From French Royalty to the modern movie stardom, Biarritz is well established as the classically styled French beach resort groomed to perfection. Despite earning a strong following of regular tourists this sun-kissed beach resort still retains heaps of personal character as well as glamour, with independent boutique stores, family-run gourmet restaurants and an awe-inspiring beach never far away.
Playground to the European jet set and France’s quintessential beach break resort, Biarritz is synonymous with glitz and glamour. It first became popular among the French royals and their court back in the 19th century, and some of the best hotels hark back to the town’s grand old heyday. Luxurious L’Hôtel du Palais (1 avenue de l'Impératrice), overlooking the sea, is still the definitive place to stay, but don’t overlook the modern yet spectacular Sofitel Biarritz Le Miramar Thalassa (13 rue Louison Bobet) with its state-of-the-art thalassotherapy centre. If you’re working to a tighter budget, Hotel de Biarritz (3 rue Grangier) is a stylish but more basic option.
It might be a serious tourist magnet, but Biarritz has always resisted the slide towards traditional seaside tackiness. It’s characterised by one-of-a-kind boutiques, patisseries with mouth-watering window displays and elite chocolate shops. The best place to stock up on scrumptious goodies is Pariès (1 place Bellevue), which is famous for its flavoured tourons (nougats). Another Basque specialty is espadrilles – locals get theirs at Pare Gabia (18 rue Mazagran), a family business that does customised pairs for as little as €10. Street fashion in Biarritz ranges from surfer slacks to haute couture, but if you’re looking for a high-end outfit then head to 64 (16 rue Gambetta), a designer brand established by a team of talented locals.
Basque cuisine is all about simple ingredients cooked to perfection. L’Atelier (18 rue de la Bergerie) and L’Impertinent (5 rue d’Alsace) set the gourmet standard in Biarritz – both serve classic dishes prepared from fresh ingredients – but the town has a liberal smattering of fantastic mid-range restaurants as well. Try L’Instant (4 rue du Port Vieux) in the buzzing Old Town, which attracts a friendly local crowd with its mouth-watering seafood and family atmosphere. For an artistic and highly contemporary twist on Basque cuisine, Restaurant Philippe (30 avenue du Lac Marion), run by Ducasse-trained chef Philippe Lafargue, has a reputation for surprising even the most phlegmatic of gourmands.
Bayonne Chocolate Festival
The town of Bayonne blends into suburban Biarritz, and it claims to be the first French town to have imported chocolate. This heritage is celebrated in an annual spring festival, which attracts chocolate makers and chocolate lovers from all over Europe.
International Bridge Festival
This is one of the biggest bridge events in the world, and it brings the crème de la crème of international card players to the town.
This is the oldest amateur golfing competition in France and one of the most famous of its kind in the world. Over 500 players compete every year in front of crowds of thousands.
International Surf Film Festival
Biarritz is the surfing capital of Europe and its status is reflected in this annual film festival. It includes everything from fiction to documentary, and has been dubbed the Oscars of the surfing world.
This popular music festival has only been running since 2009, but it’s already one of the biggest events of the year in Biarritz. Tens of thousands turn up to see artists such as Neil Young and Crazy Horse, while families can enjoy the free surfing lessons and workshops.