In the French region of Aquitaine, close to the Pyrenees and the border with Spain, Pau is a city which sits in the shadow of the mountains, providing excellent vistas to the south. It is a major university city, attracting some of the world’s brightest students who have given this historic place a modern buzz in the form of its cafes, bars and live music venues. Béarn and Basque cultures mix to create something which isn’t typically French. Although it’s the main language here, Basque culture has had a notable impact on Pau, as evident in the streetscapes and the suburbs, not to mention the food. Pau is also a city where sport is popular, whether it’s in the mountains or on the rugby field.
Pau has its fair share of narrow roads, but for all-round driving, especially into the mountains, a hatchback is the best possible option. It would be equally handy for the motorways.
Driving in Pau
Road Driving Side
Urban Speed Limit
Rural Speed Limit
Motorway Speed Limit
Important things to note
The A54/E80, running to the north of Pau, is the main motorway serving the city and wider Aquitaine region.
At the city’s main rail station, Gare de Pau, there will be some traffic during weekday mornings and evenings, coinciding with large numbers of commuters boarding trains.
If you want to go to the Pyrenees, the best route to take is the E7, which goes south from Pau through the mountains.
Highlights & Hotspots
Le Château de Pau is not only the city’s most notable building, but it’s also the birthplace of Henri VI of France. Hourly tours of the castle are available hourly, while the castle is furnished with numerous artefacts from the time of the king’s reign.
At the Palais des Sports de Pau, the local basketball club play. Élan Béarnais Pau-Orthez are one of the top clubs in France, winning many domestic trophies as well as competing in top European competitions home and away.
The Pau Grand Prix is a race which has been held in the city on and off since 1901. Today, the race is a leg of the World Touring Car Championship, attracting several thousand spectators due to the thrills the circuit offers from start to finish.
In the city centre, there is a huge market hall. There, as well as sampling a few examples of street food, you can also buy antiques, ceramics, clothes and some locally-grown fresh produce. Some independent retailers have premises in the nearby smaller streets.
Pau Pyr√©n√©es Airport is just over six miles northwest of Pau city centre. Also used by the French military, it has a small range of flights available, but some of the major cities in France are served, most notably Paris.
The airport is near to Route 716, which goes east onto the D834. Keeping on the same road going south, you will find yourself in Pau‚Äôs city centre.