If there is “one” French destination that we hear about every year in news, it is this one: Arcachon, its large sandy beaches bordered by the sweet smell of pine, its beautiful houses with unique architecture, the atmosphere of the food market on a Friday morning, the calm of the bay… a spot that we would jealously like to keep.
Only 45 minutes by train from Bordeaux, Arcachon and its bay have more tourists every year, even more the last two years with the COVID. Personally, Arcachon is almost a second home, my grand parents had a small apartment there which allowed me to spend all my summers in this magical place. 33 years later, despite the mutation of the city, I still find this good living feeling. I share with you today my most beautiful walks.
Arcachon is divided into several districts: The Summer, Spring, Autumn, Winter district and the famous Moulleau. To begin the tour, let’s go to the heights of the city in the district which is at the origin of its fame.
Discovering the Ville D’Hiver’s villas
From 1857 many patients settled in Arcachon for the benefits of its air, the city was quickly placed among the largest health cities in France.
Wealthy families then built sumptuous villas there, now listed as picturesque sites.
The walk in the Ville d’Hiver is unmissable and for the moment pretty much intimate, far from the crowded center of the city and the beach. No so many tourists pass through this side of Arcachon. You will therefore stroll through beautiful little streets lined with pine trees and will be able to admire old villas, each more breathtaking than the next, each telling its own story.
Here is a small list of villas not to be missed:
An idea of an itinerary starting from the city center to discover the Ville d’Hiver, but as always, do not hesitate to get lost.
Panoramic view from the Sainte-Cécile observatory
Hidden in the heart of the Ville d’Hiver, this is THE spot to view the city from the top: the Sainte-Cécile observatory.
With its 360° view of the city and the bay, only 70 steps separate you from the summit, an atypical work in which Gustave Eiffel would have participated (if however you find an air of resemblance to a known work, it is therefore -be no coincidence).
I cannot say how many sunsets I have admired there and we know (without wishing to be chauvinistic) that those of the South-West are the most magical. Be careful for those who have fear of heights, the climb is a little bit “moving”, but don’t worry once you get to the top, it’s worth the effort!
Peaceful walk in the Parc Mauresque
Not far from the Sainte-Cécile observatory is the Parc Mauresque. A large peaceful park where lovers, children, pentanque experts, botanic lovers and strollers of all kinds meet.
You can admire century-old, rare and exotic trees, small water places, a kiosk and period statues as a pretty as the rose garden that has more than 600 rosebushes. Near the park lift, don’t miss the view of the summer town and the model of the old Casino Mauresque which once stood in the park (unfortunately it was ravaged by fire in 1977).
La Ville de Printemps
Chill at at Pereire’s beach
If the beach in the city center already seems pleasant to you, wait until you see Pereire’s beach. Stretches of sand as far as the eye can see and lined with pine trees. A charm that no longer needs to be proven!
I recommend that you walk there in all weathers and at all hours. The sunset is of course a special moment, due to its beauty and calm (quite far from the city center).
For skaters, runners, cyclists, a beautiful walk will allow you to follow the edge of the water to Moulleau’s. For slackers, very beautiful spots in the pines are ideal to play.
Le Moulleau is a district of Arcachon located between Pereire and Le Pyla sur mer.
It is a pleasant little town center that is increasingly popular for enjoying the summer atmosphere. You can also see superb sunsets from its pier.
Lunch break: Le Jardin
Discovered three years ago, this small restaurant located at the very end of Moulleau the main alley, just at the foot of the Notre-Dame des Passes church, is worth the detour!
The Garden is aptly named, you will dine on a beautiful terrace covered with trees and flowers, a warm atmosphere guaranteed. The food is rather traditional with a limited menu (guarantee of quality) and very reasonable prices. We enjoy every visit.
La Ville d’Été
For a long time I was able to walk there eyes closed. Every street, every fountain, every shopkeeper, I knew la ville d’été by heart.
These last 10 years have changed things a bit, the city center has had a facelift and even if nostalgia makes me say “it was better before” we can’t deny that many places in the city have been beautifully renovated. .
Not to miss:
➡️ The market halls and its large square entirely surrounded by buildings in the Arcachon style.
➡️ The seaside walk
➡️ The pier Thiers, emblematic of the city’s landscape. It is also from there that you can cross the bay to reach Cap-Ferret.
➡️ The train station, yes the train station because it’s just beautiful ☺
➡️ The Casino
No not forget to taste:
- Cannelés from Marquet pastry (the best ever tasted)
Address: 11 Av. Gambetta, 33120 Arcachon
- A take-out burger at the little “El bocadillo” stall. In addition to preparing dishes to make you salivate in advance, the team is very kind… and that matters to us too!
Address: 19 Rue du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny, 33120 Arcachon
Other walks not to be missed near Arcachon
La Dune du Pilat
Is it still necessary to present it to you?
Known worldwide, the Dune du Pilat is the highest dune in Europe (101 meters), it is a member of the network of Great Sites of France.
Before admiring it and enjoying its breathtaking view of the Banc d’Arguin and Cap-Ferret, here is some information on its access:
By car: a car park allows you to park at the entrance to the site.
The first 30 minutes are free but they are obviously not enough to reach the top of the dune, unless you have finished 1st in the Paris marathon. Count €6 for 4 hours of parking. All the information to access it here
Please note: if you go there in high season, expect traffic jams for several kilometres.
By bike: a bike path takes you there from downtown Arcachon, it takes 30 minutes and about 8 km. You will pass along the Pereire’s beach, the Moulleau, the Pyla sur mer where you will observe very beautiful houses! The challenge will be at the end of the road with a BIG climb that will warm you up as it should be for climbing the dune.
On site, stairs will allow you to climb the dune (170 steps), without it it’s harder! Be careful, however, it is installed from the Easter holidays to the fall.
The contrast of colors between green, yellow and blue has something to do with the beauty of this place. We understand why it is one of the most visited in France! On one side the forest of La Teste with trees that line the horizon, then the dune of course, winding with its play of shadows depending on the time you visit it… and then the bay with in the distance the Banc d’Arguin and the Cap-Ferret. For those who do not know it, the Banc d’Arguin, in addition to being magnificent and wild, is a protected national nature reserve which welcomes many migratory birds. Don’t forget your binoculars!
Gourmet break: La Co(O)rniche
It’s one of those magical places… Located at the level of a small ledge in Pyla-sur-mer (it bears its name well) the restaurant has perhaps one of the most beautiful views of the bay, direct view on the Dune du Pilat surrounded by its blue bed.
When I knew this place, a small Basque building under renovation occupied the land. It was possible to slip under the barbed wire to admire the beauty. Once renovated, the Hotel Restaurant de la Corniche was a simple place accessible to all, I went there regularly with my family to enjoy the exceptional panorama.
Then, in 2010, new owners, assisted by renowned architect Philippe Starck, transformed the place into a luxury hotel restaurant: La Co(O)rniche. My curiosity led me to break the wallet! The food is refined, the staff is pleasant, and the setting is of course still just as magical… with the added bonus of an infinity pool overlooking the pool, which doesn’t spoil anything.
The menu costs €73 for starter + main course or main course + dessert and €78 for starter + main course + dessert, of course you have to add drinks.
See the menu here
Bike ride: Arcachon – la Teste-de-Buch – Gujan Mestras
If you already read the blog you know it: for us the bike is THE ideal way to visit and enjoy a place.
In April 2021, during the difficult period of lockdown, we were lucky enough to enjoy the region. So we went for a great bike ride between Arcachon and Gujan-Mestras.
Total duration of the outing 2 h 30 and 25 kms.
We start from the city center of Arcachon in the direction of the Ville d’Automne crossing of the port, first stop a little further at the Prés salés of La Teste-de-Buch. A Prés salés is a flat expanse where mud accumulates at the level of estuaries and certain bays. Two sites are accessible and developed by the municipality: the East and West Prés salés. A 100% natural place where the layout has been designed for the environment with landscapes that change with the seasons and the tides… A beautiful walk that allows you, on foot or by bike, to visit and observe the fauna and the flora peacefully.
The road then continues towards Gujan-Mestras, the city with 7 oyster ports. You cross the Chêneraie park along the Landes canal where walkers and cyclists meet in the middle of the pine forest and century-old oaks, a quiet, pleasant place to explore.
You then arrive on Lake Magdeleine, a perfect place for your walks, picnics and even for fishing enthusiasts. Small flat the lake is very close to the road and therefore lacks calm.
Then, the port of Gujan. A postcard landscape with its small fishermen’s houses, to be seen at high and low tides! You will surely come across oyster boats loaded with oysters coming directly from the basin, remember to stop at the tasting port to try some of them. A delight!
And finally, the Hume beach located a stone’s throw from the tourist district. It has a panoramic view of the interior of the bay, a nice disconnection. Be careful the beach is in the bottom of the bay, necessarily at low tide it’s impossible to swim 🙂
To find out more and download the route of our bike ride here
This is where a first glimpse of my most beautiful Arcachon walks ends.
But I know what you’re thinking: Did she really forget Cap-Ferret? Of course not! But there is far too much to say to discuss it here. You will therefore very soon find an entirely dedicated article!
Good visit !