The Empress Eugénie, Napoleon III's wife, was no fool when in 1855 she selected a sandy hillside by the sea for the Imperial summer residence; this became the Hôtel du Palais in 1893.

Biarritz is where well-to-do Parisians decamp to in summer, and with 153 rooms (of which 30 are suites), the hotel is to south-west France what Claridge's is to London, with the added draw of sea views.

You could spend all day lounging by the pool, but the more active may want to check out one of the local Golf courses, or catch some waves at this famous surf spot. By night, stroll along the buzzing promenade, try a local restaurant or prop up the sophisticated hotel bar, sipping cocktails accompanied by the tinkling of a piano.

Wow factor: The hotel's old-fashioned glamour makes you feel as if you have stepped back in time.

Flight time: One hour 45 minutes.

Go: Doubles from £313 and suites from £585 ( Ryanair (0871 246000; flies to Biarritz from £39.98 return.