In this new series of travel guides, we offer up ways to spend 48 hours in these European destinations. First up, Biarritz, France …
Once lauded as the most stylish of French resorts and oh so popular with the ‘bright young things’ of the 1920s and ‘30s, Biarritz is back. The French resort town, about 15 miles from the border with Spain has long been the place to go among savvy surfers, but recent years have seen its popularity with landlubber’s in the know increase. From its humble beginnings as a small fishing village, Biarritz came into fashion as a resort in 1854 when Napoleon III and his empress, Eugénie built their summer palace in the town. Today, it is a cosmopolitan resort town with an impressive gastronomic pedigree. Victor Hugo once said his greatest fear was that Biarritz would “become fashionable” but this seems to have done little to lessen the appeal. More money than sense? Head to the casino for a James Bond-esque night on the tiles. Otherwise keep it simple and indulge in some traditional Basque food and a decent bottle of France’s most famous export. Basque cuisine with a side of bistronomy? It would be rude not to.
Here’s where to stay, when to go and what to see, eat and do in Biarritz, France:
When To Visit
Biarritz has a temperate, oceanic climate so don’t expect scorching heat as you take your morning constitutional along The Grande Plage. Summers reach a high of 25°C and surfers throng the beaches to take advantage. A recent visit in mid-September was perfect for enjoying all the best that Biarritz has to offer although I suspect May or early June would also be a perfect time to sojourn. Ryanair flies to Biarritz four times a week from late March until October.
Where To Stay
Hotel De L’Océan
In a small square just a stone’s throw from the ocean, Hotel De L’Ocean boasts small, but perfectly formed balconies overlooking the square with an ocean view. The location is second to none and the rooms are very reasonably priced. Rooms from €79. www.biarritz-hotel-ocean.com
Hotel Le Garage Biarritz
An erstwhile garage now converted into a dazzling avant garde hotel, Le Garage is the perfect place to enjoy la vie en rose. Design lovers will appreciate vintage decor, the stylish terraces and swimming pool while the location, just steps from the beach, is ideal for moonlit strolls under the watchful eye of the lighthouse. Rooms from €140. www.hotel-garage-biarritz.fr
Hotel Du Palais
Scheduled to reopen in June after a major refurbishment, The Hotel du Palais is the symbolic jewel in Biarritz’s crown with its enviable location overlooking the Atlantic ocean. Founded in 1854, the building is the former imperial residence of Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie and you will certainly feel like an empress after 48 hours spent here. The rates are a reflection of such cachet but as the saying goes, life is short. www.hyatt.com
Where To Eat
For a light lunch with a view, Olatua, overlooking the picturesque Port des Pêcheurs is difficult to top. It’s heavenly on a warm day nibbling on a plate of local cheeses or bite-sized croque monsieur but equally, it’s ideal for a pre- or post-dinner glass of very well chilled Lillet Blanc. www.olatua-biarritz.com
When in la belle France, eating a significant amount of buttery croissant is a must do, but be sure to do yourself a favour and indulge in gateau Basque from Miremont Patisserie too. The dining room is simply stunning with its ornate Parisian decor and if you nab a table to the back you can enjoy your coffee and sweet treats while taking in the breath-taking views of the ocean with the picture perfect lighthouse on the horizon. www.miremont-biarritz.fr
One of life’s simple pleasures is dining al fresco under a canopy of twinkling stars and Le Royalty is a good place to do just that in Biarritz. Expect solid, bistrot style cuisine in a small plaza near the casino. The frites (with perfectly cooked cote de boeuf) were among the best we have had in France and the rum baba was equally potent and delicious. www.leroyalty.com
If you happen to be self-catering or plan on picnicking, do as the locals do and pick up lunch from the stunning food market, Les Halles. Expect an array of wonderful cheeses, cured meats, Basque pâté, breads and everything in between. www.halles-biarritz.fr
In operation since the 1930s, Bar Jean is located on the street running alongside Les Halles and is something of a Biarritz institution. It’s always busy with equal amounts of locals and tourists, eager to soak up the atmosphere. Fill your plate with their colourful selection of apéro tapas inside the bar or order from the menu. It’s the perfect spot for a spot of people-watching over a glass of Basque cider and a plate of padron peppers. www.barjean-biarritz.fr
WHAT TO PACK
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