The city hall
The city hall
Coat of arms of Bayonne
Coat of arms
Location of Bayonne
Bayonne is located in France
Bayonne is located in Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Coordinates: 43°29′N 1°29′W / 43°29′N 1°29′W / 43.49; -1.48UTC+02:00 (CEST)
64102 /64100
Elevation0–55 m (0–180 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.

Bayonne (French pronunciation: ​[bajɔn]; Gascon: Baiona [baˈjunɔ]; Basque: Baiona [baiona]; Spanish: Bayona) is a city and commune and one of the two sub-prefectures of the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of south-western France.[2] It is located at the confluence of the Nive and Adour rivers in the northern part of the cultural region of the Basque Country, as well as the southern part of Gascony where the Aquitaine basin joins the beginning of the Pre-Pyrenees.

Together with nearby Anglet, Biarritz, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, and several smaller communes, Bayonne forms an urban area with 288,359 inhabitants at the 2012 census,[3] 45,855 of whom lived in the city of Bayonne proper.[4]

The site on the left bank of the Nive and the Adour was probably occupied before ancient times as a fortified enclosure was attested in the 1st century at the time when the Tarbelli occupied the territory. Archaeological studies have confirmed the presence of a Roman castrum, a stronghold in Novempopulania at the end of the 4th century before the city was populated by the Vascones.

In 1023 Bayonne was the capital of Labourd and, in the 12th century, extended to and beyond the Nive. At that time the first bridge was built over the Adour. The city came under the domination of the English in 1152 through the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine: it became militarily and, above all, commercially important thanks to maritime trade. It was separated from the Viscount of Labourd in 1177 by Richard the Lion Heart. In 1451 the city was taken by the Crown of France after the Hundred Years' War. The loss of trade with the English and the silting up of the river as well as the movement of the city towards the north weakened it. The district of Saint-Esprit developed anyway thanks to the arrival of a Jewish population fleeing the Spanish expulsions dictated by the Alhambra Decree. From this community Bayonne gained its reputation for chocolate. The course of the Adour was changed in 1578 under the direction of Louis de Foix and the river returned to its former mouth, returning business lost to Bayonne for over a hundred years. In the 17th century the city was fortified by Vauban. In 1814 Bayonne and its surroundings were the scene of fighting between the Napoleonic troops and the Spanish-Anglo-Portuguese coalition led by the Duke of Wellington: the city then underwent its final siege.

In 1951 the Lacq gas field was discovered whose extracted sulphur and associated oil are shipped from the port of Bayonne. During the second half of the 20th century many housing estates were built forming new districts on the periphery and the city was extended to form a conurbation with Anglet and Biarritz: this agglomeration became the heart of a vast Basque-Landes urban area.

Bayonne was, in 2014, a commune with over 45,000 inhabitants, the heart of the urban area of Bayonne and of the Agglomeration Côte Basque-Adour which includes Anglet and Biarritz. It is an important part of the Basque Bayonne-San Sebastián Eurocity and it plays the role of economic capital of the Adour basin. Modern industry—metallurgy and chemicals—are established to take advantage of procurement opportunities and sea shipments through the harbour. Business services today represent the largest source of employment. Bayonne is also a cultural capital, a city with strong Basque and Gascon influences and a rich historical past. Its heritage lies in its architecture, the diversity of collections in museums, its gastronomic specialties, and traditional events such as the famous Fêtes de Bayonne.

The inhabitants of the commune are known as Bayonnais or Bayonnaises.[5]


Bayonne is located in the south-west of France on the western border between Basque Country and Gascony. It developed at the confluence of the Adour and tributary on the left bank, the Nive, 6 km from the Atlantic coast. The commune was part of the Basque province of Labourd.

Geology and relief

Bayonne occupies a territory characterized by a flat relief to the west and to the north towards the Landes forest, tending to slightly raise towards the south and east. The city has developed at the confluence of the Adour and Nive 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) from the ocean. The meeting point of the two rivers coincides with a narrowing of the Adour valley. Above this the alluvial plain extends for nearly thirty kilometres (19 miles) towards both Tercis-les-Bains and Peyrehorade, and is characterized by swampy meadows called barthes which are influenced by floods and high tides.[Note 1] Downstream from this point the river has shaped a large bed in the sand dunes creating a significant bottleneck at the confluence.

The occupation of the hill that dominates this narrowing of the valley developed through a gradual spread across the lowlands by building embankments and the aggradation from flood soil.[PH 1]

The Nive has played a leading role in the development of the Bayonne river system in recent geological time by the formation of alluvial terraces that form the sub-soil of Bayonne beneath the surface accumulations of silt and aeolian sands.[PH 2] The drainage network of the western Pre-Pyrenees evolved mostly from the Quaternary from south-east to northwest oriented east-west. The Adour was then captured by the gaves and this system, together with the Nive, led to the emergence of a new alignment of the lower Adour and the Adour-Nive confluence. This capture has been dated to the early Quaternary (80,000 years ago).[PH 2]

Before this capture the Nive had deposited pebbles from the Mindel glaciation of medium to large sizes that slowed erosion of the hills causing the bottleneck at Bayonne. After the deposit of the lowest alluvial terrace (10 to 15 metres (33–49 feet) high at Grand Bayonne), the course of the Adour became fixed in its lower reaches.[PH 2]

Subsequent to these deposits there was a rise in sea level in the Holocene period (from 15,000 to 5000 years ago) which explains the invasion of the lower valleys with fine sand, peat, and mud with a thickness of more than 40 metres (130 feet) below the current bed of the Adour and the Nive in Bayonne. These same deposits are spread across the barthes.[PH 1]

In the late Quaternary the topographic physiognomy we know today was formed—i.e. a set of hills overlooking a swampy lowland. The promontory of Bassussarry–Marracq ultimately extended to the labourdin foothills, dying out at the Grand Bayonne hill is an example. Similarly, on the right bank of the Nive, the heights of Château-Neuf (Mocoron Hill) met the latest advance of the plateau of Saint-Pierre-d'Irube (height 30 to 35 metres (98–115 feet)).[PH 1] On the right bank of the Adour the heights of Castelnau (today the citadel) with an altitude of 35 to 40 metres (115–131 feet), and Fort (today Saint-Esprit) with an altitude of 20 to 25 metres (66–82 feet) rise above the Barthes of the Adour, the Nive, Bourgneuf, Saint-Frédéric, Sainte-Croix, Aritxague, and Pontots.[PH 1]

The area of the commune is 2,168 hectares (5,360 acres) and its altitude varies between 0 to 55 metres (0–180 feet).[7]


The confluence of the Adour and the Nive from the right bank of the Adour.
Confluence of the Nive in Bayonne in 1843, by Eugène de Malbos

The city is traversed by the Adour.[8] The river is part of the Natura 2000 network from its source at Bagnères-de-Bigorre to its exit to the Atlantic Ocean after Bayonne, between Tarnos (Landes) for the right bank and Anglet (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) for the left bank.[9][10]

Apart from the Nive, which converges on the left bank of the Adour after 79.3 kilometres (49.3 miles) of a sometimes tumultuous course, two tributaries join the Adour in Bayonne commune: the Ruisseau de Portou and the Ruisseau du Moulin Esbouc. Tributaries of the Nive are the Ruisseau de Hillans and the Ruisseau d'Urdaintz which both rise in the commune.[11]


The nearest weather station is that of Biarritz-Anglet.

The climate of Bayonne is relatively similar to that of its neighbour Biarritz, described below, with fairly heavy rainfall; The oceanic climate is due to the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean. The average winter temperature is around 8 °C and is around 20 °C in summer. The lowest temperature recorded was −12.7 °C on 16 January 1985 and the highest 40.6 °C on 4 August 2003. Rains on the Basque coast are rarely persistent except during winter storms. They often take the form of intense thunderstorms of short duration.

Town Sunshine





National Average 1,973 770 14 22 40
Bayonne[13] 1920 1450 2.2 35.5 28.5
Paris 1,661 637 12 18 10
Nice 2,724 767 1 29 1
Strasbourg 1,693 665 29 29 56
Brest 1,605 1,211 7 12 75
Climate data for Biarritz-Anglet (altitude 69 metres (226 feet), 1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 23.4
Average high °C (°F) 12.0
Daily mean °C (°F) 8.4
Average low °C (°F) 4.8
Record low °C (°F) −12.7
Average precipitation mm (inches) 128.8
Average precipitation days (≥ 1 mm) 13.4 12.0 11.9 13.6 12.9 10.4 8.8 9.6 9.7 12.5 13.0 12.6 140.5
Average snowy days 0.8 1.0 0.3 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.5 3.0
Average relative humidity (%) 77 75 73 77 78 81 80 81 80 78 79 78 78.1
Mean monthly sunshine hours 100.2 114.1 164.4 169.4 193.7 203.3 209.0 206.8 192.8 141.7 103.8 88.3 1,887.3
Source #1: Météo France[14][15][16]
Source #2: (humidity and snowy days, 1961–1990)[17]