Situated at the mouth of the Nivelle valley and at the bottom of an open, amphitheatre-shaped harbour between two promontories, Saint-Jean-de-Luz occupies a privileged position, south of the Basque coast, close to the Spanish border, along the ocean, on 7.5 km of coastline. In the Basque Country, Donibane Lohitzune (Saint-Jean-des-Marais), classified as a seaside and climatic resort since 1912, with its five beaches, offers a beautiful diversity, with its 30,000 tourist beds (13,000 beds in commercial accommodation and 17,000 beds in second homes). Close to Spain, only a few kilometres from the Spanish border, 25 km from San Sebastian and 140 km from Bilbao, it has a dynamic present without overshadowing a rich past. Saint-Jean-de-Luz was awarded the "Pays d'Art et d'Histoire" label in 2016.

Key dates in the history of Saint-Jean-de-Luz

From the 11th century. The town is mentioned under the name of Sanctus Johannes de Luis in the writings, it is then a barony belonging to the Viscount of Labourd which was given to the cathedral chapter of Bayonne around 1150. Unfortunate episode, in 1558, the whole town is burnt down, only the Ezkerenea house and the foundations of the church are spared. The barony was then bought back by the Luzians in 1570 with the related rights (rights of justice, tolls, fishing) but also commercial immunity. These privileges, confirmed by all the kings of France, make Saint-Jean-de-Luz a free and frank city, the most important and richest in Labourd, despite the almost permanent conflicts with Spain. Without a garrison or fortified enclosure, Saint-Jean-de-Luz lives under constant threat of invasions and looting, which were frequent in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The enemy sisters. Barely rebuilt after the fire of 1558, the city was again in conflict with its neighbour, Ciboure. For a long time a district of the parish of Urrugne, Ciboure, with 3,000 souls, was declared independent in 1603 and as such claimed its rights over the port. Legal in the first place, the conflict degenerates into bloody brawls between the two communities. In order to appease the spirits, the bayles (mayors) of the communes sought the support of the order of the Récollets and in 1611 built them a convent on the island separating the towns. A lull and a date will mark the 17th century, June 9, 1660, the marriage of Louis XIV. For it should be known that on 7 November 1659, the Treaty of the Pyrenees, negotiated by Cardinal Mazarin, put an end to an interminable war between France and Spain.

The marriage of Louis XIV. Among the one hundred and twenty-four points of the treaty is the union of the King of France, Louis XIV (1638-1715) with the Infanta Maria Theresa of Austria (1638-1683), eldest daughter of the King of Spain, Philip IV. And it is Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a city of 12,000 inhabitants, at the height of its prosperity thanks to its maritime activity, that is chosen to host the wedding ceremony. The century following another episode will test the economy of the commune this time, the Treaty of Utrecht signed in 1715, dispossessing France of its fishing rights in Newfoundland, will ruin the harbour activity. From 58 ships in the port in 1741, only one remained in 1748 and the population fell by two-thirds in less than 25 years. A strong storm in the 19th century that once again swept away a quarter of the city led to the closure of the bay with the construction of the Socoa dikes.

The success of sea bathing. It was then, faced with the success of sea bathing and its therapeutic virtues, that the first establishment was built in 1843, a success that can be seen today. Saint-Jean-de-Luz becomes the fashionable resort. We meet Alphonse XIII of Spain, the Prince of Bavaria, the Prince of Wales, the Maharajah of Kapurtala, the Grand Dukes Boris and Paul of Russia... In 1912, the town was classified as a thermal and climatic resort and the casino of La Pergola, designed by Mallet-Stevens, was inaugurated in 1929.

The must-see places in Saint-Jean-De-Luz/Donibanelohizune

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Pictures Saint-Jean-De-Luz/Donibanelohizune