Pau, the capital of the Bearn department in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques is set between the mountains and the oceans in the far southwest tip of France. It’s a classified city of art and history with a wonderfully preserved heritage. But it’s also a modern metropolis which has undergone a major makeover and urban renewal which has left it invigorated with a dynamic vibe. There’s plenty to see and do in this energetic city but here are some of the must-sees…
Follow in the footsteps of Henri IV
Built in the 14th century, the lofty chateau was the birthplace of Renaissance king Henri IV in December 1553. The royal baby was rocked in a turtle shell cradle that is still on display. There are large number of tapestries and a collection dedicated to Henry IV. Open all year apart from 1 Jan, 1 May and 25 Dec. Free shuttle bus from Place de Verdun car park. Details: www.chateau-pau.fr
Stroll the Boulevard des Pyrenees
Step back into the Belle Epoque when Pau town was a popular winter resort with wealthy travellers for its clean mountain air, multiple amenities, and elegant villas. Built from 1894 to 96, the Boulevard stands on a viaduct with large arcs supported by 49 piers. project was inspired by Jean-Charles Alphand, who wrote: “Pau lacks the Promenade des Anglais in Nice”. The boulevard was therefore conceived as a mountain replica of the Nice thoroughfare, a privileged place to “see and be seen”.
Pau Museum of Fine Arts
One of the biggest museums in the region, it houses both old and contemporary artworks from the 15th-20th centuries including work by Degas, Rubens and El Greco.
Enjoy a taste of the Béarn with a Pass Gourmand
Choose from 45 local food specialities from 22 craft producers in the Halles and around the town centre with a great value Pass Gourmand. Eat on site or take away. Includes macarons and chocolate, cheese and Jurançon wine.
Discover the French soldier who became King of Sweden
Musée Bernadotte is housed in the birthplace of the young soldier who became King of Sweden in 1810. Atmospheric property with wooden galleries overlooking cobbled courtyard. Open daily except Monday and major public holidays.
Watch a sporting event
Le Grand Prix de Pau takes place around the city streets in May. And lovers of equestrian sport flock to the town in October for the 4* equestrian Three Day Event. Pau is also one of the top three towns to host the Tour de France, the first race having taken place in 1930. Cycling fans should head to the Tour des Géants statues of the winners of the Grande Boucle. There are loads of events each year in Pau. Find out more from the Tourist Office: https://www.pau-pyrenees.com/
Read our city focus article – what to see and do in Pau
Tourist Information: Visit www.tourismepau.com
Gillian Thornton is an award-winning travel writer specialising in French destinations and lifestyle and a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers.