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Bayonne

This lovely city in the Basque Country region lies just a few kilometres from the Atlantic coast, on the confluence of the rivers Adour and Nive, which separate the two main areas, Grand Bayonne and Petit Bayonne. Both sides of the water are lined with bars and restaurants from where views of the city can be enjoyed. The buildings are a blend of French and Basque architecture and have colourful wooden shutters.

Bridge over Adour river, Bayonne
Bridge over Adour river, Bayonne

There is a great atmosphere in the old town which is full of character with its narrow medieval streets. The town centre is now classed as a protected historical site and there are many interesting buildings, including the Gothic cathedral which is a UNESCO world heritage site with its 13th century cloister as well as Château Vieux castle, the Basque museum and the town ramparts.

Bayonne is historically the French capital of chocolate and of course the home of Bayonne ham. For a good selection of local food, visit the Les Halles – the covered market which is the perfect place to discover all the finest local produce.

Excellent produce from Bayonne
Excellent produce from Bayonne

Biarritz

This renowned seaside resort on the Atlantic coast became a desirable location when European royalty began visiting in the 1800s.  It is a beautiful, elegant town with much of its architecture influenced by that period, notably the Hôtel du Palais, the palace that Napoleon III built for his wife, the Empress Eugénie.

Biarritz is more famous now, however, as a major surfing destination due to its long sandy beaches and surf schools. These sparkling beaches span 6km and are interspersed with rocky outcrops such as the Rocher de la Vierge. This symbol of Biarritz is reached via a footbridge and offers sweeping views of the Bay of Biscay.

The main beach (the Grande Plage) is popular with tourists and locals and the sea water in this area has particularly healthy properties which accounts for the popularity of thalassotherapy facilities in the area.

There are many fine restaurants in the town and a very popular place for dining is the Port des Pêcheurs, the quaint old fishing port built in 1870 for fishermen. Now, there are some wonderful restaurants in the picturesque fishermen’s houses.

Surfing a popular sport in Biarritz Surfing a popular sport in Biarritz Surfing a popular sport in Biarritz
Surfing a popular sport in Biarritz

Mauléon-Licharre

At the foot of the mountains of the Pays Basque and the famous beech forest of Iraty, is the town of Mauléon-Licharre.  The town boasts a rich industrial and historical past with its origins dating back to medieval times. Its development and expansion is directly linked to the local fortress, so named "Lion Redoutable" (Impressive Lion) as it was judged impregnable.

The city evolved considerably in the 19th century thanks to the establishment of the espadrille industry. Production was at its peak at the beginning of the 20th century, and even today, Mauléon is considered the capital of the espadrille.

Nowadays, it is still a very dynamic town that has diversified from its industrial heritage. Cultural activities are developing here; cinema, theatre, festivals, concerts, exhibitions, as well as many sporting activities.

Seasonal torrent, Mauléon-Licharre
Seasonal torrent, Mauléon-Licharre

Monein

Only an hour drive from the mountains or the ocean, and 25 minutes from Pau, Monein extends into the heart of the Béarn.  Its hilly landscape lends itself perfectly to the cultivation of vines and peaches along with vast forests of beech, ash, oak or chestnut trees. 

The area benefits from a mild climate with sumptuous, sunny autumns and in the background, the white and blue peaks of the Pyrenees make these hills the "balcony of the Pyrenees".

A must-see in Monein, the Gothic church of Saint Girons, built between 1464 and 1520, it was listed as an historic monument in 1913.

Tea rooms, Monein
Tea rooms, Monein

Orthez

During the 12th century, Orthez was the capital of Béarn and the official residence of the viscounts of Bearn, before this honor was passed onto the large city of Pau.

The town straddles the westward-flowing Gave de Paul river and has a rich architectural heritage. There is a 14th-century bridge and a church of the 12th, 14th and 15th centuries, but the most remarkable building is the Tour Moncade, which is a pentagonal 13th century tower. The tower was once the castle of the viscount of Béarn and is now used as a meteorological observatory.

If the peace of the countryside appeals to you then why not visit the Lac de L’y Grec, a large lake which is surrounded by a scenic walking trail.

Peppers on sale in Orthez Peppers on sale in Orthez Peppers on sale in Orthez
Peppers on sale in Orthez

Pau

Pau is a pleasant, relaxed city to walk around with the magnificent Château de Pau at its heart.  The ideal spot for starting a tour of the city is the Boulevard de Pyrénées, it has open country views on one side and majestic mountains on the other. Pau has an excellent range of shopping malls and individual boutiques and we recommend that you visit the République quarter.   

Pau has a particular affinity with sport and leisure; it was the location of the first 18-hole golf course in 1860 and in 1908 the Wright brother’s arrived to create the first pilot’s school, which went on to train the vast majority of WW1 pilots.

From Pau it’s a short drive through the spectacular National Pyrenees Park to the border with Spain and just 125 kms (77 miles) or around a 90-minute drive from the Atlantic Coast.

Heritage city of Pau
Heritage city of Pau

Salies de Béarn

Salies de Béarn owes its popularity to its unique source of salt water which is used for both spa and wellbeing treatments.  The Spa quarter, with its thermal baths in the Moorish style is surrounded by beautiful old buildings, The Casino Hotel and public gardens.

The Salt Museum, located in the heart of the old town in a 17th-century house, illustrates the importance of salt to the local area and there is even a dedicated annual festival in September, with a food market, inauguration ceremony, traditional songs and dances, parade of floats and lively banquet.

The medieval cobbled streets that wind through the town are a delight for lovers of old picturesque buildings, the half-timbered houses with sloping roofs, pretty flowered streets and old houses on stilts by the Saleys river make it a charming destination.

Salies de Béarn has everything a typical French village offers; local farmers market every Thursday, shops, bars and restaurants along with great sports facilities, open air swimming pool, tennis and badminton courts and a golf course.

Saleys river runs through the town Saleys river runs through the town Saleys river runs through the town
Saleys river runs through the town

Sauveterre-de-Béarn

Sauveterre-de-Béarn is a pretty medieval town perched above the Gave d'Oloron with stunning views of the Pyrenean mountain range and the river running below.

Built originally as a walled refuge from the turbulent times of the Dark Ages, Sauveterre grew in importance as its old bridge provided one of the main routes to Spain. The remains of the bridge known locally as “Pont de la Legende” provides the ideal location to appreciate the impressive views of the town above.   The old stone church and many other medieval buildings remain in their original condition and are worth a visit.

Sauveterre has several bars and restaurants to suit most palettes, along with boulangeries, patisserie, banks, supermarket and weekly farmers market. From Easter onwards the village plays host to several fêtes, the most notable being the Fête de la Blonde, in August, which celebrates the local breed of Aquitaine cow.

Sauveterre de Béarn looks over the Gave d'Oloron Sauveterre de Béarn looks over the Gave d'Oloron
Sauveterre de Béarn looks over the Gave d'Oloron

St-Jean-de-Luz

This beautiful seaside resort on the Basque coast is renowned for its picturesque fishing port and wide, sheltered, crescent-shaped bay which is perfect for swimming. As would be expected from a fishing port, the town is also renowned for its seafood restaurants, the best can be found on the streets close to the port.

A busy day at the beach
A busy day at the beach

The town has a lively, cosmopolitan feel to it with interesting streets filled with colourful, timbered Basque houses as well as shops, bars and restaurants. Many of the boutiques sell traditional Basque fabric ‘Linge Basque’, a solid fabric that features brightly striped patterns.

The architecture dates back to the 17th century when St-Jean-de-Luz was one of the most important fishing ports of France.  At this time, it was the base for Basque corsairs who looted riches from enemy ships with the King’s permission. The wealth that this generated meant that many of the finer houses were built by the corsairs.

One of the most important buildings is the Church of St John Baptist which was built between the 15th and 17th centuries. The King of France, Louis XIV and Maria Theresa of Spain were married here in 1660.

Harbour at Saint Jean de Luz Harbour at Saint Jean de Luz
Harbour at Saint Jean de Luz

Pyrénées Atlantiques

Ideally located between the ocean and mountains Pyrénées Atlantiques/Les Landes is ideal for nature lovers as well as fans of outdoor activities

The Pyrénées Atlantiques originally known as Basses Pyrénées is the most southerly department in Aquitaine. Bordered by Spain, the Pyrénées mountains and the Atlantic coast, this department is home to the beautiful Béarn and the famous Basque country. The area is characterised by rolling green hills, the mighty mountain range and the salmon rivers of the Gave d’Oloron and Saison which flow through the region and form the border with the Pays Basque.

The Landes department evokes images of sweet smelling pine forests and picturesque sandy beaches.  The Landes forest is the largest area of forestation in France and accounts for 67% of the surface area of the department.  As the forest gives way to coastline there are 106kms of beaches bordered by impressive sand dunes. The area is home to some of the best surf beaches in France; Biscarosse, Mimizan, Messanges, Soustons, Seignosse, Hossegor and Capbreton. 

Both departments are synonymous with thermal baths where you can enjoy the benefits of the local water at a more sedate pace.  You can relax, recuperate and benefit from the water’s therapeutic qualities at Salies de Béarn, Dax, Saint-Paul-lès-Dax, Saubusse-les-Bains, Préchacq-les-Bains or Eugénie-les-Bains.

The Pyrénées and Landes regions offer year round sporting activities and the Béarn is where you will find the popular ski resorts of Gourette and La Pierre Saint Martin, which offer skiing for all levels.

Quality is taken for granted Quality is taken for granted
Quality is taken for granted

The area has strong connections with the pilgrim’s route of Saint Jacques de Compostelle with three of the four routes passing through the Landes. During the year you can see the pilgrims walking from town to town with a shell prominently tied to their rucksack.  The shell has traditionally been used to ward off illness and to guide the pilgrims safely to their destination.

The Pyrénées Atlantiques is an area steeped in history. The areas lie within the old principality of Aquitaine, which was at one time held through marriage by the Norman Kings of England and later was home to the well known Three Musketeers. 

The Basque people are renowned for their lively distinct culture, unique sports such as pelote, their passion for singing, rugby and gastronomy.  The Basque region has three provinces.  The Lower Navarre, Labourd and Soule.  Biarritz is the principle resort of the Côte Basque, an elegant seaside town with Royal connections, an impressive art deco style casino, long sandy beaches and excellent surfing. 

You cannot question the gastronomical contribution of the Pyrénées Atlantiques and the Landes to French cuisine, the duck is king in this area and every part of the animal is appreciated.  You will find foie gras, magret, confits and rillettes form part of restaurant menus throughout the area.  Fish also features predominantly in restaurants, not surprising, given the extent of the coastline. Finally, locally produced Armagnac is always a good way to round off a special meal. 

Where character comes naturally
Where character comes naturally

Market Overview

Architecture

There is a noted difference between the Béarnaise and Basque architecture of the Pyrénées Atlantiques.  The Basque houses are painted in either one of the two traditional Basque colours of red or green and there is generally very little deviation from these colours.  The Béarnaise farmhouses are renowned for the traditional roof structures and most areas still craft their roofs in this way. 

The local Landes architecture is varied and as with many places is a result of history, the local economy as well as climate and locally available materials. There are many castles in the area but also three main types of houses, namely Bastide, Longère and Oustau. Bastide properties are square or rectangular with an almost flat tiled roof. Longère houses are a traditional long house, often just one storey, and the half timbered Oustau houses have a wood pigeonnier shaped roof that usually faces the prevalent wind direction from the Atlantic.

Rolling valleys as far as the eye can see
Rolling valleys as far as the eye can see

What you get for your money

Given the stunning coastline and the climate, it is no surprise that the most common investments here is for between 200,000€ to 250,000€. However, we are finding that more and more young professionals are buying in the area and choosing to start a family here or bringing families with them. A large family home with a pool and mountain views will cost you between 320,000€ and 450,000€. Many British buyers prefer a renovation option, ruins can be brought for under 100,000€ and once renovated can sell on for well over 300,000€. We also have a wide selection of luxury properties, maison de maîtres, gite complexes and châteaux available on our site, ranging from 400,000€.

It's not just the architecture that's classic
It's not just the architecture that's classic

Getting there

The area is reached via the local airports of Lourdes, Pau, Biarritz. The larger airports of Toulouse and Bordeaux are within a three hour’s drive.    Direct flights can be taken from the following UK cities, London Heathrow, London Gatwick, London Stansted, London City, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, Bristol and Southampton. There are also flights to Dublin, Rome, Amsterdam and Brussels.  The motorway that serves the area is the A64 and the A63 which connects to Bordeaux and the A65 which arrives in Pau.  If you are thinking about taking a boat from the UK ferry ports; the closest ports are St Malo, Caen and Santander.  The TGV can be found at Orthez, Bayonne, Pau and Dax with links to the whole of France and Europe. 

A surfers' paradise
A surfers' paradise

Schools

There is an International school located in Pau and several bilingual schools located in the department, including one in Orthez.  The local schools in the area are of an excellent standard across all ages.  

(Click the pins on the map below to view properties for sale in each area)