Rooted in both Basqueness and affluence, Biarritz is a highly desirable destination for the French.
Situated in the Southwest of France, Biarritz is engrained in both French and Spanish traditions. Known for its popular beaches, posh hotels, and laid-back bistros; the Basque capital has attracted many socialites from Empress Eugenie to Frank Sinatra. Filled with scenic routes and crashing waves, Biarritz welcomes both avid surfers and sunbathers. Here is your guide on how to make the most of a weekend in this luxurious seaside destination.
HOW TO GET THERE
Located in the Basque region in the South of France, Biarritz is accessible both by car which is a 7-hour drive, depending on traffic; and by train – approximately a 4-hour ride and costs about 120 euros. But, we highly suggest driving especially if you wish to visit the surrounding areas of Biarritz.
Note: Basque region boasts its own dialect, spoken only by older families and true natives.
SEE / DO
Explore La Villa Belza.
4 Esp. du Port Vieux, 64200 Biarritz
If the walls could talk! Built in the late 19th century, Villa Belza – meaning black in Basque – is a house full of obscurities (hence, the name.) Located between the The Rock of the Virgin and The Devil’s Bridge, its mysterious atmosphere has always been the background of dark and local legends of witches and ghosts. Perched on a rock, overlooking the distant mountains, Villa Belza is the most symbolic figure of Biarritz and is present on all postcards and tourist images. Beyond its mesmerizing ambiance, the Villa has an interesting history. During the Roaring 20s, it was converted into a Russian cabaret and later on was the setting for a few movies. After two devastating fires, however, the house was left in a state of decrepitude until it was renovated and classified as a historical monument in 1997 by the city. Today, after numerous renovations and modernization, you can rent a studio in this exceptional setting (at your own peril…)
Spend your afternoon on one of Biarritz’s numerous beaches.
One of the most popular activities to do in Biarritz is simply laying on the beach or surfing! Today, Biarritz adopted the California-style beach culture as surfing was embraced by both locals and tourist, putting the city on the map as the birthplace of European surfing. For surf lovers, we recommend setting sail for La Plage de la Côte des Basques, known for its impressive waves and breathtaking view on the mountains and Spanish coast. The most famous beach in the coastal city is La Grande Plage. With its striped huts, glittering water, and cafés; this beach is worthy of a postcard. Finally, La Plage Miramar is a family favorite as it is located at the bottom of a cove.
Visit Le Rocher de la Vierge, or The Rock of The Virgin in English.
Rocher de la Vierge, 64200 Biarritz
Surrounded by crashing waves and rock formations, The Rock of the Virgin is impossible to miss and is a true Basque icon. The statue of the Virgin Mary was built under the Second Empire by sailors who were saved from shipwreck by a mysterious light on top of these rocks. Later on, Napoleon III used it as an anchor point for the harbor. Originally, you could reach the rock by a wooden pedestrian bridge, but it was replaced by a metallic one in 1887 by Gustav Eiffel (the same architect who built the Eiffel Tower.) Be sure to enjoy the picturesque setting as you cross it. For a more precise look, a tunnel was built under the rock as a way to observe the beaches and the view more closely.
Treat yourself with a seaside lunch at Le Café Basque par Cédric Béchade.
5 Pl. Bellevue, 64200 Biarritz
Le Café Basque is a mythical address in the heart of the bustling Biarritz, that we recommend for lunch! Attracting an overall jet set clientele and passing tourists, this restaurant/hotel is must-do as it is one of the oldest and proudest institutions of this town. Chef Cedric Bechade has created a superb menu honoring Basque dishes, such as: a deconstructed piperade (the famous Basque vegetable stew) and roasted calf with toasted broth. We highly recommend trying the marinated scallops– extraordinary, but don’t forget to leave room for dessert as the Framboisier is to die for. These courses have put Chef Bechade in the spotlight, as one of the most up-and-coming chefs in the region. Enjoy these delicate dishes in the blue-toned dining room, offering a breathtaking view of the sea.
Have dinner at Chez Albert.
51, bis All. Port des Pêcheurs, 64200 Biarritz
Situated in the Fishermen’s Harbor, Chez Albert is a locally-known establishment facing the open sea. If you are an avid fish lover, we strongly recommend dining there. Fresh and diverse, Chez Albert offers a rich selection of seafood platters, oysters, shrimps, langoustines, lobsters, clams…etc. Do not forget to try its signature dish: a roasted Saint-Pierre accompanied by seasonal vegetables. To underline the whole experience, the seafood is supplemented with Normand butter, rye bread, lemon, vinegar, and shallot. Ideally located on the dock, enjoy a seafood platter and a glass of white wine either in the dining room or on the shaded terrace.
Have lunch in a typical oyster shack.
62 Rue Gambetta, 64200 Biarritz
A must-do in Biarritz is relishing in an oyster shack for lunch! La Cabane à Huîtres welcomes you in a rustic shack infused with vintage pieces of décor. The owners, Sophie and Laurent, created a simple yet delicious menu offering nothing but fresh and local seafood. On the shadowy terrace, revel in diverse plates, including: oysters, scallops, shrimps, and whelks while savoring a glass (or a bottle) of white wine. We suggest ordering a few different courses and sharing it between your party. It makes the experience further pleasurable! La Cabane à Huîtres represents the perfect refreshing and invigorating mid-day break.
Dine at Le Château du Clair de Lune.
48 Rue Alan Seeger, 64200 Biarritz
Le Château du Clair de Lune in Biarritz combines a rustic manor in the middle of nature, as well as a charming restaurant. The four-star hotel is snuggled away from the busy city life, in an 8-hectare park filled with magnolias and roses. Romantically named, its graceful architecture matches its name. With a white façade, vegetation, and fountains; the hotel perfectly embodies the Basque way of life. The rooms are equally spaced out across the manor and the hunting lodge, rocked in an old-world elegance, featuring 18th century furniture, typical bathrooms, and a beautiful view on the mansion’s garden. On site, many services are offered, such as: a pool, horseback riding, golfing, kayaking, an enchanting restaurant…etc. For a modest but tasty diner, L’Atelier is a delightful option. Under the supervision of the Michelin-starred chef, Alexandre Bousquet, you will be able to sample Basque dishes made with high-quality ingredients, such as: the golden sautéed calf sweetbread with onion or the traditional grilled Turbot. Culinary reference in Biarritz, enjoy the chef’s plates on the restaurant’s shaded terrace overlooking the private park.
Have a late-night drink at Hôtel du Palais.
1 Av. de l'Impératrice, 64200 Biarritz
This is probably the most famous hotel in all of Biarritz and is perfect for a late-night drink on the terrace. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Hôtel du Palais is flawlessly located on the beach while being within walking-distance from the town’s center. Built during the Second Empire, this luxury hotel was a token of love from Napoleon III to his wife, Empress Eugenie. Combining an undeniable link to the past while serving as a symbol of French opulence, the five-star resort is an icon and retains its splendour to this day. Famous stars, politicians, and international clients come from all over the globe to stay in this prestigious establishment. Each of the 86 rooms and 56 suites are a testament to the hotel’s history and offer unique views on Biarritz’s rooftop or the ocean. After dinner, head to the Napoleon III bar to appreciate a much-needed cocktail from its vast selection of whiskeys, vintage champagnes, and wine. For a wellness day, a spa – spread out on four floors – is at your disposal featuring an indoor pool, saunas, hammams, and many more services. Hôtel du Palais is more than a hotel, it is a Basque legend.
Indulge delectable red wine at L’Artnoa.
56 Rue Gambetta, 64200 Biarritz
For a lavish wine tasting in a chic ambiance, l’Artnoa is the place to be. Especially if you wish to gain a deeper understanding of wine traditions. Serving as both a wine cellar and a wine bar, sample exquisite and various wines accompanied by high-quality boards: white ham with truffle, charcuterie, cheese, tarama…etc. The owner, Antoine, is simply charming and more than happy to share his experience and knowledge of wine with the customers. In addition to the dazzling vino, various services are offered, including: wine tasting courses, organizing personalized cellars, selection of wines by the glass, and numerous others. Champagne, rosé, white and red wine…what more could you ask for?