Many are the beautiful towns that shape the so-called French Basque Country, as would be the case of Biarritz and Saint Jean de Luz. However, among them there is one that stands out in a special way for its beauty and heritage. We are referring to Bayonne.
In the year 950, on an ancient Roman castrum, was when this village was built, near Biarritz, which has become one of the most visited in all of France. Below, we are going to tell you what places are worth visiting and what activities you can do during your stay.
What to see in Bayonne
It is really difficult to make a selection of the must-see places in Bayonne. However, in that one would be all these that we indicate below:
1. Historical center
Undoubtedly, the first thing to do in this town is to ‘get lost’ in its historic center, the Grand Bayonne. Here you can see everything from examples of local civil architecture to renowned monuments, such as the cathedral.
Also, strolling through its streets also serves to know how life is there and to taste the best sweets of the place in one of the many bakeries that it has. This without forgetting that this area is full of all kinds of stores.
2. Old castle
Château Vieux is the name by which this ancient fortress, dating from the twelfth century, is known. Its towers are undoubtedly the most striking element of this construction, which was ordered to be erected by the Viscounts of Lapurdi on an ancient Roman military camp.
It was declared a Historic Monument in 1931.
3. Nive River
One of the elements that determines the beauty, the landscape and even the life in Bayonne is this river, which separates the two most important districts: the mentioned Grand Bayonne and the Petit Bayonne. Different bridges are the ones it has to join the two mentioned areas and if it is worth seeing it is because it gives the opportunity to have unbeatable views of the city.
In addition, when you discover it you will admire the typical houses of the city, with wooden balconies. Keep in mind that it also has a large number of bars and restaurants where you can rest, recharge your batteries and even enjoy the local cuisine.
4. Cathedral of Santa Maria
Undoubtedly, one of the most special and important monuments of the town is this temple, which dates from the thirteenth century and has been declared a World Heritage Site. Of this cathedral stands out not only that in its interior is the tomb of the founder of the city, San León, but also that it has two spectacular bell towers that exceed 80 meters in height. Of course, without forgetting its fascinating stained glass windows of the sixteenth century, especially those of the chapel of Saint-Jérôme.
It is of Gothic type and is a perfect blend of white and ocher colors.
5. Church of Saint André
Another of the monuments to see in Bayonne is this church, which is listed as a Historic Monument. Its large rose window is the most significant element of it, which has a particularity in its interior. It is necessary to know that it conserves an organ that was donated in the second half of the 19th century by Napoleon Bonaparte himself.
6. Rue Port Neuf
Many are the streets that have a special attraction, but this is one of the most significant. It is pedestrian, so walking through it is a real wonder. Walking along it you can have interesting views of the two towers of the Cathedral.
It also offers the possibility of acquiring any local product in the various stores and businesses that it has.
7. Place de la Liberté
Of course, do not even think of leaving Bayonne without visiting this square, which is the heart of the town. It is the scene of much of the cultural life of its neighbors, because it is not only the theater but it is one of the places where the various events of their most important festivals are held.
In general terms, these are the places that we recommend you to see in this town of the French Basque Country. Of course, there are others that may also interest you as the Rue d’Espagne, the oldest of the city; the wall, the Basque Museum and the Place des Cinq Cantons. The latter is an enclave that in medieval times was the neighborhood of artisans and today has a very special magic.
What to do in Bayonne
As we said at the beginning of the article, there are not only places to visit in Bayonne, but also the population gives the possibility to carry out different activities. So, in addition to visiting monuments, you should not miss these:
1. Taste the local gastronomy
In order to get to know a town in depth, you must, among other things, discover its gastronomy. In the case of this one you should know that there are three products that we recommend you to taste and savor. We are referring to the so-called Basque cake, chocolate and the famous Bayonne ham.
2. Relaxing in the Jardin Lion Bonnat
At any time of your visit to Bayonne when you need to rest, there is nothing better than doing it in this park, which is the favorite place to disconnect and relax. It owes its name to the painter Leon Bonnat, who was born in this town and who was part of the well-known current of pictorial realism. A figure who also lends his name to the museum of fine arts of the town, where, in addition to his works, you can admire those of other illustrious figures such as Rembrandt and Ribera.
3. Visit the Botanical Garden
Another very interesting activity to carry out is to visit this place, which was erected several meters high. It has about 3,000 square meters and is a wonder to admire, naturally speaking. It surprises visitors with its numerous plant species, its wetlands and even has a unique Japanese-style bridge.
All this and much more is Bayonne, the town that in the fifteenth century became the destination of many Jews who were expelled from Spain by the Catholic Monarchs.
Now that you know what to see and do in Bayonne, what are you waiting for? A trip from San Sebastian to Bayonne will not take you more than 50 minutes and you will discover a new place and a different culture.