Villa Arguibel

near Biarritz, Gascony, France Book from

Reviewed by Laura Dixon
A slice of designer chic in Guéthary, ideal for surfers, serious foodies, design-freaks and honeymooners
As a regular visitor to the French Basque country, I thought I knew it all. I’ve never been so glad to be wrong. Sandwiched between the pretty but popular town of St Jean de Luz and the grande dame of Biarritz, the pretty village of Guéthary has been my favourite discovery to date. Laid-back, glamorous, beachy and foodie, it has it all.

Arguibel is a classic Basque farmhouse from the outside, but oozes with eclectic modern cool inside. Crammed with designer touches, slumpy sofas, iPod docks and quirky treasures from around the world, its neon-tinged ultra-modern décor is shocking in a region that loves its tradition. There are just 5 rooms, boldly designed with sensational bathrooms, and they share an open-plan living area on the ground floor filled with designer furniture.

There isn’t a restaurant - only breakfast is served - but the warm welcome from the staff and the fantastic décor set it far above a simple B&B, and you’re only moments from world-class restaurants and barefoot-chic beach cafes. Known primarily for its surf, this region has recently come into its own for its food, and we’d rate a stay at Arguibel as one of the highlights of a trip here.

Highs

  • The décor: chic, young, trendy and vibrant
  • The views: not of the sea, as you might expect, but of sheep-filled pastures and mountains in the distance
  • The location: just a mile from the beach, and you’re in prime position for the region’s destination restaurants (including 2 Michelin-starred joints within walking distance)
  • Breakfast on the sun-filled terrace at the back is fantastic, laid-back and very French
  • The ground floor is a huge shared living space - even when the hotel is full, it feels spacious

Lows

  • There are only 5 rooms so you may have to book early
  • It’s hard to find - all the Basque houses around here look the same from the outside
  • There’s no pool, but one is planned for the future
  • With a staff of only 4, there’s no 24-hour concierge. It feels more like a private home as a consequence, and you’re not micro-managed, which we liked
  • Being tucked down a French country lane, it's not very pedestrian friendly to walk the 2km into Guethary centre

Best time to go

April-October is the season in Guéthary; outside these months many restaurants and shops will be shut, although the hotel is open all year except January and the start of February. Surfers know that the winter months can produce extreme waves in this part of the Atlantic; sunseekers and swimmers might like to give them a miss! August is prime holiday season for the French, when it is hard to find even a postage-stamp sized space on the Grand Plage beach in Biarritz. May can be fantastic - warm enough to swim in the sea, even - but can equally be plagued with hailstones. We’d recommend May-July and September-October.

Our top tips

  • Don’t leave this part of France without trying the chocolate. Biarritz’s speciality is chocolate-covered chillis, and in Bayonne’s boutique chocolate shops you can buy blocks of caramel and sea salt chocolate that are worth a lifetime on the hips.
  • Watch kids play pelota, a Basque sport that seems to be a cross between squash and handball, on the wall by the town hall in the centre of Guéthary
  • Great for...

    Beach
    Family
    Foodie
    Great Outdoors
    Honeymoon
    • = Recommended
    • = Best in region
    • = World favourite
    • Boutique B&B
    • 5
    • Breakfast only (restaurants nearby)
    • All ages welcome
    • Open all year
    • Pool
    • Spa Treatments
    • WiFi
    • Pet Friendly
    • Disabled Access
    • Beach Nearby
    • Off-street Parking
    • Restaurants Nearby
    • Air Conditioning
    • Guest Lounge
    • Terrace
    • Garden
    • Gym
    • Bicycles Available
    Room: Suite 12 bed

    Rooms

    Arguibel has 3 double bedrooms and 2 suites. Of the double bedrooms, 2 are on the ground floor (Chambres No. 60 and 63, the latter has wheelchair access), and the other is on the first floor (Chambre No. 30). We really liked No. 63, painted in pale colours with a big driftwood-framed double bed; No. 60 is aubergine and avocado in colour, while No. 30 has a striking monochrome décor with pops of bright turquoise and pink in its paintings.

    Each room has access to a terrace with views of sheep pastures, a glamorous bathroom, armchairs and in-built storage; No. 30 has a small balcony instead of the terrace. There is plenty of room, particularly because you have a private space outside too, and the owners expect you to spill into the huge lounge/bar area downstairs.

    Upstairs, Suite No. 21 looks out of the front of the house (there’s a tiny sea view through the trees) and has a ridiculously wanton 4-poster bed with white linen drapes, a modern, multicoloured chaise longue and a sunken bath in a dark-tiled bathroom. It is a good size for 2 people, and there's space for a baby cot or extra bed. We’d recommend it for a romantic break.

    Suite No 12 is larger, decorated in turquoise and white with accents of orange (it’s all very modern), with a small lounge and double sofabed, and a large bedroom with a huge, very comfortable bed. The best thing about this suite is the enormous balcony outside, with deckchairs, a table and chairs and stunning views. In good weather, you’ve effectively got another room, which we used as a dining room for picnics. You could comfortably stay here as a family of 4, or 5 with an additional baby cot. We slept really well and were woken by the gentle clang of sheep bells from the pasture next door - bliss!

    The bathrooms throughout deserve a special mention: they are super luxurious, with roll-top baths and a shower in each (except No. 63, which just has a shower), as well as double sinks, bathrobes and slippers, and Anne Sémonin products.

    Features include:

    • Bathrobes
    • Central heating
    • Cots Available
    • Extra beds
    • Fan
    • Hairdryer
    • Honesty bar
    • Ipod dock
    • Minibar/fridge
    • Mosquito net
    • Radio
    • Safe box
    • Slippers
    • Terrace
    • Toiletries
    • WiFi

    Eating

    This part of Basque Country France is a lesser-visited foodie pleasuredome. And despite the fact that Villa Arguibel only serves breakfast, it's a real treat. Pastries, fresh coffee, loose teas and freshly-baked bread are available alongside jambon de Bayonne (a local cured ham), hard sheep’s cheese, Brebis (local to the Pyrenees) and tempting cooked options. The jam deserves a mention too: a tasty blend of pink grapefruit and mango.

    For other meals, the hotel is salivatingly-well placed for restaurants. There are 16 within 1.5km alone, including 2 Michelin-starred establishments, Brikétéria and Les Frères Ibarboure, both serving innovative Basque cuisine. There are similarly exceptional eating opportunities in St Jean de Luz, a short drive down the coast (and coincidentally the birthplace of the macaroon back in the 17th century), and Biarritz, where we love Côte 58, a slick beach brasserie-cafe overlooking the surf beach Côte de Basques.

    Guéthary itself is a real delight. The bars and restaurants along the beaches are lovely - we took Francois’ recommendation and headed to Cenitz, renowned for its grilled and barbecued seafood. Beach café chic doesn’t come any better - it was full of groomed-to-perfection beach babes and surfers, and felt the right blend of relaxed and cool. This reviewer’s perfect day would start at the first of Guéthary’s beaches with a coffee, and meander down, tasting the delights of each cafe on the way towards a finish line and slap-up feast at Cenitz. Take cash though: these little cafes don’t all take credit cards.

    Features include:

    • Bar
    • Breakfast
    • Minibar/fridge
    • Restaurants nearby
    Eating:
    Activity:

    Activities

    • Hit the beaches. Guéthary has 3; Biarritz has at least 3, and St Jean de Luz has a wide swathe of unshaded sand. One word of advice though: sunscreen. There is no shade on these beaches whatsoever. Guéthary’s are our favourites - you can leave a towel and bag while you wander up to the beach bar for lunch without worrying that anyone will move it

    • Learn to surf. There are a few small surf schools in the centre of Guéthary, or you could travel to Biarritz to learn with Quiksilver. As one of the continent’s top spots, it’s a real thrill

    • Spend a day in Biarritz. The formerly glitzy seaside town isn’t as chic as it was, but it’s got plenty to keep you occupied, including a revamped aquarium, a chocolate museum and streets of designer shops

    • Go shopping in Bayonne. This regional town is very close by and is our favourite for shopping in the area, whether it’s for fashion, food or homewares. Don’t miss the covered market and its array of cheeses

    • Eat neon-coloured macaroons at Patisserie Adam in St Jean de Luz, then take a relaxing thalassotherapy (seawater therapy) massage or treatment; Francois can arrange discounted rates in the town’s top spa hotel. The town is lovely, full of beautiful patisseries and chic boutiques

    • Drive to San Sebastian, over the border in Spain, for lunch or dinner. As one of the world’s most highly-regarded foodie haunts, you’ll need a reservation at Arzak or any of the other Michelin-starred spots; we like the pinxtos (Basque-style tapas) snacks on offer in the bars too. The beach is lovely; stroll along it beforehand to build up an appetite

    • Try stand-up paddle surfing (SUP) or kitesurfing in St Jean de Luz or Biarritz; borrow bikes from the hotel and take a leisurely cycle around Guéthary; play golf - there are 12 courses within easy reach of the hotel

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Cycling
    • Golf
    • Historical sites
    • Kitesurfing
    • Museums / galleries
    • Shopping / markets
    • Surfing
    • Swimming
    • Windsurfing

    Kids

    We felt that Arguibel was a bit too chic for kids - not only would they not appreciate it, but they could get their sticky fingers on the designer furniture and ruin it for others. But having said that, we took our baby and the management couldn’t have been more helpful.

    They don’t have a lot of child-centred equipment bar baby cots, extra beds and a microwave but it works if you’re coming for a short break. Any longer than 3 days and you might prefer to book a villa or self-catering apartment. They can also arrange babysitting if you ask in advance, so you can make the most of the local restaurants.

    Best for:

    Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years)

    Family friendly accommodation:

    The suites are suited to families, and the large suite (No 12) can accommodate 2 children and 2 adults, plus a baby cot.

    Babysitting:

    By arrangement

    Kids Activities nearby:

    Daytime activities really suit children around here: beaches, bikes, walks in the countryside, swimming and surfing, and children are welcome in all restaurants. In Biarritz, the main swimming pool is open to all, just behind the Grand Plage

    Kid Friendly:

    Our guests' ratings...

    8/
    Rooms
    8/
    Food
    10/
    Service
    7/
    Value
    8/
    Overall

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