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11 of the Best Things to Do in St. Jean de Luz on a Quick Trip

Find out about things to do in St. Jean de Luz. Where is Saint Jean de Luz? It's in Basque Country France. Explore what to do in Saint Jean de Luz.
You may be wondering: where is St. Jean de Luz? St. Jean de Luz is in Basque Country in southwest France not far from Biarritz and close to the border with Spain. 

Tensions have arisen over the years between the ethnic Basque people and the government of Spain.  I'm going to avoid a discussion of the politics of the region in this post and focus on the Basque Country's merits as a fantastic city break destination in Europe.  

We took advantage of the seasonal direct flights that Ryanair offers from Dublin to Biarritz to spend three days in Basque Country with a home base in St. Jean de Luz.  We couldn't have asked for better weather.  

While we thought our trip to St. Jean de Luz would be about food and culture, it could properly be called a sun holiday (temperatures were 80°F which is approaching 30 °C) :-)

Let's take a look at some of the best things to do in St. Jean de Luz on a weekend break.

Fishing boats in Saint Jean de Luz France

Getting to St. Jean de Luz

Biarritz is the most convenient airport to St. Jean de Luz. The airport is well served by low cost carriers, making this trip an ideal Ryanair weekend destination. St. Jean de Luz is a 20 minute train ride from Biarritz and the SNCF train runs approximately every 3 hours.

Where to Stay in St. Jean de Luz?

We stayed at Mosaik Hôtel (formerly Le Petit Trianon). The hotel is located just a 10 minute walk from Grande Plage and is convenient for walking and exploring all aspects of St. Jean de Luz. We paid 160 EUR for a 2 night stay. Room rates for this hotel average around 100 EUR at the time of writing.

Things to do in St. Jean de Luz

Now that we've arrived, let's take a look at some of the fun things to do in St. Jean de Luz. 

1. Spend A Few Hour Blitz of Biarritz

Transportation can be a bit convoluted in this area and we spent a significant amount of time figuring out the best bus and train connections to allow us to see everything we wanted in the most efficient manner possible.  

That said, we boarded a bus from Biarritz Airport and were whisked into the city center in about 15 minutes.  Biarritz is a beach resort first and foremost and we spent our few hours there strolling along the promenade and dazzling beaches.  

We were also impressed by the architecture (mainly done up in dazzling white with brightly colored accents).  We especially admired the Art Deco Musée de la Mer.  

Given the bus connections, we were only able to spend a few hours exploring Biarritz but felt this was a good introduction.
A Weekend in French Basque Country - Biarritz

2. Photograph Half-Timbred (and Brightly Colored!) Architecture

One of the things that impressed us most about French Basque architecture was the rich color.  In Biarritz, St. Jean de Luz, and Hendaye, the half-timbred buildings unified the area and gave it a unique atmosphere. 

There was something just so perfectly romantic about the area as well. In the center picture below, a shiny Vespa sits in front of Residence Casanova.  I just had to smile.
Things to do in Saint Jean de luz - Photograph Half-Timbred Buildings

3. Look for Colorful Fishing Nets

We caught the bus from Biarritz to Biarritz Gare to catch the train to our 'home base' for the weekend, St. Jean de Luz.  

We had a couple hours to familiarize ourselves with this quiet fishing village before dinner.  We enjoyed exploring the port in St. Jean de Luz with its colorful boats and jumbled nets set out to dry.
Things to do in St. Jean de Luz - Explore the Saint-Jean-de-Luz Harbour

4. Watch Dazzling Sunsets

I love a good sunset and we were treated to world-class examples in the two nights we stayed in St. Jean de Luz.  

We sat along the water noticing how the light reflected off the buildings on the waterfront making them positively glow.  The pink and orange hues continued to dance in the sky even after the sun had slipped below the horizon.
Things to do in Saint Jean de Luz: watch the sunset

5. Hike to the (Light)House on the Hill

While we were standing near the beach watching the sunset, we noticed a little white house sitting on top of the hill at the edge of the harbour.  We were curious and decided to hike out there the next day.  

We couldn't have asked for better weather with the warmth of the sun offset by a cool sea breeze from the Atlantic.  It took less than 45 minutes to get there from the center of St. Jean de Luz and we enjoyed sweeping views of the town and the sea.  

It turns out that this little white house is actually a somewhat unconventionally shaped lighthouse!  
What to do in Saint Jean de Luz: Hike to the house on the hill

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for other ideas for places to visit in France? Have you thought about:

6. Eat Basque Gateau and Macaron Fit for a King

We love visiting France for the food, no doubt, and the Basque Country was no exception.  We sampled an array of rich almond based cakes (Basque Gateau) some filled with flavors like apricot and cherries.  

We also sampled a new kind of macaron. Maison Adam is famous for a macaron recipe beloved by King Louis XIV.  It's definitely worth bringing a box home.
Saint Jean de Luz things to do: eat macarons at Maison Adam

7. Find Peppers Everywhere!

St. Jean De Luz is known for peppers and they were everywhere we looked:  hanging out to dry on the eaves of homes, raw and piled high in Les Halles, and stuffed with seafood and other fillings as an appetizer before dinner.  

Poivrons are definitely to our taste.  We even brought home some dried pepper seasoning so our trip can live on in the meals we cook.
Things to do in St. Jean de Luz: eat peppers

8. Savor Seafood

St. Jean de Luz is a fishing village and since it's situated on the Atlantic offers a stunning array of seafood. Our favorite was chipiron, a special kind of squid.  We were spoiled for seafood choice in St. Jean and enjoyed meals at Pil Pil Enea and Le Marinela.
What to eat in Saint Jean de Luz: savory seafood

9. Explore the Sunday Art Mart in Saint Jean de Luz

Walking along the beach on Sunday morning (dimanche in case you are wondering how to pronounce the days of the week in French), we were delighted to find local artists out in droves showcasing and selling their creations to passersby.  

It's similar to what they do along Merrion Square in Dublin although a bit more scenic.  There was also a higher incidence of 'sad clown' paintings than we would typically encounter in Ireland.  It somehow seemed quintessential French.
Things to do in Saint Jean de Luz: Explore the Sunday art market

10. Snack on Bread and Cheese by the River

We stopped in La Maison du Fromage Lorblanc and the local boulangerie to pick up some cheese and bread for an impromptu picnic along the river before heading to the train station and back home.  

We've made this a bit of a ritual on our trips to France.  I think it's nearly illegal to visit and not enjoy a piping hot baguette with fresh local cheese.  Magnifique!
Things to do in St. Jean de Luz: Sample cheeses at La Maison du Fromage

We had a fantastic time exploring this charming region and hope we make it back again soon.

11. Take A Day Trip to San Sebastian

San Sebastian on the Spanish side of Basque Country is an easy day trip by train from St. Jean de Luz. Read more about our day trip from St. Jean de Luz to San Sebastian here. If you are a foodie, don't miss this diversion!

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Things to do in Saint Jean de Luz France

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: 11 of the Best Things to Do in St. Jean de Luz on a Quick Trip
11 of the Best Things to Do in St. Jean de Luz on a Quick Trip
Find out about things to do in St. Jean de Luz. Where is Saint Jean de Luz? It's in Basque Country France. Explore what to do in Saint Jean de Luz.
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog