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12 things to do in Bayonne, France

Bayonne is one of the main places to visit in the French Basque Country, aside from being the capital of the region. Known for its rich historical and cultural heritage, this charming city blends tradition with modernity. You'll find numerous cobbled streets, monuments, shops, exquisite cuisine, and a great atmosphere.

If you're interested in visiting this destination, this article will suggests 12 things to do in Bayonne, France. I'll also recommend hotels and places to visit in the surrounding areas. Let's get started!

Table of contents

Where to stay in Bayonne

where to stay in Bayonne
Rue d’Espagne

Bayonne can be a great area to stay in if you want to visit the French Basque Country. You can choose to stay in a charming hotel in the historic center or in a hotel on the outskirts that may be more convenient for exploring the entire region.

Below, I recommend several places to stay in Bayonne for different budgets:

  • $: ibis budget Bayonne. Affordable 2-star accommodation located outside the city. They offer double and triple rooms. There’s free parking, making it very convenient if you’re traveling by car.
  • $$: Libertitu. A B&B located very close to the historic center. They offer triple and quadruple rooms, as well as an apartment. All accommodations are very spacious and beautifully decorated.
  • $$$: Villa la Renaissance. Villa with a garden and pool located on the outskirts. They offer double rooms and suites. They also provide free private parking.
  • $$$$: Hôtel Villa KOEGUI Bayonne. 4-star hotel located in the Petite-Bayonne neighborhood. You’ll be in the heart of the city. They offer double rooms and suites. Additionally, this accommodation features a fitness room, a restaurant, a bar, and a shared lounge.

Things to do in Bayonne, France

Here are the best things to see and do in Bayonne.

1. Bayonne Botanical Garden

things to do in Bayonne
Botanical garden
botanical garden
Japanese bridge

I recommend starting your city tour at the Bayonne Botanical Garden, which opened in 1990. It is located in a park near the city walls and the cathedral, right next to the historic center. Although very small, its charming environment and incredible location make it worth your while.

During your visit, you will come across a Japanese-style botanical garden with a pond, a walkway surrounded by bamboo, a bridge, a small waterfall, and, of course, a wide variety of perennial plants and flowers.

  • Price: Free. 
  • Opening hours: 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM (Monday to Saturday).

2. Bayonne Cathedral of Sainte-Marie

Sainte-Marie Cathedral
Sainte-Marie Cathedral
cathedral cloister

If I had to highlight just one place in this town, it would be the beautiful Bayonne Cathedral of Sainte-Marie. It is one of the most important Gothic buildings in the entire country and an architectural marvel that you cannot miss visiting. Its construction began in the 13th century but wasn’t completed until a few centuries later.

The impressive facade will leave you speechless, but don’t forget to visit the cathedral’s interior as well. You also can’t miss the incredible cloister located next to the cathedral. It is one of the largest cloisters in the country. Throughout its history, it has served different purposes: as a place of prayer, a cemetery, or a public square. You will love it!

  • Price: Free.
  • Opening hours: 8:00 AM – 6:30 PM (Monday to Saturday), 8:00 AM – 7:00 PM (Sunday).

3. Old Castle

castillo viejo
Old Castle

The Old Castle is another place you must visit as it is one of the most significant fortresses in the city. This castle was built in the late 11th century. Later, in the 17th century, by the order of Vauban, it was remodeled to strengthen its defenses. Its name comes from the fact that a new castle was built in the Petite-Bayonne district in the late 15th century. Currently, it is in military use, and the interior cannot be visited.

4. Strolling through the historic center

Bayonne historic center
Shops in the city center
Grand Bayonne
Grand Bayonne

One of the highlights of your visit to Bayonne is exploring the beautiful streets of the historic center, where you’ll discover hidden gems. This area of the city is known as Grand Bayonne. It boasts a large number of shops, cafes, and restaurants where you can try typical products of the Basque Country. One of the streets you can’t miss is Rue d’Espagne, but there are many more.

I encourage you to also stroll through Rue du Pilori, Rue Pannecaut, Rue Poissonnerie, Rue del Port Neuf, and Rue Victor Hugo. In all of them, you will find buildings with a traditional style and numerous shops. You will also love walking along the banks of the Nive River.

5. Book a guided tour of Bayonne

things to do in Bayonne
Place Morlesin

If you want to explore the city with the guidance of a local person, there’s nothing better than taking a guided tour. Specifically, I encourage you to book this guided tour of Bayonne. It is a two-hour tour that allows you to taste the flavors of French food in Bayonne. The tour begins at Place de la Liberté, next to the town hall, and takes you to places such as the Old Castle, the Cathedral of Sainte-Marie, the New Castle, and Rue del Port-Neuf.

6. Bayonne City Walls

murallas bayona
puerta de españa
Puerta de España

Strolling along the city walls is like taking a journey through the history of the city. In the past, they were one of the most crucial elements of Bayonne’s defensive system. The entrance to the walled area was through the Puerta d’Espagne, which I recommend passing through during your walk. The remains of the walls are well-preserved and are part of the rich heritage of this French town.

🚗 Do you need a car for your trip to the French Basque Country? I recommend comparing prices on Auto Europe and Discover Cars, two websites that will be very useful in finding the best price.

7. Les Halles Market

les halles bayona
Les Halles Market.

There’s nothing better than visiting Les Halles Market to discover the daily life of the city and the local products, such as Bayonne ham. This market is open every day until the early afternoon. However, on Saturday mornings, a local products market is held in the surroundings of Les Halles. Dozens of producers set up their stalls and get ready to sell cheeses, eggs, cold cuts, bread, sweets, and more.

Additionally, on Quai Augustin Chaho and Rue Pelletier, you will also find stalls selling non-food items.

  • Daily Market Hours: 7:00 AM – 1:00 PM (Monday to Thursday), 7:00 AM – 2:30 PM (Saturday), 7:00 AM – 2:30 PM (Friday), 8:00 AM – 2:30 PM (Sunday).
  • Local Products Market Hours: Every Saturday from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM.

8. Bayonne City Hall, France

bayonne france
Mairie de Bayonne

At Place de la Liberté, you can observe the Bayonne City Hall, one of the main buildings in the city. It was constructed in the 19th century and is located at the confluence of the Adur and Nive rivers. You will be drawn to the six bronze statues protruding from the roof. These statues represent navigation, arts, astronomy, commerce, agriculture, and industry. Inside the building, you will also find the theatre.

9. Basque Museum of Bayonne

basque museum
Basque Museum

If you are interested in learning about the history of the city and Basque culture, one of the main places to visit in Bayonne is the Musée Basque (Basque Museum). Inside, you will find the largest collection dedicated to life in the Northern Basque Country (Iparralde). As you explore its different rooms, you’ll have the opportunity to discover fascinating facts about the Basque language, funeral rituals, rural life, architecture, festivals and games, domestic life, and more.

The Musée Basque has been housed in the Casa Dagourette, a former port residence from the 17th century, since its opening in 1924.

  • Entrance fee: €8. 
  • Opening hours: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday), 1:00 PM – 8:00 PM (Thursday).

10. Saint-André Church

Saint-André Church.
things to do in Bayonne, French basque country
Church’s interior

If you cross the Nive River from the historic center, you will reach the neighborhood of Petite Bayonne, where, in addition to strolling through its charming streets, I recommend visiting the Saint-André Church. This neo-Gothic style church was designed by architects Hippolyte Durand and Hippolyte Guichenné and built between 1856 and 1869. The main facade is flanked by two towers, and an incredible rose window above the main entrance is a prominent feature.

11. New Castle

New Castle
 bayonne france
New Castle

Another place to visit in Petite Bayonne is the New Castle (Castillo Nuevo). As mentioned earlier, in the late 15th century, a new castle was built in the city, and as a result, the old castle came to be known as Château Vieux. This new castle is located right next to the Saint-André Church, in Place Paul Bert. Its interior houses the administrative offices of the Basque Museum and a university campus. From the top of the stairs, you’ll have views of the neighborhood.

12. The Saint-Esprit District

The Saint-Esprit Bridge

You can also cross the Adur River via the Saint-Esprit Bridge to take a stroll through the Saint-Esprit neighborhood, another area of the city with a rich history that is worth exploring. During your walk, I recommend visiting places such as the Saint-Esprit Church, the synagogue, or Didam, an exhibition center. On the outskirts of the neighborhood, you will also find the L’Atelier du Chocolat museum.

What to do near Bayonne

french basque country beach

Bayonne is the capital of the Northern Basque Country, and from there, you can visit other towns in this region. Due to its location, you can also explore some destinations in Les Landes. Below are several things to do in the surroundings of Bayonne

  • Biarritz. Very close by, you will find the town of Biarritz, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques. Come and discover why. Don’t miss all the things to do in Biarritz and the best beaches of Biarritz.
  • Saint-Jean-de-Luz. This town is another one of the most beautiful on the French Basque coast. I encourage you to discover its charming historic center. Take a look at the must-see places in Saint-Jean-de-Luz.
  • Bidart and Guéthary. These are two lesser-known coastal towns, but if you have plenty of time in the region, they are worth discovering. Find out what to do in Bidart.
  • Hendaye. Another coastal town you can visit during your trip to the French Basque Country. It has an extensive beach and a beautiful seafront promenade. Don’t miss all the things to do in Hendaye.
  • Inland villages. Don’t hesitate to visit La Bastide-Clairence, Cambo-les-Bains, Espelette, Ainhoa, Sara, or Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.
  • Landes. I encourage you to cross into this department to visit places like Capbreton, the Courant d’Huchet Natural Reserve, Roquefort, or Labastide-d’Armagnac.

Map of things to do in Bayonne, France.

In the following map, you can see all the places I recommend visiting in Bayonne, France. I have also marked the recommended hotels, along with their respective links to Booking. 

Take a look at my France travel guide if you plan to visit other destinations in the country.

I hope this article on what to do in Bayonne has been very helpful in organizing your visit to this city in the French Basque Country. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. Until next time!

↠ Book free tours and guided visits on Civitatis or GetYourGuide. I always use these platforms to check what organized activities there are at my destination.

↠ To pay with card in foreign currency or withdraw money from ATMs, I always use this card (there are free and paid plans). It works the best!

↠ Traveling with travel insurance to a destination where you don’t have healthcare coverage is a must. Get your insurance 5% cheaper with this link.

↠ If you want to have cellphone data at your destination from the moment you land and don’t want to waste time, there is nothing like this eSIM. Use the code “comeamaviaja” for a 5% discount.

↠ Check out Booking’s offers, a platform I always use, as I always find very good options thanks to its search engine with filters.

↠ For destinations where I need to rent a car, I always check Discover Cars and Auto Europe search engines. I recommend them!

↠ If you still need to buy flights for your trip, there is no better search engine than Skyscanner (although I always recommend booking the flight on the company’s website).

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