St Jean De Luz
The locals call it the crown jewel in French Pays Basque, and we tend to agree. This très jolie old port town still has its roots firmly in the traditions of Basque life but offers a truly warm welcome.If you’re like us and love finding those places that are off the main tourist route then St Jean De Luz is for you. Although we (from across the water) don’t know much about this town doesn’t mean our French friends don’t, so it’ll be no surprise that the crowds in the summer are mostly French not English and there certainly isn’t a pub in sight!.It has won numerous awards for being the best family beach resort in France but it stills has its small town charm.
So what’s to do and what’s to see
Beaches for all, surfing one side and protected sweeping bay on the other.
Le grand plage
Is sat behind the main town, and is the perfect beach for families. It’s has great pontoons off the beach to swim out to and dive off into the azur blue ocean. From June through to September it offers a great kids club on the beach. It has a lovely play area for the little ones with toys and mini slides, but for the older ones it has zip wires, trampolines. There is a charge but if you want some quality Mummy and Daddy time it’s well worth the investment.
Beach and point breaks come rolling to the surf beaches in St Jean De luz (known as Acotz). It’s not really walking distance rom the main town itself so you need to plan. A good beach to go to is Erromardie. Parking is free but minimal at these beaches so July and August is really difficult to get anywhere near. Best bet is to use the buses from the campsite.
It’s everything you expect from a picturesque French town, shuttered windows, narrow streets and that urge for you to sit down and soak up the atmosphere in one of the many cafes. I don’t know why it works so well, but we just can’t quite do alfresco dining like our continental friends, I suppose it’s the weather but it’s engrained in them to take life at a different pace. Ambling round the streets you’ll find a beautiful Basque church, great market (Tuesday and Fridays, plus Saturdays in the summer) and a lovely marina. There are historic houses with fantastic architecture and a nice coastal path to take a stroll in the evening.
Food & Drink
Whether you’re after a crepe, or 3 courses day or evening St Jean De Luz is getting a great reputation for its food. We love traditional brasseries down the side streets and the cafes off the main square go down really well with the kids.
If you’re on the beachand don’t want to leave then there’s a small kiosk just on the corner leading down to the town which does great baguettes and even better Churros which will keep everyone happy.
The main square has around 4-5 café/restaurants. They offer a variety of meals and that great people-watching factor. We usually enjoy a crepe and a café au lait on the way back to the car and soak up the atmosphere.
Being close to San Sebastian, pintxos has made its way across the border. There are places like Bodega Koko and Pil-Pil Enea, which serve up lots of Basque favourites as well.
It’s known for it’s seafood (it even has it’s own Tuna festival in July) and Rue de la République is lined with restaurants displaying the catch of the day. If you’re after 3 courses and want to splash the cash then Restaurant Kaiku is top notch. Le Bistrot Luzien is in our opinion the best family restaurant town. Run by the previous owner of Bear Jean in Biarritz, it has great mix of authentic and contemporary dishes done really. With a great baby changing area this is perfect spot for toddlers too.A good but more simple option is the Macadam Caffe, which does truly great burgers with French twist and the best coffee in town. Bodega Plancha is our favourite authentic place for plancha cooking and pretty good value with a good kids menu.
Very much boutique central in St Jean De Luz, not many chains or brands that you would recognise in England and certainly no poundland or primarni. What you have is an eclectic mix. If you’re looking to buy something unique to the area then just look for the stripes of St Jean de Luz. Linked to colours of 7 regions in the Basque country you’ll see them turn up on everything from beach towels to table runners, but it’s done with style and panache. There a two or three shops that sell a range of items but there truly isn’t anything else represents a southwest French summer day more than this stripe.
We love Maison Adam, it’s shop facade with hanging chillies look so impressive but what’s inside is so tempting. I wasn’t a macaroon fan until I tried theirs and I haven’t had better dark chocolate anywhere else in the world. Whenever I visit the area it’s always my little treat to pop in and buy something for me, and if they have behaving, something for the kids and the other half as well!!
We think St Jean De Luz does have a lot to offer for the family so why not join us at our Col d’Ibardin campsite, which is only 10 minutes, and see for yourself.