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History of Biarritz

History of Biarritz

BIARRITZ: a royal history
The history of the present Biarritz dates back to the accession to the throne of Napoleon III in 1852, and particularly to his wedding with Eugenie de MONTIJO who will become the Empress Eugenie.
Until then, Biarritz was a small whaling harbour with only a few hundreds of inhabitants. But Victor Hugo, during his famous travel to Spain, had already noted the extraordinary beauty of the area and hoped Biarritz will never become a city in vogue and always preserve its untouched grandeur.
However, it is thanks to the construction of the imperial palace that the fishing harbour became a destination for the European royalty.
Eugenie de MONTIJO, in love with the area and its seaside, had a stylish villa built, in which the imperial family spent the summer during 10 years. The Imperial Court and the Government also migrated to Biarritz during summer.
In two decades, aristocratic villas, extraordinary palaces, casinos, performance halls, golf courses and racecourses were built. The world’s elite met in Biarritz: Russian Imperial family, Queen Victoria, royal families from Spain, Germany, Portugal, central Europe… along with the whole European and American aristocracy and bourgeoisie.
The well-known saying « Biarritz queen of the beaches and beach of the Kings » appeared at that time.
The city has preserved a unique architecture where can be found a wide range of styles from pseudo-Moorish to neo-Gothic.
This golden era lasted until World War I, which marked the end of a social organization that had made the cultural wealth of the city.
Between the two world wars Biarritz shined brightly: it was the era of the “roaring twenties” and the city was more famous than ever. Even today everyone can admire beautiful Art Deco constructions and splendid neo-regionalist villas, which are all protected.
The city suffered from World War II, when occupying forces used it as a place to rest.
From 1945 the city was on the decline, particularly because rich families disappeared, the ones that had made its grandeur, and because economical and social organization modes changed.
This morose era was followed by three decades of prosperity, a period that was very prosperous for Biarritz, especially because then everyone could access to holidays.
Biarritz is the European capital city for surfing, and it welcomes numerous tourists attracted by the ocean. Wellness and thalassotherapy activities are highly developed.
Nowadays Biarritz is well-known worldwide, it is a city that attracts tourists from everywhere, including from the emerging countries. It is one of the most active convention centre in France and one of the most sought after city.

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