Located in southwest France, Aquitaine has a long history as an independent kingdom and duchy; for part of its history, it was actually ruled by the Kings of England. The southern part of the region contains part of the Basque country, which stretches across the border into Spain and has its own distinct culture and language. Today, Aquitaine is famous for its natural beauty, its world-class wines and its historic towns. Despite its great beauty, Aquitaine doesn't attract the same numbers of tourists as some other regions of France, making it the perfect destination for a relaxing holiday.
Aquitaine's climate is relatively mild, with short winters. Rainfall is moderate, although the weather in spring and winter can be a little unpredictable. Both spring and autumn are beautiful, and in Autumn the countryside becomes a hive of activity during the wine harvest. Summers can be hot, and in some parts of Aquitaine, particularly the city of Bordeaux, locals leave on their own holidays, meaning that some shops and restaurants may be temporarily closed. The best period to plan a holiday in Aquitaine is spring and autumn.
The most famous of Aquitaine's attractions is the city of Bordeaux itself. Built on the banks of the Garonne River, the city is famous for its 18th century architecture and Roman remains. It is often known as “Little Paris.” Recent economic revitalization and public works programs have restored Bordeaux's historic buildings to their former glory and added a lively nightlife. Les Quais is home to many bars and nightclubs, while during the day visitors stroll along the riverfront and admire the city's many bridges, including the stunning Aquitaine Bridge. History lovers should visit the Musee d'Aquitaine and the Triumphal Arch, located in the La Victoire area of the city.
Not far from Bordeaux, the Garonne merges with the Dordogne River to form the Gironde estuary. Stretching south from the Gironde down to the edge of the Pyrénées, Aquitaine's coastline consists of around 150 miles of beach, home to many beach resorts. The town of Biarritz is one of Europe's most famous beach resorts, made famous by the patronage of monarchs from the Empress Eugenie to Britain's Queen Victoria. The Grand Plage remains popular with visitors today, and can be very crowded, but other nearby beaches are less packed. Nearby Cote de Basque is very popular with surfers.
Since the Roman era, Aquitaine has been a major centre of wine production; today it is one of the world's foremost winemaking region, and one of the main inciting for a holiday in Aquitaine. Vineyards offer tours, wine lessons and special meals based around local wines. Every other year sees a large wine festival in Bordeaux, one of the world's most important wine cities.
The southern region of Aquitaine lies in the shadow of the Pyrénées, a paradise for hikers and nature lovers. This region is also home to the fiercely independent Basque culture; Basque festivals, called “ferias,” are a common sight in southern towns from June to August.
The Aquitaine region is known for robust, hearty meals to go with its red wine, but also for some of France's most prized culinary treasures.
Size: 41,308 square kilometres
Population: 3, 150, 890 people
Capital city: Bordeaux
Provinces: Dordogne, Gironde, Landes, Lot-et-Garonne, Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Landscape: long sandy beaches, rolling vineyards, Pyrénées mountains