Pau Tourist Activities
Pau Airport is otherwise referred to as the Pau-Béarn Airport, or as the Uzein Airport, and is officially named as the Pau-Pyrénées Airport, with the official code of PUF. It is located only a few kilometres north-west of Pau, and in the commune of Uzein of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department, which is named for its close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrénées mountains. Pau Airport, although not a very large airport, provides an important gateway to a variety of Pau attractions, as well as to the many wonderful areas which surround it, including the ski resorts of the Pyrénées, the Pyrenean National Park, the cities and beaches of the Landes and Basque coast and the inland Gers region. It is also nearby the Sanctuary of Lourdes, famous for being the place where the Virgin Mary appeared several times to a young girl in 1858.
Pau is perhaps not the most famous of French cities, but is usually considered to be charming by its visitors, with a variety of attractions to offer. It is a city with plenty of green spaces, and features more square feet of greenery per capita than any other city in Europe. Pau has received the distinctive four-flower designation. It is a modern city, with quite a vibrant nightlife and some excellent restaurants, as well as a good selection of hotels and other forms of accommodation. The old town area of Pau used be a maze of streets that covered a wide area, but today is somewhat diminished, only a few hundred metres in diameter. However, it still contains some medieval and Renaissance buildings which are well protected by Pau’s residents, and offer a glimpse into what life used be like in this mountainous city. Within the city there is also the Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour, and Pau therefore has a high student population. The main Pau attractions are the Château de Pau, a selection of fine museums, beautiful parks and gardens and a significant number of events which take place throughout the year.
The Château de Pau
The main attraction in Pau is its historical castle, known as the Château de Pau. It stands on the western end of the town, at 2 rue du Château, and is famous for being the birthplace of King Henry IV. The castle certainly dominates this part of the city, and is a very impressive historical attraction. It dates back to the twelfth century and is a wonderful example of early medieval architecture. Its great staircase hall was commissioned by Marguerite, and its bridge which connects the castle to the town was ordered by Louis XV. Although the castle was somewhat neglected during the French Revolution, it has been completely restored to its former glory, and features the La Salle aux 100 Couverts (room of a hundred covers), with a glorious collection of wall tapestries, and a fourteenth century rectangular tower known as the Tour de Gaston Phoebus. There are also many souvenirs inside, including a crib made of a single tortoiseshell for Henri de Navarre.
The Tour de la Monnaie is a beautiful old tower that was once a point of defence for the Château de Pau, and also served as a lookout point. It is now a lift which takes tourists from the lower level of the town to the entrance of the castle, offering wonderful views of the mountains on its journey, as it is glass-sided. Tourists can take the trip to the castle with a tour guide. Leading up to the Château de Pau is the Boulevard des Pyrénées, 1.8km in length, and stretching to the Parc Beaumont. A stroll along the boulevard with its beautiful views of the mountains is a must for all visitors. As Naples has been said (by Alphonse de Lamartine) to offer the most beautiful view of the sea, Pau is considered to have the most beautiful view of the earth.
Pau Parks and Gardens
In the shadow of the great castle is the Château Park, that was once part of the grounds of the Château de Pau. It is a favourite area of relaxation for the residents of Pau, and is situated by the river. The Beaumont Park is found nearby the heart of the city, and is a large piece of greenery dedicated to the enjoyment of all who visit it. It has various sections, some of which are open spaces while others are perfectly manicured formal gardens. On the edge of Pau, is the Royal Park, on the Route de Bayonne, and has for many generations been a place of rest and picnics for the local people. It also features wonderful views into the Pyrénées.
Pau attractions include a couple of museums. Two of the most popular are the Fine Arts Museum and the Bernadotte Museum. The first mentioned displays one of the finest collections of art work in south-west France, and has a large quantity of paintings by some of the famous and well-renowned European artists of the last five hundred years. The museum is found at rue Matthieu Lalanne. The Bernadotte Museum is the story of Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, who was born in the building of the museum, and grew up in Pau. He was the king of Sweden, and also became the king of Norway. The museum offers some interesting displays of some of his belongings. The Bernadotte Museum is found at 8 Rue Tran. Another interesting museum is the Musée National des Parachutistes, dedicated to the history of parachuting.
Other places of interest in Pau include the St. Louis Theatre, with an exciting program of events, the Palace of Justice, a grand old building with some parts open for public viewings, the Méliès Cinema for a variety of English and French films and the covered market at Place de la République, open on most days, and with a great variety of stalls selling everything from fruit and vegetables to jewellery and antiques. Pau has a wonderful golf club as well, which claims to be the oldest course on the continent, and the Pau-Arnos motor-racing circuit. The casino of the city is housed at the ‘Palais des Congrès’ convention centre. People from all over also attend the events and festivals of Pau, which include the Pau’s Christmas Circus (Cirque de Noël), the Carnival Biarnés, the Hestiv’Ov Festival, the Accès(s) Festival and the Urban Session Festival.
A tourist information desk is available in the terminal building with free brochures on the attractions in Pau and its surrounding areas.