Biarritz in Aquitaine is a refined aristocratic town that is now the surfing capital of Europe.
Once enjoyed by royalty, Biarritz is a fashionable town where the Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoléon III, had a beautiful palace built on the sea which is now the Hôtel du Palais. With turreted villas and a Barrière casino, the town is one of old-school elegance but it is has had an injection of youth as a popular destination for surfing.
Hollywood screenwriter Peter Viertel, husband of Deborah Kerr, was the first to surf here in 1957 and discover the wonders of Biarritz's 5 excellent beaches - the Grande Plage covered in stripy tents with shops, cafés and restaurants along the front, the Old Port where there is great swimming for all the family, the wild sandy beach of the Marbella, the Milady with its pretty promenade and the charming and tranquil local beach of Miramar.
The stunning coastline here provides some fantastic coastal walks, especially around the Pointe Saint-Martin. For those looking for more safety when swimming there is also a large outdoor swimming pool just off the beach beside the Hôtel du Palais that is filled with heated seawater.
The beaches and the sea have always been the main draws here and thalassotherapy, the use of seawater and sea products for medicinal and rejuvenating benefits, is popular with 2 thalassotherapy centres in the town.
The sea is also explored in Biarritz's museums with a Sea Museum and the recently opened City of the Ocean. At the Sea Museum you'll discover 50 tanks containing several thousand species of waterlife including sharks, stingrays and barracudas as well as a touch pool. The exhibits focus on many oceanic areas including the Gulf Stream, the bay of Biscay, the Pacific and the Caribbean. Or, find out more about the importance of conservation for the ecosytems of the seas with 3D animations and interactive exhibits at the City of the Ocean.
Other museums in the town include the Planet Chocolate Museum detailing the history of chocolate from the Mayans to today and the Musée d'Art Asiatica filled with artworks from Nepal, Tibet, India and China dating from prehistory to the present day.
Alongside the main attraction of the sea, the town has some wonderful architecture, especially the church of St Martin, a wonderful Byzantine style Orthodox church built in 1892 and decorated with icons brought here from St Petersburg, and the Imperial chapel, a Romanesque-Byzantine chapel built by Empress Eugénie.
If you feel like taxing your brain a little whilst relaxing in the sun, the Festival of Games happens twice a year here in February and July with players competing at scrabble and bridge. Or, if you can't resist running around outdoors, why not get active with a game of Basque pelota, a local sport that you can watch or try your hand at?
There are also several golf courses around the town. Shopping in Biarritz is a pleasure with chic fashion boutiques on the Place Clémenceau alongside big brand surf shops and local shops selling traditional Basque textiles. You can also enjoy the tastes of the Basque region with tapas bars and traditional restaurants serving Basque cuisine with more gourmet fare on offer in town too.
Holidays in France
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