Biarritz (French pronunciation: ​[bjaʁits]; Basque: Biarritz [biarits̻] or Miarritze [miarits̻e]; Gascon Occitan: Biàrritz [ˈbjarits]) is a city on the Bay of Biscay, on the Atlantic coast in the Pyrénées Atlantiques department in southwestern France. It is a luxurious seaside town and is popular with tourists and surfers.


Biarritz is located in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in the Aquitaine region. It is adjacent to Bayonne and Anglet and 35 kilometres (22 mi) from the border with Spain. It is in the traditional province of Labourd in the French Basque Country.


Biarritz is a Basque name with locative suffix -itz (cp. Isturitz) attested Bearriz in 1170, Bearids in 1186, Bearritz in 1249.

Biarritz has long made its fortune from the sea: as a whaling settlement from the twelfth century onwards. In the 18th century, doctors recommended that the ocean at Biarritz had therapeutic properties, inspiring patients to make pilgrimages to the beach for alleged cures for their ailments.

Biarritz became more renowned in 1854 when Empress Eugenie (the wife of Napoleon III) built a palace on the beach (now the Hôtel du Palais). European royalty, including British monarchs Queen Victoria and King Edward VII (who caused a minor scandal when he called H. H. Asquith to kiss hands at Biarritz in 1908 rather than return to London for the purpose), and the Spanish king Alfonso XIII, were frequent visitors.

Biarritz's casino (opened 10 August 1901) and beaches make the town a notable tourist centre for Europeans and East Coast North Americans. The city has also become a prime destination for surfers from around the world, developing a nightlife and surf-based culture.

At the end of World War II in Europe, the U.S. Army's Information and Educational Branch was ordered to establish an overseas university campus for demobilized American service men and women in the French resort town of Biarritz. Under General Samuel L. McCroskey, the hotels and casinos of Biarritz were converted into quarters, labs and class spaces for U.S. service personnel. The University opened 10 August 1945 and approximately 10,000 students attended an 8-week term. This campus was set up to provide a transition between army life and subsequent attendance at a university in the USA, and therefore students attended for just one term. After three successful terms the G.I. University closed in March 1946 (see G. I. American Universities).


Biarritz features:

  • The Asiatica Museum, which houses a significant collection of Asian art primarily from India, Nepal, Tibet, and China.
  • The Museum of the Sea, which has 24 aquariums containing sharks and seals
  • The annual Biarritz Surf Festival, founded in 1993 at the Côte des Basques, is one of the premier surf events in Europe and longboarding events in the world.
  • St-Martin's Church, constructed in the 12th century, and restored in the middle of the 16th century.
  • The Russian Orthodox Church, which was constructed in the 19th century for visiting Russian aristocrats, with its famous blue dome.
  • The Chapelle Imperiale built for Empress Eugenie, which has an intricately decorated roof interior, and elegant wall tiling. She also built a palace on the beach which is now the Hôtel du Palais.
  • A Museum of Chocolate, which explains its history and manufacture.
  • Two large casinos, the Barrière and the Bellevue, on the waterfront by the Grande Plage.

Cliffs and lookouts lie to the west of the main beach.


Biarritz has a temperate oceanic climate, Cfb in the Köppen climate classification.


Surfing in Biarritz is of a world-class standard and first appeared in 1957. The town has a strong surfing culture, and is known worldwide for its surfing scene and the competitions it hosts yearly, including the Quiksilver/Roxy Jam tournament. In July 2011, Biarritz also hosted the Roxy Pro event, a tournament part of the ASP Women's World Tour.

The town is home to a prominent rugby union club, Biarritz Olympique.

Basque pelota is a very popular sport of the Basque country. Several local and international competitions take place in Biarritz.

The golf course near the lighthouse (Le Phare) was created in 1888 by British residents. In addition to this the town has a large circular golf range area on the border with illbaritz.


Biarritz is easily accessible from Paris by France's high-speed train, the TGV, and more regionally from Bordeaux, by TGV or TER. Trains are also available to travel east towards Nice. Night trains regularly depart from Irun, south of Biarritz and pass through the city before heading to Paris during an overnight trip. Many tourists and regulars to the city have begun using the night train to take weekend trips to Biarritz and saving travel time by traveling at night. The Biarritz â€" Anglet â€" Bayonne Airport is located about four kilometres from the city. It is near N10 road towards Anglet and is served by airlines from France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Ireland and Germany.

Notable people and popular culture

Biarritz was the birthplace of:

  • Ernest Fourneau (1872â€"1949), chemist
  • Arnaud Massy (1877â€"1950), golfer
  • Maurice Hankey, 1st Baron Hankey (1877â€"1963), British civil servant
  • Jean Borotra (1898â€"1994), tennis player
  • Maurice Journeau (1898â€"1999), composer
  • Jacques Bergerac (1927 - 2014), actor
  • Léopold Eyharts (born 1957), astronaut


  • Eugénie de Montijo (1826â€"1920), the wife of Napoléon III, built the villa Eugénie, today the Hôtel du Palais.
  • Aaron Bank (1902â€"2004), World War II Office of Strategic Services (OSS) agent and co-founder of the U.S. Army's Special Forces Group (later, Green Berets), was a lifeguard and medical (physical) therapist's aide at Biarritz before he enlisted in the army in the late 1930s.
  • Aimée de Heeren, born Soto-Maior de Sá (1903â€"2006) mistress of President Getúlio Vargas, owned the villa La Roseraie, 12 rue Martias, where she spent the summer for half a century, receiving kings, heads of states and many famous guests.
  • Pablo de Sarasate (10 March 1844 â€" 20 September 1908), who was a well known Romantic Era Spanish composer born in Pamplona, Spain, died in this city.
  • In 1959, Cadillac Motor Car introduced an upper level trim variant of its Eldorado model, marketed as the Eldorado Biarritz, which remained in production through 1985.

International relations

Twin towns/sister cities

Biarritz is twinned with:

See also

  • G. I. American Universities


  • INSEE commune file

External links

  • Official website(French)
  • Tourist Information Office Biarritz (English)
  • Biarritz Real Estate (French) (English)

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