Biarritz, a resort town on the Atlantic ocean, was once the summer home of Napoleon III and his wife the Empress Eugénie de Montijo in the 1850s and later became the first surfing beach in Europe in the 1950s. While for a time people lost interest in this beautiful beach city, it eventually regained popularity and is now considered a hot vacation destination for many French. Many still visit Biarritz for its beaches but in recent years it has been developed into much more than just another resort town. Biarritz has one of the coolest food scenes, many nice little boutiques, a long promenade from where you can see the most beautiful sunsets and a proximity to many other great destinations in the Pays de Basques in the South of France.
I believe three days is ideal to properly enjoy all Biarritz has to offer, unless you’re coming to learn how to surf. But don’t worry, even if you only have a day or two, it’s enough to get the vibe of the town.
In this article, I have gathered all the info you need before going to Biarritz, from what to do and see to where to eat and shop. If you’re looking for a hotel in Biarritz you can go straight to the end of the article and read about the best places to stay in Biarritz. Now let’s get started with the 25 things you should do, see and eat in Biarritz!
Along the coastline of Biarritz – the best beaches and spots
1. Take a long walk on the promenade
if you don’t have a lot of time to spend in Biarritz but still want to see its best parts, you can follow the beautiful promenade all along the beaches of Biarritz and see most of the main sites (which I’ll be mentioning in this article). A large part of the promenade is located on several cliffs from which you have a beautiful view on Biarritz’s beaches. Take some time at these viewpoints to observe the coastline and to look for pretty moments such as the sand artist who’s making beautiful sketches on wet sand.
2. See the view from the Lighthouse (Le Phare)
if you don’t have a lot of time to spend in Biarritz but still want to see its best parts, you can follow the beautiful promenade all along the beaches of Biarritz and see most of the main sites (which I’ll be mentioning in this article). A large part of the promenade is located on several cliffs from which you have a beautiful view on Biarritz’s beaches. Take some time at these view points to observe the coastline and to look for pretty moments such as the sand artist who’s making beautiful sketches on wet sand.
3. Go to the beach at the Grand Plage
Le Grand Plage is the main beach in Biarritz. It’s wide, close to most hotels and is comfortable for bathing. That’s also what makes it the most crowded beach during high season. If you want to enjoy the city beach vibe and you’re not into surfing this is a great place to spend your time while in Biarritz. If you fancy a new beach towel or a bathing suite, there’s a really nice shop on the beach called Aux Guides Baigneurs, that’s open everyday until 20:00.
Address: Aux Guides Baigneurs, Quai de la Grande Plage, 64200 Biarritz
4. Port des Pêcheurs
A few minutes walk from the Grand Plage will bring you to one of the most romantic places in Biarritz. Port des Pêcheurs is a little harbor that was built by Napoleon III in the 1800s and previously served the fishermen of the city. You can still find the fishermen little colorful houses, some of which serve as restaurants with a beautiful view on the boats docking at the port.
If it’s seafood and fish you’re after then this is the place for you. The restaurants in the port will serve you fresh off the boat fish, a variety of seafood such as oysters and crabs and other classic dishes from the Basque cuisine. My favorite restaurant is Casa Juan Pedro, who offers delicious local dishes for affordable prices.
Address: 48 Allée Port des Pêcheurs, 64200 Biarritz
5. Sunset and wine
During your discovery of the coastline you will see a few exquisite little bars located on the headlands with the perfect ambiance for an early evening drink. These are the best places to see the sunset and accompany it with a glass of wine and slices of amazing Jamón. The place I found most charming was OLATUA, with a very chill atmosphere of friends meeting at the end of a working day. You can order some great snacks, such as the Charcuterie plate and you might have to wait a bit for a table with a good view, but it’s worth it.
Address: Olatua, Jardins de l’Atalaye, 64200 Biarritz
6. Rocher de la Vierge
Within a few minutes walk from the Ulatua bar you will find one of the most beautiful spots in Biarritz. Previously used as a platform for whale watching, today it’s one of the main viewpoints in the city from which you can see the Bay of Biarritz and the Côte des Basques (the surfing beach). You will recognize the Rocher de la Vierge by the metallic statue of the Virgin standing on the top of the rock.
7. The Aquarium of Biarritz
Another very popular attraction in Biarritz is the Musée de la Mer (the Aquarium) which is located in an art-deco building next to Rocher de la Vierge. The museum includes huge aquariums with fish, sharks and seals. You can also learn about the history of whales in Biarritz through a series of exhibits. This place is very popular with kids and can be a great escape for a rainy day.
Address: Musée de la Mer, Plateau de l’Atalaye, 64200 Biarritz
8. Plage Port Vieux for a safe swim with kids
After you leave the aquarium or finish taking beautiful pictures from the Rocher de la Vierge, continue walking along the coastline until you see a beautiful tiny beach from the top. Plage Port Vieux is perfect for those who come to Biarritz with little kids. It’s located on a tiny bay between two cliffs creating a very sheltered beach which makes it the safest place for kids and adults to swim. However, due to its nature it tends to be packed with families during the summer, so if you’re looking for a quiet beach continue down the road to the southern part of Biarritz.
9. Villa Belza
Another charming spot on the coastline comes right after the Port Vieux beach. Villa Belza is a beautiful 19th century mansion located between the Rocher de la Vierge and the Côte des Basques. This mysterious house was used in the past as a setting for films and for cabaret evenings. Next to Villa Belza there’s a nice little cafe/bar, named the Eden Rock cafe with a beautiful view of the little Post Vieux beach. They have a DJ playing live music and it’s a great place for early evening cocktails.
Address: Eden rock café, 2-4 Espl. du Port Vieux, 64200 Biarritz
10. Surf at the the Côte des Basques
The Biarritz surfing scene is the main attraction for many European tourists. And while you will see many surfers all along the coastline, most of the surfers tend to come to Plage de la Cote des Basque which is actually the first surfing beach in Europe.
If you need a break from surfing or tired from your long walk along the coastline, climb the stairs of the Square Jean Baptiste Lassalle to the very cool beach bar the Etxola Bibi. This open- air bar, located on the cliff with a beautiful view on the Côte des Basques beach, is a perfect spot for a beer on a sunny day or a game of pétanque with the locals. If you stay after sunset you get to enjoy live music shows as well.
Address: Etxola Bibi, Square Jean Baptiste Lassalle, 64200 Biarritz
11. Plage Marbella
Another much more isolated beach is the Marbella beach in the South of Biarritz. With its high waves it has a more wild feel to it and is especially loved by experienced surfers.
Have you noticed the pattern here? Every beach in Biarritz is accompanied by a cool little bar/cafe and Marbella is no different. On the cliff, before going down to the beach you will find the cute little open bar called, Debololo . This place has a fresh and local feel to it and besides very cold beers it serves some food as well (quiches, sandwiches etc. )
Address: Debololo, impasse Marbella, Biarritz, France 64200
12. Learn to surf
As you’ve already understood, surfing is one of Biarritz’s most important attractions. If you have never surfed before you can take surfing lessons in one of the many schools scattered around the city. Many of them are located on the promenade of the Plage de la Cote des Basques which is the most popular surfing beach in Biarritz.
The food was by far my favorite part in Biarritz! The rich basque cuisine and the proximity to Spain makes this place a paradise for foodies. Seafood restaurants, an amazing market, great burgers and awesome tapas bars, Biarritiz’s got everything and it’s all delicious.
13. Les Halles de Biarritz
This is one of the biggest surprises of Biarritz. This stylish type of markets became very popular in France and in recent years you can see them popping up in many cities around the county. Marché aux Halles de Biarritz, built in 1885, is not only the main local market but also a place to have a drink and meet friends. You can find everything you need there, fruits and vegetables organized and treated like diamonds, the best local products,meat, cheese, bakeries and a few nice places to eat. The second and smaller part of the market is dedicated to fish and seafood where you can buy a plate of fresh oysters for 6 euros. You should know however that the market isn’t very cheap so don’t count on staying on budget when visiting there. The market tends to be very busy, especially on weekends, so try to come as early as you can. The market is open daily from 7:30 to 14:00 and also from 18:00 to 21:00 from mid July to the end of August.
Address: les Halles de Biarritz, Rue des Halles, 64200 Biarritz
14. Basque food and tapas places
You can feel the Spanish influence on the French Basque cuisine in many of Biarritz’s restaurants. The city is full of excellent tapas bars and plates with colorful pinchos is part of the Biarritz landscape. In general, I found that the market area is the food hub of the city and harbors the best tapas bars of Biarritz.
One of the oldest and busiest tapas places in Biarritz is Bar jean. Located just in front of the market, it’s usually full with both tourists and trendy locals gathering around the red bar with drinks and an impressive variety of dishes. They offer all the traditional Basque dishes as well as self severed pinchos from the bar (2 euros for one pincho). The food is indeed delicious, but the speed with which the waiters move makes for a slightly cold and impersonal service. Having said that I highly recommend spending at least one evening there.
Address: Bar Jean, 5 Rue des Halles, 64200 Biarritz
Another great tapas bar is Le Comptoir de fois gras, a perfect place to finish your market visit with. They offer a foie gras pincho as well as a great selection of Charcuterie that you can accompany with a bottle of wine or champagne while watching the people rush in and out of the market.
Address: Le Comptoir du Foie Gras, 1 Rue du Ctre, 64200 Biarritz
Burgers became popular in Biarritz and you can find several american style places with good burgers in the city. My favorite was Le Comptoir à Burger, also known as Le CAB, located on rue Gambetta, which is yet another street full of great restaurants. Their super tasty burgers come with a variety of special toppings such as mozzarella, dry tomatoes and homemade fries, very thinly sliced.
Address: Le CAB, 62 Rue Gambetta, 64200 Biarritz
16. Basque Patisserie
I find it amazing that every region you visit in France has its own local patisserie and the one thing in common is how beautifully they are presented (French aesthetics at its best). In Biarritz it’s the Gâteaux Basques (Basque cakes) that come in many flavours such as nougat, cream and pistachio. Another specialty is the local macaroon which is less pretty than the Parisian one but loses no points on taste and texture. The basque patisserie is very much based on ground almonds, resembling a bit the taste of croissant aux amandes. My favorite patisserie place was definitely Patiserrie Adam, for its huge variety of basque cakes, the beautiful presentation of every pastry and chocolate and the very lovely service (they gave us a lot of chocolate to taste 🙂 ).
Address: Patisserie Adam, 27 Place Georges Clemenceau, 64200 Biarritz
Another much more famous one is Miremont, which is not just a patisserie place but rather a fancy tea house with beautiful desserts and chocolates and high prices accordingly.
Address: Miremont, 1B Place Georges Clemenceau, 64200 Biarritz
17. Buy local products
Biarritz is rich with typical and delicious Basque products, most of which you will try in the local restaurants. If you want to take some of the French basque flavors and specialties home with you, visit one of the many local products boutiques around the city. Some of the highlights of the Basque gastronomy are the Espellette peppers, the Basque cheese, Bayonne Ham, Basque cakes and chocolate and the Irouleguy wines (with a strong flavor). Most of the products can be found in the market as well as in one of the shops in front of the market, Etxe Peio. Another beautiful shop for Basque products is Les Gourmandises d’Amatxi Biarritz.
Etxe Peio, 10 Rue des Halles, 64200 Biarritz
Les Gourmandises d’Amatxi Biarritz, 22 Rue Mazagran, 64200 Biarritz
18. Good restaurants
I can go on and on about the amazing Basque cuisine and the endless list of great local restaurants in Biarritz. But for those of you who need some variety, here is a little list of other recommended restaurants in Biarritz.
Ragazzi da Peppone – amazing homemade Italian food.
Address: 10 Avenue Victor Hugo, 64200 Biarritz
Le B2 – for French cuisine – good food, great prices and a lovely atmosphere
Address: 5 Rue du Ctre, 64200 Biarritz
Bistro Le Pim’pi – For a good old-fashioned style French Bistro – French classic dishes with an innovative touch.
Address: 4 Avenue de Verdun, 64200 Biarritz
Shopping in Biarritz
Given to the relatively small size of the city, Biarritz offers a great shopping experience with a variety of famous French retail chains and local boutiques with an emphasis on beach wear and Biarritz related products.
19. Buy clothes
In general there are two main areas for shopping in the center of Biarritz. If you are looking for the big boutiques like Zadig et Voltaire and Morgan go to Avenue Edouard VII, a home to some of the biggest French and international boutiques. You can also head to Galerie la Fayette and find there all the biggest clothing and cosmetics brands.
If you’re interested in smaller more local boutiques you can find some of them around the market (Les Halles de Biarritz), like rue Gambetta or rue Victor Hugo. You can also head to the very charming streets rue mazagran and rue du port vieux – two little pedestrian streets full of boutiques, cafes, bars and galleries. One shop I particularly liked was Tentation, a clothing boutique with a very colorful style.
Address: Tentation, 35 Rue Mazagran, 64200 Biarritz
20. Buy Presents
If you are looking for a present or a memorabilia to bring from Biarritz, there are few special items that can be great presents. One of the most popular merchandise in Biarritz are the espadrilles, made in France slippers that come in all colors and can be a great present for the summer. They are sold in many shops around Biarritz, but if you want a huge selection go to the very chic Art of Soule shoe store or the more traditional Les Sandales d’Eugénie.
Another very popular items are Biarritz’s aprons or the colorful little surfboards with cool graffiti or Biarritz’s scenery on them. One store that has a great selection of presents is Colibri.
Address: Colibri, 16 Rue Mazagran, 64200 Biarritz
Other things to do in Biarritz
There are a few interesting museums in Biarritz and although most people come here for the beaches, it’s good to have some interesting indoor places in case it rains.
Apart from the Aquarium mentioned above, there’s an entertaining museum called Cite de l’ocean, full of interactive activities and multimedia exhibits that allows you to learn about the relationship of Biarritz with the ocean in a very fun way. If you don’t feel like surfing in the real ocean, you can try the virtual reality surf experience in the museum. You can purchase tickets combining the museum with the Aquarium.
Address: Cite de l’ocean, 1 Avenue de la Plage, 64200 Biarritz
Another good museum is the Musée Asiatica, with several collections from China, Nepal and Tibet as well as a large gallery of Indian subcontinent art.
Address: Musée Asiatica, 1 Rue Guy Petit, 64200 Biarritz
Ever felt inadequate in a casino? well not in this one :). The Casino of Biarritz is located in an art deco building on the main beach, Le grande plage. It’s probably not the most extravagant casino you’ve ever been to, but maybe the relaxed feeling is what makes it nice. There is no real dress code to get inside, except that men need to wear long pants.
Address: Casino Barrière, 1 Avenue Edouard VII, 64200 Biarritz
23. See the architecture
One of the best ways to discover the city is by strolling on the streets and observing its architecture. When you visit Biarritz try to go beyond the few touristic streets and look for the unique houses and mansions. There are two noticeable places that you should pay attention to in your tour. First is the Hotel du Palais which was the summer palace of Eugénie (the last French empress) and is located between the Grande plage and Plage Miramar. And the other one is the Chapelle Imperiale which was Eugénie’s private chapel. If you have time, visit the chapel to see its beautiful interior. During the tourist season the opening hours are Thursday and Saturday (14-18).
24. Night life
Biarritz is not a party town and you won’t see streets full of clubs with people dancing till morning. The atmosphere here is relaxed and people just love to go out for a drink and eat well. Some of the bars/restaurants can be open quite late if you want to continue drinking after dinner. Two of them are located on one of the main streets in the center, Rue de port vieux: the Ventillo caffe with live music in the evenings and the Basque bar with a younger vibe. Both are open after midnight which is not obvious in Biarritz.
The market area is another place that becomes alive in the evening. Locals love to have an apero in one of the many bars and you will see the places getting busy with groups of friends as the evening carries on.
25. Go to a day trip from Biarritz
The Basque region is so rich with places to see that you’ll need a lot of time to visit its main destinations and I have many articles to write about all there is to do in the region. But if you have an extra day or two in Biarritz and you want to profit from the proximity of the town to other attractive destinations, it’s quite easy to do. The main popular places you can go to by train or bus from Biarritz are: San Sebastian, a resort town on the Spanish side of the border (50 km from Biarritz); Saint Jean de Luz, a beautiful little fishing town (20 km from Biarritz) and Bayonne, one of the biggest cities in the area known for its chocolate and ham (10 km from Biarritz).
Where to stay in Biarritz?
For those of you looking for a hotel for your stay in Biarritz, here’s a list of a few recommended hotels. I included both 3 and 4-star hotels and also one very luxurious option so that everyone can find something for their budget and needs. All of the hotels are located in the center of Biarritz, within a few minutes walk from one of the beaches, and with plenty of restaurants around.
Best Western Kemaris
A lovely 3 – star hotel situated in a typical French Basque house. It’s located just a few minutes walk from the surfing beach and about 10 minutes walk from all the shops and restaurants in the city center. The rooms are very bright and the design is quite minimalist (in a good way). Click here to book.
Résidence Vacances Bleues Le Grand Large
If you’re traveling with kids this is a great option for you. It’s an apartment-hotel with spacious rooms and a kitchen in every apartment so if you prefer to buy your food at the market and cook, this is perfect for you. The hotel does offer breakfast and has a restaurant for those who prefer not to hassle with cooking. The high building itself is not extremely charming but the rooms are nice and the view is spectacular. It’s also perfectly located within a few minutes walk from all the restaurants and the kids friendly beach (Plage Port Vieux). If it’s a bit cold outside for a beach day, the hotel offers a heated pool. Click here to book.
Hotel Windsor Grande Plage
This 4-star hotel is located right on the main beach of Biarritz with an amazing view of the ocean. It’s situated in what used to be a private mansion and has a very elegant white design. This hotel is perfect for couples on a romantic vacation 🙂 Click here to book.
Hotel Villa Koegui Biarritz
If you usually love to stay in boutique hotels, Villa Koegui Biarritz is a great option. The 4-star hotel is located very close to the beach and the main market of Biarritz. If you book the breakfast option you get to enjoy it in their lovely garden. Just one issue, the shower opens to the bedroom, meaning that it doesn’t have a separate door (I know it’s an issue for some people). But other than that it’s a great cozy hotel with great staff and service. Click here to book.
Le Regina Biarritz Hotel & Spa MGallery by Sofitel
This is the most luxurious option on my list. Le Regina is a marvelous 5-star hotel situated in a 1907 Belle Epoque building with an amazing Art Deco lobby. Besides the beautiful design, it has great amenities such as a big outdoor pool, a spa, a chef restaurant and more. The hotel is located between the main beach and Biarrit’s famous lighthouse. It’s very close to the main shopping street and about 20 minutes walk from the main market and the old port. Click here to book.
I hope this long list of things to do and see and where to eat and shop was useful for those planning to visit Biarritz. If Biarritz is not on your travel destinations list, you should definitely add it as you don’t want to miss the beautiful beaches, the delicious Basque food and the chill ambiance of this place!
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