Overview of Bayonne, France

When not hosting the largest summer festival of France, Bayonne is a relative stress free city, filled with slender Basque houses, each with colorful wooden beams and shutters. The most picturesque area is next to the Nive River, where the views are reminiscent of a Basque styled Amsterdam. Bayonne is also home to chocolatiers and the infamous Bayonne ham. Oh, and the beach resort of Biarritz is just a few kilometers away!

Located at the northernmost point of the French Basque Country where the Nive and Adour Rivers meet, is the urban center of Bayonne (“Baiona” in Basque). Although the city is not very large, it comprises part of the overall BAB cosmopolitan area which consists of neighboring Anglet and the beach resort town of Biarritz (8 km away). All together the BAB area is home to almost 200,000 inhabitants.

Even though Bayonne is technically a city, it is void of the stress normally associated with cities and feels more like a large town. A stroll along the Nive River which separates the two main neighborhoods of the city, Grand Bayonne & Petit Bayonne, is both beautiful and relaxing. The buildings are decorated in a lovely mixture of Basque and French architecture, each adorned with colorful wooden shutters. Both sides along the water are lined with bars and restaurants and make for great places to stop and take in the most beautiful views of the city.

Thanks to the Adour River which connects Bayonne to the Bay of Biscay, the city has been well positioned for commerce. The city grew with help from the whaling and cod industries, as well as Basque sailors who returned with spices and riches from far off lands. This influx of money helped finance many of the city’s building, including the massive gothic cathedral.

Because of Bayonne’s commercial importance and its close proximity to Spain (aprox. 30 km away), the city features many fortified structures. Most of the original wall that surrounded the city is gone but it is still possible to see some of the remnants when wandering through its streets. Some other examples of the city’s defensive structures include the Porte d’Espagne, Château-Neuf, Château-Vieux and the citadel. Unfortunately, most of the fortifications are closed to the public, however, it is possible to view them from the outside.

Wait, don’t close me!

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