Sea, mountains and Spain – The Good Life in Pau

Located halfway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrenees and just a stone’s throw from the Iberian Peninsula …

A one-off geographical location

Few towns can lay claim to being as conveniently situated as Pau. Just a short distance from the Spanish border, at the foot of the Pyrenees and an hour from the Atlantic coast, and with its famous River Gave crossing it, the town is located in the ideal spot. All of this goes to explain why the fourth largest town in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region (with its 80 000 inhabitants) figures as an important tourist destination, as well as attracting many congresses and much business activity. This has been the case since the 19th century, when the capital of the Béarn area was a spa town renowned all over the world.

A town with a cultivated lifestyle

What are the secrets to the town’s success? Firstly the climate, which is a mixture of mild and humid and with very little wind. There is also the wonderful natural heritage, which lends it a rare potential in terms of quality of life, sports and leisure activities.

Pau’s three main tourist highlights

First and foremost, the town’s famous castle, birthplace in 1553 of the still fondly remembered Henry IV, which overlooks the old town.

Secondly, the Boulevard des Pyrenees, the main semi-pedestrian, palm tree-lined street that is twinned with Nice’s Promenade des Anglais and which offers a breathtaking view on the mountain range of the same name, as well as a line of bars, restaurants and pubs that students flock to. There you can sample the culinary specialties on which the town’s reputation is built: duck breast and the thick “garbure” soup, washed down with wines from Jurançon or Madiran from the many neighboring vineyards.

Finally, there is the 100-year-old cable car, which connects the upper and lower parts of the town and remains one of tourist highlights of Pau.

The second largest economic hub in Aquitaine

Pau is also an economic hub, as well as a center for cutting-edge research and development that includes: industrial and competitiveness hubs, the “Hélioparc” techno pole, an aeronautics activity area, the Bassin de Lacq platform, and a multimedia center. Three of France’s largest corporations are set up in the area: Total, Safran and Euralis.

A packed cultural program

All through the year, Pau provides the setting for a number of festivals and cultural events: the “Noires de Pau” (thriller festival), “Les Idées mènent le Monde” (literature),  “Accès” (electronic culture), “Emmaüs” (anti-globalization music and culture), “Hestiv’oc” (Occitan culture), and “Carnaval Biarnès”. Pau has 6 show venues of its own, 3 cinemas (including an arthouse cinema), 7 theaters (including 1 outdoor theater), 5 museums, 1 music and dance conservatory and a network of 5 media libraries, not forgetting a cyber base and a casino.

Pau – paradise for nature and sports lovers

The town also hosts a number of major sporting events, including the Pau Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Historique (motor racing), the “Etoiles de Pau” (an international horse riding competition) and the more light-hearted “Touskiflot” life rafting competition.

Pau was awarded the title of “European Sports Town 2018” (ACES Europe), a second distinction of its kind after the 2017-18 title of “Ville active et sportive 3 lauriers”.

The natural town environment, as well as the many facilities available (sports halls, white water canoeing, pelota complex, and a racecourse), offer a wide range of possibilities in terms of sporting pursuits, including athletics, rugby, climbing, skiing, hiking, kayaking, and rafting.

A student town with student benefits

As a town that is home to a number of higher education establishments, Pau counts a student population of 17 000, plus 4 000 researchers, many of whom come from abroad. The “Hello Pau” card for young people offers a number of benefits and reductions in stores as well as on equipment and cultural, sporting and leisure activities around town.

A comprehensive range of services for daily life

Pau has the infrastructure in place designed to make daily life run smoothly, especially for young people.

A comprehensive transport network

  • The town has a total of 18 bus lines covering 22 communes, to which a high-level bus service will be added in 2019
  • Free shuttle service in the town center
  • Car-sharing scheme
  • Self-service bicycles
  • Underground and outdoor car parks
  • High-speed rail link to Paris in under 4hrs 30mins and 1hr 15mins by plane

Easily accessible accommodation

Pau ranks among the least expensive university towns in France in terms of student accommodation, according to the August 2017 Journal du Dimanche ranking.

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