Do you like chocolate? And do you know what a Chocolate Festival in Bayonne looks like?
Let's be honest: Basque people are fond of good food and you can also read on this topic my complete guide to the best basque food. So, every year during the Ascension week, the basque country celebrates the Chocolate Festival in Bayonne. During two days, on Friday and Saturday, Bayonne lives at the rhythm of the traditional basque music and the taste and smell of homemade chocolate. And it's always a huge success.
Here are the 8 reasons why you should celebrate this awesome chocolate festival in Bayonne.
#1. Bayonne is the French Capital of Chocolate.
That's surprising, but people often ignore that Bayonne was the first town where chocolate was introduced in France. Even French people will certainly talk about the famous "jambon de Bayonne" (ham), "piment d'Espelette" (Espelette chilly pepper), and "gâteau basque" (cake); but they will forget the chocolate!
During the XVIs century, some Jews who fled the Inquisition settled in Bayonne, in Saint Esprit district, where we still can find a synagogue close to the railway station. They are the ones who introduced the chocolate in the town. The country really discovers this product in 1615, during the wedding of the Spanish Infante Anne d'Autriche and Louis XIII.
At its best period, Bayonne had 31 chocolate shops. Nowadays, 7 famous chocolate houses maintain the tradition.
This is the main reason why the chocolate festival in Bayonne is the one to celebrate in France!
#2. You will see the artisans at work.
The chocolate masters of Bayonne don't only prepare some delicious chocolate sweets. They are also experts in sculpting some magnificent chocolate pieces of art.
During the chocolate festival in Bayonne, they exhibit their works, but also show their skill directly in the street in front of their shop.
#3. You will try to craft your own chocolate.
No doubt, it will be a great experience for you and your kids to craft your own chocolate!
While your kids will wear the official chocolate master's clothes, you will help them to prepare their own little animal sweets while the youngest one will clean her hands with her tongue.
#4. You will learn the process of making chocolate.
Short demonstrations in the street and longer workshops in the bigger shops are proposed for free during the two days.
You won't only learn how to craft your own chocolate sweets, but also about the history, transportation, transformation of the cocoa beans.
#5. You will eat some chocolate, macarons and other delicacies for free.
Let's face it: this is the favourite part of the chocolate festival for most people, and the main reason why they attend it.
The shops that officially participate in the festival offer their chocolate in the streets. Most of them are situated in "rue Port-Neuf". But the other chocolate shops, like the World's champion for iced dessert and best pastry chef of France Thierry Bamas, propose to taste their specialities for free.
If you notice a long queue in the street in front a shop, you know you have something to taste there!
#6. Once upon a time, Bayonne was a little Venice.
Another basque town, Saint Jean Pied de Port, stole to Bayonne the title of little basque Venice. But if we look at the history, Bayonne is the real one.
Another little-known fact about the town: until the XVIIs century, the city looked like Venice. It was crossed by water roads. The actual street of Port-Neuf - the one where you will find most of the chocolate masters - was a canal. The name "Port-Neuf" means "New Port". The houses of the street are built on stilt and have beautiful arcades. People used the river for trade.
Bayonne is built where the Adour river meets its tributary, the Nive.
#7. You'll enjoy the festival of Art's work in the cloister of the cathedral.
The cathedral, built during the XIII's and XIV's century, is part of the UNESCO site (in the sub-category of the Santiago road).
The cloister is one of the biggest of France. It's not possible to visit it, except during some special events as the festival of art's work.
#8. You'll wander around the most typical Basque shops of the area.
Bayonne is one of the best cities to enjoy the typical atmosphere of the basque shops. The architecture of the houses, the pedestrian lanes and Vauban's ramparts offer the perfect scenery for a medieval basque atmosphere.
It's certainly the reason why we also have a medieval festival and market during summer season!
You will find several delicatessens to buy the famous Bayonne ham, the basque clothes and linen, some basque cafés, the traditional market where you can eat the local specialities, a lot of souvenirs shops, etc.
The chocolate festival in Bayonne wouldn't have been complete without the traditional basque music I recorded for you.
I hope you enjoyed this original discovery of a basque town. Are you ready to enjoy the chocolate festival in Bayonne with us next time?
The next edition should be in May.
See also my other tour on the chocolate theme.
Stephanie Langlet is called Indie, the female Indiana Jones by her French readers.
She helps the travellers to feel comfortable outside of their comfort zone and to travel closer to the people and culture.
She is a Trip Planner and a Hospitality and Management Consultant.
Fond of the Tribes and Minorities, she’s specialised since 2012 in the tribes and festivals of Central India and have collaborated with Chhattisgarh Tourism Board to promote it. She’s often interviewed by the Indian medias.
In 2015, she was recognised as one of the Top 6 foreign bloggers about India by Holidify, and as an influencer for Chhattisgarh by Chhattisgarh Tourism Board.
She also runs her own guesthouse in the south-west of France, from May to October.
From November to April, she will be in India to work on a social guesthouses project with her Indian associates.