All that glitters is Biarritz. A captivating beachside city set in the Bay of Biscay, known for old school glitzy glamour and laid back surfing. To borrow from visitor Frank Sinatra, it’s our kinda town.
From the colourful, striped sunshade tents, to the joie de vivre overspilling from the bars and restaurants, this relaxed city is ideal for pottering or indeed tottering (depending on the time of day) year-round. A sheltered bay, glistening sands and more footbridges than a Lord of the Rings novel, connecting the promenade to little islands.
WHERE TO STAY
Originally built for Napoleon and the Empress Eugénie, as their summer villa, you can now stay here without the need to command an army, although a bank card is rather handy. Just looking at it from the beachfront makes you feel like royalty (many of whom have stayed here along with the likes of Coco Chanel and Frank Sinatra). When the French get it right with a hotel, they really get it right. Dine at the Michelin-starred Villa Eugenie restaurant and wander onto the beach after dinner with a large glass of brandy afterwards.
A great little find, just steps from Les Halles de Biarritz. Housed in a 16th-century building with a courtyard oasis and rather splendid interiors; Italian wallpaper, antiques and colours that match our gelato collection. Opt for the room with its own AstroTurf roof garden and day bed.
Make yourself at home at this boutique hotel, guest house, come villa (they are a little confused but it’s well worth it). The reception area opens onto a sunny tree filled deck but what really makes it stand out is that this is the real deal when it comes to all the trappings of family-run B&Bs. Make sure you get up in time for the french viennoiseries still warm from the oven.
WHERE TO EAT
Do as the locals do, that’s what we say. A buzzing restaurant in a lively area, overlooking the market and serving excellent pintxos. If you’re not LOCAL, there is an English menu but you will be judged. GCSE French has never felt so good as times like these.
It’s in the name. An epic location to get fed and watered, right on the seafront – perfect for watching honed surfer types catch the waves. Tuck into hefty burgers (it’s hard work watching) and sensational seafood from a window perch while instagramming the collection of vintage boards hanging from the ceiling and pretending your doing a little Point Break. Don’t forget to book.
All roads lead to Rome but only one leads to Chez Albert. Stroll along the coast path to Port des Pêcheurs, the old fishermen’s port, and treat yourself to seafood fresher than Captain Nemo’s dinner table.
Order a chilled glass of rosé at Crampotte 30 (there are 72 crampottes in Biarritz) and enjoy the picturesque view. It gets better the further down the bottle you get too.
WHAT TO DO
This undercover red-bricked food market is a must. Open every day (no seriously, even in France) 7am – 13.30pm so there is no excuse not to visit. Unless you’re on a diet. The variety, colours and smells are quite fantastic. Locals go to town in here, so it doesn’t feel like a tourist hotspot. Start with brekkie and a coffee, and pick up a warm baguette along with all other delicacies for a picnic lunch. Everything you ever wanted will be here. Oh and that squawking noise is a recording to keep out those pesky pigeons.
You can’t not have one when a city is 99% beach and famous for its surfing. Head to Grand Plage, the most prominent with its iconic tents. Hard not to resist the sparkling waters ahead and you will surely be tempted in for a dip with or without a board. Just keep an eye out for the separate areas. “Let’s go surfin’ now, everybody’s learning how” – join the cool kidz and take a lesson (a one hour private lesson including wetsuit and insurance is €100). This is the European birthplace of surfing, with an annual festival in July and the world championships, so you’ve no excuse. Next year it could be you winning the title.
Explore on Foot
Put your best foot forward and take a seaside saunter to the lighthouse taking in the Biarritz Grande Plage, La Rocher de la Vierge (the bridge was built by the same architect as the Eiffel tower and you get the best views from the rock) and La Côte des Basques. As well as taking in the promenade, explore the old town with its rather hefty mix of architecture. If you are travelling with young un’s make a pit stop at the Aquarium in an Art Deco building overlooking the sea.
This Summer British Airways restarted flights from Heathrow – and if you are a nervous flyer or need the excuse for more time off, there is always the option of a train via Paris.
Brush up on your GCSE French, you get yourself to the top table.
Pack good walking shoes (don’t roll your eyes, you can still look hot) and a windproof jacket – the one-way system isn’t a lot of fun if you’re driving, it’s a city best explored on foot.
A pair of espadrilles, made in the region for centuries, from family-run Lartigue 1910 or Art of Soule make a fantastic souvenir. Don’t miss Pariès, a 130-year-old Basque confectionery chain renowned for “mouchou” macaroons. You won’t want to be wearing heels for a while after visiting there anyway.
Explore the region, with a day trip to Bayonne, the chocolate capital of France and a charming town with wobbly (like its chocolate eaters) old timber-frame houses and Musée Bonnat. Or if you’re feeling adventurous take the rickety, antique mining train, Le Petit Train de La Rhune.
Contributors: Auree Adventurer Rosie Lloyd
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