Up until the 1950s, Biarritz (Miarritze) was the Monte-Carlo of the Atlantic coast, transformed by Napoléon III during the mid-nineteenth century into a playground for monarchs, aristos and glitterati. With the 1960s rise of the Côte d’Azur, however, the place went into seemingly terminal decline, despite having been discovered by the first surfers in 1957. But from the early 1990s, Biarritz was rediscovered by Parisian yuppies, a new generation of the international surfing fraternity and a slightly alternative family clientele, who together have put the place back on the map.
The focus of Biarritz is the Casino Municipal, just behind the Grande Plage, now restored to its 1930s grandeur, while inland the town forms a surprisingly amorphous, workaday sprawl, where you’ll find fancy shops and restaurants on main drags and cosier eateries light up the otherwise tenebrous side streets after sundown. By day, the main draw is the town's six beaches, of which three are suitable for surfing.