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Image credit: en:User:(WT-en) Barry at English Wikivoyage

The charm of this distinguished city with its villas, sea air and unmistakable royal palaces, continues to be inexhaustible. 

Magnificent hotels, restaurants, shops, sports centers and thalassotherapy, all are awaiting for visitors in a city with a beauty hard to describe.

Victor Hugo’s name, Eugenia de Montijo and Peter Viertel, husband of great actress Deborah Kerr and known journalist in Hollywood, will for ever remain linked to Biarritz. Each of them contributed in one way or another, at creating the city’s image of elegance that  remained unaltered by time.

Victor Hugo discovered the charm of Biarritz in the mid-nineteenth century and thanks to his writing, the whole world learned about the beauty of this city. Also, Peter Vierte has brought the US surfboard, bringing with it the new sport that made headlines in California: surfing.

But the Spanish aristocrat Eugenia de Montijo, who became queen of France through the marriage to Napoleon III, was the one who made the Biarritz a fashionable place to spend the summer. 

On the Grande Plage, on both sides of Eugenia Villa, the summer palace built at the command of Napoleun the third for his wife, there are many palaces and villas, which, besides serving as summer residences for kings, princes and aristocrats from around the world, have given this southern city its distinct architectural style.

In 1893, the imperial residence Villa Eugenia, turns into Hotel du Palais. In full Belle Epoque, Hotel du Palais becomes the favorite meeting spot for representative members of the European Gotha, and among them, the representatives of the British aristocracy. They had the initiative to build the first golf course in Biarritz, Golf du Phare, and they were the founders of the first equestrian competitions.

In the early twentieth century, the casino Bellevue attracted show and cinema stars and legendary casino players. During the Second World War, the city turns into a political powerhouse and a center for international espionage. 

Eglise Saint-Eugénie. Image credit: Taken by user {{GFDL}}

Hôtel du Palais. Image credit: Roberto Chamoso G

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After the war, it is frequented by members of royalty, bankers, writers, actors and designers.

Many years have passed since then, but even today, in full twenty-first century, Biarritz has not lost its charm and has kept the style somewhere between decadent and chic, combining it with its new modern style that revolves around sports like golf or surf.

The French city is linked to the Atlantic Ocean, becoming one of the world’s leading thalassotherapy centers. However, we must not forget its past as a fishing village reflected by the streets from the area of the ancient Puerto de Pescadores, by the gastronomy and passion for the game-Pelota Vasca (the Basque ball, from the Basque Country, Spain).

During the day, life is focused in and around Market Clemenceau, the main point where all the shopping streets meet. The elegant shops where you can find the most prestigious French designers and the most popular brands of luxury jewelry, antique houses, perfumes, tea rooms, bakeries and candy shops (the white chocolate caramel, Kanougas, originates from Biarritz) are symbols of a rich and cosmopolitan city.

Of course, one must not forget Grande Plage, the beach considered one of the best places in Europe to practice surfing.

For lovers of golf, Biarritz is the place you have been looking for. Biarittz has one of the oldest golf fields in France and around the city we can find the Biarritz International Training Center.

In addition to being the ideal place to practice these sports, Biarritz has been one of the pioneer cities in recognizing and exploiting the numerous properties of sea water for treatments using thalassotherapy. 

Plages et Casino. Image credit: Taken by user {{GFDL}}

Biarritz. Image credit: Miguel Ángel García.

In the city there are two prestigious international institutes: Thalasia International Institute, founded in 1979 by champion cyclist Louison Bobet, and Les Thermes Marins which was built more recently.

After sunset, Biarritz transforms itself and provides those who want to enjoy the nightlife, an impressive gastronomic offer. If you like playing games, you can go to Barriere Casino, Casino Bellevue’s successor, the ancient symbol of the city.

Biarritz is a perfect symbiosis between the past and the present. Without losing its charm, the city has been able to adapt to new trends, while remaining true to its connection with the land and sea.

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