Saint-Jean-de-Luz & Ciboure are small towns at the mouth of the River Nivelle, near the border with Spain. St Jean, the larger, is east of the river and straight in front of the railway station, while Ciboure is a village some 500 m west across the river bridge - for practical purposes they're a single community. Their chief attraction is their well preserved centres, with Basque-style houses. St Jean is also a beach resort.
The bus halt is by the railway station. About ten buses a day run west to Hendaye and east to Biarritz and Bayonne.
St Jean is on the main line which runs north to Biarritz and Bayonne, thence to Bordeaux and Paris Montparnasse: the TGVs to Paris stop here. Change at Bayonne for trains to & from Toulouse and the Pyrenees towns. The main line continues south to terminate at Hendaye on the border: Spanish railway gauge doesn't match standard European, so you have to change trains for San Sebastian / Donostia and for Madrid.
The old town is pedestrianized. Parking is available nearby and further out from the old town; free parking is available near the train station. All parking fills quickly during the busy summer months.
See and doEdit
- Walk the old centres. St Jean's old town is very attractive with a mix of buildings in the Basque colours of white, red and green (the Basque colours). Maison Louis XIV is where the king stayed before his marriage to Maria Teresa: it's sometimes open for tours in mid-summer. The beach ("Grand Plage") stretches east of the estuary and gets busy in summer.
- Église St-Jean Baptiste (Church of St John the Baptist), rue Gambetta, St Jean de Luz. Daily 10:00-12:00 and 14:00-16:00 except during Mass. Nondescript from the outside but a remarkable interior. High galleries reflect the Basque tradition that men and women had separate areas in church; a ship hangs from the ceiling. The great Baroque altar and retable in 1660 saw the wedding of Louis XIV of France and Maria Teresa of Spain. Free.
- Église St-Vincent in Ciboure has similar galleries, and an odd bell-tower with a three-tiered roof.
The main shopping street is Rue Gambetta with lots of little shops, cafes and boutiques. Basque-related items include local condiments and textiles with Basque colours and patterns.
The covered market has a wide selection of food, including a small restaurant.
Lots of eating places in St Jean, and several in Ciboure.
- Chez Maya (Le Petit Grill Basque), 2 rue St-Jacques. Authentic Basque specialties.
- Pub du Corsaire, 16 rue de la Republique. Daily 17:00-02:00. Great selection of beers.
Many visitors are on day-trips, but as a beach resort there's accommodation here. Book ahead if you come mid-summer.
- Hotel de la Plage, 48 Promenade Jacques Thiboud (at junction with rue Garat), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 3 star, white building with red shutters looking onto beach. Includes bar / restaurant Le Brouillarta.
The main transport route is north to Biarritz and Bayonne, and south to Hendaye and into Spain. You'll need your own car to explore Basque & Pyrenees villages such as Sare, Ainhoa, Espelette, St Jean Pied de Port, and the mountaintop of La Rhune.