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Pau is a versatile city and the most spectacular sights are located just a small funicular (cable-car) ride away from the train station. Set on a hillside you will find the majestic château, the former residence of Henri IV, the first Protestant king of France. The town’s iconic street, the Boulevard des Pyrénées, offers beautiful views of palm trees, mountains and the surrounding national park. Behind ’the strip’ there are busy little streets shooting off and converge around the main squares and central areas of Place Clémenceau and Place Royal. Everything is easily accessible from the boulevard, whether it may be the bars that line it, the boutiques and clothes shops behind it or the Centre Bosquet a few minutes’ walk away.
Pau offers many historical attractions like the impressive Chateau de Pau and museums displaying interesting art and heritage. If you would like to go for a longer excursion you will also find a wide range of splendid cities and villages around Pau. The combination of castles, beautiful architecture, English style gardens and fun activities makes this town well worth exploring.
Pau, and the Béarn region, is famed for its cuisine. As with other parts of south-west France, it is the duck that dominates. Some specialties in Pau include foie gras, tender slices of duck breast (magret de canard), cured ham (jambon de Bayonne) and creamy mountain brebis cheeses. The Palois like a good stew too, often a garbure béarnaise containing, you have guessed it, various cuts of duck, potatoes and white beans. Poule au pot, a whole chicken cooked in a pot with onions, potatoes and wine, is also popular and all washed down with a dry Jurançon.
Bar culture is an integral part of the Pau experience. The Palois like to go out, and when they do, they want a diverse scene to choose from. Locals like to take their time over a demi pression (beer) or a glass of wine. There are plenty of places for a drink in Pau. Pau might be a relatively small town but it sure knows how to party. The bars that line the Boulevard des Pyrénées also double as clubs. The music is gradually cranked up as night turns to early day. For the super club experience you can head out of town to the Quartier Libre, or as many locals do. Hop on the train to Pamplona/Iruña.
Pau’s main shopping area is concentrated behind the symbolic Boulevard des Pyrénées. The Place Clémenceau has some stylish boutiques and similar shops can be found on the roads that shoot off the square, notably rue Maréchal Foch, Cours Bousquet and rue du Château. Other good streets for local gifts and clothes are the pedestrianized areas of rue Serviez and rue Cordelières. For local produce and gift shops the little streets such as rue Henri IV of the Old Town are the best. There are also a number of excellent “boulangeries artisanales” (bakeries) selling croissants and baguettes.
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