If you’re touring the Basque country, you can’t miss Bayonne – the capital of the French side of this wonderful region. Not only is it one of the most beautiful cities in the area, surrounded by the ocean and the Pyrenees mountain range, but it’s also a foodie destination of note. If you like chocolate (who doesn’t?!) and delicious, aged cured ham – jambon de Bayonne – you can’t miss this great city. As you can probably guess, my to-do list is going to include lots of foodie adventures!

The best way to discover Bayonne is through food. If you don’t have much time, I highly recommend taking this walking food tour. This 5-star rated tour in English, Spanish, or French takes you through the streets of the city on foot, stopping not only to admire the views and architecture but to taste your way through Bayonne. 3.5 hours of sampling some of the region’s finest delicacies – chocolate, seafood, cheese, Basque cake, house cider, cured meats, and other unique items.

Bayonne is one of the most gastronomic experiences in France
A foodie experience in Bayonne – by Lost in Bordeaux

If a walking tour is not your thing, this eco-friendly electric Segway and bike tour is another great way to get around and see the city with experienced guides. They stop at the most notable sights in the city and kids are welcome.

Here’s my personal list of favorite things to do in Bayonne. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy touring the city! If you’re also looking for accommodation in Bayonne, check out my article about Where to stay in Bayonne.

A gastronomic vacation in Bayonne – the French Basque country

Stroll the streets of Grand Bayonne

The river Nive crosses through the city center and separates Grand Bayonne from Petit Bayonne. Grand Bayonne is home to the most important historical sites, including the cathedral, the fortifications, the botanic gardens, and the Château Vieux. The lovely timbered, colorful houses make up the traditional architecture of this part of France and are beautiful to see as you stroll around town.

The beautiful streets of Bayonne
Le Grand Bayonne – by Lost in Bordeaux

Some of the most charming streets include Rue Port Neuf, rue Poissonnerie, rue d’Espagne, rue de la Monnaie, and Rue de la Salie.

Historical monuments you shouldn’t miss: The gothic cathedral of Sainte Marie, dating back to the 13th century,  go around the back of Château-Vieux to see the massive fortifications and Roman ramparts surrounding the city, the Town Hall, and the grand houses in the historical center.

You can also take this guided tour to discover the fascinating history of Bayonne.

Visit the Market

France is known for its gastronomy and one of the best places in any town to get a feel of the local food and wine selection is at the market. Bayonne is no exception in that it has a fantastic food market held from Tuesday – Saturday at the Halles de Bayonne.

You’ll find cured and fresh meats, delectable cheeses, fine pastries, fresh bread, wine stands, fishmongers, local fruit and vegetable stalls, and much more. It gets especially busy on Saturday mornings when many more stalls are added around the Halles in the open air, so be sure to get there early!

Halles de Bayonne - the main market of Bayonne
Les Halles de Bayonne – by Lost in Bordeaux

Petit Bayonne – Discover the more local part of the city

This neighborhood is filled with charming streets and plenty of cool little cafes and restaurants with terraces overlooking the riverfront. As you meander through the small streets, you’ll see plenty of amazing street art everywhere so remember to take your camera!

Where to stay in Bayonne - le Petit Bayonne district
Le Petit Bayonne district – by Lost in Bordeaux

Some of my favorite food shops in the Petit Bayonne neighborhood include: 
Monsieur Txokola, Saloire Ibaialde, La Laiterie Marengo, and La Maison Du Gâteau Basque. 

You can read more about Le Petit Bayonne in my article about the best districts of Bayonne.

Jambon de Bayonne – taste it and learn about it

The famous jambon de Bayonne is cured and seasoned with local spices from Espelette, a town nearby where the spices grow in abundance. The ham is such a big part of Bayonne culture and tradition that they even have a Ham Festival that takes over the city every Easter.

While you’ll be able to try Jambon de Bayonne at nearly any bar or restaurant in town, the two places that you must visit are Sailoir Ibaialde in Petit Bayonne, who also offer tours, and, right in the city center, Musee du Jambon Aubard.

Sailoir Ibaialde - the best place to taste Jambon de Bayonne
A visit to Sailoir Ibaialde – by Lost in Bordeaux

Drink hot chocolate

Bayonne is famous for its chocolate because that’s where chocolate was first made in France before spreading out over the country, back in the day when this region was still known as old Gascony. It was brought over by Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition and today still, some of the best chocolate shops in the country can be traced back to Bayonne.

If you like hot chocolate, you absolutely have to visit Chocolat Cazenave, which dates back to 1854. Here they make the warm drink the traditional way it was made when it first arrived in Europe. Cazenave roasts their own beans and makes their own chocolate paste before melting it in warm milk and frothing them together for a delectable treat any time of day or night.

Chocolat Cazenave - the oldest chocolate shop in Bayonne
My kids enjoying Chocolat Cazenave’s hot chocolate

Buy a fancy chocolate home

Let’s stick with the sweet tooth theme!

There are amazing chocolate shops all over Bayonne, one of my favorites is Chocolaterie Puyodebat. I like to stop there and buy some artisanal chocolate bars to take home. They also have a Salon de chocolat, or a tea room, called La Tasse à Moustache, where you can try their amazing hot chocolate inside or on the terrace in the sunshine.

Chocolaterie Puyodebat - one of the best chocolate shops in Bayonne
Chocolaterie Puyodebat – by Lost in Bordeaux

If you are interested in discovering how chocolate is made, I recommend heading to the Petit Bayonne neighborhood to Monsieur Txokola where they do daily demonstrations of how they produce their amazing chocolate.

Street art in Bayonne

One way to get to know the city is by wandering around the charming little streets and photographing your favorite street art. Most of the interesting works are in the Petit Bayonne and Saint-Esprit neighborhoods. You can use the St’art application to discover some of the best street artworks in the city.

Stunning street art in Bayonne - one of the best things to do in Bayonne
Street art in Le Petit Bayonne – by Lost in Bordeaux

There’s also a festival dedicated to street art called Festival Points de Vue. if you’re in town while it’s on you’ll see all kinds of fun, new, open-air art installations across the city.

Go to a photography exhibition at Didam

One of the best cultural hotspots in Bayonne, Didam is the contemporary art museum in the city center that you can’t miss. They host fantastic photography exhibitions and they also hold workshops if you’re the artsy type. Check their website for opening times and tickets.

See an exhibition in  Didam in Bayonne
Photography in Didam in Bayonne – by Lost in Bordeaux

Take a walk along the quays

Bayonne has a great riverfront in all of its three touristy districts. There’s nothing like a stroll along the water to clear your head and open up the appetite!

In the city center in the Grand and Petit Bayonne districts, you’ll find plenty of restaurants and cafes where you can stop for a drink in the sunshine. If you go a bit further there are lovely calm, green promenades where you can walk or cycle in the fresh air away from the city buzz.

A walk along the riverfront in Bayonne
A walk along the riverfront in Bayonne – by Lost in Bordeaux

Taste cheese from one of the best cheese makers in the world

There’s an impressive amount of stunning cheese shops in Bayonne because just like most regions in France, this one is home to several specialty cheeses. But one cheese shop stands out above the rest and is a must-visit – Christophe Fromager.

Christophe Fromager - one of the best cheese shops in the Basque country
Christophe Fromager – by Lost in Bordeaux

Christophe was crowned the Vice Champion du Monde Fromager in 2017, meaning he basically came second in a global competition of cheesemongers. The shop is a testament to his experience, travels, and knowledge of local products as well as his fantastic connections with regional farmers.
From the moment you walk into the shop, you’ll be transported by the different smells and sights of hard, soft, smelly, aged, crumbly, flaky, creamy, and many more kinds of cheese. You’ll definitely want to buy some to take back to your accommodation and make a little cheese platter for apéro hour.

Do a Hawaiian canoe trip on the Adour and Nive Rivers

A uniquely fun way to discover a new city is by water. Take this boat tour for fun, adventure, and sightseeing all mixed into one!

The trip is made on Hawaiian pirogues, which are typical island boats, ideal for sailing in wide open spaces. It’s also very eco-friendly and great for the whole family. Kids over 7 are welcome and there is no specific fitness level required. During the trip, you’ll pass under the ancient bridges and admire Bayonne’s three main districts from the water.

Do a Hawaiian canoe trip on the Adour and Nive Rivers
Hawaiian canoe trip – photo by Pirogue & Surf

Take surfing lessons in Anglet

Anglet, Bayonne’s adjoining city to the south, is a great place for surfing lessons. With the Gliss Experience surf school you can do a couple of hours or a full day and you’ll learn to surf in the crashing waves on Cavalier Beach. Running from April to November, you can even enjoy the waves in the low season.

Surfing lessons in Anglet
Surfing lessons in Anglet – by Lost in Bordeaux

Visit Jardin Botanique

Next to the Chateau Vieux in Le Grand Bayonne, you’ll find lovely, peaceful botanical gardens. With a strong Japanese influence and beautiful landscaping, you can enjoy lovely views over the ramparts as the gardens are perched seven meters above them. It’s like a little green oasis in the middle of the city, and one of the reasons Bayonne has such a high “floral ranking” – the official French classification of how many flowers and plants decorate a city.

Enjoy a cycling tapas apero

Everyone knows that apéro or pre-dinner drinks are a major part of French culture. Why not try your apéro hour in Bayonne on a bike? Grab an electric bike on this tour and cycle around with an English-speaking guide who will stop to tell you a little about the city’s history and architecture before taking you to the waterfront for tapas and drinks.

If you prefer not to cycle, there are also a few great tapas bars in the center of Bayonne, such as the rooftop of OKKO Hotel, Ibaia, or Les Arcades.

Day trips from Bayonne

Bayonne can be a great base from which to discover the Basque country if you’re staying for a longer period of time. There is so much to see and do in the beautiful Basque country!

If you have a car, you’ll be able to visit a few of the hidden gems, but even if you don’t, there are plenty of places to visit by public transport. 

Biarritz 

Biarritz is a beautiful Basque town in the Biscay Bay on the Atlantic Ocean, known for its surfing beaches and lively atmosphere. Biarritz boasts impressive architecture and an amazing gastronomic scene, yet at the same time, it exudes a cozy, small-town energy, making it a perfect weekend destination. It’s so close to Bayonne that the two have merged together with Anglet in the middle and you can access it by public transport or by car. Here you can read more about what not to miss in Biarritz.

A perfect weekend in Biarritz

Saint-Jean-de-Luz

Located just 25km from Biarritz, Saint-Jean-de-Luz is one of the most charming destinations in the Basque country. The seaside town with its cozy atmosphere is sitting within a vast bay, facing the Atlantic Ocean. It boasts five beaches, so make sure to take your swimsuit!

It is renowned for its unique Basque architecture, where lively streets showcase the charm of the old town with vibrant half-timbered houses.

San Sebastian

Known as the foodie capital of the world, San Sebastian is located on the Spanish side of the Basque country and less than an hour’s drive from Bayonne. Boasting the highest number of Michel-starred restaurants per capita in the world, San Sebastian is the place to be for food lovers. But it’s not all chic and expensive – the city is filled with tiny pintxos, or tapas, bars where you can taste local delicacies for cheap.

There are also lovely beaches, surf schools, great museums and a beautiful historic old town where you can go shopping and see old churches.

Hendaye

Hendaye, the last town before crossing over the Spanish border, is located just a 30-minute drive from Bayonne. With great beaches and surf schools, it’s a fantastic place to visit with the family in summer. It’s also situated in a bay that creates a safe swimming zone without any huge waves or rip tides, making for a great family-friendly place to swim.

Vallée des Aldudes or Vallée de Baïgorry

This valley, set in the Pyrenees mountains, is breathtaking to see and delicious to taste because it’s also a foodie destination. With its winding river and towering mountains, you’ll want to stop at five little towns in this valley: Ossès, Saint-Etienne-de-Baïgorry, les Aldudes, Banca, and Urepel.

All the best things to do with kids in the French Basques country

Famous for the AOP Ossau-Iraty cheese, the AOP Kintoa ham, and the AOP Irouléguy wine, this region has everything you need to make the perfect apéro tasting platter! You can also do wonderful hikes with stunning views across the valley.

Getting there from Bayonne by car will take you just over an hour.

The best hotels in Bayonne:

I have a full article about the best neighborhoods in Bayonne and the best hotels to stay in each one. But here are three great ones to save you some time. 

Hôtel des Basses Pyrénées – Bayonne
This stunning 4-star hotel is situated right next to the famous Sainte Marie cathedral and is really central for your stay in Bayonne. With a stunning courtyard out front and a really good restaurant, you’ll be in the center of all the buzz.

Hôtel Villa KOEGUI Bayonne
Located just across the Nive River from the city center, this 4-star hotel is home to a restaurant with terrace seating, sauna and gym, and a great buffet breakfast. It’s within walking distance of everything you want to see in both the Petit and Grand Bayonne districts.

Boutique Hôtel Un Appart en Ville
If you prefer self-catering accommodation, this apartment offers you a little space and privacy as well as a kitchen. It’s very well-located, right in the center of Grand Bayonne, and you can even rent bikes right on the property!

Like the article? Want to read it again when you’re in the Basque Country? Save it on your Pinterest board.

Here are all my other Basques country-related articles to help you plan your trips:
Most beautiful villages in the French Basque country
Weekend in Biarritz
All the best things to do and eat in Biarritz
What to do in Espelette
A family trip to the French Basque country

You can also get plenty of tips on things to do in the Southwest of France via Lost in Bordeaux’s social media accounts and email list, check them out here:

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*Note – Some of the links in this article include affiliate links for which I earn a small commission. It adds absolutely nothing to your cost and helps me continue writing about this amazing region. Don’t worry, I’m not getting rich here, I’ll never recommend anything I don’t believe in 🙂 

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