Saint-Jean-de-Luz is a former fishing village, a commune in the Atlantic Pyrenees department (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) in southwestern France. Saint-Jean-de-Luz is part of the Labourd (Lapurdi) Basque province.
Saint-Jean-de-Luz is known for its architecture, sandy bay, a large number of sunny days per year, and excellent cuisine. The town is located south of Biarritz, on the Nivelle river’s right bank.
It is a mistake to assume that the town name comes from “Luz”, which means “light” in Spanish. “Luz” is a mutation of “Lohitz” in this case, which means “dirty place, marsh”. And this name corresponds to those times when the settlement was flooded and was nothing more than a marsh for centuries.
The Gulf of Saint-Jean-de-Luz is a natural harbour in the Bay of Biscay southeast between Arcachon and Spain. It has become a favorite destination for tourists on the Basque coast due to its location and strong “walls” protecting the town from the Atlantic Ocean. The sea resort itself appears relatively new, however, the town port is several centuries old.
The port provided wealth to the town thanks to the fishing and the Basque corsairs piracy (English sailors called Saint-Jean-de-Luz the “nest of vipers”). Sea corsairs differ from pirates in that they act on the king’s behalf and attack enemy ships flying their country flag. King and shipowners receive a share of the corsairs’ plunder. We can say that a corsair is a sailor, whereas a pirate is a criminal.
This fishing port still catches tuna. A “Tuna Festival” is held every year in the beginning of each year here.
Prosperity reached its peak in the 17th century, which is still considered as the town’s “golden age”. Saint-Jean-de-Luz became the second-largest city in the Labourde region with a population of about 12,000 people, the second after Bayonne during this period.