Every summer, stylish crowds congregate along France’s southeastern shores seduced by the glamorous promise of the French Riviera, spending their days sipping overpriced cocktails at the high-end resorts that line its sandy beaches as if plucked straight from a Slim Aarons photo. Historically, Biarritz—a small seaside hamlet on France’s southwestern coast—has closely competed with its eastern neighbors on the Med. Both stretches of coastline were holiday hotspots for royals in the mid-19th century, and again for France’s high society in the years following the Second World War. While the royal influence of Biarritz has since dissolved, due in large part to the wild and more unpredictable nature of the Atlantic (thus making it harder to develop), the allure of Biarritz’s prime positioning within the Basque Country never dimmed. What Biarritz lacks in glitz, it makes up for in soul.
From the picturesque beaches that have earned it the title of Europe’s surf capital, to its majestic landscapes articulated through the Pyrenees mountains and the rolling hills of Basque Country, to its proximity to cultural hubs like Bordeaux and Madrid, Biarritz has remained something of a well-kept secret. While Basque Country day-trippers, in-the-know surfers, and French locals have been visiting for years, Biarritz is having a moment right now: what with the likes of experienced French chefs, a leading hospitality group, and a renowned gallerist all making their mark on the unassuming seaside town in this small corner of France’s southwest.
Below, a guide to Biarritz—and why it’s set to be this summer’s buzziest European beach destination.
Where to Stay
The former summer home of Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie reopened in 1893 as the now iconic Hotel du Palais Biarritz; soon becoming a bolt-hole for famous guests like Frank Sinatra and Coco Chanel, it remains the jewel of France’s southwest to this day. Still, the past five years have seen a string of new-agey boutique hotels populating the seaside town’s western shores, signaling a new awakening for an oft-overlooked slice of France’s coastline.
In 2020, French hospitality brand Experimental Group began planting roots in the sunny coastal city when it took over two historic buildings and transformed them into contemporary boutique hotels. The first was the legendary Le Régina Hotel & Spa, now re-named Regina Experimental Biarritz, situated in a Belle Époque building overlooking the bay of Biarritz, which will open in June. With the help of French designer Dorothée Meilichzon, the property will re-open as a trendy 72-room boutique hotel, restaurant, and spa. Regina sits beside Experimental’s other property Le Garage, a 27-room boutique hotel situated in a former classic car garage that opened in 2021.