Last Updated on 12th September 2022 by Sophie Nadeau
Sun, sea, and delicious food: if there’s one destination you should add to your French bucket list, it’s the French Basque Country. Here’s your ultimate 3 days in the French Basque Country itinerary, including what to know before you go.
The French Basque Country is part of the wider Basque region, whose territory is split in equal measure between France and Spain. Culturally, both the Spanish Basque region and French Basque region are inextricably tied; sharing both the same language (Basque) and customs.
Where to stay in the Basque Country
If you were to just base yourself in one spot during your time in the French Basque Country, then I would suggest staying in Biarritz. After all, fantastic transportation connections to nearby towns and cities mean that you won’t have to rent a car at all during your trip.
The town is fairly large meaning that there are plenty of accommodation options to suit every taste and budget. Here are some of the best places to stay in town based on web-reviews and location:
Budget place to stay in Biarritz: For those who are looking to stay somewhere in Biarritz on a budget, a great option is Utopy Hostel Biarritz. While this is a little further out of town than some other accommodation options, highlights include baggage storage and Wi-Fi. Check prices and availability here.
Mid-range place to stay in Biarritz: A three star hotel with amenities such as Wi-Fi and a location a 10 minute walk from the beach, Hôtel Maitagarria is a great mid-range option. Check prices and availability here.
Luxury hotel in Biarritz: The true crème de la crème when it comes to staying in Biarritz is Hôtel Du Palais Biarritz. This grand palace is now listed as a historic monument and was constructed by Napoleon III for his wife Eugénie.
Indeed, the shape of the palace is in an ‘E’. Since 1893, the complex has been used as a luxury hotel and is now owned by Hyatt. Now classed as a 5-star hotel, amenities include a pool, spa, and some rooms have a beach view. Check prices and availability here.
Biarritz also makes for a great base to begin each day as there are a number of great breakfast options on offer and so I would personally opt to enjoy a croissant and coffee in one of the many cafés in town before heading out for a day of exploring. Some of the top coffee shops in Biarritz include MAMAKA COFFEE SHOP and Lobita Café.
Is 3 days enough in the French Basque Country?
The French Basque country is a stunning area with plenty of attractions and even more to see. As such, you won’t be able to see everything the region has to offer over the course of 72 hours. With that being said, three days in the French Basque Country is more than enough to get a taste of what southwest France has to offer. If you want to really see everything, then I recommend staying for around a week.
Day 1 in the French Basque Country
The first day of this itinerary will be spent exploring Bayonne, a charming town that is famed for its grand Gothic cathedral and timber-framed homes. Buses to Bayonne depart from Biarritz on a regular basis (every half an hour during the day).
Simply take the T1 from close to the tourism office (you can buy tickets from the machines at the bus stop) and the bus will take you to Bayonne in around half an hour. Be sure to validate your ticket as soon as you get on the bus otherwise you risk a fine.
Once in Bayonne, begin your day by heading to the botanical garden, which is known as Jardin Botanique in French. These free to visit gardens are open from Tuesday through to Saturday and are also known as Jardin Botanique des Remparts.
Next head to Bayonne Cathedral, which is free to visit. Dedicated to Sainte Marie, the ecclesiastical building was constructed between the 13th and 17th-centuries and is a blend of Gothic and Romanesque architecture.
The church is not the first one on site and was actually built on the site of a former place of worship which burned down in 1258. Next door, the perfectly preserved cloisters are free to visit and date back to the 13th-century. Please note that the cloisters are closed on Sundays and Mondays.
If you’re looking for a trendy and modern place that serves up speciality coffees and offers vegan and vegetarian options on the menu (as well as brunch on a Sunday), then you need to look no further than Café Muxu. The café is a stone’s throw away from the cathedral and offers outdoor seating in the summer.
After lunch, there are several other attractions that Bayonne has to offer. There’s a museum which is all about the history of the French Basque Country and a covered market place which dates from the 19th-century.
Otherwise, one of the greatest joys of a trip to Bayonne is simply wandering around and allowing the town to reveal itself to you. Alternatively, if you want to get to know the city with a local, then you can book a walking tour like this one.
Day 2 in the French Basque Country
The second day of this southwest guide will be focused on Biarritz, a beautiful city that takes an entire day to explore. The town is fairly compact, but set over several levels, so be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes as you’ll be doing a lot of steps!
Start your day by heading to the Phare de Biarritz (Biarritz Lighthouse), where you can climb the 248 steps for a fee. From the top, you can enjoy beautiful views around Biarritz and get to know the lay of the land when it comes to the town.
Next, head back into the town for a spot of shopping. Thanks to its status as a luxury resort town, Biarritz boasts all kinds of shops from foodie paradises to designer shops like Hermès. One of my favourite shops is actually Bookstore Biarritz, which sells plenty of books, including tomes about the local French Basque region.
Particular things to buy from Biarritz include espadrilles (the woven and canvas shoe actually originates in the region), chilli pepper products, local hams, Basque fabrics (there are stores dedicated entirely to linen sprinkled all over town), and woven baskets and bags.
Back in the town, one of the best places to grab lunch is at Les Halles, where casual restaurants sit side by side with vendors selling fresh cheeses, meats, and fruit and vegetables. The 19th-century hall is covered and is a particularly great place to enjoy local delicacies.
Spend the afternoon relaxing on one of the many beautiful beaches in town and exploring the coastal paths which wind their way across the seaside edge of Biarritz. One highlight of note is Plage du Port Vieux (which is friendlier to swimmers and sunbathers than the nearby Grande Plage). Alternatively, you can book a guided walking tour like this one.
Spend the rest of your daylight hours as the locals do by enjoying the sunset at Rocher de la Vierge. This uniquely shaped rock resemble a ship’s hull, is free to visit, and juts out to sea. Come sunset, you can enjoy candy colours dance across the sky, as well as views towards the iconic Villa Belza.
Last but not least, end your day the right way by dining at Crampotte 30, an open-air café which is set against the backdrop of a little fishing port. The menu is set out tapas style and the idea is that you take a number of small dishes to share between friends or family.
Day 3 in the French Basque Country
Day three of this Biarritz itinerary will be focused on a few different towns and villages along the French Basque coast. It’s easy to get to all of them from Biarritz, though unfortunately there are no direct buses to reach these hidden gems.
Again, just like when heading to Bayonne, buses to other towns in the area depart from close to the tourist office. There is a small information point for the buses (do not confuse this with the tourist office itself) where you can get leaflets/ brochures regarding times and prices.
Make the first stop of the day Guéthary. The charming town of Guéthary is somewhat a hidden gem of the French Basque coastline. Small and compact, it’s fairly easy to explore over the course of a short few hours.
Some of the top highlights include enjoying an ice cream at Chez Kutsu, wild beaches, and visiting the dry fishing port. This is one of the only kinds of ports of its kind in France and is where fishing boats are taken in and out of the water each time they are used, instead of being moored directly in the water.
After visiting Guéthary, it’s time to get the bus again to reach Saint Jean de Luz. A glittering jewel of the French Basque coastline, the town of Saint Jean de Luz is a charming fishing port which boasts charm and history in equal measure.
One of the best ways to enjoy St Jean de Luz is by strolling around the sea wall. A walk along this promenade will reward you with both views of the sea and of the Basque town. The lighthouse of Saint Jean de Luz is no longer in use but can also be spied when walking along the sea wall.
Other highlights of the town include grabbing an ice cream at Bargeton, having a drink at Place Louis XIV (this is also where you can get lunch), and visiting one of the many churches in town. If you have more time, then you can also walk to Ciboure or even further along the coastline to the Fort de Socoa.
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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 now splits her time between London and Paris! Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.