Biarritz (; or ; Gascon ) is a city on the Bay of Biscay, on the Atlantic coast in the Pyrénées Atlantiques department in southwestern France. It is a luxurious seaside town and is popular with tourists and surfers.
Biarritz has long made its fortune from the sea: as a whaling settlement from the twelfth century onwards, in the 18th century doctors recommended that the ocean at Biarritz had therapeutic properties, inspiring patients to make pilgrimages to the beach for alleged cures for their ailments.
Biarritz became more renowned in 1854 when Empress Eugenie (the wife of Napoleon III) built a palace on the beach (now the Hôtel du Palais). European royalty, including British monarchs Queen Victoria and King Edward VII (who caused a minor scandal when he called H. H. Asquith to kiss hands at Biarritz in 1908 rather than return to London for the purpose), and the Spanish king Alfonso XIII, were frequent visitors.
Biarritz's casino (opened 10 August 1901) and beaches make the town a notable tourist centre for Europeans, and East Coast North Americans. The city has also become a prime destination for surfers from around the world, developing a nightlife and surf based culture.
At the end of World War II in Europe, the U.S. Army's Information and Educational Branch was ordered to establish an overseas university campus for demobilized American service men and women in the French resort town of Biarritz. Under General Samuel L. McCroskey, the hotels and casinos of Biarritz were converted into quarters, labs and class spaces for U.S. service personnel. The University opened 10 August 1945 and approximately 10,000 students attended an 8 week term. This campus was set up to provide a transition between army life and subsequent attendance at a university in the USA, and therefore students attended for just one term. After three successful terms the G.I. University closed in March 1946 (see G. I. American Universities)