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Ophorus Tours - Biarritz

Aquitaine

Biarritz

Biarritz is a charming small town located in the Basque Country region of France. A glamorous seaside resort in the 19th century today the town is mostly famous as one of the hot spots of surfing in France.

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Learn more about Biarritz

Biarritz Travel Guide (Nouvelle Aquitaine, France) From a small fishing village located on the Atlantic Coast, Biarritz became famous in 1854 when Empress Eugenie (the wife of Napoleon III) built a palace on the beach that is today the Hôtel du Palais. This made Biarritz one of the most trendy destinations attracting the British royal family such as Queen Victoria, Edward VII, and other European royalty as Alfonso XIII of Spain. The resort became even more famous when movie stars such as Charles Chaplin or celebrities like Coco Chanel bought huge 19th century villas and began to live in Biarritz. Moreover, the Basque region of France is somewhat unique as it has preserved much of its traditions ...

Biarritz Travel Guide (Nouvelle Aquitaine, France)

From a small fishing village located on the Atlantic Coast, Biarritz became famous in 1854 when Empress Eugenie (the wife of Napoleon III) built a palace on the beach that is today the Hôtel du Palais. This made Biarritz one of the most trendy destinations attracting the British royal family such as Queen Victoria, Edward VII, and other European royalty as Alfonso XIII of Spain.

The resort became even more famous when movie stars such as Charles Chaplin or celebrities like Coco Chanel bought huge 19th century villas and began to live in Biarritz. Moreover, the Basque region of France is somewhat unique as it has preserved much of its traditions and authenticity and this is noticeable through the language, architecture and cultural expression found in the region but even more so in the villages.

A bit of History

In the Middle Ages Biarritz is but a small fishing village that owes its reputation to the skills of the local whale hunters. Whale oil was seeked after as it was used to light the houses while the bones were used to build fences and the skin was used to makes helmets and chairs.

The whales were also hunted for their delicious meat and especially the tongue that was considered to be a delicacy. The whale trade continued until the 17th century, time when the animals stopped approaching the coast. From then on, whale hunters had to follow the mamals up to Newfoundland.

Bathing on the Basque Coast is in fact quite ancient. There is written testimony that bathing took place in 1609 an activity that is criticized at that time as men and women together are bathing naked. By 1830 the wearing of bathing clothes becomes mandatory and in 1844 the first life saving club is created with the objective of surveilling the Grand Plage, the beach of the Port Vieux and the beach of the Côte des Basques.

The 19th century is definitely a time of radical change for the small village. Once sea bathing was deemed fashionable, the town began to attract a large number of visitors. In 1854 the Countess of Montijo - Empress Eugénie, wife of Napolean III, settles down in Biarritz for 2 months. Rapidly, the Emperor orders the building of Villa Eugénie, a summer residence for his wife.

From then on, Royalty from all of Europe converge towards Biarritz making it one of the most sumptuous sea resorts of the time. It is also during this period of time that the Casino Bellevue is inaugurated, a tram line linking Bayonne to Biarritz is built and golf courses are created. The reputation of Biarritz will continue until WWII.

The Imperial Chapel

Built in 1865 close to the summer Residence of Napoleon III, it was used by the Emperor and his wife as their personal church. The architecture mixes the Spanish-Moorish style with that of the Roman-Byzantine making it quite an unusual building. The church is dedicated to Notre Dame of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico in memory of the war that was taking place there at the time between France and Mexico.

The Rocher de la Vierge

The Rock is located between the Old Port and the Fisherman's Port. Under the rule of Napoleon III, a hole is created in the rock while a 76 meter long viaduct is built so that it is possible to reach the rock from the coast. In 1865 a statue of the Virgin Mary is erected on the rock giving it the name of Rocher de la Vierge.

The Russian Orthodoxe Church

Dedicated to Alexandra de la Néva, the Church was founded in 1892 and inaugurated in the presence of the Russian Imperial family members of the time. Due to the reputation of the resort in the 19th century, Russian Aristocrates discover the benefits of sea bathing and the favorable climate of Biarritz. The 'Russian season', as it is called at the time, will see number of Russians arriving in Biarritz between September and November.

Les Halles de Biarritz

The central covered market of Biarritz, known as Les Halles, is inaugurated on the 19th of April 1885. Ideally located in the heart of the town, the market overflows with delicious local products that come from the nearby countryside or the Ocean. Cheese, cured ham, fruits and vegetables, freshly caught fish or cold meat are just but of few of the specialties that are sold on site.

The Surf Culture

The Basque country region of France is famous for its beaches and Biarritz is considered as one of the best surfing spots of France. Born in the mid 1950's thanks to film producer Richard Zanuck who had brought a surf board with him, the locals were introduced to the sport and quickly began to shape their own boards.

The Waikiki surf club was founded in 1959 and by the 1970's competitions were taking place across the Basque Country into the Bay of Biscay and even on the other side of the Spanish border.

 

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