One Day in Biarritz Itinerary: Day Trip from San Sebastian

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by Brittany Scott-Gunfield

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Biarritz is a beautiful seaside town in the French Basque Country on the southern Atlantic coast, close to the border with Spain, making it a great place to spend one day in Biarritz as a day trip from other points in the region. Due to its location, any Biarritz itinerary is incomplete without a trip to the beach and an excellent dining experience, but if you have even more time, you can try surfing or other adventurous activities in the area.

How Many Days in Biarritz?

Biarritz is not a big city, but there are plenty of activities to fill a day trip if you’re not looking to get so active or don’t have so much time to spend in the city. However, if you’re a surfing fanatic or are wondering where to spend your summer holiday, how many days to spend in Biarritz is a valid question.

In one day in Biarritz, you can see a few of the city’s excellent museums, as well as enjoy the scenic coastline and delicious cuisine, so a Biarritz day trip from nearby Bilbao, San Sebastian or Bayonne is a great idea.

However, to spend a relaxed time on the beaches and get to know more about the city from its historic museum and huge aquarium, you do need to spend more than a day.

If you can spare a few days in Biarritz, it’s a popular place to go surfing, rafting in La Nive River and mountain biking, and you can even take boat trips out to try to spot the dolphins.

City of Biarritz
City of Biarritz

Getting To & Around Biarritz

Biarritz Airport is just a 10-minute drive from the city centre or 30 to 40 minutes with public transport, so if you’re flying into the region, you can easily rent a car at the airport and spend a few days in the Basque Country, including a day trip to Biarritz.

Although if you’re starting your Basque road trip in Bilbao, you can also easily rent a car (browse for options) from Bilbao airport and drive for 1 hour 45 minutes to Biarritz, or take a bus for 2 hours 30 minutes up to 4 hours. You can view bus schedules here.

To break up your journey while you get to Biarritz, however, you can also spend a day in San Sebastian – famous for having an inordinate number of Michelin-starred restaurants for such a small town – which is 1 hour and 10 minutes driving from Bilbao, and 50 minutes from Biarritz.

It’s then just another 20 minutes to the small but picturesque town of Bayonne on the Ardour River to complete a beautiful Basque road trip over 4 to 5 days.

You can also choose to take an organised tour from Spain such as this full-day tour or this private tour.

Within Biarritz, if you don’t have a rental car or simply prefer to find a free car park and leave your car there during the day, there is a good public transport system, although it’s not entirely necessary for short stays exploring the city.

There are some free shuttle buses going through the city, usually to more touristic zones such as through the centre, to and from the beach, but there is also a park-and-ride system with 22 car parks around the region, as well as buses and a trambus for a greener alternative. You can use these buses to navigate most of the French Baque region, including trips to Bayonne.

If you like to stay active and make your journeys between stops quicker, you can also rent bikes in the city for very reasonable prices for a day.

The streets are well looked after and the city itself is relatively flat so you don’t have to put too much effort in, and there’s even a 1,200 km cycle route from Hendaye on the French-Spanish border to Roscoff in Brittany all the way along the Atlantic coast, so cycling around this area is a great experience.

Biarritz Lighthouse
Biarritz Lighthouse

1 Day in Biarritz Itinerary

Starting in the north of the city, either arriving by bus, car or on foot, our itinerary will take you on a cultural journey into the city, with opportunities to unwind as well as learn about the region and, of course, enjoy the freshest seafood.

You can choose to take a walking tour to learn more about the city from a guide.

Phare de Biarritz

On the north coast of Biarritz, you start your day in the city at the brilliant white Biarritz lighthouse. Built in 1834, this 73-metre-high building stands on a rocky formation reaching out into the Atlantic Ocean and looks stunning with the white outer wall contrasting with the deep blue sea and dark greenery on the land.

Only opening in summer, you can go up the lighthouse from 10 am to 7 pm each day in July and August, although the lighthouse does close in extremely bad weather. Once you’ve walked up the 248 steps inside, you’re rewarded with mesmerising views of Biarritz, and on a clear day, you can even see across to Spain.

This a great place to start your Biarritz itinerary as you can glance over the whole city to see where you’re headed to next and what landmarks stand out in the landscape.

Head down along Miramar Beach, one of the longest in Biarritz in the Grande Plage neighbourhood, and stop for a spot of sunbathing (one of the best things to do in Biarritz), or continue until you see some beautiful domed roofs behind the iconic seafront building, the Hôtel du Palais.

This hotel is home to the Villa Eugenie and was commissioned by Napoleon III and was constructed in 1854.

Miramar Beach
Miramar Beach

Église Orthodoxe de Biarritz

Just off the beach, before you arrive at the Plage de Biarritz, is the stunning Orthodox Cathedral of Biarritz, complete with a huge domed roof topped with golden orthodox crosses.

This cathedral was built in Biarritz in the late 1800s by Russian aristocrats, after the construction of the Russian Orthodox Cathedrals of Nice, Paris and Pau in the 1860s, and you can see the Russian influence in the architectural style of the cathedral as well as the golden ornaments that adorn the cathedral’s exterior and interior that were brought directly from St Petersburg.

The cathedral was restored in the 1980s thanks to many donations, including by famed Soviet dissident, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and you can visit the cathedral for free to witness the incredible paintings and wood carvings inside.

Biarritz is a seaside city, but as with most religious buildings, you’ll need to dress appropriately to be allowed in, so make sure you have a shawl to cover your shoulders and knee-length skirts or shorts before you go in.

Just across the road, you can also stop by the intriguing Imperial Chapel. This chapel was built 30 years before the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Biarritz and showcases the Spanish-Moorish design style that southeastern cities of Spain like Seville and Granada are known for, with its colourful tiles and stained glass windows.

Continue along the coastal road to reach Biarritz’s old port.

Orthodox Church in Biarritz
Orthodox Church in Biarritz

Port Vieux

The old port of Biarritz is a must-see destination within the city, so if you’re on a Biarritz day trip from a nearby city and don’t have a complete day to fill with activities, you should head straight here for a short walk and a great lunch.

This is one of the most picturesque parts of Biarritz, so you can slowly amble through the city streets and along the northern shore for scenic views of the aquamarine waters, quaint harbour and fishing port, with the striking dark grey backdrop of the neo-Gothic Sainte-Eugénie Church.

You can walk all the way out to the rocky point of Gamaritz, where you can look out over the Atlantic or back over the city of Biarritz, and take the small bridge over the rocks to the Rocher de la Vierge, the more popular overlook with a statue of the Virgin Mary.

The area’s landscape means it’s a perfect location for a seafood lunch, with fishermen bringing fresh produce to the locals daily from the port and incredible views over the ocean while you dine.

Try Casa Juan Pedro or slightly more upmarket Chez Albert for great fish and white wine, or head further inland to Bistrot Etxeko for a meatier Basque menu.

If you have more than one day or are planning a weekend in Biarritz, you can spend some time visiting Biarritz’s famous aquarium, although the oceanographic site is so large you’ll need plenty of time there to make the most of your visit.

What’s more, you can come back to this area towards the evening to have some fun in the casino! This large beachfront building has poker tables as well as a delightful bar and live music and entertainment in the evenings, making for a great night out.

Bridge to Rocher de la Vierge
Bridge to Rocher de la Vierge

Musée Historique de Biarritz

The Biarritz History Museum welcomes you to learn about the history of the Basque city from its origins to the present day.

Created in the 1980s in a converted Anglican church, the Biarritz History Museum has been collecting artefacts and documents detailing the history of the former whaling town to its current status as a famous French surfing city.

You can learn all about the conflicts with the British and Bayonne, as well as the Basque influence on the city by admiring the over 5,000 objects in the museum, which underwent reconstruction in 2019 to further educate and entice its visitors.

You can enjoy a couple of hours in the museum, and take an audio guide to learn more about the city.

Musée Asiatica

Continuing on through the Pierre Forsans Public Garden in front of the Central Train Station of Biarritz, you’ll arrive at the city’s other fascinating museum – the Asian Art Museum.

With a collection on par with that of the British Museum in London, or the Musée Guimet in Paris, Biarritz’s Asian Art Museum is one of the finest in Europe, drawing visitors from all over the continent to admire the centuries-old paintings, sculptures and jewellery from South and East Asia.

Predominantly coming from India, Tibet and China, the works of art in the museum consist of jade, porcelain, bronze and ivory, showing the intricate detail developed over the centuries through Asian artwork.

You can easily spend hours reading about each of the different pieces, their origin and purpose, and still need to come back, so it’s a great final stop on your Biarritz itinerary so you don’t spend your whole day trip to Biarritz inside the museum!

Those who would rather enjoy more beaches during their time in Biarritz rather than visit a museum can round out their day on the Plage De la Cote des Basques, another gorgeous and popular surf beach located just south of the Vieux Port.

Have 2 or 3 Days in Biarritz?

Biarritz has grown as a surfing destination since the 1950s when Peter Viertel rode the first wave in the city – allegedly the first time surfing was practised in Europe – and you can now find 18 surf schools along the beach as well as plenty of board rentals and surf shops including Billabong and Quiksilver.

If you’re a surfer or want to learn, you can spend at least 2 days in Biarritz to have a few hours of lessons each day or just enjoy your time out on the waves.

If you’re lucky enough to spend 3 days or more, you can also take a trip out to La Nive River where you can go mountain biking in the surrounding forests or try a more exhilarating adventure rafting down the river!

For culture and food fans, rather than trying your hand at water sports, you can take a 20-minute bus ride or car journey to the nearby historic town of Bayonne on the Ardour River to explore the mediaeval old town and delight your senses with exceptional tapas in the beautiful riverside restaurant Une Bouteille à la Nive. Or, if you prefer, sample the local ciders and traditional dishes at the Cidrerie Ttipia.

Of course, if you want to continue your journey into France, you can also visit nearby Bordeaux, which is located just north of the French Basque region.

Cathedral of Bayonne
Cathedral of Bayonne

Where to Stay in Biarritz

Maison Garnier Hôtel de Charme – This 3-star hotel is an excellent base for mid-range visitors to Biarritz. Centrally located, they have lovely rooms to choose from, a nice outdoor terrace and a superb breakfast available.

Hotel de Silhouette – Those looking for a bit of luxury will love this plush hotel in Biarritz. They have luxe rooms to choose from along with different amenities for guests to enjoy. They also have a great location for exploring this French Basque town.

Surf Hostel Biarritz – Located in the centre of Biarritz within easy reach of the beach, this highly-rated hostel is an excellent choice for budget and solo travellers. They have both dorms and private rooms available and good common areas to enjoy.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Biarritz hotels!

With wonderful weather and excellent local cuisine, one day in Biarritz is the perfect amount of time to relax in the seaside city and get a taste of Basque culture. Whether you take a day trip to Biarritz from over the Spanish border or within France, Biarritz is easy to reach and has plenty of activities for all interests.

Are you planning to visit Biarritz? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Brittany Scott-Gunfield

Brittany is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Colchester, England, she is slowly but surely travelling the world as a digital nomad. She loves to hike around different landscapes and has a deep love for travelling around France (and elsewhere in Europe).

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