Biarritz & Pays Basque Back to France

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Founded by Emperor Napoleon III and his wife, Eugenie, the seaside resort of Biarritz has always had international flair. It’s not as glitzy as the Côte d’Azur but has great, large beaches and a bustling surfing scene, as well as a hippie-cool vibe reminiscent of southern California.

Cheat Sheet

Lay of the Land

Seaside Biarritz, in France’s Aquitaine region, is a two-hour drive south of Bordeaux, close to the Spanish border. (A 45-minute drive takes you to Spain’s San Sebastian).

Biarritz and nearby fishing port St. Jean de Luz both belong to the French Basque Region, but the culture of the special place becomes even more pronounced as you head inland. Many of the French Basque Region’s most famous villages, including red pepper town Espelette, are under an hour drive away.

The Basque villages have a unique architectural style, with white-washed houses featuring a pretty red or green-painted wooden trim. Each town has a trio of buildings that make up the main square: a church (the region is predominantly Catholic); city hall; and a so-called fronton wall for playing the local sport pelota – this is a fast and furious ball game reminiscent of a tough-guy’s take on squash (suffice it to say that in the professional leagues, the ball speed can top 155 miles per hour).

Biarritz makes a great base from which to explore the Basque region and can easily be combined with a jaunt to San Sebastian and Bilbao (the latter is a 1-hour-40 minute drive away). Needless to say, the food in this part of the world is excellent.

Getting There

From the U.S., there are no direct flights to Biarritz, so you have to connect through Paris. During the high-season in the summer, there are also direct flights from London, Dublin, Geneva and Copenhagen. Many people also opt to take the train from Paris, which takes 5 hours 15 minutes. Bordeaux, is just a two-hour train ride to Biarritz’s centrally located station.

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Beyond… Biarritz & Pays Basque

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