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In medieval times and up to the 17th century, Biarritz was an unassuming fishing and whaling community. Spotters would perch on the Atalye plateau above the village and use smoke signals to tell the villagers when whales were nearby. In the 18th century, Biarritz took its first steps toward becoming a tourist destination, when Comtesse de Montijo spent two lazy family holidays here. During the following century, the town’s popularity grew, as kings and queens of nations and the silver screen started and kept up visiting. Bette Davis, Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth also came here to explore the Monte Carlo of the Atlantic. Today, the city is primarily a tourist destination but it still manages to maintain its character and steer clear of tackiness. This is mainly because most visitors come from nearby Spain and the rest of France. Biarritz is also a famous spot in the world of surfing. Grand Plage and Place du Port Vieux is where surf shops such as O’Neill and Quiksilver are located: Grand Plage is a classic beach and Miramar Beach the most fashionable among those of the entire Atlantic coast. Surfers congregate at several beaches, from Biarritz all the way up to Hossegor.
Biarritz is located in Basque territory, 18km from the Spanish border. The sunny location on the Bay of Biscay makes it perfect for surfing and this culture is deeply rooted in the city’s ambience. Several prestigious surf tournaments have been hosted by Biarritz. Other popular sports practised here are Basque pelota, golf and rugby.
Two factors, the ocean and the proximity to Basque Country, influence the restaurants in Biarritz. This is a good thing, as Basque cooking has lately been praised as the best in Europe. It can be hard to find simpler, less pricey restaurants in Biarritz, but they do exist.
Biarritz has a vibrant coffee culture and the beautiful surroundings provide the perfect backdrop for a relaxing cup of coffee. Just take your time to experience the most of it.
The area around Port Vieux, Biarritz’s old port, is full of bars, as is place Clemenceau. Just outside the city near the casino you will find a handful of large discos.
The range of shopping options in Biarritz covers everything from Basque handicraft to cool surf shorts and expensive designer labels. The surf brand Quiksilver has ties to the area and their products can be found in many of the shops, as well as in their own store by Grand Plage Beach. Other brands, including O’Neill, have shops on the beach and around Place du Port Vieux. The most expensive shopping area is situated along avenue Edouard VII, including Natacha at number 3 and Hermès at number 19, as well as along rue Mazagran and around place Clèmenceau.
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