Saint Jean de Luz
Visit Saint Jean de Luz (Aquitaine, France)
Saint Jean de Luz is in the south-west of France, on the coast near the border with Spain, about 20 kilometres south of Biarritz and Bayonne.
It is in Basque country, close to the western end of the Pyrenees, and both hills and sea are close to hand, and makes a good centre for a visit to this region. It is found 15km south of Biarritz, on the Basque coast near the border with Spain.
St-Jean-de-Luz is divided into two adjacent towns by the Nivelle River - St-Jean-de-Luz to the north of the river and harbour, and Ciboure to the south.
Town, coast and beach
The town is still an active fishing port, with anchovies, tuna and sardines being the main fish caught, although leisure and tourism now play a large part of the towns activity - not surprising, given the towns position, sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the western Pyrenees.
The Church of Saint John the Baptist in Saint Jean de Luz is among the highlights, being a fine example of a Basque church, built in the 15th century to replace an earlier roman style church in the same location.
The blocked up church doorway followed the wedding of Louis XIV and Marie-Thérèse (the most noteworthy event in the history of the church) after which the doorway where they had left the church was blocked up, to ensure that no-one else could pass by the same doorway.
Inside the church there are typical basque style tiered wooden balconies running along on each side, and a very impressive altar (17th century) with a great deal of gilding and statues.
As well as having a large harbour, and being a popular docking place for boats, St Jean de Luz has a very nice beach 'in the town centre'. The town itself has a large number of small shops, and streets crammed with interesting houses and architecture.
There are also a good number of historically interesting buildings to admire as you explore Saint-Jean-de-Luz, such as the 15th century Maison Esquerrénéa, the maison de l'infante where marie-Thérese stayed before her marriage and the 17th century Maison Louis XIV.
While there are of course new buildings in the surrounding area, St-Jean-de-Luz has so far avoided much of the coastal excess that blights so many beachfront towns, and is a charming place to visit.
The harbour and beach are overlooked by some fine and interesting buildings.
History of St Jean De Luz
The town has a long and colourful history. It was an important point on the coastal pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella, and became rich in the 16th century from fishing and whaling. Piracy, backed by the French King, further added to the towns wealth and many of the fine houses in the town were built on the proceeds from this piracy.
In 1609 the town gained notoriety when 600 of the town women were accused of witchcraft, and sentenced to be burned as heretics - happily they were saved when their husbands rushed back from a fishing trip to Newfoundland.
The 'finest moment' for the town was in 1660, when Louis XIV married Marie-Thérèse of Spain in the town church - the Basque church of St John the Baptist - following the signing in 1659 of the 'Treaty of the Pyrenees' between France and Spain.
There are numerous other activities and things of interest in the St-Jean-de-Luz area - below is a brief summary.
Abbadia: At Abbadia, on the road to Hendaye, there is a chateau - the Chateau d'Abbadia - which was constructed in the 19th century with a fine view across the ocean. Interesting, with an outside based on medieval chateaux and an interior decorated based on oriental designs, the owner (Viollet-le-Duc) also added an observatory so that scientists could map the stars (interestingly, he also drew the first accurate maps of Ethiopia).
Abbadia is also home to a 65 hectare nature reserve, with 30 species of protected birds.
Coast Road: The road south from St-Jean -de-Luz towards Hendaye (the 'corniche') is protected from development, and continues to Hondarribia and beyond. There are lots of viewpoints, cliff views and some beautiful countryside.
Rhune train: Small train that runs up the Rhune mountain, where you are greeted by spectacular views in all directions. Trains leave from Ascain, en route towards Sare.
Hendaye: Heading towards Spain from St-Jean-de-Luz, at the end of the 'corniche' (coast road) you will find Hendaye. Hendaye has a very nice beach - 3km long - although perhaps a little spoiled by the building developments on the other side of the road. One interesting feature of Hendaye is the nearby 'Ile des faisons' a no-mans-land island between France and Spain where treaties between the two countries were signed and hostage exchanges took place. Less common nowadays.
Fort de Socoa: Just along the coast from Ciboure, Socoa has a nice quiet beach and a fort. The Fort de Socoa is also used as a base for watersports. A nice walk from Ciboure.
Golf near st Jean de Luz and Biarritz: The region is reputedly the home of golf in France, and there are many golf courses in the region. You could try Golf de Bassussarry, Golf d'Arcangues, Golf d'Epherra, Golf de Chantaco or Golf de la Nivelle. Or go to the Le Phare golf course, the first to be constructed in France.
Walking: Walking is popular both along the coast and in the low hills and mountains at this end of the Pyrenees. One walk of particular interest is the coastal walk, that runs from Bidart to Hendaye, a total of about 25km. The path can be joined at Erretegia, Les Alcyons, Pointe Sainte-Barbe, the Fort de Socoa, Asporotsttipi, Abbadia and Sokoboru. Various information posts about geology, fishing and so on are found along the way.
Other: There are many other 'tourist attractions' - small museums, caves, houses recreated in middle-age style, aquariums etc etc You will find details in all the tourist offices in the area. At 3 km from the town the Chateau d'Arturbie is an attractive small castle dating from the 13th-17th centuries with a richly furnished interior and set in attractive gardens.
Saint Jean de Luz holiday apartment
We were pleased to stay at this St-Jean-de-Luz apartment during our visit.
Photos of Saint Jean de Luz
Click any picture to start the gallery
Address: Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, Pyrenees-Atlantiques, Aquitaine, 64500 || GPS: latitude 43.387, longitude -1.66
Map of Saint Jean de Luz & places nearby
Highlights close by
La Rhune 9km
See lots more places to visit nearby and a more detailed map at places near Saint Jean de Luz.
See Aquitaine and Pyrenees-Atlantiques (the region and department for Saint Jean de Luz) for more travel ideas...
Suggested tourist attractions to visit near Saint Jean de Luz, France
- Sare - most beautiful village (11km)
- Anglet - ville fleurie 4* (16km)
- Ainhoa - most beautiful village (16km)
- Bayonne cathédrale St Marie (monuments on French pilgrim routes) - heritage site (19km)
- Bayonne - secteur sauvegarde (19km)
- Jardins de la villa Arnaga - remarkable garden (21km)
- Marais d'Orx - site of natural beauty (32km)
- La Bastide-Clairence - most beautiful village (33km)
- Vallée des Aldudes - site of natural beauty (37km)
- Porte St Jacques - St Jean Pied-de-Port (monuments on French pilgrim routes) - heritage site (42km)
Market days in Saint Jean de Luz: Regular market(s) are held in Saint Jean de Luz each Tuesday & Saturday & Friday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)
The French version of this page is at Saint Jean de Luz (Francais)