Bayonne Things to Do

  • Things to Do
    by bijo69
  • Things to Do
    by bijo69
  • Things to Do
    by bijo69

Most Recent Things to Do in Bayonne

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    Biarritz

    by bijo69 Updated Jul 7, 2009

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    If you're staying in Bayonne you should definitely visit nearby Biarritz. This luxurios seaside town started of as a whaling port back in the 12th century. The rich and famous started to swarm to Biarritz in the 19th century when Queen Eugenie began to come to Biarritz regularily.

    Apart from enjoying the beach and the sea, you can also visit a couple of museums, like the musée de la mer.

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    Basque Museum

    by bijo69 Written Jul 2, 2009

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    The Basque Museum is a great place to go to learn more about basque tradition and also about the history of Bayonne.
    I found the exhibits very interesting, but I think they could have been organized a bit better.
    Opening times: Tuesdays-Sundays from 10am to 6:30pm
    Admission is 5,50 EUR, free for everybody under 18
    Free admission also on the first Sunday of each month, except for July and August; in July and August each Wednesday from 6:30pm-9:30pm

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    Old Castle

    by bijo69 Written Jul 1, 2009

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    The Old Castle was built in the 11th century by the Viscounts of Labourd. During the century it was altered a few times and now belongs to the army and therefor can't be visited. You can have a peek into the courtyard though.

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    Cloister

    by bijo69 Written Jul 1, 2009

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    The adjoining cloister was built between the 13th and 14th century and was intended as a cemetary. Later it was also used as a meeting place for the city council and as a base for merchants.
    Opening times: Mondays-Sundays 9am-12.30pm and 2pm-5pm (16.09.-15.05.)
    2pm-6pm (15.05.-16.05.)

    Admission is free

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    Cathedral Notre Dame de Sainte Marie

    by bijo69 Written Jul 1, 2009

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    Bayonne's beautiful gothic cathedral was built between the 12th and the 16th century, with the two spires added only in the 19th century.
    Visiting hours: Monday-Saturday 10am-11.45am and 3pm-5.45pm
    Sundays 3.30pm-6pm

    Amission is free

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    Statue to Charles Martial Lavigerie

    by mikey_e Written Jan 2, 2009
    Statue to Charles Martial Lavigerie
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    Charles Martial Lavigerie was a pioneer of Catholic-Muslims relations, you could say. Born in 1825 in Bayonne, he taught at the Sorbonne and discovered Islam and Arab culture in Syria. He was an Cardinal and named the Primate of Africa by the Holy See, as he founded the White Fathers, whose mission was to evangelize the peoples of Africa. This should not be seen as a sign that he was ultra-conservative or a racist - he used his position to rail against slavery and support the Republican cause. As such, Cardinal Lavigerie sought to emancipate both the body and soul of the peoples of Africa. In honour of this son of Bayonne, a statue was erected on the Bayonne side of the Pont Saint-Esprit. It's not very prominent, but it is likely that you will pass as you cross from the train station. It caught my eye and my fancy, which is why I decided to snap a few pictures.

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    La Nive

    by mikey_e Written Jan 2, 2009

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    The Nive looking towards the Adour
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    The Nive is the second, smaller river that runs through Bayonne and that splits Petit Bayonne off from Grand Bayonne. In fact, Bayonne is where the Nive ceases to be a separate river, as the city is at the confluence of this river and the Adour. The Nive is an entirely Basque river: it originates above Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (Donebane Garazi) and flows down to Bayonne, passing thround Nafarroa Behera and Lapurdi. In Bayonne, the quays along the Nive provide a picturesque setting for restaurants (some of which are quite good, others not so much) as well as some shops and the Musée Basque. The Pont Marengo crosses the Nive to connect the two parts of Bayonne.

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    L'Adour

    by mikey_e Written Jan 2, 2009

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    Le Pont Saint-Esprit over the Adour
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    The Adour is the river that flows through Bayonne, cutting Grand Bayonne and Petit Bayonne from the quarter of Saint-Esprit and the train station. It is also a significant river with respect to linguistics and dialectology, as it represents a rough border between the Gascon-speaking areas of Aquitaine and the Basque Country, with Bayonne a mixed zone. This is a major river that flows from the Western Pyrenees, south-east of Tarbes, into the Atlantic Ocean. When I visited the city in August, the river seemed to be quite low, which is to be expected given the lack of rainfall and the general fall in rain and snow waters during the summer months. I don't believe that you can or would want to swim in the Adour, but there are boats all along it and you can undoubtedly go for a cruise. The main bridge crossing the river in the city centre is the Pont Saint-Esprit, which is remarkable for the various flags that line the bridge - both national and regional ones.

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    La Mairie

    by mikey_e Written Jan 2, 2009

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    La Mairie de Bayonne
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    French cities generally have pretty impressive town halls (La Mairie). Bayonne is no exception, and if you enter the city from the train station, you will certainly notice the grand building to your right that dominates the entrance to the city. The thing is that the architecture of the building and the square, with a great view of the Adour behind them, seem much more Mediterranean (i.e. something you'd find in an Italian town) than you would expect of a Western French town. It adds a bit of lazy sunshine, something you'd find in Marseille or along the Riviera, to a city in a region that is generally perceived as being rougher and more oriented to the hard work of the seas. The square in front of the town hall has a mosaic, while the arcade at the front of the building, of course, houses a café and a tobacco shop. I don't believe that you are allowed to enter the building to tour it, but you are certainly welcome to take pictures.

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    Église Saint-Esprit

    by mikey_e Written Jan 2, 2009

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    ��glise Saint-Esprit
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    The Église Saint-Esprit is in the autonomous commune of Saint-Esprit, which is located across the Adour from Bayonne. The ironic thing is that this commune is home to the Bayonne train station, and as such will likely be the first place you visit in Bayonne if you arrive by train. The Église Saint-Esprit caught my fancy because the architecture of the building is so bizarre. Not that the architecture in itself is unique, but rather that it appears to be a small Mexican church dropped into the middle of what is, for all intensive purposes, a sleazy neighbourhood of a provincial French city. It has whitewashed walls and a fairly plain interior, and is fairly small. The impression is rather ruined by the shwarma shops across from the church, but it returns when you enter the building and can peacefully examine the structure and its characteristics.

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    The Synagogue

    by mikey_e Written Jan 2, 2009

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    The Synagogue
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    The Synagogue of Bayonne is not a tourist attraction, and thus it is not officially open to the public. Nevertheless, Jews played a very important role in the city's history, and so it would be mistaken not to include it somehow in a review of the city's attractions. Jews from Spain and Portugal began arriving in Bayonne after the Inquisition, and with them they brought something that would make Bayonne and France world famous: chocolate. Yes, given that it was first used by the native peoples of the Americas, chocolate first entered Europe through the Iberian Peninsula and as a result of the order of expulsion by the Catholic kings and the Portuguese monarchy, it was further exported to the rest of Europe. Together with chocolate and their traditional inclination to commerce, the Sephardic Jews integrated into Bayonne, which was a thriving commercial centre, and became part of the city's social fabric. A synagogue still stands in the Saint-Esprit quarter, which is near the train station and across the Adour from Grand and Petit Bayonne. It was designed and built in 1837 by Capdeville, and across from it is a hospice for elderly Jews founded by two bankers, Rodrigues and Salazar, in 1861. You can snap a few pictures through the gate, but I would imagine that to actual see the building itself you will need to make an appointment.

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    Château-Neuf

    by mikey_e Written Jan 2, 2009

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    Ch��teau Neuf from below
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    The Château-Neuf is, obviously, the newer version of the Château-Vieux. It sits atop the highest point in Petite Bayonne, in order to provide a look-out over this part of the city, which I don't believe would have been included in the defensive structure of Grande Bayonne (given that the Nive and the Adour separate the two). In the 12th century there were English installements here (since Aquitaine was occupied by the English from the 11th to the 14th centuries), but they were destroyed. In the 15th century, Charles IV had a new castle built where the English one had been, which is now the Château-Neuf. The buildings themselves are quite impressive and provide good opportunities for taking pictures and the like, but I'm not sure that there is much to do in them. When I walked up to the gate, everything on the inside of the walls was under construction. It appears that the University is planning to house its information centre here, so everything has been ripped up and caged off. Still, it is worth it to hike up and take a look, if only for the great views and pictures of Petite Bayonne that you will be able to get by making it to the gate.

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    Église Saint-André

    by mikey_e Written Jan 1, 2009

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    ��glise Saint-Andr�� from the Ch��teau Neuf
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    The Église Saint-André might very well be considered something that is off the beaten track, except that it is right below the massive Château Neuf in Petite Bayonne and so pretty hard to miss if you were attracted to that site. I arrived at it because I was wandering around Petite Bayonne looking for an internet café (there appear to be absolutely none in Bayonne). The church was built in the 1850s and 1860s, when neo-Gothic churches were all the rage, especially those modelled on the famous Notre-Dame de Paris. Saint-André has the feeling of a modern place of worship that is not of great historical significance, and it generally isn't, except that it contains a very large organ, commissioned by Napoleon III, and also that it has a scene by Léon Bonnat. Some of the stained glass inside the church is pretty, but on the whole I would really only suggest that you visit this church as part of a general walking tour of Petite Bayonne, and not seek to go to it specifically.

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    Cloister of Sainte-Marie de Bayonne

    by mikey_e Written Jan 1, 2009

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    The courtyard of the Cloisters
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    Given the sort of provincial feeling and reputation attached to Bayonne, it is a bit surprising that it hosts one of the largest cloister in all of France, a country known for its ability to build large and beautiful religious structures. The Cloisters attached to the Sainte-Marie de Bayonne Cathedral were built in the 1300s and are designed in a Gothic style, like the Cathedral. The courtyard in the central is incredibly large, and was used for various assemblies during the Middle Ages. There was once a northern gallery attached to the Cathedral, but it was taken down during the 19th century restaurations. On a year-round basis, the Cloisters exhibit a variety of Mediaeval funeral monuments and religious relics. In the summer, however, the shaded arcades and green courtyard host fairs and exhibitions. There was one of various handicrafts from the region while I was in Bayonne. Many of the items were the usual sort of fare you'd find at such events, but nevertheless it didn't detract from the beauty of the lavish porticoes and pillars all around the arcades.

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    La Poterne

    by mikey_e Written Jan 1, 2009

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    La Poterne
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    La Poterne is one of the seven gates that led into the city of Bayonne through its fortifications and the walls of the citadel. One of the others is the Porte d'Espagne (you can see my tip on that attraction too). The difference between the two of them, perhaps, is that the Poterne would have been much more important from a military stand point, as it enters the city right beside the the Château Vieux, a military installation, rather than near the residential areas of the Rue d'Espagne. For this reason, probably, la Poterne is much more fortified and would likely have been easier to protect than some of the other gates to the city. Today, it forms one of the entrances to the lush park known as the Promenade des Remparts, and is really just an open air historical attraction. I like the feeling that you get of passing into another age, however, and I think that it is probably an even more interesting attraction than some of the buildings in its vicinity.

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