Things to see and do in Pau, France

  • City Breaks
  • France
  • 5 min read
Things to see and do in Pau, France

With spellbinding views of the Pyrenees, and an incredible past, Pau is simply breathtaking. Explore the best things to see and do here.

It’s heritage as the birthplace of royalty, combined with its wonderful views and diverse activities make Pau a popular spot to visit either alone or with friends or family.

Things to see and do in Pau, France

Quiet and dignified, Pau offers visitors gorgeous views of the Pyrenees and the Gava de Oau river. Located in southwest France, in the 19th century, it was rumoured that wintering in Pau could cure you of most common ailments. Today the city is noted for giving holiday makers the chance to relax and unwind in the gentle climate. 

Thanks to its well-preserved heritage, Pau is a classified city of history and art and is infused with a dynamic vibe which keeps visitors returning again and again.

Discover the best things to do on your next visit to Pau and book with LeShuttle.

Where is Pau?

Overview of Pau city with church spires in the background

An old royal city, and the former home of Renaissance King Henri IV, Pau is the capital of the Bearn department. Based in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques, the city itself is set between the mountains and the oceans, offering the best views of both to visitors.

Driving to Pau from Calais

The journey from Calais to Pau will take just over 10 hours and takes you through some of France’s most beautiful places including Biscarosse, Rouen, Le Mans and Bordeaux,. If you have time, making a stop in any of these destinations is a great way to break up your journey and see more of France while you travel.

Via A28 and A10

Travelling to Pau from Calais via the A28 and A10 is the fastest route and should take around 10 hours and 6 minutes. The route goes through Rouen and Tours and includes tolls on the A16, E402 and the A10 which is a main toll road in France. 

You’ll also be driving past Aquitaine,  which is also well worth a visit, especially in the springtime when the area is at its most beautiful.

Via A1 and A20

If you fancy spending a night or even in a few days in Paris, take the A1 from Calais towards Pau as this will take you directly through the city. You will encounter tolls as you near Paris on the A1, so be prepared for these. Once you have left the city, you can use the A20, France’s longest stretch of toll-free road, to drive through Chateauroux and Angouleme until you reach Pau.

Places to visit in Pau

Pau is steeped in nature and history, and the city’s heritage is clearly on display throughout the streets and buildings, so be sure to spend as much as possible walking around and soaking up the atmosphere.

Boulevard des Pyrénées

Boulevard des Pyrénées with blooming flowers in the foreground with European Flags and the Chateau de Pau in the background

One of Pau’s most famous landmarks, the Boulevard des Pyrénées is best known for its spectacular views of the Gave de Pau valley and the Pyrenees mountains. The large viewing terrace included in the structure means you’ll be able to maximise what you can see while you’re there. The avenue, which is dated to 1900, is 1.8km long and is home to the famous Chateau de Pau and numerous boutiques, luxury hotels and cafes, making it wonderful place to spend a day.

Pau Museum of Fine Arts

Since it was founded in 1864, the Pau Museum of Fine Arts has been home to some of Europe’s most distinctive paintings including works by Rubens, El Greco and the famous Dega canvas ‘A New Orleans Cotton Office’, painted in 1873. The building’s exterior facades echo Greek art, while the interiors have been inspired by Byzantine Art. Open year-round, the national museum represents 1000 years of history and is a stunning space to visit.

The birthplace of Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte

Retrace the life of Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, a Marshal of the French Empire before he became the king of Sweden and Norway. The Musée Bernadotte tells the story of Jean Bernadotte, with the house being kept in typical style for the time. It is filled with paintings, medals, miniatures and personal letters and telegrams. Relating one of the Napoleonic era’s most noted stories, the museum is well worth a visit.

Pau-Gelos National Stud Farm

Built by Napoleon in 1808 to house military stallions, the Pau-Gelos Stud Farm is now home to many different breeds of horses. Ranked number 1 in France for its equine breeding, some of the farm’s features include a collection of 19th century horse drawn cars and an 18th century castle. Depending on when you visit, you might also be able to see the presentation of the stallions and the carriages, a full horse-riding compilation or the National Pyrenean Donkey Competition.

Things to do in and around Pau

If you fancy stretching your legs and travelling slightly further afield, there are plenty of unique activities for you to try in the local area.

Ride the Pau funicular railway

View of the green Pau Funicular railway from the top platform travelling up two tracks past green trees

The Funiculaire de Pau links the Boulevard des Pyrénées and Château de Pau, to the Pau railway station in the valley of the Gave de Pau. While it’s only a short ride, you’ll be able to rest your legs and still get a fantastic overview of the city at the same time.

Go-karting and track days at Circuit Pau-Arnos

For any petrol heads or adrenaline junkies, the Pau-Arnos circuit is spread over 40 hectares and was designed by professional car and motorcycle racing drivers. The circuit is accessible for everyone from beginners to professionals and the track days are especially popular with families and large groups, so try and book in advance if you want to put your driving to the test.

Watch horse-racing at Hippodrome du Pont-Long

Paradise for horse-racing fans, the Pau Hippodrome du Pont Long is the second most important racecourse in France when it comes to obstacles. Although particularly popular in winter, throughout the year, 154 obstacle courses and 69 flat races are held on the racecourse. There is also a panoramic restaurant ‘The Volpoom’ which offers fantastic food and views and is a great way to extend your time at any equestrian event.

Play a round at Pau Golf Club

Inaugurated in 1856, Pau Golf Club is the oldest course in mainland Europe and has been played by the likes of Sergio Garcia and José María Olazábal. Not opened for complete beginners, if you fancy a round, you’ll need a handicap. Equally, if golf isn’t for you, the club also has a museum dedicated to their history which is a great way to get an induction into the sport.

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