When we spent a summer holiday in the French Basque town of Guéthary, Saint-Jean-de-Luz was the nearest large market town.

It also happened to be an architectural gem, situated on a  beautiful bay.

I’ve already written about the stunning coastal path we took to walk here, the same coastal path that led us 25 km down to the border with Spain.

Saint Jean de Luz/Sullivan

Once you’ve enjoyed swimming in the gentle waves of the long, sandy beach of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, you’ll enjoy wandering the picturesque streets of this historic town.

This pretty coastal resort was once a den of pirates and traders, which is how the two grew rich between the 16th and 19th centuries. It was (like most of the Basque coast) an important whaling region (until the whales begin to disappear). Fishing for cod, sardines and tuna also contributed to the local economy.

The Basque architecture, with its half-timbered houses – white with red or green trim – are predominant in the town.

In 1660, the 9 June 1660 to be precise, Saint-Jean-de-Luz played host to the royal wedding of the century. France’s Sun King (a.k.a. King Louis XIV) wed Marie-Therese of Austria at a grand ceremony at the Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste.

You can visit this betrothal site today. Destroyed by fire in 1419, the cathedral was completely rebuilt and maintains its splendid 17th century interior.

Make sure to see the impressive Maison Louis XIV, where the Sun King stayed prior to his nuptials, and the Venetian-inspired Maison de l’ Infante, Marie-Therese’s abode before the royal wedding.

Modern Saint-Jean-de-Luz is also site to a fabulous market, with plenty of Basque and local specialties, and an impressive fish market. There is a popular seafood restaurant just beside the market where we ate. Don’t miss out if you’re shopping here.

I’m missing all the great seafood already…

We adored our time in picture-perfect Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Don’t miss out on this stunning Basque coastal town when you’re next in the region.