Are you planning a trip to Bayonne? Are you wondering what to do/visit once there? Just relax and read this post. From monuments, museums, and restaurants, it contains everything you need for a perfect trip to Bayonne!
1- Find the remains of the old Roman wall of "Lapurdum"
In the IV century, the Roman Empire decided to build a "Castrum" (Military Camp) named "Lapurdum" in what is today the "Vieux Bayonne" quarter. Remains of its old stone and mortar walls are still visible today at different points of the city, like in the "Chateaux Vieux" (Old Castle) and along the "Boulevard Lachepaillet". But there are many other remains to be found on your next visit!
2- Admire and authentic medieval fortress. The « Chateau Vieux » ("Old Castle")
An impressive fortress was built in the XI century by the Viscount of Labourd, taking advantage of two towers of the Roman Wall (that can still be seen today). The seat of both political and military powers of Bayonne during the Middle-Ages, it hides a fascinating history that I always tell during my walking tours around Bayonne.
3- Lose your breath facing the"Cathédral de Sainte Marie de Bayonne"
The first thing one sees when arriving in Bayonne and the first thing one misses after leaving. This Gothic cathedral is just stunningly beautiful. But be careful, not everything is Gothic. The huge spires were added during a restoration done by the architect Boeswilwald (a pupil of the famous Violet le Duc) in the XIX century. It was inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage list together with other sites along the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France.
4- Enjoy the taste of Bayonne!
Famous for its cured-ham (I.G.P Jambon de Bayonne), Bayonne's gastronomy scene goes further beyond. From restaurants offering great "pintxos" (Basque version of Spanish Tapas) and traditional Basque dishes like Kalostrape, to more gastronomical options like the cosy Chez Martin or the exclusive La Table Sébastien Gravé, or places to taste a good wine and share some "tapas" like Kapito Café, the options are countless! And if you prefer international and vegetarian options, try Bukit-Bar Cantine.
5- Learn about the Basque Culture in the "Musée Basque et d'histoire de Bayonne"
A must-visit for those interested in learning about the ancestral and captivating Basque culture and the history of Bayonne. The collection is extremely interesting and easy to follow. Not less interesting is the building that hosts the museum, the « Maison Dagourette », built in the XVII century by a rich trader. Check more information about the museum here.
6- Savour the"chocolateries" along the"Rue du Port Neuf"
The "Rue du Port Neuf" (Newport street) used to be a channel that connected the "Adour" river with the "Rue Orbe" (Orbe Street). The old "arcades" used as docks at the time have been preserved. Today, this street is renown for hosting some of the best chocolate shops in Bayonne, including hundred-year-old ones like "Cazenave" & "Daranatz". Please, do not miss the spiced dark chocolate (with Espelette Pepper) by "L’Atelier du Chocolat"!
7- Go over the millenary "Rue d’Espagne"
Likely Bayonne's main commercial artery, full of shops and bars, an authentic one where you can eat and drink a good wine in a truly local atmosphere. Not many visitors will realize that they are walking along the oldest street of the city, ancient "cardo" (main north-south oriented street in Roman Military Camps) of the old "Lapurdum". It ends in the famous "Porte d'Espagne" (Spain's Gate).
8- Stroll along "La Nive" riverside to enjoy the most picturesque views of Bayonne.
Enjoy the enchanting views of colorful houses and their reflection on the water. Now close your eyes and try to imagine how the area used to look like when it was a bustling port during the middle ages. "La Nive" river separates the "Vieux Bayonne" and the "Petit Bayonne" quarters. Just walking along the riverside is a great pleasure. The cherry on top? A gastronomic stop in one of the numerous terraces present on both sides of the river.
9- Get lost in the "Petit Bayonne" Quarter.
What it was the first Bayonne's urban extension in the XII century, is today a popular and young quarter, thanks to the installation of a university campus in the "Chateaux Neuf" (New Castle) built in the XV century. Here the Basque identity is displayed more than in any other quarter of the city and you will find good restaurants like "Kalostrape", placed inside of an old convent.
10- Explore Bayonne's alternative quarter (Rue Saint Anne in Saint Esprit quarter).
Separated from the centre of Bayonne by the wide "Adour' river, Saint Esprit quarter has always been a welcoming land. Already in the XII century, several "Hospitals" used to give shelter to pilgrims on their way to "Santiago de Compostela". From the XVI century, Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal settled here, transforming Bayonne into the Capital of Chocolate. Today is still the multicultural quarter of the city where you will find exotic restaurants, cultural initiatives, and alternative associations.
And that's the end of this brief guide of Bayonne! I really hope it will help make your stay an unforgettable one.
Did you found it useful? Are there any other suggestions you would like to add? Any comments/suggestions will be highly appreciated!
And if you want to tour with me, book now one of my guided tours of Bayonne. And feel free to check our others tours in Biarritz and Saint Jean de Luz.
See you soon in the French Basque Country!