10 tips for a tasty weekend in Biarritz 

Hello – it’s Emily. For those of you that haven’t heard of me, I normally help David behind the scenes with some things on the blog. I recently visited Biarritz and David asked me to share with you some of the great things we did while there.

-Emily

Biarritz had been on my travel bucket list for as long as I can remember. In my 20s, working the office grind in London and going for days without seeing any discernible sunshine in winter, I dreamt of buying a van and moving there to surf the endless waves and drink Ricard (pastis) around a beach bonfire. Instead I stayed in my safe job and displayed the surfboard my friend left behind our sofa in the living room (being Australian by birth, it is a shame that I cannot actually surf).

When I finally got around to visiting the ship had well and truly sailed on the camper-van fantasy, however it was still very easy to embrace the surf town vibe that Biarritz offers. Built on the Atlantic coast with a view to the Pyrénées, in the French Basque countryside, it is around 35 kilometres (22 miles) from the border with Spain. There’s a vibrant food scene and the town is a mix of high-low with luxurious boutiques (there is a Hermès boutique just behind the seafront) and chic homeware stores next to surf rental outlets and oyster shacks.

At just over an hour’s flight from Paris (or 4-5 hours by train) the airport is a short 8-minute drive from the center of town, which really allows you to make the most of your precious time there. My family is already planning our next trip, and will explore the region further, including San Sebastian, Hossegor, St. Jean de Luz, and the Frank Gehry museum in Bilbao. 

1. La Grande Plage (The Big Beach) and Biarritz Lighthouse

This beach stretches from the center of town, past the very grand Hôtel du Palais, and all the way to the Biarritz Lighthouse, set on the boundary between the sandy Landes coast and the rocky coast of the Basque Country (the 248 steps to the top are worth it for the view of the ocean and surrounding hinterland.) Watch enthusiastic surfers endlessly wipe out during the day before taking in the impressive sunset with a cocktail. There are a few food options along the boardwalk but we just sat on the green park benches enjoying our ice-cream cones.

2. Ice cream with a view to remember

Miremont must have the best views of any ice-cream parlor in the world. From the entrance on the street you can see straight through to the plate glass window overlooking the sea, and Wes Anderson would feel right at home with the decor. Opened in 1872, it was appointed to the Royal House of Spain by King Alphonso XIII and Rostand once wrote that “at teatime, there are at Miremont fewer pastries than Queens and fewer rum babas than Grand Dukes.” It has a splendid display of beautiful pastries but the ice-cream is the real drawing-card, with refreshing flavors that aren’t commonly found, such as peche de vigne (red vine peaches) and nougat, filled with vivid green pistachios and flavored with honey. 

1 bis, place Clémenceau, 64200 Biarritz

3. Surf lessons

While it is best to leave La Grande Plage to the more experienced surfers, there are various surf schools that offer lessons on the Plage de la Côte des Basques. Both Biarritz Paradise Surf School and Biarritz surf Training were recommended to us by locals and offer classes open to all levels. The water is crowded but the foam boards are specially designed for learners and you should get up during your first lesson (if only for a few seconds!). Be sure to rent a wetsuit as the water is chilly.

4. Rocher de la Vierge (The Rock of the Virgin Mary)

The story behind this iconic statue is that once, during a terrible storm, a divine light guided sailors back to Biarritz port and in gratitude the survivors erected a statue of the Virgin Mary. Napoleon III cut a tunnel through the rock and had a bridge built to make it accessible from the seafront. The current bridge was designed by Gustave Eiffel in 1887 (the same year construction started on the Eiffel Tower) and in good weather it is possible to walk out and enjoy the wonderful view. The rocks erode by approximately 70 centimeters each year and a few minutes watching the wild waves will show you why.

Esplanade de la Vierge, 64200 Biarritz

5. Eden Rock Café

Built into the rocks overlooking Plage du Port Vieux (old port beach) is Eden Rock Café. It is a tiny hideaway where you can share plates of fresh seafood, cured local ham and chilled champagne while watching the sunset. It is also a dreamy place for a relaxed lunch, with lots of shade and stunning views. It’s the sort of café that makes you consider selling your home and starting a new life by the sea.

2-4 Esplanade du Port Vieux, 64200 Biarritz

6. Le Petit-train de Biarritz

Much to my husband’s embarrassment, I absolutely love the little tourist trains that can be found in seaside towns across France (there is also one in Paris called the Blue Little Train, not to be confused with the Train Bleu, and one in Montmartre).

In Biarritz, Le Petit-train (the little train) collects passengers from the beachfront by the casino, with a second stop in front of the Rocher de la Vierge, and follows a simple loop up over Plage de la Côte des Basques and then around town. The views are stunning and there is ample opportunity to embrace the spirit of the train and wave at strangers as you chugg by.

Boulevard du Général de Gaulle, 64200 Biarritz

7. Gâteau Basque

In a region which embraces bold flavours, this local cake stole the show. A ribbon of fresh cherry jam sandwiched between two layers of an almost shortbread pastry, it is dense and light at the same time and, like most regional recipes, everyone has their own rules and traditions when making it. We ate some, warmed by the sun, in the local market and picked up a beautifully box of them from Maison Adam to bring back to Paris. David’s version can be found in Ready for Dessert (which I made the day after we got back, having eaten all the other ones immediately).

8. Les Halles de Biarritz

We visited the Biarritz market on Sunday morning and, despite being able to buy almost all of the same produce at our local market in Paris (and travelling with hand luggage only), everything was so enticing that I couldn’t help making a few purchases. Locals were picking up take-away plates of oysters and shellfish from a stall called L’Ecaillerie, enjoying them on the steps outside, soaking up the late summer sun with a glass of white wine. Stall holders were friendly and offered up a range of bite size Basque cheeses and locally cured ham to taste as we wandered by. Open everyday from 7.30am until 2pm.

11 rue des Halles, 64200 Biarritz

9. Tapas

The streets surrounding the market are filled with lively tapas bars and restaurants. Dine at Bar Jean, where you can choose anything from light tapas to a whole roast lamb, depending on how hungry you are. The rosé was fresh and crisp, and we spent the lunch people watching.  I was especially enamoured by a table of glamorous older ladies trading tidbits of gossip.

5 rue des Halles, 64200 Biarritz

10. Basque ham tasting

We were gently drawn into the Pierre Otezia store by the window display with the goal to buy some gifts for the grandparents (who were at home, taking care of our children and dog while we enjoyed our first grown up weekend since we became a family of four in January). Before we left with a lovely bag brimming with fromage de brebis (sheeps cheese), local black cherry marmalade to eat with it and dried sausage from the Aldudes Valley, we were presented with an assortment of ham and cheese to taste, with each different option explained by the knowledgeable shop assistant. A great way to taste some of the local culinary delights.

22 Avenue Foch, 64200 Biarritz

The Biarritz tourism website can be found here. I would love to hear your tips and experiences, if you’ve visited Biarritz (or ever wanted to), in the comments below.

10 tips for a weekend of good food, wine and surfing in Biarritz

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37 comments

  • Cris S.
    October 28, 2019 5:06pm

    I may be staring at that first picture the rest of the day instead of working…

  • Thomas L
    October 28, 2019 6:29pm

    When I was a kid (some 30 years ago), you could only find Gateau basque with crème patisserie and not this tart cherry, awesome version.

    Makes me wonder if taste have evolved or if we have a back-to-classic happening here

    • October 28, 2019 6:38pm
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve seen quite a few Gâteaux basque in France with a cherry jam filling. Am not sure if it’s a later version, than the one filled with pastry cream, but the Basque people love their cherry jam, so it’s no wonder it found its way into this pastry!

    • Michele
      October 29, 2019 7:26pm

      My mother’s best friend owned Chez Albert seafood restaurant on the harbor Is it still there?

      • Janet Rubin
        October 29, 2019 8:18pm

        Still there, although was a disappointment .

  • Anne
    October 28, 2019 6:55pm

    I really enjoyed this, thank you. I assume this is Emily’s report but I couldn’t find her name on it. I only mention this because it was disconcerting to read about the two children that hadn’t been mentioned during the previous 20 years. Is it Emily’s?

    • Emily Cunningham
      October 28, 2019 7:14pm

      Hi Anne – yes it is me (Emily). Thanks for reminding me to go back and put my name on it!

    • Krystyna Kraska Llenza
      October 29, 2019 5:20pm

      I was a student in Madrid in 1967, I needed to go to Paris to obtain a visa to travel to Poland to visit my aunt near Gdańsk, we went to the French consulate to find out the best way (cheapest) for students to travel to France, the people at the consulate told us that the best way to do it was to travel by train to Hendaya and then do the autostop (hitchhiking ) from there to Paris. That it was not safe to do it in Spain (very true ). Needless to say it was an unforgettable trip , we stopped for a day in Biarritz and it was such a delightful experience….. ur article brought up many memories. At the time you could get a type of permit to do hitchhiking because the permit (which you held up as you requested a ride) covered any health emergencies and drivers were more willing to pick you up.

  • Margaret
    October 28, 2019 8:59pm

    We drove through Biarritz two years ago on the way to San Sebastián and
    Bilbao — what a gorgeous place. My friends said it was a favorite holiday destination of Russian aristocracy years ago. I would love to go back and stay there for awhile.

  • Sandra Alexander
    October 28, 2019 10:04pm

    Love a petit train! Have had a couple of great trips to St Jean de Luz. Enjoyed staying at the retro Grand Hotel de la Poste, eating at the markets, visiting the superb cathedral and touring around the Basque hinterland. Didn’t surf, though an Aussie, can do that at home.

  • Olivia
    October 29, 2019 7:31am

    Bonjour David,

    I am along time reader who has never commented, but I grew up in this region! I only moved a few years ago for university and still return every summer. I am so glad you found so many of our beautiful sights and tastes. My mama always made gateau basque filled with cream patisserie spiked with rum and a thick layer of whatever homemade jam we had on hand. It was delicious warm out of the oven or cooled and packed in my lunchbox. She also added an unorthodox handful of raisins occasionally into the almond sponge base, I loved that version the best. Hope you visit again and discover even more :)

    Love from Berlin xo

    • October 29, 2019 11:54am
      David Lebovitz

      It’s a lovely region and I remember on my first visit many years ago, having hot chocolate in Bayonne and buying Basque linens, which are so beautiful! And yes, Gâteau basque is one of my favorite desserts, too : )

  • October 29, 2019 9:45am

    My husband and I had our summer break in St Jean de Luz this year and took a day trip to Biarritz on a super hot day. I must say that we were so put off by the numbers of people that we drove around for quite a while to find a park, got grumpily out of the car, took some photos (of the same things Emily did!) and went on our way, wondering why anyone would visit this heaving place. This article and several of my friends who had family in the area remind me that we missed out on great things like the market. I had Gateau Basque several times while we were in the area, usually with the black cherry jam. We were blown away by the quality of the local brebis cheese and the air dried ham. We live in France, so can buy these things in the Loire Valley where we live, but it’s still not the same.

    • Emily Cunningham
      October 29, 2019 5:00pm

      Hi Susan, we didn’t have a car as we stayed at a hotel in the centre of town (and visited in late September) but yes, I can imagine that in summer the traffic could be quite busy, especially in some of those smaller streets. Good to mention! Thanks, Emily

  • October 29, 2019 4:46pm

    Emmm, of the whole of France, Biarritz is not the place I would choose to go. Run down glory of the super rich (still got shops like Hermes, Celine etc) mixed with surfer shops. I was there for work a few years ago, but would gladly pass by on my own time. (The tourist train is the same you can find from Hastings to Barcelona). In terms of food, I’d rather go an hour further into Spain to enjoy the same Basque culinary treats in a more authentic ambiance.

    • CDO
      October 29, 2019 5:41pm

      What a spoilsport!

  • Martine Bresson
    October 29, 2019 4:46pm

    Yes indeed a lovely town in the summer and I spent a lot of them there. I went back in the winter to avoid the Canadian winter 4 years ago, it was so quiet, if not dead…not much going on, really not the time to visit !
    The redeeming factor was Bayonne, a public bus ride from Biarritz, an amazing and very lively town, even in the winter, full of history, interesting buildings and great food, please David go there !!!
    I am a follower who loves your blog, born in France and living in Ontario for the last 45 years. Thank you so much !

  • Cyndy
    October 29, 2019 4:53pm

    I love the fact that the beach has a more natural atmosphere, as opposed to rows and rows of chairs and umbrellas like on other French beaches and those of Italy.

    Emily doesn’t say when she visited. Is the area less crowded in the fall after la rentrée?

    • Emily Cunningham
      October 29, 2019 4:57pm

      Hi Cyndy, we went in the last weekend of September. There was a nice atmosphere and definitely much calmer than mid-summer. We easily got tables at restaurants and space on the beach. Emily

  • Sandra
    October 29, 2019 6:53pm

    We revisited Biarritz in September. The entire Pays Basque is lovely. There is a navette that takes you to Hondarribia from Hendaye in about 15 minutes for a quick tapas fix. :)

    Le Clos Basque at 12, rue Louis Barthou in Biarritz is a wonderful restaurant. Table des Freres Ibarboure in nearby Bidart is another gem.

  • Marianne McGriff
    October 29, 2019 7:02pm

    David,
    You are, probably, in transit to NY for a discussion at Strand Book Store. I sent a copy of Darina’s book to you that was signed by her. I’m praying that it connects with you! Thank you for your wonderful posts. Blessings, Marianne McGriff

    • October 30, 2019 7:25pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks for sending it : )

  • Linn
    October 29, 2019 9:11pm

    I was in San Sebastián in late October a few years ago which is about a 45 minute drive southwest of Biarritz. We stayed in a grand hotel on the beach and I remember sleeping with the garden doors open listening to the surf. It was beautiful and pleasant — not crowded at all. I was with friends from the Toulouse area and they prefer Spain over the southern beaches in France — saying they’re less crowded and less expensive. We searched out pintxos bars and other goodies — all fabulous. It was my favorite place to visit in Europe. Thanks for your post — I’d love to go back and spend time in Biarritz.

    • October 30, 2019 7:24pm
      David Lebovitz

      If it was the Hotel de Londres in San Sebastian, I stayed there as well as really liked it (especially the unlimited marcona almonds at the breakfast buffet!) but you do need to make sure you have a seaside room…with a balcony.

      • Linn
        October 30, 2019 11:13pm

        That’s where we stayed! I remember the stuffed green olives at dinner :)

  • October 30, 2019 1:11am

    Two years ago we stayed just outside of St.-Jean-de-Luz and visited Biarritz a couple of times. We liked it but we liked St.-Jean-de-Luz even better. I think that was because it is smaller than Biarittz. There is a lovely pedestrian street in St.-Jean-de-Luz, rue Leon Gambetta, where we found a good butcher shop, Boucherie des Families. If you should happen to go there buy a jar of the black cherry jam. It is fantastic! Not too sweet. Also, there are outlets in the area for Basque linens where I had a great time shopping. The prices in the outlets are much better than in normal shops.

    • October 30, 2019 7:23pm
      David Lebovitz

      I love Basque linens! I collect them at flea markets when I find them, but some of the kitchen towels are too beautiful to use, so I just admire them on my kitchen shelf : )

  • Alexandra Smith
    October 31, 2019 12:05am

    It reminds me of Newport Beach, CA in the older days. Too busy from (US Holidays) Memorial Day to Labor Day, but wonderful in the Fall. Not many restaurants, but the Crab Cooker, or a few like that. I’m not aware of a hotel back then. Now? Yes, many. I like it the old way, and I live there.

  • paula
    October 31, 2019 1:40am

    David are you Australian?

    • Emily Cunningham
      October 31, 2019 8:57am

      Hi Paula – Emily here. This was a guest post and I should have written a proper introduction. I have just added one in. Sorry for the confusion! Thanks, Emily

  • Cyndy
    October 31, 2019 8:20am

    There seem to be many readers who think you wrote this piece, David, even though Emily signed her name. Usually you write a paragraph introducing someone who is writing your blog for a day. I admit I was a bit confused (because surfing? a desk job in London) until the part about being Australian. I guess we need that intro blurb because we’re not paying enough attention!

    • Emily Cunningham
      October 31, 2019 8:55am

      Hi Cyndy – Emily here, that was entirely my fault! Sorry for the confusion, I can imagine you were a bit surprised to suddenly think David had a whole new life. I have added in a proper introduction now and thank you for letting me know, I am learning from my mistakes. Thanks again, Emily

  • Enrico
    November 1, 2019 12:15pm

    People really shouldn’t take airplanes for an hour to get somewhere. I think it would be better to mention only the train connection.
    Apart from that, I enjoyed reading your article Emily.

    • Emily Cunningham
      November 3, 2019 7:05pm

      Hi Enrico – you make an important point. The flights were a gift (privately, not sponsored in any way) but next time we will be taking the train, as long as they are not on strike! Thanks, Emily

  • November 1, 2019 2:42pm

    This looks so beautiful, I want to cry. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jeanne Strausman
    November 10, 2019 1:55pm

    Will welcome David’s recipes and views!

  • Leslie Camhi
    November 15, 2019 3:40am

    Did you forget to visit the wonderful Art Deco aquarium?