Well before coronavirus was a threat to international mobility, I could effortlessly come up with a handful of arguments to rationalize the cost – in terms of both euros and tons of carbon emissions added to the atmosphere — associated with travelling.
You know those invaluable life lessons you can only discover through travel like learning to be patient while trying to communicate in a foreign language and adapting to all sorts of situations such as getting sick and dealing with lost luggage?
While there’s still quite a lot I need to grasp about life, once in a while, I yearn to go on a trip where I can ditch my typical frenetic mentality to see or experience as many things as possible within a short period of time. A trip where instead of racing to do it all, I can wake up without plans for the day. A trip where I can fully immerse myself in art, nature and local culture without the need to constantly check the time.
Our last trip to Biarritz was just that; a family vacation that wasn’t gonna challenge me or give me perspective on my place in the world, and I was OK with that.
Sunshine was definitely one of the primary reasons why I was so joyous about our upcoming trip to France but so was the ocean – I longed to surf and watch sunsets. I longed to see it, taste it and feel it because the ocean always makes me pause, think and dream. It sets my heart free in a way there’s no match for it.
I also yearned to explore rocky inlets, and I wanted to get up early to watch the sun make its way into a new day.
Once in Biarritz, we quickly settled into a relaxed pattern; early morning breakfast on the balcony followed by the walk to one of the beaches where local surf schools were getting ready for a busy day ahead followed by
We took a step back from our to-do lists and Instagram-worthy photo ops and instead embraced what the local community has to offer.
Your ultimate guide to planning the best Biarritz holiday in France
We started with knowing so little about this Basque country and were surprised at 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 than a week could cover but here are useful insights on visiting Biarritz.
Arriving in Biarritz
By plane | There are direct flights with budget carrier Ryanair from Ireland, the 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 the centre of the town 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 euros for a 24-hour pass. You’ll find the bus stop just outside Biarritz Airport, and it runs every half an hour.
By train | You can also arrive at 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 airports, train stations 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 then 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 sautéed 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 | a 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 the funky surf interior are tough to beat.
Tea room and patisserie Miremont is the oldest café 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 Plague beach and the pastries are well worth it.
The Beach House | We loved this place for its organic food, cosy fireplace, and stylish wooden decks. If you fancy spending a relaxed afternoon soaking 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, and little pizzas and the line during lunchtime is usually out the door.
Top things to see and do 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.
#1. Visit Biarritz Lighthouse
Biarritz lighthouse, built in 1834, marks a place where the ocean meets the land and the view from the top of it delivers 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 the 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 café next door as well as a small food truck serving beverages and food.
#2. Stop by 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 essentials and 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. Relax on 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 then go for a walk to the Miariam beach or head out further afield where you can find miles and miles of soft dunes.
#4. Explore Biarritz Aquarium
Located in a stunning building perched on the cliff-top and displaying various exhibits over a number of floors, Biarritz Aquarium is a wonderful place to lose yourself for a few hours. Take your time to wander from one aquarium to another and enjoy the displays of jellyfish and be amazed by the last final fish tank where the sharks, groupers & barracudas swim along with each other.
It is a beautiful well-kept aquarium and when we visited in May it was quiet you could take your time observing the creatures not feeling rushed or pushed out of the way as we have experienced at some venues.
If you time your visit accordingly, you can enjoy one of the main events – the feeding of the seals which usually takes place twice daily. The keeper explains the habits of these amazing marine creatures as they munch on fresh mackerels.
Great day trips from Biarritz
One of the remarkable things about Biarritz is its exceptional coastal location, situated between the Atlantic Ocean, and the Pyrenees and not too far from the Spanish border. Why not take advantage and go for a drive through the mountains or visit one of the 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.
- Sare | 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.
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 line-ups 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 it’s 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 right, it is the ideal place for longboard surfing. 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 a 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
When it comes to booking accommodation, know what’s really important to you. Are you willing to spend more money on a big and comfortable bed or you can easily share a dormitory with other like-minded travellers just to have that extra cash for a meaningful travel experience?
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 much fancier, you can always splurge and stay at a lavish five-star, 19th-century Hotel du Palais built by Napoleon III for his spouse, pamper yourself in one of the charmingly elegant French mansions, choose a beachfront hotel or stay in a cheerful country house on the outskirts of the town.
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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!