Last Updated on 10th September 2022 by Sophie Nadeau
Ciboure is a small and tiny fishing village with a rich past. Nestled alongside the Nivelle River, just across the water from the much more famous Saint Jean de Luz, the town is well worth a wander around, if only for a couple of hours. Here’s your guide to the best things to do in Ciboure, as well as what to know before you go.
In the local language of Basque, Ciboure is known as Ziburu. The town is most famous for its history as a whaling and fishing port. For many centuries, Ciboure has been intertwined with the sea, and even to this day the harbour still houses around forty working fishing boats, though the main industry of the town lies in tourism.
Even now, many restaurants in the French Basque region serve fish which were caught by Ciboure fishermen. Towns of note close to Ciboure include the resort town of Biarritz, the little village of Guéthary, and of course, Saint Jean de Luz.
Best things to do in Ciboure
Visit the church of Saint Vincent
When it comes to architecture in Ciboure, the crowning jewel of the town is a church which is dedicated to St Vincent. Constructed in the 16th-century, what is particularly unique about this ecclesiastical building is its octagonal bell tower. Other highlights include three-tier wooden balconies for additional seating, an ornate altarpiece, and plenty of paintings on the walls.
Fort de Socoa
Located around a 20-30 minute walk down the coastline from the lighthouse of Ciboure, the Socoa fort is a 17th-century military fort that was built in 1627 and still stands proudly against the sea today. Unfortunately, the interior of the fort is closed to the public, though the exterior can still be admired from afar and up close.
See the harbour
The most picturesque place in Ciboure is hands down the harbour, where boats sway in the gentle sea breeze and the rich history of the town can be felt. The golden era for fishing in Ciboure was between the 15th and 18th-centuries.
At this time, Ciboure was particularly well-known for its ties with Newfoundland and the whaling industry. Though this eventually died out, Ciboure found a revival in the sardine fishing industry. Between 1947 and 1966, Ciboure was the number one sardine fishing port in France.
See the lighthouse
Though not quite as prominent as the lighthouse of Saint Jean de Luz, the Ciboure lighthouse was constructed in 1936 by André Pavlovsky and is green, while its twin in St Jean is red. Though you sadly can’t visit the interior of the ‘phare,’ it can still be admired via its exterior.
The Ciboure Market
As with many towns in France, there is a weekly market where vendors from all over the region come to set up shop for a morning. Head to the market at Ciboure on Sunday morning between 8.30 AM and midday and you can find a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, cold cuts, and more.
See the birthplace of Maurice Ravel
Ciboure is perhaps best-known for being the birthplace of Maurice Ravel. The famous composer was born in a house close to the church (exact address: 12 Rue Pocalette) and that faces the port. The building is particularly unique in that it is built in the Amsterdam style. Unfortunately, the interior of the house is closed to the public.
Visit Saint Jean de Luz
Just across the Nivelle River, the ever-so-famous resort town of St Jean de Luz was made famous as a bathing retreat at the end of the 19th-century and has been popular ever since. As well as a famous sea walk promenade, there’s a casino, a covered market (known as les Halles) and plenty of delightful streets to discover.
Wander the town
Truth be told, if you’re a fan of photography then the true joy of discovering Ciboure is to simply stroll the streets of Ciboure and snap photos of the houses with white painted walls with deep red shutters that are typical of the Basque region (Pays Basque in French). In the Basque language, the red and white houses are known as extea.
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Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A fan of all things France related, she runs solosophie.com when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She currently lives in Paris. Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.