Situated in the very southwest of France, 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.
Soon the area became popular with aristocracy from all over Europe: Queen Victoria came here regularly over a period of 30 years, Edward VI stayed in the Hotel du Palais days before his death, and in the 1930s Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson were regular visitors. Until the revolution in 1917 the Russian nobility wintered here too and built the magnificent Orthodox Church next to the Palace.
However, the days of this beautiful patch of France being reserved for high society are long gone and today Biarritz is a comparatively affordable, vibrant and cosmopolitan town with magnificent beaches. There are a couple of interesting museums to explore as well as a celebrated aquarium. In addition to ample sightseeing opportunities, Biarritz offers extensive shopping and dining options and has an energetic nightlife.
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.
Biarritz has a mild temperate climate with year-round precipitation and fairly comfortable humidity levels. Winter lasts from late November to early March, with high temperatures generally below 57°F (14°C) and minimum temperatures above 41°F (5°C). Summer lasts between late June and early September, with maximum temperatures consistently below 75°F (24°C) and low temperatures normally above 57°F (14°C). The most common form of precipitation is moderate rain, with an increased chance of thunderstorms in summer. Relatively speaking, summer tends to be drier than winter. September and October are the best times to visit, with mild temperatures and local festivals keeping travellers comfortable and entertained.
Chronoplus operates shuttle routes that run through various areas of the city in spring and summer. Buses run every 15-20 minutes depending on the route. The company operates a comprehensive network of regular buses both in the city and to surrounding areas, as well as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines which travel to areas surrounding the city. Single tickets and several passes can be bought upon boarding, while 10-ticket packages and seven-day tickets can be bought at selected newsagents. The local train station is the Gare de Biarritz, which is served by TGV, the French high-speed rail service operated by SNCF, the national railway carrier. Tickets can be purchased at the station. Trains are primarily used for longer distance travel, although there are stations on the city outskirts. Taxi services are available, with a variety of vehicles operating at any time of day. Cabs are usually called and booked in advance, and service in English is possible.