Activities in Biarritz

Six things you must do in… Biarritz

Extract form Daily Mail By GARETH HUW DAVIES UPDATED: 18:41 GMT, 21 March 2010 Read more:–Biarritz.html#ixzz2RGn9W7Pm One of the many Royal visitors to Biarritz would set off for the Queen of Resorts with the battle cry: ‘Chill the champagne, pack the pearls and tune up the Bugatti.’ Gareth Huw Davies, travelling more modestly to this famous old town on France’s south-west coast, just 12 miles from the Spanish border, found plenty of old-fashioned luxury. But you don’t have to belong to the international elite to enjoy its long beaches, big waves and mild weather. His list of things to do includes low and no-cost options.
Atlantic delight: Biarritz was a destination that became particularly popular during the Belle Epoque in the 19th Century

1. Le grand stroll

Biarritz offers one of the most attractive seaside saunters in France, on a route lined with tamarisks and hydrangeas. It starts at the lighthouse on the high headland and passes France’s second-oldest golf course (it’s municipal, so quite easy to book) and the Russian Orthodox Church, built for visiting 19th Century nobility, with its glorious blue dome. The famous old promenade along the Grande Plage leads past the Casino Barriere, with a fine art deco ceiling and floor, the peaceful old square Place Ste-Eugenie and the Museum of the Sea, with its handsome facade and shark-feeding sessions. On to Fishermen’s Port, built by Emperor Napoleon, and the Rock of the Virgin. The statue of Madonna, set up to keep local fishermen safe, is over a bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel, of tower fame.

2. Surf’s up

Riding ashore on the crest of a wave is an obvious and exhilarating way to harness natural forces.So you’d think people had always been doing it. But it wasn’t until 1957 that surfing reached Europe. And it happened here. Hollywood screenwriter Peter Viertel (husband-to-be of Deborah Kerr) was in town for the filming of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. The powerful waves so impressed him, he asked for his board to be sent over from California. Europe’s first surf club launched soon after. Surfing has widened the resort’s appeal to a younger generation.
Wave of nostalgia: It wasn’t until 1957 that surfing reached Europe and it came here to Biarritz, the birthplace of the sport in Europe

3. Palatial stay

One way to judge the pedigree of a hotel is to count the number of times you don’t mind taking the stairs if the lift’s just gone. I took the grand descent to the lobby on the Belle Epoque staircase four times during my one-night stay. Which is exactly what Napoleon III intended when he designed this sumptuous place in the 1800s, originally for his wife Eugenie. This hotel commands the best spot in town, directly above Grande Plage. It seems serenely adrift in an earlier age. Rather than update it, they have simply refreshed its elegance, adding the odd modern touch such as a salubrious spa. The suites, Edouard VII, Sarah Bernhardt and Winston Churchill, all Burmese teak, Carrara marble and Italian mosaics, recall starry clients (

4. Rhune with a view

Take an easy day trip from Biarritz. North is the old and interesting town of Bayonne, and the beaches and huge echoing forest of Les Landes. A few miles south are the attractive Basque towns of Saint Jean de Luz in France, and San Sebastian, just inside Spain. For the most exciting view in the region, take the rickety, antique mining train, Le Petit Train de La Rhune. It struggles up to the 2,700ft summit of La Rhune, using cog wheels to conquer the extreme gradients, and passing wild Pottok horses along the way. The view from the top, three stars in the Michelin Guide, is spectacular. If you feel fit, buy a single ticket. A well-signed walk brings you all the way down (
Stunning: Apart from offering one of the most scenic seaside walks in France, Biarritz does sunsets really rather well too

5. Shops and chocs

One delight of the French high street is the number of small, independent shops. In an hour’s window-shopping in Biarritz , I saw only one big store. There are specialist cheese shops, grocers and a serious outbreak of chocolate, confectionery and cake shops. Bonbon-making is a tradition. One speciality, the chocolate caramel Kanouga, was devised in 1905 for visiting Russian nobility. The Chocolate Museum,, is worth a visit. And try the Basque Cake, shot through with black cherry jam. You drink Izarro liqueur, made from mountain herbs, with these delights.

6. Red hot

Red is one of Biarritz’s theme colours. It is in the ubiquitous Basque flag, in the cheerful red and green half-timbered buildings, and the town’s rugby team shirt. It’s also the colour of the cornerstone of Basque cuisine, the Espelette pepper. A local man who voyaged with Columbus brought it back from Mexico. Today, the autumn ritual is to fill every spare space in the villages around Biarritz with drying peppers. They sell it ground, pureed and pickled. It’s the staple ingredient in the dish piperade, made with scrambled eggs and ham.