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Biarritz, on the Bay of Biscay, is mainly known for being a luxurious seaside resort. And indeed, the beaches are beautiful and the strong breakers present a challenge for surfers. But Biarritz has more to offer besides just sun, sea and beach.
We'll start at the beach anyway, as this is where it all began for Biarritz. With Empress Eugénie, the wife of Napoleon III. She had her mind set on a vacation in Biarritz and so Napoleon commissioned to build the Hôtel du Palais. It is still the city's most luxurious hotel. Even if you don't stay here, it's fun to drink a cup of coffee on the terrace. It's not cheap, but don't you want to feel like an emperor once in a while?
Following the French and western European royal families, the Russian aristocrats also discovered Biarritz. As they wanted to fulfill their religious duties during their wintering, the Russians built their own church. This Russian Orthodox Church with a golden dome is located opposite the Hôtel du Palais. It's interior – with an azure ceiling – can only be visited on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
In the city center, sandwiched between the Rue d'Espagne and the Avenue de Gramont, lies the Église St-Martin. This church was built in the twelfth century during Biarritz' heydays, when the city mainly lived on whaling. When the whales left the Bay of Biscay, the city fell into a decline.
When walking south over the Grande Plage, you'll reach the Port des Pêcheurs, Biarritz' fishing port. Here you won't find flashy hotels, but simple wooden houses instead. The (fish) restaurants around here also don't charge exorbitant prices like the restaurants elsewhere on the beach.
Near the fishing port, a footbridge (constructed by Gustave Eiffel, the one of the tower) runs to a rock in the sea featuring a statue of the Virgin Mary. The rock is appropriately called: Rocher de la Vierge (Rock of the Virgin Mary). You guessed it: It is meant to protect fishermen against the dangers at sea. From the rock you can see far south. On a clear day you can even see the coast of the Spanish Basque Country.
Walking back to the mainland, you'll get to the Musée de la Mer. This aquarium is not very large, but for someone who has never visited an aquarium, it can provide a nice pastime, for example on a rainy day. Twice a day (at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.) the seals are fed.
The Musée Asiatica, which houses Oriental art from India, Nepal, Tibet and China, is the odd one out. Some pieces are very old, dating from prehistoric times.
Another exceptional museum is Le Musée du Chocolat. Here you can see the journey from cacao tree to chocolate and the machines that were used in the past and nowadays. There is also artwork, made out of chocolate. Funny and appropriate: The entrance ticket is a piece of chocolate!
The Grande Plage is Biarritz' busiest beach, but you can find many other beaches nearby that are as beautiful, but a lot quieter. This already starts just north of the city, on Plage Miramar. If this is still not quiet enough, you can take your rental car and discover the beaches further out.
Biarritz is located in the French part of the Basque Country, and so it is very feasible to pay a visit to the Spanish Basque Country. Go for example to San Sebastián, which not only has a charming old center, but is also known for its excellent restaurants. Several of them have one or more Michelin stars!
Biarritz is known as a luxurious seaside resort en so there is no shortage of expensive and luxurious hotels and resorts. The city does, however, also have possibilities to spend the night for people living on a tighter budget. Especially around the Avenue Carnot you can find hotels that are very reasonably priced.
The jet set likes to show off in expensive cars and so the city council will not hinder car drivers in any way. There are sufficient parking lots. In the city center you have to pay for parking your car, but near some of the beaches there are even lots where you can park for free.
Biarritz Airport is located five kilometers southeast of the city center. You can easily reach Aéroport de Biarritz-Anglet-Bayonne, as the airport is called officially, by rental car. From the center you take the D260, also known as Boulevard du B.A.B. The route to the airport is clearly signposted.