The history of the Biarritz lighthouse

histoire phare biarritz

Eminent symbol of the city of Biarritz, the Lighthouse is one of the historical and touristic places not to be missed under any pretext. Erected on a cliff nearly 73 meters high, the lighthouse itself rises to 47 meters high (including the focal point). Dominating the ocean and its immensity, the Lighthouse of Biarritz has crossed the ages since the Pointe Saint-Martin. This building is a majestic testimony of the past (and the future!) of the city.


Stages in the history of the Biarritz lighthouse

The lighthouse of Biarritz is one of the most emblematic sites of the Basque Country. Its construction began in 1830 and was completed in 1834. It was designed by the commission of the Lighthouses and beacons service in 1825.

The Biarritz lighthouse is the first French lighthouse to be built with a Fresnel lens. This type of lens was invented by Augustin Fresnel in 1823 and allows to obtain a more powerful light beam.

Also remarkable for its location, the lighthouse is situated on a rock on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Atlantic and more precisely the Cape Hainsart. The lighthouse of Biarritz is thus one of the most powerful lighthouses in Europe with a range of about 50 km. The light intensity is also very high since it can reach up to 1 million candelas.

The light beam emitted by the headlight is visible even during the day. It is therefore a very powerful aid to navigation. It has allowed the safe passage of many ships over the years. It is also a very popular tourist attraction. Indeed, the lighthouse is one of the most visited sites in the Basque Country. Every year, thousands of people come to admire the magnificent panorama offered by the site.

This architectural building is an important monument of the Basque heritage.

The Lighthouse of Biarritz: theater of political and diplomatic exchanges in 2019

Emmanuel Macron avait élu le Phare de Biarritz pour recevoir les membres du G7 en 2019. Choisi en quelque sorte en « last minute » par le Président de la République, le site a accueilli le 24 août 2019 les chefs d’États ou premiers ministres du G7.

Thus, Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Boris Johnson, Justin Trudeau, Giuseppe Conte, Shinzo Abe, and the President of the European Council Donald Tusk met with Emmanuel Macron around a table at the foot of the Biarritz Lighthouse.

Of course, this meeting between heads of state was the subject of a meal with a Basque flavour... And if we can remember an amusing anecdote, the Élysée kitchens were instructed on this occasion to select only bottles of wine that did not exceed €25.


Developments at the Biarritz Lighthouse since its construction

The Biarritz lighthouse was originally octagonal in shape. It was enlarged in 1950 to a cylindrical shape. This important modification coincided with the electrification of the building.

The Biarritz lighthouse was automated in 1980. Unlike the Nividic lighthouse (west of Ushant) which was built in 1936 and was fully automated from the start. In the end, the Biarritz lighthouse did not need a lighthouse keeper thanks to automatic management and remote control.

This monument in the city of Biarritz has been listed as a historical monument since 2009.

Finally, the last modifications to the Biarritz Lighthouse took place in 2020. The aim was to restore the lantern room, and to install glass windows to eradicate moisture seepage through the old plexiglass windows.


Details of the Biarritz Lighthouse

The lantern room is surrounded by a remarkable frieze. We cannot say whether this frieze is inspired by the Art Deco movement (which can be found in many places in Biarritz), but it is a simple and delicate representation of waves.

In addition, twelve gargoyles, bronze lion heads, adorn the copper dome of the lighthouse.

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histoire phare biarritz
The history of the Biarritz lighthouse

Eminent symbol of the city of Biarritz, the Lighthouse enters the list of the historical and tourist places not to be missed under any pretext. Erected