72 hours in Biarritz: restaurants, places to visit and boutique hotels

by Hayley May 21, 2014

Fly into the picturesque coastal town of Biarritz for a short break and your first impression will be exquisite sandy beaches and rocky islands protruding from a turquoise ocean.

By night, the town will glitter with warm light, illuminating the Palace and the Grande Plage.

Day 1: Welcome to Glamorous Surf Town Biarritz

5:00 pm Fly into the picturesque coastal town of Biarritz for a short break and your first impression will be exquisite sandy beaches and rocky islands protruding from a turquoise ocean. By night, the town will glitter with warm light, illuminating the Palace and the Grande Plage.

5:30 pm Rent a car for the 8-minute drive to the historic Hotel Windsor Biarritz (Avenue Édouard VII 11), updated with a modern vibe and situated on the Grande Plage.

5:45 pm Check-in at the hotel with help from the friendly staff, take a breather: fix a coffee from the Nespresso machine in your room; drink in the ocean views from your room. Then get on your feet and go explore!

6:15 pm Wander back outside and to the Quai de la Grande Plage and turn left towards the harbor. Meander down some of the footpaths that wind through leafy parks or to small islands. Climb the gentle stairs on the hillocks for panoramic ocean views. Trek out to the Rocher de la Vierge and take a deep breath of salty ocean air. You’re officially on holiday.

7:30 pm For dinner, go inland from the Rocher de la Vierge towards Comptoir du foie gras (Rue du Centre 1). The ambiance here is lively and upbeat; sit or stand at one of the patio tables while sipping a house wine, and enjoy the neighborhood-party atmosphere

Day 2: Basking in Basque Culture (and cakes!)

9:00 am Go for the hotel buffet breakfast and bask in the sunshine from the massive windows in the dining room. Enjoy the wide selection of food, but save room for some Basque cuisine later on!

10:00 am First, drive 25 minutes to picturesque harbor town Ciboure, just beyond Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Park for a few minutes to soak up the view, then turn your car back to Saint-Jean-de-Luz to take a stroll through the historic old town. Admire the unique Basque architecture: pale buildings with clay-red trim. Learn the art of the flaneur as you explore the nooks and crannies of this Basque village or walk down the boardwalk next to the sea

12:00 pm Be sure to stop by Maison Adam (Rue de la République 6) before your departure from Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Founded in 1660, this patisserie will not disappoint. Even locals call their cakes “the best Basque cakes in the region.” You will not be surprised to hear that it was a favorite among Spanish royalty.

1:30 pm Stock up on cakes and pastries from Maison Adam and then jump back in the car to track down the Bro’Colis food truck for lunch. Be sure to check their Facebook page ahead of time to see where they are stationed for the day. Though locating them may not be easy, the payoff is enormous. These friendly guys serve up some of the best burgers in France made only with the freshest ingredients. Try one of their daily specials for an interesting twist on a common food. Make sure to take extra helpings because you’ll need the energy for your afternoon surfing lesson!

3:00 pm Biarritz is “All about the surf,” so stroll back towards Rocher de la Vierge to rendez-vous at the Hastea Surf School, where you’ll be in safe hands for your lesson. They only operate during low and mid-tide, perfect for beginning surfers. After you’ve worn yourself out, take another stroll down the beach, or chill at the beach bar and watch the sunset as you sip on your favorite cocktail or beachy beer.

7:00 pm Dinner at Saline Ceviche Bar & Restaurant (Rue Gambetta 62), where the owner will greet you with a smile and offer you a selection of ceviches (a south-American classic made of roar marinated fish) and Peruvian beer. For cocktail connoisseurs, it’s also the only place outside of Peru where you can find a Pisco Sour. The menu here varies according to the season, so if you’re regular vacationers, it will never get old. The food is fresh, healthy, and artfully arranged. The absolute best value for your money in town.

Day 3: Something for Everyone (books or sports?)

9:00 am Order breakfast to your room this morning for a leisurely start (the price doesn’t change for room service), and eat looking out over your ocean view.

10:00 am Drive to Villa Arnaga in Espelette, the former home of Edmond Rostand. Rostand, born in 1868 in Marseille, wrote Cyrano de Bergerac, a heroic comedy in rhyming couplets and responsible for introducing the word “panache” to the English language. Rostand, the youngest writer to be elected to the Academie Française, also wrote Les Romanesques, which has been adapted into the long-running American musical, The Fantasticks. Besides being the home of a literary genius, Villa Arnaga includes extensive gardens—French and English styles—as well as a beautifully restored interior with a large library and a 19th century steam room, not to mention incredible views over the Pyrenees.

1:00 pm Lunch at Restaurant Aintzina in Espelette (Karrika Nagusia 440) for high quality local Basque cuisine. Choose from plenty of indoor or outdoor seating according to the weather, and accompany your meal with a local beer or a Bordeaux. Afterwards, walk into town to stock up on local peppers. Prepare for many photo-ops of pepper-strewn houses, and stop by the grave of Agnès Souret, the first woman crowned Miss France in the competition’s inaugural year of 1920. You will see many disc-shaped headstones in the traditional Basque style.

5:30 pm Return to Biarritz to catch a rugby game at the famed Stade Aguilera. Games usually start around 6 or 6:30, so get there early to grab some grub and a good seat. Cheer alongside locals as the Biarritz Olympique battle it out on the pitch.

8:00 pm For a good sense of the local community, dine at La Tantina della Playa in nearby Bidart (Plage du Centre 1), but be sure to make a reservation beforehand! This restaurant is very popular and can be difficult to get a table last minute. But the freshly caught fish and the beach view are worth the extra mile, and the attentive staff work well together, serving with a smile and clearly having fun.

Day 4: Last Minute Buys

9:00 am Breakfast at the hotel again (it’s hard to pass up that delectable buffet!). Toss your luggage in the trunk of your rental or leave it at the Windsor, then check out and head to the old town. There are plenty of last-minute purchases to be made!

10:30 am Stop by Maison Arosteguy (Avenue Victor Hugo 5) to pick up a few locally sourced Basque compotes and jams. Or perhaps you’d prefer a Basque liqueur or aperitif: something to sip while you recount your trip to your friends and family?

11:30 am For a lasting and completely different vision of Biarritz, you must stop by Galerie 13 avril (Rue de Monjoly). This gallery is a carefully curated collection of avant-garde, industrial, and contemporary art. Each piece is skillfully executed, with obvious intent and interesting aspects for all viewers. Do not miss this gallery!

1:00 pm Pick up your rental car and your luggage, then drive back to the airport. Take one last look at the turquoise sea from your airplane window. Maybe you’ll be back next year.

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