Biarritz was originally settled by Vikings who invaded Gascony in 840. The town turned out to be a very good spot for whaling, and so the Viking stayed on.
Biarritz began to gain significant attention in the mid 1800s, when Empress Eugeni (wife to Napolean III), had a palace built for herself right on the beach. The British royal family soon began taking their vacation in Biarritz as well. The area recevied regular visits from Queen Victoria, Edward VII, and Alfonso XIII of Spain. In fact, it was the English who gave the town its first golf course (Golf du Phare) and its first horseriding competitions. A bit later, in the early 1900s, the Casino Municipal and the Casino Bellevue began attracting even more famous guests and entertainers, including Sarah Bernhardt and Lucien Guitry.
Today, Biarritz is much more accessible to the typical vacationer. Surf shops and reasonably priced hotels abound, though the breathtaking beaches and oceans have not lost any of their appeal.