10 largest cities in France




Bayonne is a town in southwestern France and one of the two sub-prefectures of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department, in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. The city is located at the confluence of the Adour and the Nive, not far from the Atlantic Ocean, on the northern borders of the Basque Country and southern Gascony, where the Aquitaine basin meets the first foothills of the Pyrenean foothills. It borders to the north with the Landes department, and the Franco-Spanish territorial limit is located about thirty kilometers to the south.

The site on the left bank of the Nive and Adour is probably occupied before Antiquity and a fortified wall is attested in the 1st century, when the Tarbelli occupied the territory. Archaeological studies have confirmed the presence of a Roman castrum, a stronghold of Novempopulanie, at the end of the 4th century, before the city became Vascon.

In 1023, Bayonne was the capital of Labourd, and extended in the 12th century towards and beyond the Nive, when the first bridge over the Adour was built. The city, following the marriage of Aliénor d'Aquitaine with Henri Plantagenêt, Count of Anjou and Maine, Duke of Normandy and future King of England, takes on a military and above all commercial importance, thanks to maritime exchanges with the 'England. It was separated from the Viscount of Labourd in 1177 by Richard Cœur de Lion. The latter confirms or establishes a certain number of rights or freedoms to the cathedral as to the inhabitants. In 1451, the city was taken by the Crown of France, at the end of the Hundred Years War. The loss of trade with the English and the silting up of the river, then its displacement towards the north, weakened it; the district of Saint-Esprit nevertheless developed, thanks to the arrival of a Jewish population fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. Bayonne owes its reputation in the field of chocolate to this community. The course of the Adour was modified in 1578 under the direction of Louis de Foix, and the river regaining its former mouth, gave the port of Bayonne back the activity it had lost for more than 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 Hispano-Anglo-Portuguese coalition led by the Duke of Wellington; the city then undergoes its final siege.


In 1951, the Lacq gas field was discovered, from which the fatal sulfur extracted and the associated oil were shipped from the port of Bayonne. During the second half of the twentieth century, many large groups were built, forming new neighborhoods on the outskirts, and the city extended until it constituted a conurbation with Anglet and Biarritz; this agglomeration becomes the heart of a vast Basque-Landes urban area.

Bayonne is, in 2016, a municipality of more than 50,000 inhabitants, the main part of the urban area of ​​Bayonne where it borders Anglet and Biarritz. Despite its Métis influences, it is today recognized as the main city of the French Basque Country. Important link in the Basque Eurocity Bayonne - San Sebastián, it plays the role of commercial and tourist capital of the Adour basin (the industrial and administrative capital being Pau). Modern industry - metallurgy and chemicals - has been able to establish itself there, thanks to the possibilities of supply and shipments by sea from its port. But it is above all the service activities that represent the greatest source of jobs today. Bayonne is also a cultural capital, a city with Basque and Gascon influences with a rich historical past. Its heritage resides in its architecture, the diversity of its museum collections, but also in its gastronomic specialties or its traditional events such as the famous Bayonne festivals.