This unique coastal region of southern France and northern Spain marries laid-back surf culture and rich culinary traditions with destination-worthy beaches and architecture. On DANNIJO co-founder Jodie Snyder-Morel’s trip this summer with her family, she immersed herself in Basque life, taking in a string of memorable stops. Here's her essential guide.
Those starting their tour of their region in the north typically begin with Biarritz, once the destination for Europe’s smart set, though visitors these days are more likely to be in search of waves than the well-heeled.
That faded grandeur still remains though, and the Hôtel du Palais is the iconic spot for that 1920s vibe. For a more contemporary aesthetic, the Hôtel de Silhouette is a boutique hotel in a central location and beautiful garden.
Further along the coast are the villages of Bidart, Guéthary and Saint Jean de Luz, the highlight of Jodie’s vacation and the area in which she and her family spent the most time. She recommends staying in charming Guéthary, where you can rent a house or book a local bed and breakfast. Most places are walkable, and boutiques like Poterie de Guéthary are well worth the subsequent excess baggage fees.
La Ferme Ostalapia, in the nearby Ahetze countryside, is a ‘restaurant with rooms’ serving classic Basque fare celebrating local produce. You can just go for a meal, but overnight guests will wake up to stunning views of La Rhune mountain.
Back in Bidart, visitors should book a table at Bahia Beach for lunch on Fridays when there’s live music, though it’s worth a visit anytime for its gorgeous view, great fish and the best vibe.
Beach shack Les Alcyons is also great for lunch, while La Pizzeria is always popular with the kids - follow it with a Basque pelota game in town.
Providence in Guéthary is Jodie’s favorite breakfast spot, serving familiar classics like banana bread and avocado toast, and the Glaces Lopez truck in Saint Jean de Luz serves the best ice-cream Jodie has ever tasted.
Don’t leave the Basque country without tasting a Gâteau Basque, a signature dessert of the region filled with almond cream, though you’ll also come across variations with cherries or chocolate. Jodie’s favorites were at Dodin and Maison Adam, both in Biarritz.
Go to surf school! L’École de la Glisse is run by pro surfers Thomas La Fonta and Daniel Le Boulch and Jodie’s six-year-old daughter Margaux loves it. Once you know what you’re doing - or even if you don’t - Plage d'Erretegia is great for laying out or learning to surf. Plage de Parlementia is Jodie and her family’s favorite beach though, and a famous surf spot.
The shopping, always key to any #DANNIJOtravels destination, is excellent. Browse the shops along Rue Gambetta in Biarritz; Jodie found kids’ clothes by Arsène et les Pipelettes, an amazing hat shop and Maison Arosteguy for gourmet food. Look out for Basque brand 64, which has casual clothes for the whole family and a store in most towns.
Over in Saint Jean de Luz, don’t miss Espadrille Basque Bayona for the most authentic rope-sole shoes. Bored kids can be bribed with the promise of bumper cars and carousel rides afterwards. In Guéthary, make time for the Brocante (flea market) which takes place every Saturday - a must for antique and second-hand-lovers.
Don’t leave without stocking up on tees, sweatshirts and baseball caps from surf brand Parlementia (if you can’t wait to visit yourself, DANNIJO is the only place you can buy Parlementia in the US)
Though the weather can be more unpredictable and rainy than other parts of France and Spain, the culture more than makes up for it. If you do find yourself at a loss for something to do on a rainy day, Jodie recommends heading across the border to San Sebastian for the day where there is a great aquarium.