We are visiting the Basque region of Spain and France in June. So far we have planned 2 days in Bilbao, 1 day exploring the coast and staying in Lekeito, then 2 days in San Sebastian. We are trying to decide whether to stay next in St. Jean de Luz or Bayonne for 2 nights while we explore that area before heading into the countryside and the Basque villages and continue on into the Pyrenees. We will have a car. We are two adults in our 60's and enjoy walking, exploring the historic areas and eating local foods. Please share your comments regarding which city you would recommend as our base. Thank you.
Or you can sleep in San Sebastian the whole time and take day trips by direct bus to Bilbao (1h) and Lekeito (1h 30m), St-Jean-de-Luz (45-minutes) and Bayonne (1h 30m).
Bayonne is larger but has a nice, sizable historic district and some museums. It's near but not on the coast. St-Jean-de-Luz is cute, coastal and much smaller. It depends on what sort of atmosphere you prefer, I think. I was very happy I was staying in Bayonne.
I know nothing about driving into or parking in either place.
There are no direct trains between San Sebastián and Bayonne / Saint Jean de Luz, so you are right to switch locations IMO.
Bayonne is very urban despite its small population and surrounded by sprawling suburbs and retail parks; I much prefer Saint Jean de Luz even though there is less to see and do there. And it will be quicker to come and go by car. But it is a matter of opinion!
I stayed near the Bayonne RR station, which is right at the historic district, so the sprawl wasn't something I encountered while walking around until I went to the chocolate museum.
We just got back from France. We spent a weekend in St-Jean-de-Luz but used the train to go to Bayonne and Biarritz. We did not attempt going into Spain as the rest of our trip was all in France and we did not want to take the chance (Dec 2021 timeframe) due to changing covid reqs, etc.
We also preferred staying in St-Jean-de-Luz vs Bayonne but it is definitely a matter of what you prefer imo. Based on what you have said, I'd think you would prefer St-Jean-de-Luz. You'll feel like you're part of the community.
Thank you for the helpful feedback!
We are planning a very similar trip (except reverse directions). We decided to "stay" in St Jean de Luz (and visit the other places you mention like Bayonne and Biarritz) by just using the train to get back and forth. But having a place like St Jean de Luz to come back to and experience a bit of the smaller town vibe (vs some of the bigger towns which we get to see in Bilbao and SS).
We love St. Jean de Luz and used it as a base for Basque region a few years ago.