Biarritz: A Guide to Summer in the Southwest of France
Food & Wine
South of France
When you think of the South of France, you think of Cannes or Nice and all of the famous towns on the Cote D'azur. Biarritz isn’t often a place that comes top of mind when you speak to Americans planning a beach vacation in France. This coastal city in the Southwest of France bordering Spain and the Atlantic Ocean is like heaven on earth. Members of my family have been vacationing here for years. As soon as I was introduced to this beautiful spot, I knew it would become a regular destination in my summer travel schedule. From the incredibly fresh seafood, to the pristine beaches and Parisian style architecture this city in Basque Country is a paradise anybody can enjoy.
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Where to stay in Biarritz
Hôtel Du Palais Biarritz
Hotel du Palais is a symbolic jewel of Biarritz overlooking the Atlantic Ocean with a palatial on-site restaurant, golf access and spa.
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Sofitel Biarritz Le Miramar Thalassa sea & spa
A luxurious seaside retreat in Biarritz, France, offering exquisite accommodations, rejuvenating thalassotherapy treatments, and stunning ocean views.
Regina Experimental Biarritz
A chic seaside retreat blending contemporary design with a touch of vintage glamour on the coast of Biarritz, France.
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Things to do in Biarritz
Catch some sun on the beaches
Playa de Biarritz
Playa de Biarritz is the main beach right off Le Grande Plage and Hotel du Palais sits on a cliff on the North end overlooking this beach. It is always bustling with families and travelers of all ages and is my favorite place to people watch. The beach is lined with these adorable colorful striped tents that you can rent to relax and help protect you from the sun for the day. They serve a practical purpose, but I just love to see them line the beach and give it a vibrant charm. If you are lying on the beach and hear somebody yelling, “Beignet!”, this is not a drill! My favorite part of this beach is the people walking around selling fresh beignets. To me, nothing beats eating a few bites of a nutella-filled beignet, taking a dip in the ocean and then a nap on the beach in the sun.
Plage du Port Vieux
This is my personal favorite beach in town. The beach is set back in a cove below the town, making it a perfect spot to swim! The fact that it comes inland and forms a bay keeps the waters calm unlike some of the other beaches. The natural rock juts out and makes a great diving platform that they have installed a ladder to so you can climb up and jump in repeatedly. There are also restaurants and bars set above the beach so that if you are spending the day, you have easy access to food or an Aperol Spritz.
This beach sits to the north of the Hotel du Palais. When the tide is right, you can walk right under the cliff of the hotel and onto the other beach. There is this beautiful rock formation set out in the water away from the beach that you can marvel at its natural beauty. I often see people trying to swim out to it, but be careful, this is a surf town and the tides are always changing.
Le Grande Plage
The Boardwalk lines Playa de Biarritz and is lined with cafes and a few surf shops. This is a great spot to grab a drink or lunch and take in the ocean view without walking on to the sand. I love to get a good walk-in after breakfast. This is an excellent place to stretch your legs before the mid day crowds. After dinner we always love stopping somewhere along the boardwalk and having a drink and letting that salty summer evening breeze drift in off the ocean. There is also a casino that stays open until 3:00am and draws a late night crowd. This tends to always end up as a meeting spot when traveling with friends or family because of its central location.
This is one of the main activities that drives travelers to this beach town. Remember when I mentioned in my intro that Americans don’t often name Biarritz as a destination when vacationing on the beaches in France? The exempt few are people that travel to surf. I have a few friends who travel and always make surfing a part of the destination and I am always delighted to hear Biarritz listed as a destination when traveling to France. Even if you are a beginner and just want to learn (or try) surfing this is a great place. Everyday on the beach you will see groups of surf schools out in the waves. Often there are big groups of children, but there is a lesson for every age! Plage de la Côte de Basques has a ton of options at the North end of the beach including the popular Surf in Biarritz.
Explore at low tide
Biarritz is known for its epic tides. There is a whole other world of beaches and rock formations at low tide that you can explore. There is even a port where boats become beached during low tide so you have to time it perfectly when you want to come in and out on your vessel. I have spent many hours walking up and and down the beaches at low tide, popping into caves, finding shells and sea creatures. It is an activity that brings so much joy and brings out your inner child just waiting to find a new surprise.
Climb to the top of the lighthouse
Phare de Biarritz is a lighthouse that was built in the 1800s and provides the best views of the town, ocean, and all of the cliffs. If you like to get a good walk in you can walk from town, but can be a bit lengthy. Sometimes the bus or your car is the best way to access the park where the lighthouse sits. Remember, there is no elevator and its 258 steps to the top, so you may want to save your energy. Pro tip: If you are claustrophobic or have a fear of heights, this may not be for you. The staircase up is winding and tight and when you get to the lookout at the top, it's a small walkway with a fairly short railing around the perimeter. If you love adventure and the ocean air in your face, don’t skip this!
Walk to Gamaritz and Rocher de la Vierge
These are two rock formations set in the water that are connected by bridges you can walk to. Gamaritz is almost like a little park connected by a picturesque stone bridge. Once you are out there you get a nice view of the town. Rocher de la Vierge (Rock of the Virgin) is one of the most iconic views and attractions in the entire town. Atop this breathtaking rock formation, there is a white statue of the Virgin Mary. This statue is said to commemorate the return of sailors lost at sea who could follow a light back to land, saving their lives. This place remains a symbol of hope for many today.
Artisan & Textile Market
Whether you are staying in a hotel, or a house that you can cook in, you absolutely have to pick up a treat or two from the market in the town center. I can spend hours walking around looking at the different stalls and what local goodness the owners are selling. Pastries, jams, honeys, seafood, produce…all locally sourced and all delicious. Some noteworthy items:
Gâteau Basque: A delectable cake with a flaky buttery crust and is filled with a local black cherry jam, or a vanilla pastry cream.
Black Cherry Jam: I typically don’t like black cherry anything and I will eat jars of this. It is a local delicacy and is often eaten with cheese. I like it with a slice of Comte.
Seafood Platters: Shrimp, oysters and bulot all stacked in a beautiful pyramid with lemons on top. They will wrap this up beautifully in a tray of ice for you to take. Grab some bottles of rose and champagne, find a spot to sit outside and dig in.
Biarritz is a luxury town and with that comes luxury shopping. There are a ton of local boutiques and art galleries you can pop in while walking around town, but there are some world-renowned brands as well.
To the South of Biarritz its about an hour drive to the border of Spain and the foot of the Pyrenees mountains. There are day tours from the southern part of France but you can also take a car and pick a destination along the foot of the mountains to explore. This is a great day trip if you are an avid hiker.
Another famous city of Basque Country but on the Spanish side. San Sebastian, an equally beautiful town, is home to quite a few Michelin Starred Restaurants. Make a reservation at a restaurant and take a trip over for the day.
Places to eat & drink in Biarritz
Boulangerie Pâtisserie Loubère
There is always a line out the door in the morning for this bakery. While you can have the traditional croissant, I highly recommend adventuring to any of their other baked goods for your breakfast. You absolutely can not go wrong with anything you choose from here.
If you are hanging out on the beach or just want to be as physically close to the beach without being on it possible, this is always a great option. Simple go-tos like a croque monsieur or a salad make this a great no-fuss spot so you can enjoy the ocean without having to think too much.
This snack shack serves up the best sandwiches on baguettes that are perfect to grab and eat on the beach. My favorite is Jambon Beurre. French ham, butter, swiss and cornichon.
This is one of the town's hot spots and serves up some of the best seafood I have ever had. Always start with oysters, shrimp, and champagne for the table. They are known for their fresh fish, and I always order the white fish of the day. Another favorite among the family is their stunning paella. The huge platters of paella usually require multiple people to eat.
This upscale restaurant has a more modern vibe and has absolutely stunning views of the ocean.
This restaurant in the middle of town serves up delicious tapas and is another place you can find an insane dish of paella. They are constantly changing the menu to accommodate fresh ingredients, but you can always count on fresh shellfish, grilled octopus and beef tartare.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Katherine Flynn guide, Honeymoon in the South of France.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to France.