Cote des Basques, Biarritz © Biarritz Tourisme
The holiday destination of Biarritz became famous in the 19th century when Empress Eugenie (the wife of Napoleon III) fell in love with this part of the Basque country and built a palace on the beach (now the world-class Hotel du Palais) and a centre with natural springs at Eugenie les Bains.
Biarritz is now a luxurious seaside tourist resort. The main beach Grande Plage offers striped 1920s-style beach tents for hire. After a morning relaxing in the sun, visitors can take in the fine collection of Asian art at the Asiatica Museum (acknowledged as the finest collection of its kind outside Paris) or wander through the Halles market hall. Also worth a look is the famous blue dome of the Russian Orthodox Church, built in the 19th century for visiting aristocrats. Families will enjoy the sharks and seals living at the Museum of the Sea aquarium. Nightlife revolves around the two large casinos, Barriere and Bellevue.
Biarritz has good sporting facilities, including some excellent golf courses and some of the best surfing in France. Each summer, surfers from all over the world come to Biarritz to ride the waves at the annual Surf Festival. Those after more gentle exercise while on holiday opt to stroll along Biarritz's principal promenade, Quai de la Grande Plage.