The fabulous history of the Biarritz Aquarium

Alexandre Guillaume Léopold de Folin

1880 - 1883

The passionate and persuasive Marquis Alexandre Guillaume Léopold de Folin embarked on intensive scientific activities and managed to convince the French authorities to launch the first scientific campaign on board the “Travailleur” to explore the depths of the Bay of Biscay.


The Marquis de Folin declared that a “seat of learning” should be created “that will become a centre upon which people will converge from all parts of the world”. This idea lay the foundations for the Biarritz Aquarium, which was one of the first French establishments where oceanography was spoken about to a public that was becoming increasingly enthusiastic about the fascinating world of the oceans.


Despite the wishes of the visionary Marquis, it was not until just after the First World War that the municipal council considered creating an oceanographic institute or museum in Biarritz.


André Giret, then administrator for the Inscription Maritime in Bayonne, offered to install it in the town's warehouse buildings near to the Virgin's Rock, perched on the cliffs of the plateau de l'Atalaye.

André Giret


The local council gave its approval and the architectural competition was won by the architects Hiriart, Lafaye and Lacoureyre.


The works were soon underway.


The Art déco building housing the Biarritz Aquarium opened to the public on 10th August 1933. The Aquarium was an achievement of modern architecture with equally stylish decoration and contemporary layout.


Under the direction of Paul Arné, the collections quickly grew.

Paul Arné


The official inauguration took place 2 years after it opened, on 7th July 1935.


Since its creation, the Biarritz Aquarium has mainly focused on all that concerns the Bay of Biscay.


Its main aim is to show the ocean in all its forms : the marine depths, the role of the sea in forming the continents, the stocking of the ocean waters, the exploration and exploitation of these areas that cover 71% of the planet's surface.


The first buildings took shape above the Biarritz Aquarium. They would house the CERS (Centre d'Études et de Recherches Scientifiques) - the Scientific Study and Research Centre.

Salle des cétacés


The cetacean room was inaugurated.


It was possible to see a cast model of a mesoplodont or beaked whale, an orca or killer whale and their skeletons, the skeletons and cast models of dolphins and porpoises, a tusk of a narwhal measuring over 2 m in length, two folded harpoons and display windows packed with numerous navigational instruments dating from the 18th century, a candle lantern from a steam boat, a proportional compass, sextants and octants...


The Delord room was inaugurated (it was later modified in 1992).


This room is one of the few places where elements of our maritime heritage can currently be found in a setting that is soberly reminiscent of the inside of a ship. You will be able to discover nautical artefacts (octants, sextants...), models and works of art.

Salle Delord


Major renovation enabled the Biarritz Aquarium to be equipped with modern aquariological and museographical facilities while conserving its architectural originality both inside and out.


Creation of the shark cave.


The town of Biarritz launched the Biarritz Océan project that included extending the Aquarium and constructing the City of the Ocean.


The works began.

Bassin des squales


The Biarritz Aquarium extension opened and now offers visitors a more in-depth tour along the Gulf Stream, the Caribbean Sea, the Indo-Pacific region...


The scenography has been changed, the surface area has doubled (from 3,500 m2 to 7,000 m2), more aquariums have been added, there is one of the largest pools in France (1,500 m3), a caribbean lagoon...