For other uses, see Biarritz (disambiguation).

Beach and casino


Coat of arms

Coordinates: 43°29′N 1°34′W / 43.48°N 1.56°W / 43.48; -1.56Coordinates: 43°29′N 1°34′W / 43.48°N 1.56°W / 43.48; -1.56
Country France
Region Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Department Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Arrondissement Bayonne
Intercommunality Bayonne-Anglet-Biarritz
  Mayor (since 2014) Michel Veunac
Area1 11.66 km2 (4.50 sq mi)
Population (2009)2 25,397
  Density 2,200/km2 (5,600/sq mi)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
INSEE/Postal code 64122 / 64200
Elevation 0–85 m (0–279 ft)

1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Biarritz (French pronunciation: [bjaʁits]; Basque: Biarritz [biarits̻] or Miarritze [miarits̻e]; Gascon Occitan: Biàrritz [ˈbjarits]) is a city on the Bay of Biscay, on the Atlantic coast in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in the French Basque Country in southwestern France. It is located 35 kilometres (22 mi) from the border with Spain. It is a luxurious seaside tourist destination known for the Hôtel du Palais (originally built for the Empress Eugénie around 1855), its casinos, and its surfing culture.


Biarritz is located in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. It is adjacent to Bayonne and Anglet and 35 kilometres (22 mi) from the border with Spain. It is in the traditional province of Labourd in the French Basque Country.


In Basque, its name is Biarritz or Miarritze. Its current Occitan Gascon name is Biàrrits. The name for an inhabitant is Biarrot; Biarriztar ou Miarriztar in Basque. The suffix -itz (cp. Isturitz) is a Basque locative. The name appears as Bearriz in 1170, Bearids in 1186, and Bearritz in 1249.

Biarritz appears as Bearids and Bearriz in 1150, Beiarridz in 1165, Bearriz and Beariz in 1170, Bearidz (1186), Bearriz and Beariz (12th century), lo port de Beiarriz and Bearridz in 1261, (cartulaire de Bayonne). Other forms include Beiarid (1199), Bearritz (1249), Beiarriz and Beiarrids (1261), Bearridz (1281), Bearrits (1338), (rôles gascons), Bearritz (1498, chapitre de Bayonne38), Sanctus Martinus de Biarriz (1689, collations du diocèse de Bayonne39), mearritcen (1712), Biarrits (1863, dictionnaire topographique Béarn-Pays basque) et Biarritze et Miarritze au XIXe siècleNote 10.



Analysis of stones from the Middle Paleolithic show that the Biarritz area was inhabited at that time.

Middle Ages

The oldest mention appears in a cartulary, Baiona’s Golden book, from 1186. They write Bearids, and some years later Beiarrids. The first urban town was to the south, at the top and at the interior, where the church of San Martin is located. This church is the oldest in Biarritz.

In 1152, Aliénor d'Aquitaine married Henri Plantagenêt, who became suzerain of the Duchy of Aquitaine. Prince Edward, oldest son of Henry III of England, was invested with the duchy, and betrothed to Eleanor of Castile, who brought him rights over Gascony.

Two population centers are attested in the Middle Ages. On the one hand, the église Saint-Martin was active in the neighborhoods in the territory's interior, which were:[1]

  • Gardague (mentioned en 1233)
  • Legure (lac Mouriscot)
  • Larrepunte and the domains of Silloete-de-Bas and Silloete-de-Haut,
  • Arretegui,
  • Chabiague,
  • Castera,
  • Suhy,
  • Itçar (mentioned in 1342),
  • Monsegur (1335),
  • Martin Petit,
  • Chohy,
  • Maron,
  • Catalina
  • Harausta (which would become La Négresse).

On the other hand, the château of Belay (first mentioned in 1342), also called château de Ferragus, protected the coast and the current Port-Vieux (old port), while religious life and community assemblies took place at Notre-Dame-de-Pitié (a chapel mentioned in 1498), dominating the Port-des-Pêcheurs, or fishing port.

A document dated May 26, 1342 attested to this fishing activity, authorising les Biarrots to "(…) remit to Bayonne all the fresh fish that we and succeeding inhabitantsof Biarritz can fish from the salt sea".

Construction of the château de Ferragus was decided by the English, on the foundations of a Roman work, at the summit of the promontory overlooking the sea, named Atalaye, used as a whale-observation post. This château had a double crenulated wall two meters thick, a drawbridge and four towers. Mentions of this château occur as late as 1603, in the letters patent of Henry IV. One tower remained as of 1739, when a daymark was established there, called de la Haille, then de la Humade. The tower disappeared in 1856.


Further information: History of Basque whaling

Most of the documents, records and official agreements gathered in the archives from Biarritz mention whaling. This was the principal local industry. Consequently, the town's coat of arms features the image of a whale below a rowing boat manned by five sailors wearing berets, one of whom is preparing to throw a harpoon. This inscription is written on it: Aura, sidus, mare, adjuvant me (The air, the stars and the seas are helping me).

Biarritz has long made its living from the sea: from the 12th century onwards, it was a whaling town. In the 18th century, doctors claimed that the ocean at Biarritz had therapeutic properties, inspiring patients to make pilgrimages to the beach for alleged cures for their ailments. After the 7th century, Biarritz had many confrontations with Baiona, with the Kingdom of England – Lapurdi was under its control – and with the Bishop of Baiona. Almost all of the disputes were about whale hunting. In 1284, the town's right to hunt whales was reinstated by the authorities of Lapurdi and the Duchy of Aquitaine.

From the Middle Ages and Early modern period a watchtower has looked down over the sea at Biarritz, from “La Humade”, waiting for the sight of a whale. Whenever those keeping watch saw a whale, they would burn wet straw, to create a large amount of smoke and thus communicate the news to their fellow countrymen. Eventually, however, the tower disappeared.

In the 16th century, as a consequence of the attacks suffered in this area, or for other reasons, the whales migrated to other places. Whale hunters from Lapurdi therefore crossed the Atlantic Ocean in pursuit of them, and they spent some time in the Labrador Peninsula and in Newfoundland (island). Later, instead of hunting whales, they started cod fishing in Newfoundland. A century later, due to the ban on fishing off the coasts of America and the steely competence of English and Dutch fishermen, the number of fishing boats from Biarritz diminished and nowadays, the Biarritz fishing industry in these areas has come to an end.

Even though the population from Biarritz was originally Basque, it is hard to assert whether the main language of the village was Basque or French.

The first lighthouse of the village was built in 1650.

18th century

The Cape of Biarritz

Biarritz is an independent municipality, until 1784, a clergyman, four sworn and the city was governed by twelve deputies. Deputies were democratically chosen: there were four neighbourhoods (Portua, Bustingorri, Hurlaga and Alto), and three deputies has to be chosen from each of them. However, deputies were chosen by the abbot and sworn. Since they had no Town House, they gathered in a ward near the church. As they did not have place for all the attending people, they made their meetings in the cemetery. That time, Biarritz was composed of around 1,700 citizens.

In the mid-18th century, the city began to change into a worldwide known bath-city.

19th century

From 1784 onwards, after the French Revolution, taking a bath at the sea was not only a behaviour of those who were fool, sea-baths were fashionable. In 1808, Napoleon himself broke prejudices and took a bath on the Basque Country’s coastal water.

In 1840, the Town House or Municipality of Biarritz started to organize an initiative in order to promote and attract those who loved most the sea.

From the 11th century, Biarritz was a village dedicated to whale hunting, until Victor Hugo, found it in 1843. This writer made to Biarritz the following compliments on his book “Alpeak eta Pirinioak” :

« I have not met in the world any place more pleasant and perfect than Biarritz. I have never seen the old Neptune throwing joy and glory with such a force in the old Cybele. All this coast is full of humming. Gascony’s sea grinds, scratches, and stretches on the reefs its never ending whisper. Friendly population and white cheerful houses, large dunes, fine sand, great caves and proud sea, Biarritz is amazing. My only fear is Biarritz becoming fashionable. Whether this happens, the wild village, rural and still honest Biarritz, will be money-hungry. Biarritz will put poplars in the hills, railings in the dunes, kiosks in the rocks, seats in the caves, trousers worn on tourists. »

Either for good or for bad, Victor Hugo’s prophecy was fulfilled. Biarritz planted poplars, tamarinds, hydrangeas, roses and pitosforuses on the slopes and the hills, set railings on the dunes, covered moats with elegant stairs… and polluted with the speculation of the land and the money-hunger.

Humble and proud tourists praise Biarritz’s coast, from the beach at the limit of Bidarte (Plage des Basques), to the cape of San Martin. There it can be found a white lighthouse 44 metres (144 feet) tall, built in 1834 replacing the one Louis XIV ordered to build. Various hotels were made, as well as a municipal casino, the club Belleuve and the casino were opened in 1857, the thalassotherapy house, and wonderful luxury houses. Luxurious store shops from London and Paris were also set up in Biarritz, and 36 small newspapers were published in the village.

Hôtel du Palais, Biarritz, France(2).JPG
Hôtel du Palais, Biarritz, France (2)

Biarritz became more renowned in 1854 when Empress Eugenie (the wife of Napoleon III) built a palace on the beach (now the Hôtel du Palais). European royalty, including British monarchs Queen Victoria and King Edward VII (who caused a minor scandal when he called H. H. Asquith to kiss hands at Biarritz in 1908 rather than return to London for the purpose),[2] and the Spanish king Alfonso XIII, were frequent visitors.

Biarritz's casino (opened 10 August 1901) and beaches make the town a notable tourist centre for Europeans and East Coast North Americans. The city has also become a prime destination for surfers from around the world, developing a nightlife and surf-based culture.

Originally, there were two settlement sites: the neighbourhood that was around the church of San Martin, and the fishing-port defended by Belay or Ferragus Castle. The coat of arms was a whaler, which was a symbol of the town.

Opened in June 1893, Biarritz’s salt-baths were designed and built by the architect Lagarde. From the gatzagas of Beskoitz and after passing through a 20-kilometre (12 mi) pipe, water ten times saltier than the sea was used. The baths were closed in 1953 and demolished in 1968.

The presence of French Republic’s authorities and the fact of having launched the Paris-Henday train, led Biarritz to become one of the most outstanding tourist areas all over Europe. The queen of the beaches became the beach of the kings: Oskar II from Sweden, Leopoldo from Belgium, tireless traveller, the empress of Russia, Nikolas II’s mother, Elisabeth from Austria, Natalia from Serbia, and her ill son Alexandro, Jurgi V from England, Eduardo VII and England’s Queen Victoria, Alfonso XIII from Spain, aristocrats, rich people, actors, from Europe and South America… In the summer-time, high-status people gathered in Biarritz. Therefore, the number of population remarkably increased, from 5,000 to 18,000. At the end of the 19th century, 50,000 vacationers were gathering in Biarritz.

Belle Époque

Biarritz market.

The big store named Biarritz Bonheur, created in 1894, enlarged twice (in 1911 and 1926), and still operating, became the temple of luxury and fashion. At the start of the 20th century, most of its workers spoke in English.

After World War II

At the end of World War II in Europe, the U.S. Army's Information and Educational Branch was ordered to establish an overseas university campus for demobilized American service men and women in the French resort town of Biarritz. Under General Samuel L. McCroskey, the hotels and casinos of Biarritz were converted into quarters, labs, and class spaces for U.S. service personnel. The University opened 10 August 1945 and about 10,000 students attended an eight-week term. This campus was set up to provide a transition between army life and subsequent attendance at a university in the USA, so students attended for just one term. After three successful terms, the G.I. University closed in March 1946 (see G. I. American Universities).[3]

The arrival of surfing in Europe

In 1957, the American film director Peter Viertel was in Biarritz with his wife Deborah Kerr working on the film The Sun Also Rises. One of his Californian friends came for a visit, and his use of a surfboard off Biarritz is recognized as the first time surfing was practised in Europe. Biarritz eventually became one of the most popular European surfing spots.


Biarritz features:

Cliffs and lookouts lie to the west of the main beach.


Biarritz has a temperate oceanic climate, Cfb in the Köppen climate classification.

Climate data for Biarritz-Anglet (altitude 69 metres (226 feet), 1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 23.4
Average high °C (°F) 12.0
Average low °C (°F) 4.8
Record low °C (°F) −12.7
Average precipitation mm (inches) 128.8
Average precipitation days (≥ 1 mm) 13.4 12.0 11.9 13.6 12.9 10.4 8.8 9.6 9.7 12.5 13.0 12.6 140.5
Average snowy days 0.8 1.0 0.3 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.5 3.0
Average relative humidity (%) 77 75 73 77 78 81 80 81 80 78 79 78 78.1
Mean monthly sunshine hours 100.2 114.1 164.4 169.4 193.7 203.3 209.0 206.8 192.8 141.7 103.8 88.3 1,887.3
Source #1: Météo France[5][6]
Source #2: (humidity and snowy days, 1961–1990)[7]


The most renowned monument is the nature. So, it is recommended to have large walks as Leopold of Belgium did, and to be impressed with what we see from Saint Eugenia Square and its surroundings.

The temple that has the same name is neogothic, and it was a desire of Eugenia of Montijo to construct it. Inside the church, the statue of La femme á la fleur stands out, made by Real of Sarte. The little sport and tourism port can be found apart from the reefs of the astonishing rocks. It is a new port. The previous port now is a little cove with semicircle form, it is part of the city and the swimmer sunbath there, protected from the north-west.

One must-do visit is the Rocher de la Vierge rock. It is a reef that penetrates in the sea, which can be reached by a metallic passage. On the top of the rock, a Virgin Mary and a cross can be found, in memory of the disappeared because of the sunk of the boat La Surprise, sunk in the 19th century. From this curious bay window anyone can see the coast of Iparralde, the Aiako Harriak, the basque acropolis of Larrun, Jaizkibel Mountain and other several mountains of Gipuzkoa.

In front of the rock of the Virgin Mary, the Sea Museum can be found, opened in 1933. It is an important hydrobiology research centre and it also has an aquarium. From the Bellevue casino on, from west to east, there is the Big Beach. In front of the Hótel du Palais it is joined with Miramar Beach, and it reaches until the San Martin cape. On the sides of the famous beach, there are huge rocks. Furthermore, there is a wide promenade.

On the seafront Hotel du Palais can be found. As other several buildings of the Victorian age, hotels give fame to Biarritz. Russians have an orthodox temple, Jewish a synagogue and tourists several hotels, dancefloors and crowded cafeterias. The beautiful boulevards full of attractive streets and shops of the shore, leads us to idleness.



Mandate Name
1788-1789 Pierre Moussempès
1813-1814 Pierre Moussempès
1864-1881 Pierre-Paul Jaulerry
1881-1884 Alcide Augey
1884-1888 Alexandre Larralde-Diustegi
1888-1895 Alcide Augey
1895-1904 Félix Moureu
1904-1919 Pierre Forsans
1919-1929 Joseph Petit
1929-1941 Ferdinand Hirigoien
1941-1944 Henri Cazalis
1945-1977 Guy Petit
1977-1991 Bernard Marie
1991-2008 Didier Borotra
2008-2014 Didier Borotra
2014-2020 Mixel Veunac


Date of Population
929 1.171 1.188 - 1.082 1.495 1.705 1.892 1.993 2.048
2.110 2.771 3.652 4.659 5.507 8.527 8.444 9.177 11.869
12.812 15.093 18.260 18.353 20.776 22.955 20.691 22.022 22.922
25.231 26.750 27.595 26.598 28.742 30.055 - - -
For the census of 1962 to 1999 the official population corresponds with the population without duplicates according to the INSEE.


Although Biarritz’s economy was based in the fishing before, nowadays it has a modern economy due to the metropolitan location of Baiona-Anglet-Biarritz. Together with Baiona and Anglet, Biarritz takes part in the management of the BAB Airport. The most important economic activities are:



As Anglet and Baiona, since they are located in the limit of Gascony and Basque Country, it is in doubt if in the Middle Age and the Modern era was Basque or Gascon the main language of the city. According to the book Atlas Linguistique de Gascogne, Biarritz is taken as a Gascon town. But in 1863, Luis Luciano Bonaparte located the frontier of Basque in Biarritz, which in some neighborhoods was without any doubt the most used language. However, in the 20th-century French was the official and main language. From the 90th decade on, the Townhall of Biarritz has taken the Basque culture and the Basque language, and also it has promoted it. Nevertheless, the Gascon has been promoted by private institution, for instance the group of Gascon culture Ací Gasconha [19]


Music and dance

The city has the Ballet of Biarritz, which is the choreography location of France. Furthermore, it has the cultural centre Atabal and the chorus Oldarra, created in 1946.


The emperors Napoleon III and Eugene of Montijo pusieron de moda the sea-theater on the Old Port neighborhood. Nowadays, the light works made by Pierre Bideau can be seen at night in the clift.


Two film festivals of cinema are celebrated in Biarritz:

Civil buildings

Religious buildings







Surfing in Biarritz is of a world-class standard and first appeared in 1957.[8] The town has a strong surfing culture,[9] and is known worldwide for its surfing scene and the competitions it hosts yearly, including the Quiksilver/Roxy Jam tournament. In July 2011, Biarritz also hosted the Roxy Pro event, a tournament part of the ASP Women's World Tour.

The town is home to a prominent rugby union club, Biarritz Olympique.

Basque pelota is a very popular sport of the Basque country. Several local and international competitions take place in Biarritz.

The golf course near the lighthouse (Le Phare) was created in 1888 by British residents. In addition, the town has a large circular golf range area on the border with illbaritz.



The city has two public schools (Villa Fal and Jean Rostand) and one private (Immaculée-Conception).

High Schools

Malraux High Schools is the only one in Biarritz. There is also a tourism high school in the border of the Western neighborhood of La Négresse.


Biarritz is easily accessible from Paris by France's high-speed train, the TGV, and more regionally from Bordeaux, by TGV or TER. Trains are also available to travel east towards Nice. Night trains regularly depart from Irun, south of Biarritz and pass through the city before heading to Paris during an overnight trip. Many tourists and regulars to the city have begun using the night train to take weekend trips to Biarritz and saving travel time by traveling at night. The Biarritz – Anglet – Bayonne Airport is located about four kilometres (2.5 miles) from the city. It is near N10 road towards Anglet and is served by airlines from France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Ireland and Germany.

Notable people and popular culture

Fishing port, beach, and lighthouse

Biarritz was the birthplace of:


International relations

Twin towns/sister cities

Biarritz is twinned with:[11]


The major festivities are celebrated in November 11, for Saint Martin. That day, the new gentleman of the Confrérie de l’Operne de Biarritz are proclaimed. Barnacle is their logotype and people who work in favor of ecology are chosen Since Biarritz is a city based in tourism, there are acts during the whole summer, such as pelota festivity, equestrian competition, concerts and recitals, folklore festivals, water acrobatic ski, sea trips, performances, rugby competitions, bullfights and night parties.


  1. Eugène Goyheneche (1979). Le Pays basque : Soule, Labourd, Basse-Navarre (in French). Pau: Société nouvelle d’éditions régionales et de diffusion. p. 590.
  2. Lee, Sidney (1927). King Edward VII: A Biography. London: Macmillan. pp. 581–582.
  3. George P. Schmidt and J. G. Umstattd. "The American Army University at Biarritz, France." Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors. Vol. 32, No. 2 (Summer, 1946): 303-316.
  4. Encyclopaedia of Surfing. Retrieved 2013-05-11.
  5. "Données climatiques de la station de Biarritz" (in French). Meteo France. Retrieved December 28, 2015.
  6. "Climat Aquitaine" (in French). Meteo France. Retrieved December 28, 2015.
  7. "Normes et records 1961-1990: Biarritz-Anglet (64) - altitude 69m" (in French). Infoclimat. Retrieved December 28, 2015.
  8. Last Updated: 5:28PM BST 13 Aug 2007 (2007-08-13). "Biarritz: summer nights – Telegraph". Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-05-05.
  9. "News from Biarritz – France". Retrieved 2009-05-05.
  10. Aimee de Heeren.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 "Twin towns, Biarritz official website". Retrieved 2013-05-11.

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