Saint Jean de Luz is a beautiful seaside town on the Basque Atlantic coast. This old fishing and pirate town is located in Southwestern France, not that far from the Spanish border. It has history, the beach and macarons to offer! If that doesn’t make it a must-visit place, I don’t know what will. We first visited the beautiful town on our Brittany-Acquitaine road trip in 2018. We fell in love with the town and visited it again in 2019 on our Northern Spain road trip. Sadly, we didn’t have time for a visit on our France Spain Portugal road trip. It’s a perfect stop on a road trip in this area.
Top Things to do in Saint jean de Luz France
The town might not be large, but has a lot to offer for visitors. We’re going to name what to do in St. Jean de Luz, but if you only have a half day in this seaside resort, do at least the first and second one.
1. Macarons and Basque Cuisine
Go on a small food tour. Visit Maison Adam, where they sell the macarons Adam, the Basque macaron. Maison Adam is the inventor of the Basque macaron, which is a variation on the regular, famous macaron. They have stores on the Rue de la République and the Rue Léon Gambetta.
Then there are stores from Maison Pariès on Rue Léon Gambetta and Rue Tourasse. They sell macarons, chocolates and other sweets. Pariès was founded in Bayonne, and has stores all over France. Their confections are simply delicious. Signature dishes are the Gateaux Basques and mouchou et macarons. As sellers of gourmandizes Basques, they’re perfect to further taste test the Basque cuisine.
Maison Francis Miot also on Rue Léon Gambetta has delicious confitures and chocolates. We couldn’t resist taking some jam back home for family and ourselves.
Then on to something else as sweets, visit Pierre Oteiza on the Rue de la République. They sell curated meats, which are really delicious.
2. Saint Jean de Luz Beach and Boulevard
As of recently the town has become a popular seaside resort. There are several beaches, such as Grande Plage (translation is large beach). Perfect for families, since the crescent-shaped beach is shielded with 3 sea walls from waves. Plenty of activities are organized on the beach. Plus there are beach clubs and you can hire beach tents, parasols and sun loungers. Then there are 4 more sand beaches, popular with surfers: Mayarco, Lafiténia, Erromardi and Cénitz. On both our visits the weather was not so beautiful. We wanted to go for a swim, but with sunny weather this would be perfect.
Promenade Jacques Thibaud is lined with grand villa’s and colorful houses. It has perfect views on the ocean and beach. A stroll on the elevated boulevard is a must do. The houses that are connected to the boulevard via a bridge are one of the most iconic symbols of the town. The buildings are a perfect example of Basque architecture. So which way to look? The beach or the houses, both are something to be mesmerized with.
3. The Port
The town might not be the center of Basque corsairs (pirates) anymore, like it was in the 17th century, or a fishing town before that century, it still has a harbor: Port Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Can you imagine that this was once one of France’s largest fishing ports?
4. Beautiful Old Town
A lot of historical buildings have been preserved throughout the town. One of the most important marriages in (French) history took place here in 1660, that of King Louis XIV and Spanish princess Maria Theresa. Associated with this marriage are the Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Maison Louis XIV and the Maison de L’Infante Joanoenia.
The church of St. John Baptist is on the Rue Gambetta and is typical of churches of the French Basque country. The wedding took place here on June 9th 1660. The maison is where the King waited for 40 days for his bride. The maison was built in 1643 by Johan de Lohobiague with the wealth brought to the town by the pirates. It’s on the Place Louis XIV, a lively square perfect for people watching. The Maison Joanoenia is also known as Maison de L’Infante, since the Infanta of Spain, Maria Teresa, stayed here until she married the French King.
The 17th century was the so-called golden age for the town and a lot of the wealth of that time is still visible in the town nowadays.
Two buildings from the 20th century that can’t be missed on the Promenade are the Casino la Pergola and the Grand Hôtel. The casino is in art deco style, and houses a spa, hotel and casino. The Grand Hôtel is in neo-romantic style in the atmosphere of the Belle Epoque.
Where to Stay
We stayed at Camping Le Vieux Port in Messanges in 2018. It’s a large campground right on the beach with tents, cabins and spots. It’s about an hour North of Saint-Jean-de-Luz.
In 2019 we came from San Sebastián in Spain. Which is some 30 to 45 minutes South. Good places to stay there are an apartment from Baskey Rentals or San Vicente in the old town of San Sebastián.
Where to Eat
Brasserie Le Sud has delicious seafood, is on the Promenade and has a beach view. We had a delicious lunch here.
As mentioned before you can’t miss out on Maison Adam, Maison Pariès, Pierre Oteiza and Maison Francis Miot.
When to Visit
Although beautiful year round, the weather in Saint Jean de Luz is best in Summer, (late) Spring and (early) Fall for swimming in the sea. The activities offered on the beach are also not available in Winter, (early) Spring and (late) Fall.
How to Visit
Recommended is a visit of 1 to 3 days. For a food tour 1 to 4 hours is enough, with sightseeing added 1 to 1.5 days will be enough. But if you want to enjoy the beach and have a relaxed pace then take 3 days.
The town can be reached by car, boat and public transport. By boat you can arrive at the port. By car you need to take exit 3 (Jean De Luz) on the A63. We parked for free in April and May at the end of the Boulevard Thiers. Which is not that far from the Promenade. Public transport options are train and bus.
The closest international airport is Biarritz Airport 17 kilometers/11 miles away, San Sebastián Hondarribia Airport in Spain 19 kilometers/12 miles away.
You can rent a car from several companies, we have good experiences with Hertz and Alamo.
In the Area
Other things to do near St.-Jean-de-Luz is the Fort de Socoa in Ciboure. It’s on the other side of the bay. Donostia-San Sebastián is a beautiful city in Northern Spain, and just 40 minutes driving South. To the North Biarritz is 20 minutes away, one of the best cities to visit in France, and a famous beach resort. Bayonne, the chocolate capital is 25 minutes driving away.
That’s All About Saint Jean de Luz
From Saint Jean de Luz weather to what to do you know it all now with this guide. When interested in other France towns, read about Honfleur.
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