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For other uses, see Bayonne (disambiguation).
The city hall
The city hall
Coat of arms of Bayonne
Coat of arms
Bayonne is located in France
Coordinates: 43°29′N 1°29′W / 43.49°N 1.48°W / 43.49; -1.48Coordinates: 43°29′N 1°29′W / 43.49°N 1.48°W / 43.49; -1.48
Country France
Region Aquitaine
Department Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Arrondissement Bayonne
Canton Chief town of 3 cantons
Intercommunality Bayonne-Anglet-Biarritz
 • Mayor (2008–2014) Jean Grenet (Radical-UMP)
 • Land1 21.68 km2 (8.37 sq mi)
Population (2006)
 • Population2 45,636
 • Population2 density 2,100/km2 (5,500/sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 64102 / 64100
Elevation 0–85 m (0–279 ft)
(avg. 4 m or 13 ft)

1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Bayonne (French pronunciation: ​[bajɔn]; Gascon Baiona [baˈjunɔ]; Basque: Baiona [baiona]; Spanish: Bayona) is a city and commune in southwestern France at the confluence of the Nive and Adour rivers, in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department, of which it is a sub-prefecture. It belongs to both vernacular cultural regions of Basque Country and Gascony.

Together with nearby Anglet, Biarritz, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, and several smaller communes, Bayonne forms an urban area with 178,965 inhabitants at the 1999 census, 40,078 of whom lived in the city of Bayonne proper (44,300 as of 2004 estimates).

The communes of Bayonne, Biarritz, and Anglet have joined into an intercommunal entity called the Agglomération Côte Basque-Adour (formerly Communauté d'agglomération de Bayonne-Anglet-Biarritz (BAB) prior to 2010).[1]


In the 3rd century AD, the area was the site of a Roman castrum called Lapurdum, which was a military site, but not a port. In 840 the Vikings appeared before Lapurdum; in 842, Viking chieftain Björn Ironside and his troops launched a large-scale inland offensive and settled outside the city on the river bank.[citation needed] Lapurdum was an oppidum and they needed a port. Bayonne (from Basque ibai, "river") became a key place on the route between the Adour and Ebro rivers, which served as a kind of link between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.[citation needed] This commercial route was the main goal of Danish invaders in France. By this route, they could easily reach Muslim-controlled Tortosa, which was the main marketplace in Europe dealing with slaves.[citation needed]

By the 13th century, the city was an important port, with a Gascon and Basque population. As part of Aquitaine, it was ruled by England between 1151 to 1452 and was a key commercial center at the southern end of the English kingdom.

Its importance waned somewhat when the French king, Charles VII, took the city at the end of the Hundred Years' War and the Adour changed course shortly afterwards, leaving Bayonne without its access to the sea. The French, however, realised Bayonne's strategic site near the Spanish border and in 1578 dug a canal to again redirect the river through the city.

Bayonne endured numerous sieges from Plantagenet times until the end of the First French Empire in 1814. In the 17th century, Vauban built large fortifications and the Citadelle in and around the city. These proved crucial in 1813 and 1814, when Wellington's army besieged the city in the Napoleonic Wars, only taking it when they used a bridge of ships across the Adour to position artillery around the city.

Bayonne's location close to the border, but also within the Basque Country straddling both France and Spain, gave it an often privileged position in commerce. Basque sailors travelled the world, bringing back products such as cinnamon and riches from piracy and the whaling and cod trades. An armaments industry developed, giving the world the "bayonet". Jewish refugees from the Spanish Inquisition from 1560 brought new trades, most notably chocolate-making, which is still important in Bayonne. Spanish Basques also sought refuge in Bayonne in the 20th century during Francisco Franco's repression, with Petit Bayonne still a centre of Basque nationalism.

Petit Bayonne, a view across the Nive River

By the mid-19th century, Bayonne had declined somewhat with the centralisation of power to Paris and to the new département capital, non-Basque Pau, after the 1789 French Revolution, and with Wellington's bombardment. However, rail links with Paris from 1854 and the growing importance of nearby Biarritz as a tourist centre brought industrialisation and development. Bayonne is now part of 'BAB' (Bayonne-Anglet-Biarritz), a metropolitan area of almost 200,000 people.

Bayonne was part of the Zone occupée in the German occupation of France during World War II.


Historical population
Year Pop.   ±%  
1793 12,578 —    
1800 13,190 +4.9%
1806 14,006 +6.2%
1821 13,248 −5.4%
1831 14,773 +11.5%
1841 17,303 +17.1%
1851 18,870 +9.1%
1861 25,611 +35.7%
1872 27,173 +6.1%
1881 26,261 −3.4%
1891 27,192 +3.5%
1901 27,601 +1.5%
1911 27,886 +1.0%
1921 28,215 +1.2%
1931 31,727 +12.4%
1946 32,620 +2.8%
1954 32,575 −0.1%
1962 36,941 +13.4%
1968 42,743 +15.7%
1975 42,938 +0.5%
1982 41,381 −3.6%
1990 40,051 −3.2%
1999 40,478 +1.1%
2006 44,406 +9.7%
2011 44,331 −0.2%

Main sights[edit]

The Château Vieux

The Nive divides Bayonne into Grand Bayonne and Petit Bayonne, with five bridges between the two, both quarters still backed by Vauban's walls. The houses lining the Nive are examples of Basque architecture, with half-timbering and shutters in the national colours of red and green. The much wider Adour is to the north. The Pont Saint-Esprit connects Petit Bayonne with the Quartier Saint-Esprit across the Adour, where the massive Citadelle and the railway station are located. Grand Bayonne is the commercial and civic hub, with small pedestrianised streets packed with shops, plus the cathedral and Hôtel de Ville.

The Cathédrale Sainte-Marie is an imposing, elegant Gothic building, rising over the houses, glimpsed along the narrow streets. It was constructed in the 12th and 13th centuries. The south tower was completed in the 16th century but the cathedral was only completed in the 19th century with the north tower. The cathedral is noted for its charming cloisters. There are other details and sculptures of note, although much was destroyed in the Revolution.

Nearby is the Château Vieux, some of which dates back to the 12th century, where the governors of the city were based, including the English Black Prince.

Sainte-Marie Cathedral

The Musée Basque is the finest ethnographic museum of the entire Basque Country. It opened in 1922 but has been closed for a decade recently for refurbishment. It now has special exhibitions on Basque agriculture, seafaring and pelota, handicrafts and Basque history and way of life.

The Musée Bonnat began with a large collection bequeathed by the local-born painter Léon Bonnat. The museum is one of the best galleries in south west France and has paintings by Edgar Degas, El Greco, Sandro Botticelli, and Francisco Goya, among others.

At the back of Petit Bayonne is the Château Neuf, among the ramparts. Now an exhibition space, it was started by the newly arrived French in 1460 to control the city. The walls nearby have been opened to visitors. They are important for plant life now and Bayonne's botanic gardens adjoin the walls on both sides of the Nive.

The area across the Adour is largely residential and industrial, with much demolished to make way for the railway. The Saint-Esprit church was part of a bigger complex built by Louis XI to care for pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela. It is home to a wooden Flight into Egypt sculpture.

Overlooking the quarter is Vauban's 1680 Citadelle. The soldiers of Wellington's army who died besieging the citadelle in 1813 are buried in the nearby English Cemetery, visited by Queen Victoria and other British dignitaries when staying in Biarritz.

The distillery of the famous local liqueur Izarra is located on the northern bank of the Adour and is open to visitors.


Culture and sport[edit]

Bayonne has the longest tradition of bull-fighting in France and there is a ring beyond the walls of Grand Bayonne. The season runs between July and September. Bull-fighting is part of the five-day Fêtes de Bayonne which starts on the first Wednesday of August and attracts people from across the Basque Country and beyond. Parades, music, dance, fireworks, food, and drink all feature in the celebrations. Soon after the Assumption festival of 15 August heralds a few more days of bull-fights.

There are also important festivals of Jazz (July), Bayonne ham (Holy Week), theatre and pelota (the Basque sport).

Aviron Bayonnais is the city's rugby union club, founded in 1904 and French champions three times, in 1913, 1934, and 1943. The local football team is Aviron Bayonnais FC.

Basque is the main language spoken in this city, together with French.

Economy and products[edit]

Bayonne is known for its fine chocolates, produced in the town for 500 years, and Bayonne ham, a cured ham seasoned with peppers from nearby Espelette. Izarra, the liqueur made in bright green or yellow colours, is distilled locally. It is said by some that Bayonne is the birthplace of mayonnaise, supposedly a corruption of Bayonnaise, the French adjective describing the city's people and produce. Now bayonnaise can refer to a particular mayonnaise flavoured with the Espelette chillis.

Bayonne is now the centre of certain craft industries that were once widespread, including the manufacture of makilas, traditional Basque walking-sticks. The Fabrique Alza just outside the city is known for its palas, bats used in pelota, the traditional Basque sport.

As of 1935, its chief industries were shipbuilding, tanning and pottery. In the late 20th century, the processing of by-products from the Lacq natural gas field near Pau became important, although Bayonne has had higher-than-average unemployment. Metallurgy also provides local jobs.

The Port of Bayonne situated near the mouth of the Adour River, is the ninth largest in France, serving traffic of over 4.3 million tonnes per year. Cargo products include hydrocarbons, steel products, chemical products, fertiliser, sulphur, wood, maize and cattle feed.


The Gare de Bayonne is on the high-speed TGV line between Paris and Hendaye for connections with Spain. In practice, the line slows considerably beyond Bordeaux although there are plans to improve the service. There are regional rail services along the Basque coast, to Pau and through the Landes to Dax and Bordeaux. There is a line along the Nive valley through Labourd and Lower Navarre to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, used principally by tourists and hikers.

The city is near the intersection between the A63 autoroute between Bordeaux and the Spanish border and the A64 from Bayonne to Toulouse.

Bayonne's airport is Aéroport de Biarritz-Anglet-Bayonne 6 km (3.7 mi) away from the city towards Anglet and is shared with Biarritz and Anglet.

The city bus system is called Chronoplus (fr) and connects Bayonne with Anglet, Biarritz and other communes.

Bayonne harbour is a stop over for yachts and boats crossing the Gulf of Biscay on their way from the UK to the Iberian Peninsula, the Atlantic, or the Mediterranean. The direct route from the UK across the Bay of Biscay and down to Atlantic Spain and Portugal

Notable people[edit]

City government[edit]

The Mayor of Bayonne from 1995 to 2007 was Jean Grenet, from the centre-right UMP. The 39-person town council is also dominated by the UMP, who hold 31 of the seats. The centre-left group has five seats, the Basque nationalist Baiona Berria have two, and the communist LCR one.

International relations[edit]

Twin towns – Sister cities[edit]

Bayonne is twinned with:[2]

Friendships and Cooperations[edit]

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ Prefectural order of 28/12/2010, extending the boundaries, modifying the bylaws, and changing the designation of CABAB
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "National Commission for Decentralised cooperation". Délégation pour l’Action Extérieure des Collectivités Territoriales (Ministère des Affaires étrangères) (in French). Retrieved 2013-12-26. 
  • http://www.chateaudevayres.com/home.html In French and English, with views of the Castle by Louis de Foix, the 16th-century French Engineer who deviated the River Adour near Bayonne.
  • Leon H. Histoire des Juifs de Bayonne, Paris, Armand Durlacher, 1893. in-4 : xvj, 436 pp. ; illustré de 4 planches hors-texte.

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayonne — Please support Wikipedia.
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