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Orthez travel guide

Photo of Orthez

Visit Orthez (Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France)

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The town of Orthez is in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department of Aquitaine, 60 kilometres inland from the coast at Bayonne and 40 kilometres north-west of Pau.

The historical importance of Orthez arose in part because of its role as a pilgrimage town: the town is on the pilgrim route that leads to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and an important point for crossing the river. It was an important regional centre during the early middle ages.

Explore Orthez

France This Way comment: Orthez does not have a great deal of historic interest to see except the bridge, but the view along to the river to the bridge is very lovely and the town is pleasant for a stroll if you are in this region.

Note: Orthez Tourist Office is now on the Place d'Armes, and no longer in the Maison Jeanne d'Albret.

Medieval houses and gateway on bridge in Orthez

The 13th-14th century stone bridge across the Gave de Pau (the river), is undoubtedly the most impressive sight in the town. It has an unusual gateway-tower halfway across the arched bridge: the bridge originally had two of these defensive towers, and the central part of the bridge was connected to the river banks by wooden platforms which could easily be removed if the town was attacked.

The bridge successfully protected the town on two occasions: the first in 1569 during the Wars of Religion, and then again in 1814 when the bridge successfully resisted the troops of Wellinton, as he pursued a retreating Napoleon.

As well as the street that approaches the bridge there are two other places with better views of the bridge and river: you can access the river bank next to the bridge and walk a short distance along the river, and you can also stand on the Pont Neuf, the newer bridge a short distance to the east of this bridge, for a lovely view of both the Gave de Pau and the bridge.

Clustered around the end of the bridge you can see some interesting medieval houses although this area of Orthez is not very developed, perhaps because the railway line also follows the edge of the river.

From here you can walk into the town centre, with various small shops and restaurants. The highlight is the the 16th century renaissance style stone townhouse called the Maison Jeanne d'Albret, where the mother of Henry IV lived, and now a museum explaining the history of the Béarn region, where you can also see a French style garden with a medieval tower, and an impressive stone staircase.

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Close to here on Rue de l'Horloge there is a hostel for pilgrims called the Hotel de la Lune. Very unremarkable from the street, if you go through the door (the door was closed and looked like the entrance to a derelict house when we visted!) you reach a charming courtyard and another impressive house with a tower.

A short distance east of here the Place Saint-Pierre is the main square in the town and has recently been redeveloped. The Church of Saint-Pierre that dates in part from the 14th century (although the belltower was added in the 19th century) dominates the square and is rather sombre but contains an altar and several sculptures worthy of attention as well as unusual painted columns.

To the north of Orthez town centre you can visit the pentagonal tower called the Tour Moncade and dating from 1250 that is all that remains of the castle that once stood here. Although there is not much castle to see, the views across the Béarn countryside are excellent from here!

Market day in Orthez is Tuesday.

Place Saint-Pierre in Orthez

Attractions close to Orthez

A short distance south-east of the centre of Orthez you can visit the Base de Loisirs d'Orthez-Biron, a leisure lake with a small beach and various activities for children.

Apart from exploring the other towns and villages in the region such as Salies-de-Bearn, Navarrenx and Sauveterre-de-Bearn, we recommend you take a trip to Biarritz about 70 kilometres to the west (one of our favourite resorts in France).

The Pyrenees are accessible to the south of Orthez.

You can find more travel ideas in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques guide and the Aquitaine guide.

See also: 

Photos of Orthez

Click any picture to start the gallery

  • bridge-entrance
  • church
  • main-square
  • musee-jean-d-albret
  • pilgrim-courtyard
  • river-and-bridge
  • river-view
  • road-to-bridge
  • town-street-1
  • town-street-2

Map of Orthez and places nearby

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Visit near Orthez with France This Way reviews

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... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Pyrenees-Atlantiques

Address: Orthez, Pau, Aquitaine, 64300, France || GPS coordinates: latitude 43.489, longitude -0.769

Plan your visit to Orthez, Pyrenees-Atlantiques

Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby

  • Hagetmau: ville fleurie 4* (23 km)
  • Sorde l'Abbaye - abbaye St Jean (monuments on French pilgrim routes): heritage site (23 km)
  • Eglise St Blaise (monuments on French pilgrim routes): heritage site (26 km)
  • Jardin du château de Momas: remarkable garden (27 km)
  • Jardins du château de Viven: remarkable garden (32 km)
  • Parc du Sarrat: remarkable garden (33 km)
  • Abbaye de St Sever (monuments on French pilgrim routes): heritage site (34 km)
  • Oloron-Sainte-Marie: town of art and history (36 km)
  • Eglise, Oloron-Sainte-Marie (monuments on French pilgrim routes): heritage site (36 km)
  • Pau: ville fleurie 4* (39 km)
  • La Bastide-Clairence: most beautiful village (40 km)
  • Aire sur l'Adour église St Quitterie (monuments on French pilgrim routes): heritage site (46 km)

Market days in Orthez, France

Regular market(s) are held in Orthez each Tuesday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)

The French version of this page is at Orthez (Francais)

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