Biarritz has the best of both worlds with picturesque beaches, coastline and surfing spots as well as plenty of cafes, restaurants and bars. It’s easy to say Biarritz is one of my favourite places so far! Be warned this hot destination is no secret and if you visit in the summer time you’ll find out it’s plenty of other peoples (locals and tourists alike) favourite place too. Hit the beaches early to avoid crowds or otherwise get your elbows ready to secure a spot to lay your towel on the sand.
THINGS TO DO:
- Put on your joggers and walk the coastline to take it all in. We parked our van outside of Biarritz in the neighbouring town of Anglet (worth exploring in itself and much less touristy) and then started our walk heading up and over the cliffs, past the lighthouse (which offers a great view of Biarritz) and along La Grande Plage (don’t forget to look left and admire “The Palace Hotel” a famous 5 star hotel) to arrive in the heart of it all. We continued to follow the coastline along past the port area, the rock with the Virgin Mary statue and Port Vieux beach (stopping for photographs along the way – there’s plenty) until we arrived at Cote des Basque and were rewarded with The Biarritz Beer Festival in full swing! We sat down and indulged in the food and beverages, soaking up the lively atmosphere of it all as we watched the waves of the ocean roll in right in front of us. A wonderful evening until we realised how far away our van was parked! We decided to break up the hour long return journey by stopping in at several bars.
- HIT THE BEACH! Favourites include:
- Cote des Basque: good for surfing, swimming and people watching. My favourite pass time was watching the numerous learn to surf schools attempt to catch waves and nearly kill each other (and anyone remotely near by) in the mean time. It appears no one actually works in France because the beaches are ridiculously busy even on weekdays so there are plenty of people to dodge (or not) whilst surfing. Be warned, there are LOTS of stairs to go up and down getting to and from this beach so be prepared. This was a blessing in disguise in my eyes. If it wasn’t for climbing these stairs everyday I’m sure I would resemble a croissant already!
- Plage de la Petite: good for surfing, swimming, tanning and exercising along the promenade. This was also where we parked our van for two nights. Parking is free day and night and there are toilets, beach showers, available water and one of our favourite cafes (see below).
- Port Vieux: good for tanning, swimming and people watching. This is your typical European beach jam packed with people like a tin of sardines, all fighting for a place to rest their towel. There’s also a small rocky cliff edge you can jump off into the water below which is some added fun.
- The port: a nice place to sunbake away from all of the crowds. The local kids get their fun by jumping off the rock walls into the water below. If this isn’t your style you can access the water by climbing up and down the ladders.
- La Rhune day trip. Our friends live in Biarritz and we were so fortunate to have them play tour guide and also let us stay in their beautiful apartment for the weekend. If it wasn’t for them we would have completely missed this magnificent mountain, so make sure you don’t either. La Rhune is a mountain at the western end of the Pyrenees. It’s located on the border of France and Spain and from Biarritz it is an easy and beautiful drive through country (less than one hour) to the base of the mountain. At the base of the mountain you then catch the old fashioned train (E 20 per person for a return ticket) which takes you to the summit in about 30 minutes. For the fitness fanatics there are also a number of different hiking trails which can take you to the top. We opted to take the train and instead cart up the essentials for a long picnic lunch (when in France – bread (always), cheeses, cured meats, rock melon and wine of course). The views from the top are incredible with 360 degrees of both ocean coastline and mountain ranges. We took our time, walking around to explore the top of the mountain and attempting to make friends with the wild horses and mountain goats. What a beaut day!
- La casa Juan Pedro. If I could live here, I would. Situated at the far end of the port the seafood is as fresh as it gets. I don’t think you could go wrong with anything on the menu (actually maybe the sardines. They’re in the same category as rollmops – something fishy about both…). Top three dishes include moules and frittes (mussels and fries), prawns and the Spanish sea bream. The 1 litre sangria is a necessity! I can confirm that the second litre of sangria will provide a hangover.
- Crampotte 30. The cutest little fisherman’s hut I ever did see. Good for a drink.
- Les Halles. An absolute must! Go hungry and roll out. The market hall is open daily and sells everything you could imagine from fresh fruit and vegetables, patisserie treats and breads (of course), cures meats, seafood, cheeses, antipastos and flowers. There are a number of stalls that you can sit down at and grab a bite to eat or drink. The crepes and truffle omelettes didn’t disappoint but my favourite was the 1/2 dozen of oysters and glass of white wine (for a reasonable E 6.90) I ate for Sunday brunch. The man working continued shucking oysters right in front of me as I stood using the counter top to rest my food on and Blake stood well distanced due to his shellfish allergy! The lovely man gave me some sea snails to try for free which were surprisingly delicious. They had a chewy texture more like chicken than seafood and were marinated with herbs and chilli. Definitely recommended. Oui Oui!
- La Arena. The place to go for an afternoon aperol spritz and view over Port Vieux beach.
- Les Baigneuses de Biarritz. Situated just behind La Arena, it offers the same view with a different menu. Good for an afternoon or late night drink.
- Extolla Bibi. Grab a drink and Basque plate (cured meats, chillies, pate and of course an accompanying bread basket) and watch the sunset over Cote des Basque. It’s also a great place for a morning espresso and surf check.
- Joies. A delicious Italian restaurant with an airy front courtyard. Get the large size aperol spritz or gin and tonic (goblet size!), sit outside and enjoy people watching as the neighbourhood walk by and go about their lives. Both the pizza and pasta were delicious. There’s live music some days.
- Lagunak. A no frills little beach cafe/bar at Plage de la Petite. If it was any closer to the ocean the tables and chairs would be on the sand! Come early for E 1 espressos and fresh croissant or for a meal anytime after 12pm. Portion sizes are large and the prices are very reasonable.
- Not tried and tested personally but also recommended: Cafe Miguel, Bar Jean and Le Surfing.
- Like always we explored on foot and did a lot of walking! If you start at one end of the coast you can easily follow the coastline along which will take you past all of the different beaches and the fishing port (as mentioned above). There’s plenty of designated walking and cycling paths throughout the city making it easily accessible although there are also plenty of hills and staircases! There are public and free shuttle buses as well as Le Petit train to get about the area if walking is not your thing.