BIARRITZ the ultimate guide by lost in bordeaux

Biarritz, a renowned surfing destination on the Atlantic Ocean, is celebrated for its pristine beaches, captivating architecture, and vibrant ambiance. In the 1850s, it was the favored summer retreat of Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie de Montijo. The 1950s marked a pivotal moment as Biarritz evolved into Europe’s pioneering surfing haven. Although its allure waned for a time, the town has experienced a resurgence in popularity, now standing as a coveted vacation destination for many French. 

The beaches are still what attracts many tourists to Biarrtiz, however, in recent years it developed into much more than just another coastal resort. The Basque town has one of the best gastronomic scenes in the region, plenty of little bars with a stunning beach view, and a variety of indoor and outdoor activities. Its proximity to many other great destinations in the Basque country makes it a perfect base to explore the region. 

In this article, I will help you discover all the best things to do in Biarritz. My list includes recommendations about the best restaurants, beaches, surfing schools, fun tours, and more. 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!

Surfing – one of the best attractions in Biarritz

1. Surf (or take surfing lessons) at the Côte des Basques

The Biarritz surfing scene is the main attraction for many European tourists. 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’re already a surfer, there are several places here where you can rent surf equipment. 

But this place is also a gem for beginners as there are quite a few surfing schools here offering classes to surfing newbies. One of the best surfing schools in Biarrtiz is La Vague Basque. There you can join a group course, take a private lesson or even do a five-day intensive surfing course. You see all the options and book your surfing lessons here

Surfing in Biarritz
surfing schools in Biarritz- Lost in Bordeaux

If you wish to discover another charming location nearby, you can take your surfing course in Birdard, the official surfing paradise, just a few minutes drive from Biarritz. A great surfing school in Bidard is Aquality School and Taiba Surf Club, both do their lessons at Plage de l’Uhabia. 

If you need a break from surfing climb the stairs of the Square Jean Baptiste Lassalle to the very cool beach bar the Etxola Bibi. This open-air bar is located on the cliff with a beautiful view of the Côte des Basques beach, It’s 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.

Etxola Bibi- great place for a beer with a view of the Côte des Basques beach in Biarritz
Etxola Bibi- great place for a beer with a view of the Côte des Basques beach

Along the coastline of Biarritz –the best places to visit in Biarritz

2. Take a long walk on the promenade

along the coast line of Biarrtz
A sand artist on the coastline of Biarritz

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 of Biarritz’s beaches. Don’t miss Sam, the sand artist who’s making beautiful sketches on wet sand.If you want to have photogenic memories of this walk, you can also take this Private Photographic tour of Biarritz.

3. See the view from the Lighthouse (Le Phare)

The view from Biarritz's lighthouse
The view from Biarritz’s lighthouse

The lighthouse is located in the northern part of the coast of Biarritz, right on the border of Landes and rising to a height of 73 meters above sea level. You have to climb 248 steps to get to the top but I promise you, it’s worth it! 

The view from the lighthouse is mesmerizing, especially on a sunny day. The panoramic scenery provides a sweeping view that encompasses both the entire coastline and the city center. This is a great place to start your walk along the coast or alternatively to see the sunset if you visit Biarritz when the sun goes down before 6 pm, as that’s when the lighthouse closes in the evening.  See the opening hours here.

A more exciting way to see the view of Biscay Bay with its stunning beaches and villages is the  Atlantic coast helicopter trip from Biarritz.

4. Explore 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 tourist streets and look for the unique houses and mansions. The best way to discover the architectural treasures of Biarrtiz is by taking a guided walking tour (this one starts from the lighthouse). 

Architecture in Biarritz
Architecture in Biarritz

But if you’re not taking a tour, here are two noticeable places that you should pay attention to on your stroll. 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. The second 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).

5. 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 also makes it the most crowded beach during high season. For those seeking the city beach ambiance and not particularly inclined towards surfing, this spot is an ideal place to relax during your stay in Biarritz. 

Le Grand Plage is the main beach in Biarritz
Grand Plage in Biarritz – by Lost in Bordeaux

For surfers, the go-to place is Plage de la Côte Basque, where you can choose to rent surfing equipment or take a surf lesson from an allee of surfing schools. 

if you don’t mind walking or cycling farther from the city center, there’s a nicer and less crowded beach I highly recommend. For that, you need to get to the south of Biarritz to Plage de la Milady or Plage Marbella which I’ll talk about later.

6. 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’s little colorful houses, some of which serve as restaurants with a beautiful view of the boats docking at the port.

port des pecheurs biarritz
Port des Pecheurs in Biarritz

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 Basque cuisine. My favorite restaurant is Casa Juan Pedro, which offers delicious local dishes for affordable prices.

7. A boat trip 

From Port des Pêcheurs you can also go on a cruise Bay of Biscay and discover the Basque coast by boat. Excursion Bateau Biarritz is run by a professional skipper, Jerome, who will take you on a magical day trip that includes Swimming and snorkeling in the creeks of Biarritz, lunch on the beach, a visit to the bay of Saint Jean de Luz and more. 

The minimum age for this activity is 2yo and you must book it in advance – see all the details here.

8. 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 while sipping a glass of wine and snacking on a charcuterie plate.

view from the Olatua bar
See the sun go down from the Olatua bar in Biarritz

The place I found most charming was OLATUA, with a very chill atmosphere of friends meeting at the end of a working day. 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

9. Rocher de la Vierge

Perched on the dramatic cliffs of Biarritz, the Rocher de la Vierge emerges as a mesmerizing natural landmark and cultural symbol. Previously used as a platform for whale-watching it is now one of Biarrtiz’s more recognizable spots. Translated as the “Rock of the Virgin,” this site owes its name to the statue of the Virgin Mary standing on the top of the rock.

rocher de la vierge
Rocher de la Vierge – one of the hallmarks of Biarritz

Accessible by a scenic footbridge, the Rocher de la Vierge offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Bay of Biscay and Côte des Basques (the surfing coastline). The sound of crashing waves against the rocks adds a symphonic backdrop to the sensory experience. The view gets particularly stunning around sunset time, but it’s a magnificent spot to visit any time of the day.

7. The Aquarium of Biarritz

Another very popular attraction in Biarritz is the Biarritz Aquarium (also known as the Musée de la Mer) 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.

You can buy the tickets online and if you’re also planning to visit the Cité de l’Océan I recommend purchasing the combined ticket.

Address:  Musée de la Mer, Plateau de l’Atalaye, 64200 Biarritz

11. Plage Port Vieux for a safe swim with kids

Plage port vieux - the best beach for kids in Biarritz
Plage port vieux – for a safe swim – by Lost in Bordeaux

After you’ve visited the Rocher de la Vierge (or the Biarritz aquarium nearby) continue walking along the coastline until you see a beautiful tiny beach from the top. This is Plage Port Vieux, the smallest and in my opinion, the prettiest beach in Biarritz. 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.

The problem is that it’s very small so it tends to be packed with families during the summer. If you’re looking for a quiet beach continue down the road to the southern part of Biarritz.

12. Villa Belza

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 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

13. Plage Marbella

Another much more isolated beach is Plage Marbella in the South of Biarritz.  Characterized by its towering waves, this beach radiates a distinctly wild ambiance, making it a preferred haven for seasoned surfers.

a bar on plage Marbella
a bar on plage Marbella

One of Marbella’s best features is Debololo, the surfers’ outdoor bar, which is located on the cliff, just before you go down to the beach. Debololo with its local vibe has a light menu (quiches, sandwiches, etc.) and lots of cold drinks. 

Address: Debololo, impasse Marbella, Biarritz, France 64200

14. Go on a day trip from Biarritz 

There is an incredible amount of places to visit in the Basque region, and you need at least a few weeks to cover it all. But let’s be realistic, most people only have a few days when they are visiting the region, so I want to give you the highlights. 

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). 

Personally, Bayonne, the capital of the French Basque country is my favorite one. The city is known for its charming old town with narrow cobblestone streets and Basque-style houses. But Bayonne also happens to be one of the most gastronomic destinations in the southwest of France. So when there, I highly recommend taking a food tour so you can easily discover all the gastronomic gems of this city. 

Bayonne - a day trip from Biarritz
Bayonne -by Lost in Bordeaux

Where to eat in Biarritz – food and nightlife

The food is by far my favorite part of Biarritz! The richness of the 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.

15. Les Halles de Biarritz – the market of Biarritz

Halles de Biarritz
Halles de Biarritz

Marché aux Halles, Biarritz’s main market is one of the best attractions this city has to offer. This bustling market, housed in a charming Art Deco building was built in 1885 and has since become a gastronomic institution. You can find here the best regional delicacies, fresh produce, artisanal treats and even amazing coffee. 
My favorite way to discover a local market in many French cities I go to is taking a food tour with someone local. It’s not only the best way to discover the regional specialties but also to learn about the local life and culture. Several food tours in Biarrtiz will help you discover the market, one of them is the Biarritz guided walking & gourmet tour.

Eat oysters in les halles de Biarritz
Eat oysters in les halles de Biarritz

Next to the big market, you will find another smaller building, which is the fish and seafood market. Here you can order a plate of oysters with white wine and just enjoy the good life of Biarritz. 

This type of covered market has become very popular in France and in recent years you can see them popping up in many cities around the country. Usually, these are very lively during the day and quiet after 14:00 but Biarrtiz is different. This market is the go-to place for locals for lunch, apero, or a night out with friends. And while the market itself closes early, all the restaurants around it stay open. And I’ll mention a few of them later. 

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 3rd week of August.

16. Basque food and tapas places

You can feel the Spanish influence on the French Basque cuisine in many of Biarritz’s restaurants. Excellent tapas bars with colorful Pintxos are an integral aspect of the city’s culinary landscape. In general, I found that the market area is the food hub of the city and harbors the best tapas bars in Biarritz.

Bar Jean in Biarritz
Bar Jean – one of the food institutions of Biarritz

One of the oldest and busiest tapas places in Biarritz is Bar jean. Located just in front of the market, the bar offers an impressive variety of dishes and tapas. This spot typically attracts a lively mix of tourists and fashionable locals gathering around its red bar. Bar Jean offers all the traditional Basque dishes as well as self-severed Pintxos from the bar. 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.

Le Comptoir du Foie Gras in Biarritz
Le Comptoir du Foie Gras

Another great tapas bar is Le Comptoir de fois gras, a perfect place to finish your market visit. They offer a foie gras pintxo 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.

17. Buy local products

Biarritz is rich with 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 product boutiques around the city.

basque products
Buy local products in Biarritz

Some of the highlights of 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 Mikelena, which is located in the city center. 

If you have some time in Biarrtiz I also recommend taking a trip to the countryside to see how some of these delicates are produced. If you don’t want the hassle of organizing it yourself, you can take this Basque Country Food tour.

18. Good restaurants

The list of good restaurants in Biarrtiz is too long and it requires a separate article, but I wanted to give you at least three great ones to start with.

EPOQ – a chic restaurant, that prides itself on a stylish ambiance and a menu spotlighting locally sourced and organic dishes. 

Bistro Le Pim’pi – For a good old-fashioned style French Bistro – French classic dishes with an innovative touch.Frenchie – in the gastronomic territory we have this stylish restaurant that’s located in the Regina Hotel.

19. Basque Patisserie

I find it amazing that every region you visit in France has its own local patisserie! In Biarritz, it’s the Gâteaux Basques (Basque cakes) that come in many flavors 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 is 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 🙂 ).

patisserie Adam
Taste amazing Basque patisserie in Adam

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.

20. Burgers

Les CAB Biarritz
Les CAB – great place for a burger

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.

21. Nightlife in Biarrtiz

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 cafe 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.

night life around the market in Biarritz
night life around the market in Biarritz

There are also a few nightclubs such as le Duplex and Carré Coast but I’m not a nightclub person so I can’t tell you from personal experience if they are good 🙂

Shopping in Biarritz

Given 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 beachwear and Biarritz-related products.

22. Where to shop for clothing in Biarritz

In general, there are two main areas for shopping in the center of Biarritz. If you are looking for famous 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 Lafayette where all the biggest clothing and cosmetics brands are on display.

Shopping street in Biarritz
Avenue Edouard VII – Shopping street in Biarritz

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.

23. Buy Souvenirs 

presents from Biarritz
Some of the presents you can bring back home

If you are looking for presents or memorabilia to bring from Biarritz, there are a few special items that can be great presents. One of the most popular merchandise in Biarritz is 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.

Les espadrilles
Espadrilles – a nice present to bring from Biarritz

Other 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.

Indoor activities to do in Biarritz

24. Museums

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 Cité de l’océan. The Ocean Museum offers plenty of interactive and fun activities and multimedia exhibits that help you explore the relationship of Biarritz with the ocean. 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.

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.

25. Casino

Casino Barrière in Biarritz
Casino Barrière

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.

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.

Best Western Kemaris
Best Western Kemaris

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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*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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