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10 best things to do in Saint Jean de Luz

Saint Jean de Luz is a village in the French Basque Country located just a few kilometers from the Spanish border. In the past, it was home to corsairs, and today it is famous for its fishing port and gastronomy. The historic center has charming streets, traditional homes, and well-preserved shops. In this article, I will show you 10 things to do in Saint Jean de Luz that you shouldn't miss during your visit. 

In addition to discovering all the hidden gems I'll recommend, I encourage you to indulge in the delicious local cuisine. This cuisine is particularly enriched by the fresh fish that arrives at the port of Saint Jean de Luz, France, every morning. It's also a great destination if you're looking to take care of your well-being, as it boasts two significant thalassotherapy centers open year-round.

This village also hosts a large number of events, especially music and dance festivals during the summer months, giving visitors the opportunity to experience the regional culture at its finest. However, when talking about events throughout history, it's impossible not to mention the wedding of Louis XIV and Marie-Thérèse of Austria in 1660.

Table of contents

Where to stay in Saint Jean de Luz

If you’re planning a trip to the French Basque Country, staying in Saint Jean de Luz is a great idea. This picturesque fishing village provides the opportunity to explore the Atlantic coast and its stunning beaches. With a wide variety of restaurants and hotels, this village is the perfect place to unwind after a busy day of sightseeing.

Below, I recommend several hotels in Saint Jean de Luz for different budgets:

  • $: Campanile Saint Jean de Luz. We stayed at this hotel during our visit. It is a hotel located on the outskirts of the village, close to the road but with soundproofed rooms. It is very convenient, as it offers free parking and is close to many tourist attractions.
  • $$: Hotel Les Almadies. A 3-star hotel located in the heart of the Saint Jean de Luz historic center. It offers double rooms and provides breakfast.
    $$$: La Maison Tamarin. You can stay in one of the rooms of this villa with a garden, an outdoor pool, and beautiful sea views. They offer breakfast, and there is free private parking.
    $$$$: Grand Hôtel Thalasso & Spa. A 5-star hotel located in an iconic building. It features a renowned spa and wellness center. It is situated in front of the beach and also houses a restaurant.

Things to do in Saint Jean de Luz, France

I reveal the best things to do in St. Jean de Luz, one of the main places to explore in the French Basque Country.

1. Stroll through the historic center, on your own or with a guided tour

things to do in Saint Jean de Luz in a day
Historic center
shop in the historic center
Traditional shop

Next, I will provide you with details about several monuments and spots that you shouldn’t miss in this beautiful town in the French Basque Country. However, if I had to recommend just one thing to do in San Juan de Luz, it would be to get lost in the charming streets and shops of its historic center.

I recommend visiting the following shops: 

  • Maison Adam. A famous and historic pastry shop where Louis XIV bought macarons during his wedding, which they continue to sell to this day, along with other Basque specialties.
  • Etxe Peio. A gourmet shop offering products from the region.
  • Kikeran. A Specialty coffee, tea, and loose leaf infusion shop.
  • Marcel Travel Posters. Shop for posters and postcards featuring different cities in France, created by a French artist.

2. Saint-Jean-Baptiste church

things to do in Saint Jean de Luz, France
Saint-Jean-Baptiste church
Saint-Jean-The-Baptist Church
Church interior

When visiting Saint Jean de Luz, one of the places you can’t miss is the Church of Saint John the Baptist. I encourage you to explore its interior during your stroll through the historic center of this French town. Some of the oldest parts of this religious building, such as the bell tower or the windows overlooking Léon Gambetta Street, date back to the 14th and 15th centuries. You will also be struck by its altarpiece, the organ, the wooden elements, and the boat hanging in the center of the church.

One of the most significant events that have taken place in this church was the marriage of Louis XIV and Marie-Thérèse of Austria on June 9, 1660. Currently, classical music concerts and Basque chants are held here.

3. Les Halles Market

les halles saint jean de luz
Les Halles

There’s no better way to discover the daily life of a town than by visiting its market. For this reason, I recommend stepping into Les Halles, where you can discover one of the finest markets in the region. You can stroll through the aisles while exploring the various stalls of food and local products. I encourage you to try some of the specialties of the area, such as Basque cake or some local cheese.

Just outside Les Halles, there is an outdoor market on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings throughout the year, as well as on Saturday mornings during the months of July and August. Don’t miss it!

  • Les Halles of St. Jean de Luz opening hours: 7:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.

4. La Maison Louis XIV

Maison Louis XIV
Maison Louis XIV

The House of Louis XIV, also known as Lohobiague-Enea, is a historical monument located in Louis XIV Square. Built in 1643, it was the residence of King Louis XIV when he married Infanta Maria Teresa of Austria in 1660. The building is a clear example of traditional Basque architecture, reflecting the influence of both French and Spanish styles.

You can visit the building’s interiors. This way, you’ll have the pleasure of admiring the different rooms and bedrooms, the incredible wooden staircase, period furniture, and photographs of the generations that have passed through them. The house is still owned by the same family that built it.

  • Maison Louis XIV Price: €7 (general admission).
  • Maison Louis XIV Hours: Check here.

5. The House of the Infanta

The House of the Infanta

The House of the Infanta

La Maison de l’Infant, also known as Joanoenia, is a traditional 17th-century house built by Basque shipbuilder Joannot de Haraneder. It was the place where Infanta Maria Teresa of Austria stayed when she married Louis XIV in 1660. Its facade stands out, featuring several pink-coloured bricks and its turret.

🚗 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 rental price.

6. The port of Saint Jean de Luz, France

things to do in Saint Jean de Luz
Saint Jean de Luz, France

One of the spots in this Basque-French town that will make you feel its true essence is, of course, its port. A stroll through the port of St. Jean de Luz is an absolute must. It’s located next to the historic center, right alongside buildings like La Maison de l’Infante.

Here, fishing boats mix with recreational and tourist vessels. In this area, tuna, sardines, anchovies, and hake are usually caught. Once the fishermen return to the port, the daily catch is sold in the local market.

7. Visit the Socoa Fort

The Socoa Fort

Socoa Fort

On one end of the bay, in Ciboure, not far from Saint Jean de Luz city center, you’ll find the Socoa Fort. It was built in the early 17th century and, a few years later, was remodeled by the military engineer Vauban.

The fort is not in very good condition, having been attacked by the Spanish on numerous occasions. Nevertheless, in addition to its historical interest, it’s worth visiting for the views it offers of the ocean and this part of the French Basque Coast.

8. Take a stroll along Sainte-Barbe Point

things to do in Saint Jean de Luz
Sainte Barbe Lighthouse
sainte barbe
Sainte-Barbe point

Undoubtedly, one of the highlights of visiting Saint Jean de Luz is taking a stroll along Sainte-Barbe Point. At the northernmost tip of the bay, you’ll find a green hill, which is ideal for a walk or to sit on one of its benches and enjoy the views during sunset. Additionally, it hosts a small playground, an old chapel, and a beach bar.

If you’d like, you can continue your walk to the Sainte-Barbe neighborhood or have a picnic on the grass while enjoying the stunning views of the Bay of Saint Jean de Luz with the Pyrenees mountains in the background. You’ll love it!

9. Walk to the Saint Jean de Luz Lighthouse along the Jacques Thibaud promenade

saint jean de luz, france
Saint Jean de Luz Lighthouse

A perhaps less significant thing to do in Saint Jean de Luz, but one I highly recommend, is to visit the small lighthouse located at the southern end of the promenade. To reach it, I suggest walking along the Jacques Thibaud promenade. Here, you’ll find one of this town’s most famous postcard-like views, featuring the typical Basque homes with walkways connecting them to the promenade.

The lighthouse was designed by architect André Pavlosky and built in 1936. From it, you’ll have lovely views of the other side of the harbor. Other places you shouldn’t miss along the promenade are the iconic Grand Hôtel Thalasso & Spa and the Casino JOA de St-Jean-de-Luz.

10. Saint Jean de Luz Beach

Saint-Jean-de-Luz beach
Grande Plage

Is your trip taking place during the summer months? Don’t miss the opportunity to cool off at Grande Plage. Here, you can sunbathe, swim, or practice sports like surfing or paddleboarding. Several seawalls protect the beach from strong waves, making it an ideal family-friendly destination.

Things to do near St. Jean de Luz

French Basque Country surroundings
Corniche Basque

From this beautiful coastal town, you can explore many other attractions in the region. Below, you’ll find other things to do in Saint Jean de Luz, sorted by proximity:

  • Basque Corniche Cliffs. From Hendaye to Ziburu, you’ll come across beautiful flysch cliffs. You can explore them via a trail or stop at one of the viewpoints.
  • Urtubie Castle. This castle is located just 3 km from Saint Jean de Luz, France. It was built in 1341 and is still owned by the same family today.
  • Hendaye. A coastal village located on the border with Spain. It boasts a long promenade and a charming historic center. Discover the best of Hendaye, France.
  • Guéthary. It’s a very small town, but its charming harbor and atmosphere place it among the most beautiful villages in Iparralde. 
  • Bidart. A coastal village with a small yet charming historic center and excellent beaches. Check out all the things to do in Bidart.
  • Biarritz. This coastal city is the most popular destination in the French Basque Country. Make sure to visit and enjoy its beaches, shops, and restaurants. Don’t miss out on all the things to see and do in Biarritz, including the most beautiful beaches in Biarritz.
  • Bayonne. It is the capital of the region. You’ll discover hidden gems and a beautiful cathedral. Check out this article about things to do in Bayonne
  • Inland villages. Don’t hesitate to venture into this French region to visit the small towns of Sara, Ainhoa, Espelette, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and Cambo-les-Bains.

Map of things to do in Saint Jean de Luz (France)

In the following map, I’ve pinpointed all the places I’ve mentioned in this article, so you can quickly and easily see the location of each one. I’ve also marked the recommended accommodations, along with their corresponding links to Booking.

Don’t forget to check out my France travel guide if you’re planning a trip to this country.

I hope this article about what to do in Saint Jean de Luz has been very helpful for planning your visit to this town in the French Basque Country. If you have any questions or contributions, feel free to leave a comment or email me. Until next time!

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