This article is part of our road trip from Morocco to the Basque country. Check it out to have an idea of our itinerary: Here
I was very excited to visit the Basque country because of the surf culture and the bohemian artistic universe that goes with it. But I expected to find my kind of vibe everywhere else in the region except Biarritz. In my head I expected something very jet-set-bourgeois like French Riviera, but spoiler alert it was nothing like it… and I love it!
Back in 2012, when I discovered the joys of surfing, and surfed consistently every week, my ultimate dream was to attend the Roxy Jam Festival in Biarritz. Female rock bands, yoga sessions, markets, surf contests, SUP and all the cool girls from around the world gather in June for this festival. That’s the dream! Surprisingly, the cool hipster vibe survives after the festival and except one landmark that I will talk about later, nothing in the city seems uptight of jetsetty! The surf culture won the battle, and Biarritz is definitely a beautiful surf capital.
If you’re not planning on surfing or working on your tan, I think you can get bored after two days. The city is easy to circle in less than a day. If you go to Biarritz, go for the ambiance, the beautiful main beach and the cool people. While it’s not as mundane as French Riviera, it’s equally expensive!
Best time to visit
Despite the cool vibe, Biarritz is a highly touristic city. In the summer it’ overly visited by local and foreign tourists looking for a beach escape or trying their chances at the famous casino.
Like all touristic cities, it’s better off-season. But since it’s coastal you would still want a sunny weather. In my opinion, the best time is either the end of summer in September, or pre-summer in May. Though I suspected to be more visited in May than September where usually people got their quota of the beach and are preparing for back to school/ work. Check the weather before booking your trip, we were very lucky with the weather, but the Basque region is known for its long rainy seasons.
Where to stay?
We were not staying in Biarritz but here are some recommendations from our friends in the region and my travel blogger buddies all around the world.
Hotel Villa Koegui Biarritz: 5 min walk from Biarritz beach, perfect to get a good night sleep in high season. The design is minimalist chic and I love the wooden deck terrace.
Hotel de Silhouette :Even closer to the beach, very central near les Halles area with an edgy design.
When I splurge I’d rather do it in a stylish boutique hotel than a resort or a chain hotel, but I still think of you guys who travel differently.
Le Regina Sofitel: Not your typical Sofitel hotel! They took over a beautiful old building overlooking the bay, and turned it into an Art déco gem. The Sofitel standards are obviously still here, and they apparently have the best SPA in town.
L’hotel du palais: If you want to splurge, go crazy and stay at the historical landmark itself. At least you’ll get a unique experience in exchange for the (very) high rates and a memory of a lifetime. We don’t get to stay at Napoleon III wife’s palace everyday 🙂
When we say “budget”, it’s relative! Biarritz it’s still an expensive city. Don’t expect your usual budget prices. The best budget option for me would be to rent a room through Airbnb. It starts from 40 USD per night to “as high as your standards can go”. If you’re not signed up on Airbnb yet, do it through this link: here and get 25 USD credit. The decent budget hotel options that I found are:
Le campanile: It’s a french chain hotel similar to Ibis budget, 2km away from the center. For me 2km is a reasonable walking distance back and forth that worths cutting costs on accommodation and spend it on coffee and drinks by the beach.
Where to eat?
This is a mix of places we tried and places recommended by our friends that know the area very well.
Bali bowls: Like the famous “Nalu bowls” concept in Bali, this place serves freshly made nice creams, acai and smoothie bowls. It’s a small little shop where they have two or three stools in the little bar, but there’s usually a long queue. You would better grab your bowl and enjoy it on the beach.The healthiest breakfast or snack that can be. Vegan friendly and Instagram worhty!
Le surfing: A popular spot on the beach, near a surf spot, an amazing decor and a wide variety of choices on the menu (burgers, asian, french terroir…). The service was a little bit rushed and borderline rude, but I guess it’s because the place is very busy and popular.
Paries: We wanted to try the specialty of the basque region: “le gateau basque”. If you want to do the same, this is the place to go. The basque high end bakery: Paries. Of course they have all the things you can find in a bakery other than the famous Gateau Basque… About the local specialty, it was good but nothing phenomenal to call “a specialty” in my opinion. It’s a regular almond tart, nothing else! But still very good!
Olatua Biarritz: An amazing spot for sunset drinks with tapas, good vibes and surf culture. The view is amazing, you can spot it on your way to “le rocher de la vierge”, just before the bridge.
The thrifty tip: Like in the rest of France, you can pick up delicious home made fast food (salads, sandwiches, quiches…) in charming bakeries and have a picnic on the beach. It’s a cheap and delicious alternative. Much better than super market processed meals.
Hotel du palais
An emblematic iconic place in the region. Previously a palace built by Empress Eugénie (wife of Napoléon III) on Biarritz’s beach, and now a luxury 5-star hotel. I love how they kept everything authentic. You don’t need to stay at the hotel to visit, you can have a coffee or book a table at the restaurant. The coffee costs 3 or 5 Euros, I don’t remember. Either way it’s worth it, consider it as an entrance fee to a museum. The terrace and the pool offer a panoramic view on the city and the lighthouse.
It can make an amazing little hike if you want another panoramic view on the city. We skipped it since we already had the view at the Hotel du Palais and preferred le Rocher de la Vierge itinerary.
Les chemins de la forme
It’s a new concept in the region to encourage people to walk and work out. The idea is to mix culture and beautiful places with a healthy little hike. We chose the one that goes to the Rocher de la Vierge instead of the lighthouse. They actually have a website where you can check out the itineraries, the time required and the accessibility: Here. What a great and caring initiative!
You will cross it if you take the Rocher de la vierge itinerary, between the coastline and the “Vieux port”. Impossible to miss! It was built in 1895 and I love how dramatic it looks.
Le Rocher de la Vierge
The ending point of the itinerary. A gorgeous panoramic sea view point. Before getting there you will pass a bridge designed by Eiffel that will lead you to the rock. The statue was built to keep local fishermen safe.
Biarritz beach & surf
The most mundane beach in the region with the famous Casino Barrière and multiple casual bars and restaurants. The people that you will meet in there are very diverse in style: from bourgeois old cute couples walking by the beach, to barefoot surfers, office workers having a lunch break, group of students goofing around and so on… Most importantly the surf rolling peaks look fun and easy, exactly how I like them! There are a lot of people on the peaks, even off-season but the surf line is long enough to server each and everyone. Advanced surfers usually enjoy Anglet’s waves more than Biarritz’s. Surfers, correct me if I’m wrong!
An antique and authentic library, the only one that has books in English. I bought the best souvenir that can be from there, this book: Surf mama. It’s an inspiring story of a British expat who expressed her mid-life crisis through surf! Yes your heard me, she started surfing at 50. Her writing style is hilarious, Wilma Johnson is a master in the art of self-mockery. She beautifully describes the French Basque lifestyle and the emotions you get when you surf for the first time: fear, adrenaline… Available on Amazon: Here
Aquarium and Musée de la mer
We didn’t do that, but I need you to know it’s there. Perfect activity if you travel with children. They are not at the same place, but everything in Biarritz is at a walkable distance anyway.
Bizarritz center is lively, charming and full of surf shops, pop up stores and trendy boutiques. Mostly local hype designers with very unique windows. It’s a beach version of Le Marais in Paris. It seems like the city supports independent businesses because I barely saw a Zara or any mainstream store. Window-shopping is a true pleasure in Biarritz.
At risk of repeating myself, getting lost in charming streets is my favourite thing to do in Europe.
Omar had a crush on l’Egoïste! It’s on the pricey side, but the kind of store that creates a unique universe and inspires a lifestyle… You know the kind that makes you want to throw your wardrobe away!
If you have an extra day, Bayonne worths a visit. You can either drive there, it’s just 7km away or take the train its’a 20 to 30 min ride either way. Read my article about Bayonne click here.
I hope you enjoyed this guide, thanks for making it till here. I wish I passed the pleasure I had discovering this city.
xo xo Dalal
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