Since it’s been a while since we last added an entry to our “Viewpoints” section, where we try to show off a different part of our country every so often.
As we regularly say, our intention is not to offer a “tour guide”. There are many people who know how to do that a lot better than us; indeed, we’ll include a few references we used to help us prepare for this daytrip.
Whenever we visit it, Biarritz seems like the perfect mix of Northern Basque Country people with the style of a San Sebastian resort and an immense Parisian influence. You get that last one in San Sebastian, too, but in the case of Biarritz, it goes a lot further, in the architecture and even in the ambiance of the shops.
Our goal was to tour the Old Port up to the Lighthouse, which would take us by some of the biggest highlights of the city. But it didn’t give us the chance to visit the southern part, which starts at the Old Port and goes down to the City of the Ocean, following the whole length of the Basque Coast beach.
Biarritz Aquarium (web)
We had two choices on our trip to recall the close relationship of this Basque city with the sea: one was the City of the Ocean and the other was the Aquarium. We opted for the latter, firstly because it’s in the center of the city, and secondly because of its long history (it opened in 1935), and the building it’s housed in: an Art Nouveau masterpiece. We promise we’ll return to visit the City of the Ocean.
As we said, in the history of this town, the sea and mariners played a leading role, and like in all main Basque ports, the coat of arms of Biarritz is focused on whaling. The mariners of Labourd, like those of Biscay and Gipuzkoa, dedicated themselves to hunting whales for centuries. This, like cod fishing, took them all the way to the coast of Newfoundland by at least the beginning of the 16th century.
And, for centuries, the Basques were very good at it. There’s even a species called the Basque whale, and as the website Medium Aevum reminds us, the first reference to this species dates back to 1059 in a text found in Bayonne, just up the coast from Biarritz.
In the museum, alongside some beautiful sea lions, there is a huge number of marine animal species from all seven seas, as well as a large section dedicated to the seafaring tradition and to Basque fishing and, especially, Basque whaling. There are even some skeletons from the cetaceans.
This aquarium will not let anyone down, young or old.
Place of Interest
We could, of course, start with the beaches, which are exactly the type of seaside gems that became hotspots for the European nobility and bourgeoisie in the second half of the 19th century. Today, these beaches, now open to all, are a worldwide draw from surf lovers, much like the whole Basque coast.
In our trip, which we’ve tried to summarize in the video we’ve prepared, we were able to enjoy architectural wonders that join the traditional, with its beautiful Basque-style houses, with the modern and impressive palaces that have now been turned into hotels.
We’re not going to repeat what is laid out so well on these sites, but we can’t help highlighting what impacted us most on our walk.
First and foremost was the beauty of the buildings, both those which tried to adapt to the traditional Basque style in the area and those trying to emphasize the power of the empire, or of the French monarchy.
But there’s something we could absolutely not miss: the opportunity to take a walk through the three religions who have their worshiping sites in a triangle whose sides are barely 100 m or 300 ft long, and all right next to the Hôtel du Palais.
We visited the Orthodox Church, which was built in 1892 at the behest of Czar Alexander III and dedicated to Saint Alexander Nevski. This is a Byzantine-style building in which we can find religious icons brought from St. Petersburg. We highly recommend visiting.
We also went to the Imperial Chapel, built in 1864 for the private use of Napoleon III and his wife, empress Eugénie de Montijo. We also visited the Synogogue.
Biarritz is a city for tourists in which, without any undue noise and always with great elegance, we can enjoy the lively social, cultural, and recreational life of the city.
This February, on a Spring-like Saturday, at sunset, the restaurants and sidewalk cafés fill up with people of all ages, eating dinner, having a drink, and chatting in the broad pedestrianized avenues.
The artistic and cultural activity in the city have a place of honor, as you can see by checking out the events calendar, chock full of things to do all year round.
If this “Viewpoints” video we’ve made about Biarritz encourages you to spend a few days on the Basque Coast, do be sure to check out the prices and deals you might find on Voyage Privé – Biarritz. We used it when we spent a few days away, and we never ceased to be amazed by their offers.