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From a strategic standpoint, there might not be a more important community in southern France than Bayonne. Not only does it sit right on the Atlantic Ocean, but it’s also on the border with Spain on the isthmus between the Mediterranean Sea and the ocean. It was a military sight for the Romans, a Viking port, and it was even under English rule for three centuries as part of Aquitaine.
It has seen its fair share of combat and occupation over the years, yet the ancient buildings stand tall and proud, just waiting for you to see them. If you’re thinking about a trip to Bayonne in the future, then here are some of the main sights that you’ll want to see during your time in this beautiful city.
Tour the Nive and Enjoy the Basque Architecture
With 5 bridges crossing the Nive to join two neighborhoods of Bayonne, there are two fantastic quarters of this community that are filled with classic Basque architecture. With half-timbering and nationalized colors on the shutters, taking a tour of these quarters just to enjoy the homes is a fantastic, relaxing experience. Some of the homes date back to the 12th century. In Grand Bayonne, there are narrow streets for pedestrians that are packed with shops for whatever you may wish or need.
While enjoying the shopping, you can’t help by notice the Sainte-Marie Cathedral with its imposing Gothic spires towering above you. Initially built in the 12th century, the southern tower was completed about 400 years later. It took until the 19th century to build the second tower. Although many items were destroyed in the Revolution, there are still a number of interesting items on display to make a visit to the site worthwhile.
Bayonne Is the Perfect Place to Find a Hidden Gem
One of the places you’ll be encouraged to go see while in Bayonne is the Basque Museum, which is probably one of the best ethnographic museums you find in all of France. It initially opened in 1922, but for the last 10 years or so has only been open for special exhibitions. The exhibits will give visitors a glimpse of what Basque life is all about, so if you love getting to know the local culture, this museum will easily meet your goals.
The Bonnat Museum features the paintings of the Leon Bonnat, but it is also one of the best galleries that you’re going to find in the region. Works from Goya, Degas, and El Greco are all on display for visitors to enjoy. Linger here, especially if the sun has decided not to shine for some reason, and you’ll have an enjoyable experience.
One cannot visit Bayonne and not take in a bullfight if there between July-September. The community has the longest tradition for the sport and the five day festival commemorating it that happens every August fills the town up to the brim. Stay for the August 15 Assumption festival to enjoy everything that Bayonne has to offer.
If you want to enjoy France in a unique way, then Bayonne is the place to be. With a Basque personality with a French flair, this incredible city has much to offer every visitor. Come enjoy its museums, quarters, and traditions today for a truly memorable experience.
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Hôtel de Région
14, Rue François de Sourdis
33 077 Bordeaux cedex
T: +33 05 57 57 80 00
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