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French Basque Country xTend Travel Advice

A region of cider, scrumptious cuisine, and a unique linguistic heritage

French Basque Country- Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Biarritz

Located in the southwestern reaches of France, the French Basque country is among the top travel destinations for any global traveler. With a unique identity, a mysterious language, scrumptious cuisine, and no shortage of interesting sites to visit, the French Basque country is the best place to travel for those who want to try something a little different without getting too wild!

Where to visit? What to do? Where to stay? Will English be enough? What do the locals expect of visitors? How and when should a traveler change currency? Worry not! With a little bit of savvy travel advice, any global traveler can make the most of their oversea travel adventure! You won’t miss a thing, and you won’t make the wrong move in the French Basque Country!

Sights and Attractions

Le Musee de la Mer

Opened in 1933, this art deco style aquarium consists of four floors displaying several marine animals and historical exhibits. Fish and sea mammals from all over the world can be found in Le Musee de la Mer! The warm waters of the Caribbean, the far reaches of the Indo-Pacific, the frigid seascapes of the North Atlantic, seals, turtles, shops, and more wait for you at this world-class aquarium!

Don’t worry; not all these fish and marine mammals had to trek across the globe! A number of exhibits from the French Bay of Biscay are on display as well. Lovers of maritime history can’t miss out on the whaling, fishing, and cetacean exhibits!  Le Musee de la Mer  offers a comprehensive look into the maritime realities of the past and present!

Le Grande Plage

Sometimes, names are very straightforward, and that’s just fine! After all, it’s nice to know precisely what you’re in for.  La Grande Plage  — the Big Beach, is an aptly named paradise near the Spanish border on the coast of the city of Biarritz. Surfs up for those who want to shred some gnar! Just don’t forget to bring your board! The boardwalk is huge enough to be an attraction in and of itself. Whether you’re strolling on the boardwalk, taking a dip, catching some waves, or soaking the rays, make you pack some sunblock! You’re going to need it!

Rocher de la Vierge

Despite the name, you needn’t be celibate to visit  Rocher de la Vierge  — the virgin’s rock. This is one of those sights that you need to see to believe. Consisting of natural rock formations accessible via bridge, Rocher de la Vierge looks as if it were constructed by man, but Mother Nature takes the credit on this one. Taking its name from the Virgin Mary statue at its highest point, Rocher de la Vierge is a one of a kind spectacle that no global traveler should miss!

Despite the name, you needn’t be celibate to visit  Rocher de la Vierge  — the virgin’s rock. This is one of those sights that you need to see to believe. Consisting of natural rock formations accessible via bridge, Rocher de la Vierge looks as if it were constructed by man, but Mother Nature takes the credit on this one. Taking its name from the Virgin Mary statue at its highest point, Rocher de la Vierge is a one of a kind spectacle that no global traveler should miss!

As this attraction juts out into the Bay of Biscay, Rocher de la Vierge is one of the top travel destinations for tourists who want a stunning view of the endless French coast. Fun fact: Gustave Eiffel, the man with a certain well-known Parisian tower named after him, was responsible for the metalwork in the bridge’s construction!

Jardin Botanique Littoral Paul Jovet

Take in the wonderful flora of the French Basque Country at this astonishing botanical garden in Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Overlooking the ocean from a 150-foot cliff, the garden features heaths, dunes, preserved oak-pine forests, a variety of magnolias, an flora from all around the world! Every global traveler needs some greenery on their trip, and  Jardin Botanique Littoral Paul Jovet  is a great place to find just that! But please, watch your step. The walking trails are safe, but you should keep your eyes peeled for the cliffside!

Chapelle Imeriale de Biarritz

Emperor Napoleon Third wife really wanted a cosmopolitan chapel in New Aquitaine, so she got just that! Blending Byzantine and Moorish designs, Chapelle Imperiale de Biarritz truly stands out next to the surrounding structures. A rather quick stop due to its small size, this extraordinary little chapel is a unique destination for a quick history lesson. With La Grande Plage, Phare de Biarritz, the aquarium, and numerous other attractions within walking distance, there’s no excuse not to give  Chapelle Imperiale de Biarritz  a visit!

St. Jean-Baptisre Church

Built and expanded between the 1300s and 1600s, the interior of  St. Jean-Baptiste Church  is adorned with ornate sculptures of saints and depictions of biblical icons. Opulent wealth can be witnessed at every corner. With a golden altar in the front and paintings everywhere, visitors can get lost in the endless beauty that this incredible church has to offer. Known for its recognizable bell tower, visitors to Saint-Jean-de-Luz are unlikely to miss this magnificent church!

Phare de Biarritz

The  lighthouse of Biarritz  will give you a view like no other. From the top, visitors can see for miles in every direction! Among the tallest structures in town, you’ll get quite a few glimpses of this behemoth from wherever you may be. The incredible sight from the top truly puts the vast beauty of Biarritz and the Bay of Biscay into perspective. Make sure you loop up their schedule before you decide to check the place out; you won’t be going up if there are no staff members on hand. It’s a long way to the top, so maybe skip those squats and leg presses on the morning of your trip!

Espelette

A charming little commune not far from the Spanish border, this tiny little town has quite a lot to offer. Featuring traditional Labourd village houses and the baroque Saint Etienne church,  Espelette  is an idyllic reflection of the image of 16th century Europe. Known for their peppers and pepper-rubbed ham, your mouth will water at the sight and scent of fresh ham hanging to dry in the streets.

Europe is the best place to travel if you want to see a castle, and the French Basque Country will not disappoint! The Castle of the Baron of Espelette is home to the commune’s town hall! With numerous historical exhibitions, as well as an expedition for different varieties of peppers around the world, the Castle of the Baron Espelette is the best place to travel for some unique architecture and intriguing local history.

Cite de l'Ocean

Located in Biarritz, the  Cite de l’Ocean  virtual aquarium features several cutting-edge high-tech exhibits. Get lost at sea with a hyper-realistic VR surfing experience. Exhibits on explorers and marine biologists offer an educational opportunity for travelers who wish to learn more about humankind’s history with the deep blue sea. A trip to the North and South poles doesn’t have to be so chilly with the bathyscape — an unbelievable cinematic experience featuring whales, penguins, polar bears, and so much more! Teleport to the Fakarava reserve in Polynesia and witness a pack of over 700 sharks with the guided 360-degree 700 Sharks in the Dark virtual reality documentary experience! Pushing the boundaries of marine education, Cite d’lOcean is a technological marvel that any visitor to the region should mark on their itinerary.

Casino Barriere

Slots, poker, table games, and more await you at the Casino Barriere! With a gourmet restaurant and a premier thirst-quenching bar. The  Casino Barriere  is the perfect opportunity to let loose, get a buzz on, and forget your worries while you get some much-needed shade! Nestled between the ocean and the city center in Biarritz, the Casino Barriere is right in the middle of every hot destination in town. So why not spend a buck and try your luck. Who knows, maybe you’ll come out with a little extra cash for your trip. If not, at least you can say you had a couple good drinks, some good food, and good company!

Sainte Eugenie Church

Under the patronage of St. Eugenie, a Christian martyr in the third century, the Sainte-Eugenie church is an impressive example of neo-gothic design. Right by port Vieux, the  Saint Eugenie church  is arguably the most beautiful building in sight.

Eglise Orthodoxe

Western Europe is known for its Catholic churches, cathedrals, and chapels. No western European town is complete without at least a tiny little Catholic chapel built some centuries or millennia ago. Catholic religious establishments are so common in the area that no one really bats an eye when they hear of one, but what about an Orthodox church?

Although the different Orthodox Churches have very little presence in far-western Europe, Biarritz is home  to its own Russian Orthodox Church . Completed in 1892, this magnificent structure was built primarily to serve the needs of the large Russian resort community who would come visit Biarritz in the summers! The Eastern Orthodox design really stands out compared to the other religious establishment in the area. It goes to show that the French Basque country has quite the history of global tourism!

Le Petit Train de Biarritz

The little train takes travelers all across Biarritz. It’s a wonderful way to get around town, see the local hotspots, and get an extensive view of the coast. Passing by almost all of the top travel destinations in Biarritz, Le Petit Train is a fun way to cruise around town and rest your tired legs for a bit.

Golf de Biarritz

At  Golf de Biarritz , when you hear  “Balle”,  the French equivalent of  fore,  it’d probably be wise to duck and cover your head unless you want to take a Titleist to the noggin. Few courses have such a beautiful view as the Golf de Biarritz. Established in 1888, this golf course has a rich history and is home to a variety of international competitions! If you have a good swing and a few hours, you really don’t want to miss out on this fantastic golf experience!

Lac Mouriscot

A great park away from the hustle and bustle of the town,  Lac Mouriscot  is a nice place to take a quick walk and take in the natural beauty of the area. French Basque Country isn’t all coasts, after all. As it’s not too far from the Biarritz train station, those going in and out of the town of Biarritz don’t need to travel far to find a quiet little haven!

Biarritz History Museum

Ever wonder about the history of this incredible tourist town? Well, the  Biarritz History Museum  catalogs the history of the town all the way to its earliest records. Inside a former Anglican Church, the Biarritz History Museum is a testament to all of the changes that have happened in the French Basque Country and France at large over the centuries. With exhibits of nearby Napoleonic battlefields and the Bonaparte family tree, overs of the Napoleon and the Napoleonic war-era history will not be disappointed after their visit to the Biarritz History Museum. Even for those who can’t be bothered about history, Napoleon, or military affairs, the old Anglican Church structure is an incredible beauty in its own right.

Musee Asiatica

Boasting a vast collection of Asian art, the  museum’s  wonderful exhibits explore centuries of Asian history and culture. Featuring relics of ancient India, China, Nepal, and Tibet, visitors can see the progression of Buddhist, Hindu, and other religious art styles throughout the centuries.

Basque Cuisine

French Basque country is one the best place to travel for gourmands and lovers of cider. Several local restaurants feature and incorporate Basque cuisine into their menu. Focused mainly on seafood, cheese, cider, and wines, Basque cuisine is as riveting as it is delightful. Gateau Basque, a creamy pastry pie, will satisfy any hungry adventurer’s sweet tooth. Chistorra spicy sausage is absolutely delectable, and it must be washed down with a glass of Basque cider.

The Basque people are very fond of their cider, and you will be surprised to find a number of sagardotegi, Basque cider houses, all over Basque country. Not only do Basque cider houses serve cider, but they are also a prime place to gobble some authentic Basque cuisine. If you though cider in your country was good, just wait until you take a sip of Errezila, Mozoloa, or Mokoa. No oversea travel adventure is complete without a tasty sip of the local brew!

French Basque Country- Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Biarritz Travel Tips

Currency Considerations

In France, they use the Euro. Unless you’re coming from another Eurozone country, you’re going to have to change currency. Now, you don’t want to wait until you’re in France to  exchange currency.  It’s better to exchange your money in your home country. When you exchange currency as a tourist, you’re likely to get a lousy rate on your exchange. A bad rate means that you end up with less money when you change currency. Consider using an online currency exchange service. You’ll get a better rate, and that means more Euros for tours, museums, cheese, sausage, ciders, and more!

Lodging

Numerous hotels, hostels, and homestays can be found spread throughout French Basque Country. Lodging isn’t  super  expensive. A night at a beautiful hotel can often run under $100, and hostels and homestays can run much cheaper. Some travel advice to save you a few euros: take a look online, plan ahead, and see what fits in your budget! If you plan ahead, you won’t have to worry about paying too much when you pick the first hotel you can find after a long day of travel.

Flights and Transportation

Biarritz has a small international airport. You may find a better deal at a nearby international airport, or even an airport on the Spanish side. In any case, budget out your transport costs before you decide where you want to land. Biarritz is accessible by train. Numerous bus services are available to travelers in the Biarritz and St.-Jean-de-Luz region.

Language

Nearly everyone in Biarritz and Saint-Jean-de-Luz can speak French. Almost 25 percent of the population is fluent in Basque, and numbers are starting to rise among the younger generation. As the Aquitanian language is now extinct, Basque is a language isolate. It really can’t be compared to any other language in existence.

While about 39 percent of French people can speak English to some degree, and French Basque country follows the national trend. You are likely to find an English speaker if you persist. Some vital travel advice — learn a bit of the local language or lingua franca wherever you go. In French Basque country, a few French phrases can really come in handy. Numbers, directions, days, and transaction-vocab are all handy if you’re in a pinch. If you’re having a hard time communicating, speaking English in a slow, loud, and exaggerated tone will not help you, unless your goal is to look like a raging jerk. Always be respectful of locals, and understand that you’re lucky to be hearing your native tongue at all in a foreign land. Try to keep a translation app or phrasebook handy.

With any oversea travel adventure, you’ll want to know how to pronounce the local sites. Basque place names are pretty easily pronounceable, but French place names are a whole other beast! French spelling is pretty wild, and most things are not pronounced as they are spelled. It’s a good idea to look up and practice French place names ahead of time. You don’t want to be misunderstood!

Rules, Etiquette and Customs

Like most European destinations, mentioning the Second World War, Philippe Petain, or anything from that era can be a sore subject. Keep that in mind when speaking with locals.
French people don’t like when people check their phones while they’re in a conversation. It is considered quite rude, and you don’t want to offend these kind and gracious people.

While tension with the national government is high in Spanish Basque Country and not so much in French Basque Country, bringing up past Basque conflicts may be a sensitive topic for some.
All in all, people in France and the French Basque Country are respectful to people who show them respect. Be polite, don’t be a nuisance, and you’ll do just fine.

Key Points

So what’s the holdup? Book that flight and prepare to change currency! With this travel advice to steer you in the right direction, your oversea travel adventure to the French Basque Country will be as smooth as a Basque cider straight from the tap! There’s a reason that St.-Jean-de-Liz and Biarritz are among the top travel destinations in France; there is just so much to do, so much to see, and so much to love about French Basque Country!

At xTend Travel, we have the knowledge and expertise of a seasoned international commuter and the passion of an innovative tourist. We use this know-how to provide you with travel currency for your journey and exclusive travel guidance.

The result is a rare balance in the travel industry — a customer focused company that supports and inspires world exploration.

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