The atmosphere in Biarritz is rather mixed, but in a good way. The town is comprised mainly of grand houses used by the wealthy as summer retreats. It has an upscale feel to it that is balanced off nicely with a more relaxed and easy-going surf culture that has a long history here. This interesting contrast forms part of Biarritz’s identity.
Surfing is not just a very popular activity in Biarritz, but actually has deep roots here too. Although not proven, it has been said that surfing in Europe began in 1957 on the beaches of Biarritz, on the Plage de la Côte des Basques to be more exact.
Wealthy beach-goers, including European and Russian nobility, pre-date the surfing scene in Biarritz. In the middle of the 19th century the Empress Eugenia de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III, discovered Biarritz and fell in love with its 6 kilometers of sandy beaches, cliffs, and therapeutic sea waters. Empress Eugenia built a palatial summer residence next to the sea, called the Hôtel du Palais, and shortly after, Biarritz began its transformation. What was once primarily a whaling town centered around Port Vieux (the old port), was to become a trendy spa and holiday destination and with the years, even a surfing mecca.
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