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10 highlights not to miss when in Biarritz

The views from the Phare: The views from the top of the "Plateau du Phare" are just astonishing. They offer a panoramic sight of the whole city of Biarritz, together with the beauty of the Bay of Biscay ("Golfe de Gascogne" in French) waters. Moreover, from here is easy to appreciate the stunning geographical boundary between the Rocky Basque Coast and the endless sandy coast of "Les Landes". Please do not miss it!

The 1900's quarter: On the way from the Phare to the "Grande Plage" we find some of the most famous villas of Biarritz, mainly dating from the "Belle Epoque" and "Roaring Twenties" periods when Biarritz was the holiday resort of the European Aristocracy. They are superb! Neo-Gothic, Neo-basque de, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, we can find plenty of styles. Villa le Manoir (n°4, Avenue du General Mac-Croskey) and "Villa Labat" (n°18 Avenue de l'Imperatrice) are my favourites and both hide amazing stories of distinguished owners that I would love sharing with you in your next visit to Biarritz.

Orthodox Church Saint Alexandre Nievski: Charming church built in 1892 in Byzantine style thanks to the financial support of the Russian community of Biarritz and the donations coming from the Russian Empire. That same year France and Russia signed the Franco-Russian Alliance and during this period Russian aristocrats were used to visiting Biarritz during the Autumn months to enjoy Biarritz's sea breeze, mild temperatures, and nightlife before confronting the harsh winter back home. The church interior is delightful, a haven of peace. To check opening times click here.

Hôtel du Palais: The ancient "Villa Eugenie", used from 1854 by the Imperial Couple (Napoleon III and Eugenia de Montijo) for their holidays. After the death of Napoleon III, the villa was sold & transformed into a Casino-Hotel named Palais Biarritz that unfortunately burned down in 1903. It was quickly rebuilt to be transformed in the current "Hotel du Palais" that since then hosts the most exclusive visitors of Biarritz. It keeps an structure in form of an "E", of Eugenia.

The Imperial Chapel: A hidden jewel of Biarritz heritage. Built thanks to the initiative of Empress Eugenia de Montijo, this fascinating church combines Hispano-Moorish and Roman-Bizantyne styles. It is dedicated to the Black Virgin of Guadalupe, Patron Saint of México. Originally part of the properties of the Imperial Couple it is now a property of the City of Biarritz.

The Great Beach ("La Grand Plage"): The most famous beach of Biarritz. Named originally the "Crazies Beach" and later "Cote de l'Imperatrice" ("Empress Coast") as it was the favourite swimming area of the Imperial Couple, that used to mix themselves with the commoners and other famous visitors of Biarritz that already came in great numbers those days. There you will find the "Casino Municipal", a beautiful art-deco building from the roaring twenties that today hosts a casino, restaurants, surf shops and the municipal swimming pool (with warmed up sea water, so cool).

Fisherman's port ("Port des Pecheurs"): One of my favourite places in Biarritz, with its charming fisherman's houses named "crampottes" (still on use by local boat owners) and great seafood restaurants. The port was created by the initiative of Napoleon III when the old fishing port (Port Vieux) was transformed into a swimming area. One of the centers of Biarritz's social life, it was declared a free commune in 1961, a fascinating history that I always tell during my tours.

The Rock of the Virgin ("Le Rocher de la Vierge"): This famous and romantic rock-island connected with the coast thanks to a footbridge and crowned with the famous sculpture of the Virgin Mary resists proudly the permanent ocean erosion. No one wants to miss this spot when in Biarritz and it's easy to understand as the views from there are just stunning. And the history that hosts is surprising. I will be delighted to tell it to you in your next visit to Biarritz.

The Old Port ("Le Port Vieux"): This was the old middle ages whaling port of Biarritz, where the whalers used to bring the hunted whales to use their meat, their fat and their bones. My customers are always surprised when we talk about all the uses of a whale in that period. Whale hunting, a very dangerous activity was mastered by the "biarrots" (inhabitants of Biarritz) and brought economic prosperity to the place until whales stopped coming to the Bay of Biscay in the XV century. In the XIX century, Napoleon III transformed the port into a swimming area that still today is very frequented by swimming lovers.

Villa Belza & "La Cote des Basques": It was here where in 1956 surf was practiced for the first time in Europe by Peter Viertel, a scriptwriter from California that was in the area for the filming of "The sun also rises". Since then, this is one of the hot spots for surfers in Biarritz. Still today one of the surfing hot spots in Biarritz it is also great for a romantic walk during the sunset. The "Bar de la Côte", right in front of the beach is great to drink something while enjoying a beautiful sunset. The upper views and the festive atmosphere starting at sunset time from the beach bar "Etxola Bibi", a trendy bar for Biarritz's youth. From here we can admire the enigmatic "Villa Belza" (Belza means black in Basque), placed in the of a rock over the ocean and famous for its legendary parties during the roaring twenties and its ghost stories.

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