The City of Bayonne, capital of the region, is a busy and historic cultural and commercial center. The narrow streets of the town center are lined with timber-framed houses. Ancient Roman fortifications are still visible near the 14th Century Gothic Cathedral of Saint-Marie. Medieval ramparts and forts built by the French kings are sprinkled throughout the old town.
The major attractions are the Bayonne fortifications and ramparts, but the Port of Bayonne holds many beautiful parks and amusements. The moat and ramparts are the site of the Jazz Festival, the Bayonne Expo, and several Basque festivals.
Nearby Biarritz has long been a favorite destination for travelers. It was established by Vikings in 840 AD who besieged the Port of Bayonne. Cultural communities (Vikings, Basques, and Scandinavians) were segregated until the early 20th Century. From the 12th Century, Biarritz was base for whalers. In the 18th Century, doctors believed the ocean at Biarritz was therapeutic and recommended patients to there for cures. In 1854, Empress Eugenie built a palace (now the Hotel du Palais) on the beach, and royal families from across Europe vacationed there.
Today, Biarritz boasts many amusements and entertainments for tourists. The Museum of the Sea has 24 aquaria with seals and sharks. The Asiatica Museum displays Asian art from India, Tibet, Nepal, and China. The seaside resort is home to the 12th Century St. Martin’s Church and the 19th Century Russian Orthodox Church. Biarritz is home to a Museum of Chocolate, two big casinos on the waterfront, and several major surfing and longboarding events.