Quick guide to Biarritz


This popular Atlantic coastal resort has a lot more than just big waves to offer its visitors

Biarritz, it’s that surfer hangout right?

Right on, dude. Set on the wind-whipped Basque coast, the city boasts some of Europe’s most mammoth waves making it a mecca for sun-bleached surfers arriving in their VW-van loads to descend on the long golden-sand Grande Plage, recognisable by its stripy 1920s-style beach tents. It’s not all sun and sand mind you…

Oh yer, so what else is there?

For starters, there’s Biarritz’s illustrious past – it was once the summer destination of choice for both literati and glitterati – think Victor Hugo and Ernest Hemmingway. The initial trendsetters were Napoleon II and his wife Empress Eugénie who built a palace on the seafront in the 1850s. It’s now the Hôtel du Palais, still rich in gilt and marble glamour (tel: (Fr) 5 59 41 64 00, www.hotel-du-palais.com).

Not sure I can stretch to staying at a palace…

Not to worry, us paupers are well-catered for at the Hôtel Alycon (tel: (Fr) 5 59 22 64 60, www.hotel-alcyon-biarritz.com) which is close to the town centre and walking distance to the beach. Rooms start from €80.

Any must-does for first timers?

If you’re feeling energetic, take a stroll along the two-mile seafront before climbing the 250 twisting steps up to the lighthouse for vertiginous views across the bay. At the other end of the promenade is a footbridge that takes you to the Pointe Atalaye outcrop where you’ll find the famed Rocher de la Vierge – a rock topped with a statue of Virgin Mary.

And if I want to mingle with the locals?

Browse the stalls of the morning market in Les Halles (7am-1.30am; www.halles-biarritz.fr) before heading to Café Jean, overlooking the market, where you can rub elbows with locals while feasting on pintxos (Basque tapas).

I’ve heard the local grub isn’t half bad…

That’s right, there’s plenty of seafood and Spanish influence. Try the 142-year old Miremont tearoom for a flaky Basque tart or the fish restaurant Chez Albert at the Port des Pêcheurs (tel: 5 59 24 43 84, www.chezalbert.fr).

What shall I take there and bring back?

Pack a swimsuit and windbreaker for those blustery coastal walks. Bring back chilli peppers from the nearby Espelette and some Basque cider, both available from the old-fashioned delicatessen Maison Arostéguy (www.arosteguy.com).

All set, get me there quick!

It couldn’t be easier to get your budget beach break with Flybe, Ryanair and Easyjet (from 15 June) all fly there.

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