Pau is the capital of the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques and it is an important holiday destination, especially for winter sports. The city has a long history. Pau was founded in the 11th century and it is the birthplace of two kings: Henry IV of France and king Karl XIV of Sweden and Norway, who was born Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte and who was appointed by the Swedish parliament as the successor of a childless king. Needless to say, local museums are dedicated to these two of its famous sins. From the Boulevard des Pyrénées, there is a wonderful view of a valley and the mountains of the Pyrenees behind it. The narrow streets behind the boulevard lead to the Château de Pau.
The city has about 80,000 inhabitants
Pau is located in the south-west of France, on a plateau above the valley of the river Gave du Pau. It is the heart of the beautiful Béarn region. To the south of the city are the Pyrenees. Pau was founded on a location that offered easy access to the mountains. In the past, sheep were brought to the higher pastures in the summer. That sheep route is now a hiking trail that runs all the way to the Spanish border.
In the 1950's, natural gas and sulphur dioxide was discovered near Pau. The petrochemical industry is still present today; Pau was the birthplace of the French oil company Elf Aquitaine (later incorporated into Total). In addition, there is an aviation industry (Turbomeca) and the area is an important agricultural area, for instance for wine grapes. Tourism is another important source of income. The mountains near Pau are a popular holiday destination. Since 1972, Pau has a university. There are about 8,000 students, who have breathed new life into the city's entertainment sector.
The airport of Pau (Aéroport Pau Pyrénées) is located 10 kilometres to the north of the city. There are direct connections to the Parisian airports of Charles de Gaulle and Orly, and to Lyon. There are international connections to London-Stansted (Ryanair) and Amsterdam (Transavia).
The airports of Tarbes (Lourdes) and Biarritz offer more national and international flights.
The train station is situated in the south of the city, on the river. There are connections to Bayonne and Biarritz in the west, and to Lourdes, Tarbes and Toulouse in the east. There are also connections to Bordeaux and Paris. From the station there is a free cable train to the Boulevard des Pyrénées.
The bus stand operated by STAP - Transports and commun is on the Rue Gachet at Place Clemenceau. You can take the bus in the direction of the Pyrenees via the Vallée d'Ossau. In Oloron-Ste-Marie there are connections to the Vallée d'Aspe.
The city is situated on the motorway from Bayonne to Toulouse (A64-E80), the Autoroute Pyrénéenne. The centre of Pau can be a bit busy, but you will have no trouble finding your way along the main roads. There are many one-way streets in the centre.
Around the 'hotel area' in the centre there are four underground car parks: Aragon, Beamont, Bosquet and Clémenceau. In addition, you can park at the Place de Verdun and de Place de la République.
Pau has a reasonable number of accommodations, located throughout the city. There is a concentration of hotels near the train station (Gare SNFC), budget hotels are situated on the edge of the city along the A64, but there are also more expensive new hotels. We recommend booking your room in advance. After the arrival of the budget airlines, Pau has become a more popular place for short holidays, but so far the hotel sector has not caught up to that yet.
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