Aquitaine Places To Visit On Holiday

Biarritz beach, Pyrenees Atlantiques, Aquitaine, France

Biarritz

A fishing village made fashionable by Napoleon III, Queen Victoria and other European royalty in the nineteenth century, Biarritz is now a trendsetting spot for young and stylish surfers, about half an hour from the Spanish border.

Enjoy great beaches - fashionable sunbathing on the Grande Plage and pounding Atlantic breakers on Plage de la Cote des Basques. Visit designer shops, fine restaurants and lively cafes. Take a cliff top promenade. Admire the art deco Casino and Museum of Chocolate. Find relaxing thalassotherapy at Les Thermes Marins.

Perigueux

Founded by the Romans, Vesunna (Perigueux) has been the centre of the Dordogne region for over 2,000 years and makes an ideal touring base for the chateaux and lakes of the Perigord Blanc.

Take in views of the old town and ruined amphitheatre from Tour Mataguerre and Cathedrale St-Front, said to have been the inspiration for the Sacre-Coeur in Paris. The tiny squares and narrow streets come alive on market days. Look for winter foie gras and truffle sales.

Montignac and Lascaux Caves

The story goes that in 1940 four boys looking for their dog fell into the cavern which became world famous as a gallery of unmatched pre-historic animal paintings going back 17,000 years.

Known as the pre-historic ‘Sistine Chapel’, Lascaux is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But the 150 fantastic black, red and ochre paintings can no longer be visited, in order to protect them.

Today, faithful replicas, along with 1,500 reproduction engravings, made with identical tools and pigments, are displayed in magical Lascaux II just 2km south of Montignac. Discover other pre-historic sites in the Vezere Valley.

Cordouan Lighthouse

France’s oldest lighthouse built in 1584, this beautiful listed building, which once contained its own royal apartments and chapel, is believed to be the oldest functioning lighthouse in existence. Out at sea, guarding the mouth of the Gironde estuary, visit by boat from Royan April to September.

Bastide Towns

Built in South West France during the Middle Ages, notably between the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers, these fortified settlements on strategic hilltop sites were created to protect the rural population during the Hundred Years War.

English and French both created these ‘new towns’ to a grid plan around a central market square, with land and privileges given to locals prepared to live in and defend them. Two of the best preserved at wonderfully scenic locations are at Monpazier and Monflanquin.

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