Anyone who loves to travel understands the pleasures of surprise and discovery. Located near the Atlantic in southwest France, Bayonne is French Basque country, where the Spanish-French heritage touches everyday life in signage and conversations, in cuisine and warm Basque hospitality.
The Nive and Adour Rivers meet in the center of the city, creating Grand and Petit Bayonne, and many of the local houses look so crisp and fresh with deep red or green shutters against white-washed walls. And, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to explore, as you’re just 10 minutes from the beaches of Biarritz and 30 minutes from Spain and the Pyrenees.
Indeed, the narrow River Nive is like a main street, with lovely half timbered town houses, restaurants, squares and the covered market along its river banks. Pull up your chair in a traditional Basque restaurant overlooking the river, and you will feel at home with pleasant hospitality and the famous regional “Jambon de Bayonne” or one of the many fresh fish or local beef dishes.
Grand Bayonne is the commercial hub, with pedestrian-only streets lined with shops, the large cathedral and Hôtel de Ville. Petit Bayonne is home to lively Basque bars and restaurants reminiscent of cities in Spain. The area is home to two important museums: the Musée Basque with exhibits on agriculture, seafaring and Basque history and way of life; and the Musée Bonnat with exceptional paintings by El Greco, Goya, Degas and more.
The annual fêtes de Bayonne attracts thousands, proudly attired in red and white, to participate in 5 days of festivities and watch the annual bull fighting (Bayonne remains the number one site for bullfighting in France). Not surprisingly, the Bayonet comes from this city, and Bayonne’s pottery is renowned throughout Europe.
Beyond pleasantly strolling through Bayonne’s old town and indulging yourself in the excellent Basque cuisine, don’t miss wandering through the Botanic Gardens with 1000-plus species and a Japanese influence. Bayonne holds the prestigious 4-flowers designation of the ville et village fleurie competition. Near the gardens, you will see remnants of the town ramparts that include Roman, 16th- and 17th-century defenses.
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