Biarritz France is located on the far southwestern coast of the country, only about ten miles from the border with Spain. It is set along the Bay of Biscay on the Atlantic Ocean, and Biarritz France tourism is dominated by the area's superb beaches, many with excellent waves for surfing.
The area was important in whaling beginning in the twelfth century. In the mid-eighteenth century, doctors began to believe that the air and waters of the region were therapeutic and prescribed visits to their patients. It was in 1854 that Biarritz France tourism received a big boost when the Empress Eugenie (wife of Emperor Napoleon III) built a summer palace on the beach and convinced her husband to accompany her to the growing seaside resort every summer. Other royal families from around Europe also came here, as they did to the French Riviera farther south. Queen Victoria of England and Alfonso XIII of Spain visited often. This was the glamorous Belle Epoque era that saw the development of jet set resorts like Nice and Cannes.
By the end of the nineteenth century, Eugenie's beloved summer palace had become a casino and then the Hotel du Palais. Today, it remains one of the finest of the Biarritz France five-star luxury hotels, boasting elegant rooms and suites and Michelin star gourmet restaurants. It dominates the center of the long beach along Avenue de l'Imperatrice, which is anchored on one end by the historic lighthouse (built in 1834) and on the other end by the Old Town.
If vacationing celebrities and royalty don't provide enough style and flair, there is always the surf on the beautiful beaches. Biarritz France tourism entered the modern world with the establishment of the July Surf Festival in the early 1990s. This is one of Europe's most important summer festivals and one of the world's most important longboard competitions. Scores of competitors come from around the world, and close to 200,000 spectators enjoy the festivities. The surf festival is true to its Polynesian roots, and there are dancers and surfers from Hawaii and races between traditional pirogues from Tahiti.
There are a number of fascinating attractions of all sorts in the city, including the Musee du Mer, a stunning Art Deco building housing an excellent aquarium with sharks, seals, and more. The Asiatica Museum contains one of Europe's finest collections of Asian art, with an emphasis on treasures from China, Tibet, Nepal, and India. There is a Museum of Chocolate, a historic Russian Orthodox Church, and two elegant casinos located on the main beach (Grand Plage).
In addition to the Grand Plage (which can get quite crowded during the peak season), there is a long surfer beach called Cote de Basque and a few smaller surf beaches at Anglet. A small beach only for swimming is located by the Esplanade du Porte Vieux. There are also a number of thalasso therapy spas offering seawater, seaweed, and related treatments. The region is easily accessed by train from Paris, Lyon, Marseille, and even Madrid. There are flights to the Biarritz France Airport from Amsterdam, London, Copenhagen, Dublin, and a number of cities within France.