The breathtaking coastline of Biarritz in France’s Basque Country offers an ever so elegant lifestyle to visitors and locals alike, perfectly blended with laid-back surf culture, decadent cuisine and pieces of fascinating history. A one-of-a-kind destination in the South West of France, Biarritz is as ideal for honeymooners as it is for families, and nobody knows it better than our friends Edouard and Marie. As they’re both locals to the area, we’ve asked them a few questions to get you all the insider knowledge you need for a truly authentic Biarritz experience. From the best festivals and events to attend to all the reasons visitors come back year after year, our local’s guide to authentic Biarritz has it all. Read on and get inspired!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself! What do you do, how long have you lived where you are and what makes you an expert in the region? Do you have any special connection there?
Edouard: I relocated to Biarritz with my wife over 20 years ago. We were working for a photography agency in Paris when we decided to swap the city chaos for something more refined. We said goodbye to pollution and traffic jams, and we’re yet to look back. I also love to surf, so Biarritz made total sense. We created our business about 18 years ago, so it’s safe to say that I know the region well, and I always look forward to sharing our experience with others.
Marie: I’m originally from Brittany, and after having travelled a lot, I finally settled in Biarritz six years ago. Growing up by the Atlantic, living by the ocean was a must for me, so it was fairly easy to call the Basque Coast home. I first came here ten years ago for an internship, and it’s the only place I could see myself living in France. My special connection with the area has to be the ocean but also the unique Basque cultural and historical heritage, the people and the food!
2. Why should people travel to your region at least once in their life? What might they find surprising on their first visit?
Marie: The Basque Country is easy to access for people living or travelling in Europe, and it has everything you need. The ocean, the mountains, the countryside, proximity to Spain, a great local atmosphere, cultural and natural heritage, and amazing food of course. The landscapes are also impressive and go from high coastal cliffs to lush green mountains. It’s quite spectacular.
3. And what makes people come back time and time again?
Marie: The sweet southwest ocean living and the food. The Basque specialities are to die for!
4. Summarise the region for us in three words!
5. Have you had any famous visitors or well-known events (historical or otherwise) take place in the region?
Marie: Since Biarritz was home to Napoleon and his wife Eugenia, it’s well-known as a chic and bourgeois historical destination. Naturally, a few French and international celebrities have homes in the Basque Country, but I couldn’t tell you who! Many well-known events take place in the area such as Les Fêtes de Bayonne in July, Latin American Festival in September and the FIPADOC (International Documentary Festival in Biarritz) in January. In August 2019, Biarritz will be hosting the G7 Summit so the town and region will be in the spotlight.
6. Time for some travel inspiration – can you give us your recommendations on…
Marie: The first thing to do – you should drop your bags and… go swim or surf in the ocean! Depending on the time of year of course – if it’s winter, dip your toes in at least. If you’re not an ocean lover, then try a pintxo (tapas) with a glass of wine or a slice of the Basque Cake (gâteau Basque). You’ll fit right in!
Your favourite restaurant and/or bar, and why – is there something served there that visitors should really try? If you want to taste Basque cuisine, I would recommend La Tantina de Burgos in Biarritz, near Côte des Basques. It has a great local, vibrant atmosphere and delicious fish, meat and wine.
Favourite bar? Café Miguel in Biarritz’s Port-Vieux, it has the best “rhum arrangé” of the southwest, great music and very nice staff.
What’s an activity that really takes in the best the area has to offer? Surfing! Biarritz is the birthplace of European surfing since the 1950s, and you can definitely feel the surf culture as soon as you arrive.
Something free to do – perhaps that people can’t do anywhere else! See both the mountains and the ocean on top of the Rhune or Jaizkibel Mountains. Those views are hard to beat!
What are the best activities and things to do for families? Days spent at the beach, surfing, cycling, picnics, visits to the Biarritz Aquarium and visiting old towns like Bayonne & Saint-Jean-de-Luz…
Your best-kept secret of the region? In winter, you can both ski/snowboard and surf on the same day – it’s the best of both worlds!
7. What would your perfect day in the area comprise of?
Marie: All perfect days start with a surf, followed by a typical French breakfast with a “choco” (pains au chocolat and café au lait). The afternoon would be spent visiting all the little inner villages, before heading to Côte des Basques to watch the sunset with a glass of wine.
8. What’s the one experience that really captures the essence of the region for you, and why?
Edouard: God that’s a tough one. I’d say watching a ‘pelote basque’ match in the little Basque village of Sare – so authentic!
Marie: The Basque Country is all about outdoor living. Whether it’s surfing, hiking, driving along the coast to Spain or eating out, it’s a region well-worth several visits.
Surfing is popular all down the coast from closer up here in Bordeaux in Lacanau all the way to the Spanish border. This whole stretch can really get some good sets of waves and various surfing competitions are held throughout the summer.