The charming capital of the Basque region, Bayonne sits in southern France where the Nive and Adour rivers meet, carving out the city's major neighbourhoods. Look out for slender, half-timbered buildings, red beams and colourful, wooden shutters. Although a few miles inland, the city's rivers and bridges give it a seaside feel. The serene atmosphere is embodied in an abundance of waterfront eateries, where you can spend warm evenings trying the local speciality, Bayonne ham.
Bayonne hostels often have modern rooms and suites with free parking; a plus if you're exploring the region by car. You can expect extras such as free Wi-Fi, en-suite bathrooms and air con. Choose a Bayonne hostel with a bar where you can unwind after wandering the city's historic streets before heading out for dinner. For your own piece of the Basque country, pick up local souvenirs and handicrafts in an on-site shop.
The city's historic centre is Grand Bayonne. Known for its Gothic buildings and medieval streets, you'll also find picturesque, 18th-century buildings on Rue des Prébendés street. As a former fortress, this area's 17th-century ramparts have now been transformed into lush garden walkways. On the other side of the Nive river, the Petit Bayonne district hosts lively bars and a youthful crowd. Across the Adour, Saint-Esprit quarter is the home of the city's 500-year-old chocolate-making industry. Today it's a growing commercial and leisure district offering spectacular views of the rest of Bayonne.
Chocolates are still a Bayonne speciality, and you can learn how to make them yourself at the various branches of L’Atelier du Chocolat. Other attractions include the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie de Bayonne, a beautifully restored cathedral which provides an awe-inspiring setting for concerts and exhibitions throughout the summer. Head to the Musée Basque museum to discover more about the region's rich international heritage and culture. You can also visit the lively weekend market along the banks of the Nive or take a stroll underneath the old city walls at the vast Botanic Gardens.
From Biarritz Pays Basque Airport, you can get to the city centre by bus in 15 minutes. The city is also well connected by rail, and trains run regularly to Paris – a journey of around 5 hours. Within Bayonne and the surrounding region, there are plenty of city buses to get you around; pick up a multiple-journey ticket before you travel to save money. You can also hail a taxi, or simply explore the centre on foot.