants, bakery, and shopping, the place had a balcony with a sea view and a little kitchenette.
If you are looking for something fancier, you can always splurge and stay at a lavish five star, 19th-century Hotel du Palais built by the Napoleon III for his spouse, pamper yourself in one of the charmingly elegant Franche mansions, choose a beachfront hotel or stay in a cheerful country house on the outskirts of the town.
Tips, hints, and things to do in Biarritz
- While we do not say this very often, but when in Biarritz, go shopping! This place is overflowing with fabulous little shops and boutiques selling the latest surf gear, fashionable designer clothing and one of a kind Basque handicraft. Keep in mind, most of the shops will close during the day for a lunch break.
- Take a break and check into a Thalasso and Seawater SPA. Recharge your batteries and treat yourself to a relaxing signature massage by Kos Paris, enjoy seaweed wrap or full-body cryotherapy.
- Visit Sylvain Cazenave gallery, who decided to devote his life to the ocean in the process becoming a world-famous sports photographer, and learn more about the surf culture through his photographs.
- Make your way to the nearby town Sare from where you can travel to La Rhune, a 905 m high mountain, accessible via an old train, for fantastic views of the surrounding ocean and rugged coast.
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Now, over to you!
Have you been to Biarritz? Did you go surfing? Let us know in the comments below!
Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Biarritz and have travel-related questions!