The main attraction in Biarritz is, of course, the sea. But what French city isn’t proud of its culture? In this article, we’ll share some information about some architectural gems and museums worth visiting if you get tired of lying on the beach.
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The lighthouse at Cape Saint-Martin was built in 1834 and rises 73 meters above sea level. It takes some time to climb all 248 steps, but you will not regret it, because it offers the best panorama of Biarritz and the surroundings!
On this cape, the French Silver Coast ends and the Basque land begins. In good weather, you can also see the coast of Spain.
Lighthouse opening hours:
- July-August: from 10:30 to 19:00
- May-June-September: from 14:00 to 19:00, on weekends from 8:00
- The rest of the months: from 14:00 to 17:00
Ticket price: 3 €, or 2.50 € for children from 3 to 16 years old
The rock of the Virgin
This is the famous symbol of Biarritz. The hole in the rock is not of natural origin. It was made on the order of Napoleon III, but the emperor did not need a port of refuge. They decided to decorate such a picturesque place with the figure of the Virgin Mary, the protector of sailors. It has been standing here since 1865.
The metal bridge on the rock was made in the workshop of Gustave Eiffel himself.
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Residential vintage villas
One of the most famous buildings in Biarritz is the Hotel du Palais. This is a Louis XIII-style villa that Napoleon III ordered built for his wife in 1854. Now it houses one of the best hotels in the city. You can book a room using this link.
Villa Belza was built in 1880-1895, although its architecture recalls medieval aesthetics. The appearance of the villa prompts some to composing mystical legends, but in fact in the “crazy years” French and foreign aristocrats held parties here in the style of the Great Gatsby. And now you can rent a room with an excellent view of the bay.
The Françon estate (domaine de Françon) was also built at the end of the 19th century. The old wooden interiors add a special atmosphere. Nowadays it also functions as a hotel. You can choose a number using this link.
Biarritz History Museum
A small but cozy museum is located in a former Anglican church. Here you can find a rich collection of documents, photographs, paintings, and videos that tell the story of how Biarritz turned from a small fishing port into a world-famous royal resort town.
Address: Eglise St Andrews, rue Broquedis
The Chapelle Impériale was built in 1864 at the request of Napoleon III’s wife. This charming building harmoniously combines Romano-Byzantine and Moorish styles and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe and the Black Mexican Virgin.
Address: avenue de la Marne
Opening hours: most of the year open on Thursdays and Saturdays from 14:00 to 18:00 and on the first Sunday of the month from 10:00 to 13:00
Admission is free, and you can book a tour.
The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was built in 1892 in the Byzantine style by the architect M. Tisne. This church is famous for its beautiful iconostasis with icons from St. Petersburg. It is the center of Russian immigration in Biarritz.
Address: Avenue de l’Impératrice, 8
Opening hours: Saturday and Sunday from 15:30 to 18:00
Most of Biarritz’s historic buildings date back to the 19th century, when the city was actively developing into a royal resort. This process was begun by Napoleon I, who swam off the beaches of Biarritz back in 1809, when it was not yet mainstream.
However, the town was settled for a long time before Napoleon chose it as his resort. Its history is usually recounted from the construction of the oldest church in Biarritz, the Church of Saint-Martin. It was built in the 12th century in the Gothic Aquitaine style and was rebuilt well in the 1540s, so it still stands today. The church stands on a hill, and its white facade with a bell tower has long been used by sailors as a landmark.
Church of Saint-Eugenie
Don’t let the neo-Gothic style of this church fool you: it too was built at the end of the 19th century. And yet it is the most beautiful church in the city. Be sure to stop by to admire the stained glass windows. You might be lucky enough to hear a local organ.
Opening hours: from 14:00 to 19:00
Planet of chocolate
If you are fluent in French, you might enjoy a guided tour of the Planète Musée du chocolat. You will not only learn the history of the delicacy itself, from its discovery during the Mayan times to the present day, but you will also understand how the history of the Basque country is closely related to chocolate.
And at the end of the exhibition you will be treated to a cup of hot chocolate made from select high-quality cocoa according to an old recipe. According to travelers, the museum is interesting, but not for children, and almost all information is in French.
Address: 14 avenue Beau Rivage
The Sea Museum
What other museum should there be in a seaside town? The Biarritz Sea Museum is a beautiful Art Deco building on a high cliff, and it’s one of the largest aquarium museums in France.
Thousands of species of marine life live in fifty aquariums. The museum is designed to allow guests to get acquainted with the animals of the Bay of Biscay itself, as well as the fauna of the Caribbean and the tropical latitudes of the Pacific Ocean.
Address: rue de l’Atalaye
Opening hours: every day from 9:30 to 19:00
Ticket price: 15 € for adults, 13 € for youth 13 to 17 years old, and 11 € for children 4 to 12 years old.
In the heart of Biarritz you’ll find the Belle Epoque building on the Gran Plage promenade. It’s now owned by the Barriere Casino. The recently renovated building deserves your attention—promise not to lose too much!
On the parallel Edward VII Street at 7, you can see Art Deco columns.
This may not be why you came to the Basque coast, but the border towns are always the most cosmopolitan. It so happens that Biarritz has a magnificent collection of art from India, Nepal, Tibet and China. This museum is one of the five largest European museums of Asian art.
Address: 1 rue Guy Petit
Opening hours: from 14:00 to 18:30, closed on Monday
Ticket price: 10 € for adults, 8 € for youth 13-25 years old, 2 € for children 8-13 years old, and free for children under 8 years old
Biarritz’s unique nature
Biarritz’s scenic steep coastline is a great attraction in itself. Unfortunately, the attraction is slowly crumbling. Every year the coast collapses by 70 cm. Be sure to walk along the beaches and admire the cliffs.
Biarritz also has wonderful park areas around the Marion and Murisco lakes. At the end of this article you’ll find a link for downloading a walking route around the lakes.
Now you know that Biarritz is not only a great destination for surfing and thalassotherapy, but also has a rich culture and interesting history.
Enjoy your walks in Biarritz!