a summer's day in 1855, the wife of French ruler Napoleon
III discovered a place near Biarritz's current hotels
that was to become her favourite beach holiday. She
chose a sandy hillside overlooking the sea at the foot of
the Pyrenees as the site of their new palace in
south west France.
Princess Eugenie had been coming to this charming little fishing village on the Spanish border since she was a child because of the stunning beach and dramatic coastline that crosses from France to Spain. At right, photo of accommodation near Biarritz beaches.
Biarritz today has beautiful beaches with an eclectic
mix of the well-heeled and happy holidaymakers taking advantage
of the sun, sand and world-class surf that hosts the world's
best surfers competing here every year. Biarritz's climate
combined with its coastline, culture and social life make
it a special place you'll always remember and long to return
In 1905, the royal palace became the grand Hotel du Palais, now one of the world's great hotels in one of the world's most desirable holiday playgrounds. This accommodation near Biarritz's town centre is certainly one of the world's best holidays, overlooking Biarritz from its commanding position on the coast.
This is where Hollywood stars came in their droves from the 1950s, including Frank Sinatra, Jane Mansfield, Bing Crosby and Gary Cooper. They rubbed shoulders with royalty including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and European kings and queens, all of them seduced by Biarritz's alluring charms and curves.
the beautiful tradition of Hotel du Palais is carried on
thanks to the outstanding professionalism of long-term general
manager Jean-Louis Leimbacher, who recently won
a Hospitality Award as Europe’s best. It's important to
remember that this is Basque country, with proud
people fiercely independent from Spain and France from centuries.
It's full of fascinating history and countryside that's
soul-satisfying and fun to explore.
As you travel south from Biarritz's elevated coastal road towards the Spanish border, you'll find delightful Basque architecture and people in pretty little villages boasting delicious fresh cuisine. Gastronomy has been important in Biarritz and surrounding Basque areas for centuries.
This is where you'll also find Europe's best chocolate and fresh organic produce that makes for delicious dining. Take the time to visit Biarritz's chocolate museum for a taste of the tradition.
Bastille day crowd ready for fireworks on Biarritz's Grand Plage main beach.
First, go to the beach to see why holidaymakers have
flocked here for centuries. The main beach Grand Plage
can be very crowded in summer, especially while we were
there on Bastille Day with the fireworks over the
beach at night.Or
try the surfers' beach on the Boulevard du Prince de
Galles, called Cote de Basque. Go at low tide
when the beach looks fantastic. When visiting Biarritz,
a quick stroll to the Virgin of the Rock (Le
Rocher de la Vierge) and the Musee de la Mer
is a must. Built in 1864, the statue of the Virgin Mary
protects the safe return of local fishermen against the
The view by day from the elevated rocky position looking down the white sandy coast is spectacular, and by night, the twinkling lights are just perfect.
On the southern edge of Biarritz heading to the Spanish border, you'll see the 1930s Russian church overhanging the coast, built by white Russians who came when Lenin was killed.
Small towns near Biarritz have pretty beaches are well
serviced by bus. Take the coastal drive south from Biarritz
to the Spanish border past more beautiful beaches and pretty
little towns including Bidart with its wonderful ancient
wooden church, Guethary with its Basque museum
and St-Jean-de-Luz, the spirited little fishing village
with its colourful yachts near the Spanish border.
If you don't want to drive, take the quick train trip from Biarritz through Hendaye to the coastal border at St-Jean-de-Luz.
Across the border is the vibrant small Spanish city of
Bilbao, or turn inland to visit historic Pamplona,
where they have the annual running of the bulls as part
of the seven day festival in honour of St Fermín in early
July. Both towns are less than an hour's drive. From Paris,
it's 5 hours by TGV train to Biarritz (€15 at night,
up to €70 by day). The train station is 3 kilometres near
Biarritz - take the number 2 bus to the beach in the centre
of town for €1. Taxis from Biarritz airport will cost you
€13 or the STAB bus runs hourly from 7.30am for €1.20.
Across the border is the vibrant small Spanish city of
From Paris, it's 5 hours by TGV train to Biarritz (€15 at night, up to €70 by day). The train station is 3 kilometres near Biarritz - take the number 2 bus to the beach in the centre of town for €1.
Taxis from Biarritz airport will cost you €13 or the STAB bus runs hourly from 7.30am for €1.20.
One of the best experiences in life
is certainly staying at the Hotel du Palais in its commanding
position overlooking Biarritz’s beautiful beaches including
the Grande Plage.This is arguably the best hotel in Europe
along with the beautiful Chateau les Crayeres in the
Every time you return to the Hotel du Palais, it’s special. Sometimes in life when you come back to a favourite place, it’s not quite as exciting second time around.
At the Hotel du Palais, it’s different. The history, the grandeur, the position and the accommodation combine to excite one’s senses.
These include the spacious
Hotel du Palais manager Jeanne Marchetti is part of the reason for the grand old hotel’s enduring success. She’s been here for 26 years and has seen the babies of previous visitors return as adults with their own families.
The charismatic Madame Marchetti was delighted to show us around her beautiful hotel and we were lucky to sample the magnificent food in L'Hippocampe, the beachside restaurant with more sweeping beach views. Translated, it means the Seahorse.
And it’s so important to have good service. Without knowing
we were writing a travel story, the staff here were wonderful;
happy and speaking fluent English with a smile.
60% of the guests here are French, followed by Spaniards, English, Russians and Americans. There are 153 ornate rooms and 30 suites at the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz
the three course Imperial Buffet for 60 Euros
or the a la carte produce which is delicious at a reasonable
price and open to the public. For starters, try the
Maki or pineapple and crab with vegetables and fruits
with tarragon for 25 Euros. Or the roasted prawns lacquered
with ginger and coriander with Thai salad for 34 Euros.
My favourite for main course was the red mullet
cooked on its skin with star anise flavoured fennel
and fresh tomato for just 28 Euros.
The whole local sole called Le Faux Filet de La Sole Cuite à la Poêle "beurre meuniere" with steamed potatoes is magnficent at 38 Euros.
To accompany your mains try the very good wines including a local Irouleguy Domaine Ameztia or a St Emilion Grand Cru Pavillon De Taillefer Rouge from the Bordeaux wine region just above Biarrritz.
And for dessert at this impressive Biarritz restaurant, classic crème brulee flavoured with lemon zest, cinnamon and browned in the oven for 16 Euros.
We were joined at lunch by Annick Salaün, the Hotel du Palais's revenue manager who very kindly used her valuable time to show us the local sights and towns afterwards. These sights include the many world-famous fashion brands now on display in trendy Biarritz, started by fashion designer Coco Chanel who opened her early boutique here in Biarritz in 1915.
Biarritz is certainly at the top of the list as one of the World's Best Holidays. It's where the rich and famous rub shoulders with the surfing set, thanks to a Californian producer who introduced surfing herein the 1950s while staying at the Hotel du Palais (where else?).
It's both French and fiercely Basque, skirting the Spanish border and with magnificent scenery both inland and on the beaches.
The jewel in the crown of Biarritz is the right royal Hotel du Palais, Napoleon III's palace that caused Biarritz to become a magnet.
Make no mistake, this is the star of Biarritz, and a visit here to see its beautiful French furnishings and history is a must.
Now that it's a hotel, everyone can enjoy this magnificent piece of French history, whether staying here or just coming to look at the height of French culture in this beautiful town.
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