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A Weekend In Saint Jean De Luz, France

The beauty of France lies in the fact that each part of the nation has a different vibe and is a melting pot of influences from its neighboring countries.

Further down the Southwest coast of France is the unique Le Pays Basque (The Basque Country). A land shared between France and Spain and is an intersection of the Pyrénées mountains and the Atlantic. Its cultural richness derives from the pride of its locals in their unique history, language and traditions.

Our first stop in the Basque Country was at the city of Saint-Jean-de-Luz. A commune which often served as a muse for many painters, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, become known as the “royal city” ever since it witnessed the marriage of non other than the King of France, Louis XIV.

Accessed by a five-hour direct train ride from Paris, or a flight to the nearby airport of Biarritz, traveling to Saint-Jean-de-Luz is a voyage through nature and folklore.

And so, during our weekend escapade, we tried to pin down the must dos and visits at the city of Saint-Jean-de-Luz.

Stroll around the City Center towards the Fishermen’s Port
A beautiful walkable route begins at the city center. Starting off with the Saint Jean Baptiste church, the setting for Louis XIV King of France, and Maria Theresa the Spanish infant’s marriage in 1660. A royal wedding that put an end to the war between both countries. Saint Jean Baptiste is a church with a Latin ambience and incorporates three stories of wooden galleries.

Next stop is the morning market hall. If you really want to feel like a local, then you have to visit the food venue of fresh fish, meats, fruits and vegetables right from the farmers. Other nearby monuments include the Maison Louis XIV (Lohobiague-Enea), where the king resided during his stay at Saint-Jean-de-Luz, the town hall, and the Maison de l’Enfante (Joanoenia). This maison is a venetian-style building which hosted both Queen Anne of Austira followed by the bride-to-be, the future queen of France, Maria Theresa.

But we bet you will feel hungry as you pass by delicious patisseries, boulangeries, and other types of savory stores, each presenting traditional Basque food like the infamous (and delicious) Basque cake and all sorts of local spicy meats. Besides gastronomy, Saint-Jean-de-Luz sells a wide range of local and handmade products including fine leather goods, textiles with traditional colorful patterns, and the very fashionable French espadrilles. (Editor’s note: the origin of what is known as the French espadrilles is actually The Basque Country)

Your final stop will then be at the fishermen’s port, once known to host the first whalers in Europe since the 14th century, and the reason behind the development of a very prospers whaling industry. Nowadays, the port is specialized in cod fishing. While walking around it, don’t miss out on the two Art-Déco styled Phares (lighthouses) designed by André Pavlovsky.

Walk on the Grande Plage
Indulge in the picturesque view of houses of the Belle Époque architecture, or take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean. Don’t you be surprised if you happen to see people swimming early in the morning on a winter day, because it’s part of the local customs. Walk on the sand, or on the promenade, and keep your eyes on the Atlantic on your right, and the top of the Pyrénées mountains on the left. It is simply the best of both worlds!

And if you are into water sports then you just happen to be in the right place. Surfing is the most practiced sports, so you can either hit the waves or take a beginner’s surfing course. You may also choose from other water activities like jet skiing, paddling, sailing or cruising along the Basque coast.

Visit the nearby villages
Just across the bridge from Saint-Jean-de-Luz is the colorful city of Ciboure. Upon your arrival, you will be drawn to visit its fortress, the Fort de Socoa. Once you are there take a closer look at the powerful waves, and the naturally sea-made curvatures on its bay. You can also go golfing at the large Golf de la Nivelle.

Other nearby villages, accessible by car, include the village of Guéthary. Don’t miss out on visiting its isolated, calm and intact beaches, also known to be a surfer’s paradise. Go further and visit Ainhoa, simply because it is listed among the most beautiful villages of France, and to Ascain, to watch the traditional Pelota.

Treat yourself at the Grand Hôtel Thalasso & Spa
A luxuriously, Zen and tranquil hotel, the historical Luz Grand Hôtel is the ideal place for a break away from the busy city life. Located right on the Grande Plage, the five-star Hôtel Thalasso & Spa of Saint-Jean-de-Luz offers 52 comfortable and spacious rooms decorated with a modern style. Its restaurant, L’Océan, is awarded a one Michelin star and headed by the French chef Christophe Grosjean. Not to forget its one and only, Loreamar Thalasso & Spa, with a direct access to the beach and various wellness treatments and cures. (Editor’s note: read more about our stay at the Grand Hôtel Thalasso & Spa of St-Jean-de-Luz here)

A mild climate, an exceptional scenery, and a rich culture is what you could expect once you head towards the exceptional city of Saint-Jean-de-Luz. It is a city where there will always be something for you, no matter what kind of traveler you are.

To organize your trip and stay up-to-date with the latest events, make sure to visit Saint-Jean-de-Luz’s tourist office here, and go ahead and spoil yourself by booking a room at the Luz Grand Hôtel here.

Article by Victor