A short break in Biarritz, Pays Basque, France

Looking to recharge your batteries near the mountains and the sea at the same time? A short break in Pays Basque in France might be just the answer. There’s nothing like a few days abroad to get away from it all. Sun, sea, fantastic food: the region of Pays Basque has it all. It’s just one and a half hours away from London by plane or a few more hours by train from London via Paris. 

According to the locals, the perfect time to enjoy the area fully is in the late spring or after the summer rush in September and October, when the temperature is just right and it’s not too crowded. 

Biarritz, Pays Basque

lighthouse in Biarritz

My first port of call in the region was Biarritz, a grand seaside resort with a mix of elegant locals and sporty types, from surfers and golf players to devotees of the local Basque pelota. This town is an understated version of the Côte d’Azur, elegant without the glitz of St Tropez, Cannes and nearby neighbourhoods. 

some amazing architecture in Biarritz

Biarritz became well-known when the French royalty and subsequently European aristocracy began to frequent it in the 1800s. Over the years the rich and famous, as well as international noble families, made their mark building imposing mansions, resulting in an eclectic collection of incredible architectural styles. 

Walking around Biarritz

lighthouse in Biarritz

The 75-metre-high white lighthouse in Biarritz determines the beginning of the Pays Basque, the French Basque Country, or Northern Basque Country which is made of 158 communes. Biarritz and Bayonne are the main towns in the region. The locals proudly display the green, red and white colours of the Basque flag at every opportunity. 

I felt very safe walking around day and night while enjoying the stunning scenery and incredible sunsets. Biarritz is the surfing capital of France, with long beaches dotted by several surfing schools along the seafront. 

Cotes des Basques beach

Ever since American screenwriter Peter Viertel came to Biarritz in 1959 to make a film, bringing with him a surfboard, this sport caught on and nowadays the town holds international surf competitions. 

I walked from the Old Port, reaching the Côte des Basques beach where a surfing photo exhibition was taking place all along the seafront. And in the background, the surfers rode the waves.

Cote des Basques Beach – surf

It’s effortless moving around Biarritz. Everything is at a walking distance, even if the town is not entirely level. At any rate, there’s also a small free bus to take passengers up the hills. 

They’re also attempting to encourage car-free roads in the town’s centre. 

Le Rocher de la Vierge
Le Rocher de la Vierge

Biarritz ‘s Les Halles

Les Halles Biarritz

I am a market lover, and I really got a kick out of this one. There’s something about it that is just different from other Les Halles I’ve visited in France. 

There’s a diversity and vibrancy in the produce, ingredients and cafes. The covered part of the market is divided into two buildings: one is the fish market and the other sells charcuterie, cheeses, truffles, spices, baked goods and specialised foods.

This place is the heart of Biarritz community, where the locals come every day to stock up on local, seasonal and fresh produce.  It’s also where a lot of socialising happens.

Outside there are more cafes, restaurants and stalls selling bric-a-brac, hats, textiles and local artisan goods, as well as the buoyant shopping streets surrounding the market. 

Les Halles Biarritz

Places I ate in Biarritz

Modern Bistro in Biarritz

Chez Scott

4 Rue Jean Bart, 64200 Biarritz, France

Owned by chef Scott Serrato, this charming, modern and small restaurant is a stone’s throw from the city centre. It was a delicious lunch, showcasing chef Scott’s inventive and creative techniques. The dishes were very well presented, almost too beautiful to eat! It was an excellent gastronomic experience in Biarritz; thank you for having me. 

Delicious dishes I tried:

Chez Scott in Biarritz

The oeuf fermier croustillant, oignons caramélisés, crème au lard fumé – this was a very slow-cooked egg, breaded and then deep-fried accompanied by caramelised red onion rings and served on a delectable smoked-bacon-infused cream. 

Tomates anciennes, Mozarella au Pistou – the freshest and vibrant heritage tomatoes with cool and creamy Mozzarella drizzled with Pistou, a Provençal cold sauce made from cloves of garlic, fresh basil, and olive oil.

Chez Scott in Biarritz

Magret de Canard fermier Arnabar aux pêches – a juicy and tender duck breast, pan-fried with grilled peach . Merlu (hake) à la plancha, sweet mash potato – the prettiest plate-up ever! 

Great for all things fish in Biarritz

Chez Albert

51, bis Allée Port des Pêcheurs, 64200 Biarritz, France

Port des Pêcheurs Biarritz

Located on the dock of the Port des Pêcheurs, Chez Albert is an institution in Biarritz. When the restaurant opened at 7.30pm for dinner service, it already had a sizable queue. It accommodates 90 covers, with a terrace and its dining room overlooking the Port des Pêcheurs and sea. 

Fisherman’s hut detail

The menu is mainly fish and seafood. The marine influence is also seen in the décor, with the help of the Pays Basque linen. Reservation is a must. Friendly service. 

Fish Soup at Chez Albert

Fish soup: my favourite soup! 

Basque fish and seafood soup accompanied by croutons and rouille de la Maison – sauce that consists of olive oil with breadcrumbs, garlic, saffron and Espelette pepper. 

Surf n’ Turf 

Merly and Kintoa – Hake (Merlu) is big in Biarritz

Merlu (hake) from the nearby beach of Ciboure covered by a very thin layer of Kintoa (local pink and black pig) bacon, and mashed potatoes. This dish was served with a pot of hot piperade a Basque recipe prepared with onion, green peppers, and tomatoes that were sautéd and flavoured with Espelette pepper. The colours coincidentally reflect the colours of the Basque flag. 

Pintxos in Biarritz

Chistera & Coquillages

13 Rue des Halles, 64200 Biarritz, France

Smoked anchovies at Chistera

This place will always be remembered as the first place I tasted smoked anchovies, and for the hospitable service.I fancied some tapas for dinner, so this is what I had:

Pintos at Chistera

Ham croquettes on a bed of the most delicious pumpkin cream (very seasonal);Beignets de calamars – squid in Beignet batter; and Entrecôte Chistera on a bed of mashed potatoes – this was cooked to perfection (medium-rare) and smothered in gravy

Sheep’s cheese and quince at Chistera

Local Sheep’s cheese with quince paste to finish with a glass of red. 

I left this place very happy, thanks to Thomas and Carol for the excellent service, and also the owner Luis. 

All things truffle in Biarritz

Maison Balme

(Biarritz Les Halles)

Rue des Halles, 64200 Biarritz, France

I had a quick snack at Maison Balme where everything is truffled! I had the most delicious truffled ham and mortadella. They have a breakfast menu and an all-day small snack selection. 

Truffed ham and mostadella at Maison Balme – amazing!

Oh, I also bought truffles. They vacuum-packed them for easy transport back home. They have outlets in Paris, Bordeaux, Bayonne, Anglet and Dax. 

Where I stayed in Biarritz

Maison Garnier detail
Breakfast room detail at Maison Garnier, Biarritz

This time I experienced a stay at a small and quaint hotel that really struck a chord with me. Maison Garnier has been owned by the lovely Delphine for the last year, and she made this place so welcoming. The decor is an eclectic mix of mid-century and art deco pieces that brought a very homely feel. 

The hotel is super clean and well decorated. The bed linen was snow white and lovingly pressed –the way I like it! 

My room was the spacious no. 6 at the top of the stairs. I had a good-sized bathroom with a walk-in white-tiled shower and all the amenities that you need for a comfortable stay. 

room no.6 Breakfast room at Maison Garnier, Biarritz

Maison Garnier’s location couldn’t be more convenient: 2 minutes from the Les Halles (covered market) and all the local shops. It’s another 8 minutes’ walk to Côte des Basques, 10 minutes’ walking to the Fisherman Wharf and 15 minutes to Miramar beach. Biarritz airport is a 20-minute drive from the hotel. 

breakfast room Breakfast room at Maison Garnier, Biarritz
Breakfast Breakfast room at Maison Garnier, Biarritz

Thanks, Delfine for my gifts from Pariès: Kanougas® and sachet D’espelines. 

Maison Garnier

29 Rue Gambetta 64200, Biarritz, France

Phone: +33 5 59 01 60 70

A Thalassotherapy experience at Sofitel Biarritz SPA

I was told this region is famous for the Thalassotherapy treatments and that the best place to experience it is the Sofitel Biarritz Spa. I’ve never had such a relaxing and utterly immersive treatment with seawater and sea products. 

Thalasso Treatments

Sofitel Biarritz Spa

I began with the hamman, which I had experienced before, but this one was grand and beautiful; the steam cleaned and took away dead cells, leaving my skin fresh and ready to receive my next treatment.

The beauty & spa area includes 14 treatment rooms. There’s a hairdresser and experienced beauticians, so pedicures and manicures are available too, as well as a whole range of massages (including hot stone massages, and scalp massages with essential oils), relaxation treatments and foot reflexology, . The centre is open all year round for hotel guests, and for the general public by appointment. 

Next was the Cocon Marin, which I will try to explain the best I can: it’s, a room with a floating bed. You lie in the said bed, you’re basted with a super moisturising seaweed gel. After that, you’re wrapped up and then the centre of the bed is lowered so that you’re immersed in warm sea salt water. A facial and skull massage was applied for 15 minutes, and I fell asleep; I think I was there for a total of 50 minutes. 

My next treatment was the Hydrojet Music O Relax.It is a combination of the power of music with the beneficial properties of seawater during a multi-sensory music therapy session.

Then there was the Drainage Marin silhouette, which consists of immersion in a seawater bath and then modelling the body using a very powerful hose with more seawater.

And to finish this delightful experience, a Souffle De Fraicheur was a 50-minute relaxing and regenerative facial. I left the place walking on air.

Miramar beach Biarritz

Read more about my adventures in Pays Basque:

Spending a day in Bayonne

My Trip in and around St-Jean-de-Luz

How to get to Biarritz from the UK & Ireland

By Air

The flight takes about 1hr, 5mm, with departures from the following airport departures:

London Stansted: Ryanair

London Gatwick and London Luton: easyJet

Southampton and Birmingham: Flybe

Dublin: Ryanair

By Train

Take the Eurostar from London and then change at Paris’ Gare du Nord to Paris Montparnasse to take a TGV to Bordeaux then Biarritz. 

View some behind the scenes on Instagram: @Rosana_McPhee


Disclosure: I was on a solo press trip for review purposes. Everything you are reading here are my words, my opinions and, unless otherwise, stated my pictures. Please ask permission to reproduce/use any images.