This Coastal European Town Is Full Of Rich History And Unforgettable Beaches

Given that France has coastal areas along its northern, western, and southern regions means that the country's beaches vary in scenery. As the location of the monumental D-Day invasion during World War II, Normandy's Omaha Beach on the northern coast has remnants of German war bunkers and monuments to the fallen Allied soldiers. The southern beaches of the French Riviera on the Mediterranean are shrouded in luxury from anchored yachts to casinos, not to mention the annual star-studded Cannes Film Festival.

Another expansive beach in a historic location is found at the southwestern French town of Hendaye in France's Basque region. This region stretches into northern Spain as well. In fact, Hendaye is right on the Spanish border and despite its small size and location, Hendaye is connected to the rest of the country by trains. Basque is a language and a culture as well. Despite conquests over the centuries, its influence remains and the small town of Hendaye is no exception.

Visit a castle owned by a 19th century French scholar

Hendaye's Château d'Abbadie (Abbadia Castle) dates back to the 1860s. 19th century scholar Antoine d'Abbadie wanted the site to be built. His scholarly influence is evident in the astronomical observatory. The neo-Gothic structure and its eclectic cultural decor is on display to the public, but tickets must be booked online.

Maison de la Corniche Asporotsttipi is an old farm house which now shows off the region's geology, wildlife, and history of human activities. It is located just minutes from the Château d'Abbadie and is free of charge year round. From the Maison, it is easy to reach the Chemin d'Haicabia, a lovely hiking trail with ocean views.

The ocean cuts into Hendaye, forming a small inlet with Spain within eyesight. Wander along the Passarelle and Passarelle de Caneta, which are above-water walking paths.  These two paths are nearly connected along the bay, save for the Villa Mauresque between them. On these walkways, you can enjoy the beautiful blue water with ships coming and going. The path is also lined with stone buildings right on the water's edge.

Relax at the beach or hike in a nature preserve

A trip to Hendaye would not be complete without visiting its beaches. Plage d'Hendaye is almost two miles long. It begins at the opening of the previously mentioned inlet along Spain's border. At this opening you will see the Jetée Hendaye fishing pier. On the beach's other end is Les Deux-Jumeaux. From here, the iconic Rochers des deux Jumeaux are in view. These are large rocks off the coast which are quite juxtaposed against the fine sand. Between Rochers des deux Jumeaux and the Château d'Abbadie is the Domaine d'Abbadia, a nature preserve with the Sentier de La Corniche hiking trail. The trail begins on Rue d'Armatonde west of the château.

A crown jewel of sorts for Plage d'Hendaye is Casino d'Hendaye, also known as Résidence Croisière. This building was built in 1884 with an Arabic design flair. The casino has slot machines and poker, but also has a restaurant serving local cuisine Wednesday through Sunday. The area has shopping opportunities as well, all from the Boulevard de la Mer along the coast.