Nestled in the heart of the Pyrenees, Bagnères-de-Bigorre is a spa and tourist resort famed for its relaxed way of life, outstanding natural setting, rich heritage and the vitality of its culture and sports scene.
Although it is a dynamic town, it has preserved the riches of its past including unique built heritage, a thriving art scene and deep-rooted food and craft traditions.
Bagnères-de-Bigorre, a preserved natural setting
The inhabitants of Bagnères-de-Bigorre owe their outstanding quality of life to the town’s protected natural setting. In this environment, consisting of a tree-covered piedmont, small lively valleys, high mountain areas, rivers, mountain streams and lakes, high-quality biodiversity and traditional agriculture still exist side by side.
This natural heritage offers a whole host of possibilities for hikes, exploring the fauna or flora, and outdoor sports.
Although Bagnères-de-Bigorre and its valley are easily accessible, they have been spared major (road, rail and air) infrastructure, sources of noise, visual and smell pollution. Various protection zones are also dotted across the region: the Parc National des Pyrénées (Pyrenees National Park), designated sites (natural or built spaces of an artistic, historic, scientific, legendary or picturesque nature that need to be conserved), listed sites (including the Pic du Midi de Bigorre and Vallon de Salut and Bédat), listed wooded areas and natural zones with ecology, fauna and flora of interest. This unique setting has led to the set-up of a whole host of organisations and associations in Bagnères-de-Bigorre which work to preserve nature and educate people about the environment:
- the Conservatoire Botanique National des Pyrénées et de Midi-Pyrénées (National Botanical Conservatory of the Pyrenees and Midi-Pyrenees)
- the Centre Permanent d’Initiatives pour l’Environnement (Permanent Centre for Environmental Initiatives)
- the Nature Occitanie association
- the LPO-Pyrénées Vivantes association
A pearl of Pyrenees architecture
Benefitting from a range of different protection schemes (including Monuments Historiques (Historic Monuments) and Sites Naturels Classés (Listed Natural Sites)), the heritage of Bagnères-de-Bigorre also derives its wealth from an urban fabric of high architectural quality.
The town was founded in the Roman era due to the hot springs that can be found there. A few traces of the medieval town remain, like the gate on the Eglise Saint Jean church, the Tour des Jacobins tower and a few vestiges of the ramparts. The 17th and 18th centuries left their mark on the town through beautification activities closely linked to the arrival of the kingdom’s prominent figures to take the waters.
The spa town tradition endured and reached its climax during the Second Empire, when thermal baths, parks, a casino and large hotels were built, profoundly transforming the urban landscape. The 19th century was marked by the arrival of the railway and significant industrial development.
Bagnères-de-Bigorre, a spa town
The history of Bagnères-de-Bigorre (“Banheras” means “the baths” in Occitan) has thus always been linked to its thermal water.
The leading spa resort in the Hautes-Pyrénées département, the town welcomes more than 7,500 people to take the waters each year.
The sulphur, calcium and magnesium waters have different therapeutic uses. They are used in rheumatology and to cure ENT and respiratory problems and psychosomatic issues. Thermal spas remain one of the main driving forces of the local economy, thanks to the modernisation of the equipment as well as the development of fun thermal baths with Aquensis, a truly relaxing spa.
A thriving art scene
Coinciding with the spa seasons, intellectuals and artists came to stay and take the waters, so the town has always enjoyed a particularly rich cultural life.
The town of Bagnères-de-Bigorre continues this tradition of entertainment and interest in all forms of culture to this day with a whole host of initiatives:
- A cultural season of shows (including music, theatre and dance) suitable for all and a season for young people (primary schools, secondary schools and colleges), from October to May;
- Music, dance and theatre lessons all year round;
- Summer festivals: Piano Pic (classical music festival), Week-end des Arts de la Rue (street theatre festival) and A Voix Haute (festival exploring the voice in all its forms);
- Activities for children and families (including a Christmas show, Printemps des Poètes poetry festival and La Déambule street theatre);
- A lot of financial support for cultural associations. Other major events, scheduled by associations, punctuate the cultural life of Bagnères-de-Bigorre:the Salon du Livre Pyrénéen (book festival celebrating the Pyrenees), the Rencontres Lycéennes de Vidéo (student short film festival), Big Bag Festival (music festival) and “contemporary music” concerts organised by Cartel Bigourdan, traditional folk shows by the Chanteurs Montagnards d’Alfred Rolland and the Danseurs des Deux Ponts, etc.
The town also has a media library, two large auditoriums, a cinema and three museums:
- the Musée des Beaux-Arts Salies (fine art museum – Barbizon school and orientalists as well as watercolours by Blanche Odin and a collection of traditional folk objects and art by Jeanne Sayous)
- the Musée du Marbre (marble museum)
- the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle (natural history museum)
Rugby, but that’s not all!
Like the whole of south-western France, Bagnères-de-Bigorre is rugby territory. The Stade Bagnérais Rugby brings together nearly 400 members and a large number of supporters.
Major international players have worn the black jersey of the Stade Bagnérais including Jean Gachassin (now President of the French Tennis Federation), Roland Bertranne and Jean-Michel Aguirre, who took the club to the final of the French championships (in 1979 and 1981). The club now plays at a lower level, but the Bagnérais passion for the discipline remains unchanged.
Canoe-kayaking is another key sport in the town. The local club trained Sandra Forgues and Franck Adisson, who won Gold in the C2 slalom at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, and Boris Neveu, 2014 K1 Canoe Slalom World Champion.
Natives of Bagnères-de-Bigorre have also distinguished themselves at the highest level in alpine skiing and snowboarding: Mathieu Crépel, who was a runner-up in the Youth World Snowboarding Championships in 2000, and Adrien Théaux, who came 3rd in the Super-G World Ski Championships in 2015.
International events The town of Bagnères-de-Bigorre hosts major sports events:
- the Tour de France, which is part of the local cultural history. At the foot of the mythical Col d’Aspin and Col du Tourmalet, Bagnères is an essential step on “La Grande Boucle”, and it uses town’s roads almost every year. Between 1952 and 2008, Bagnères was chosen as a “stage-finish” or “stage-start” town for the Tour de France 15 times!
- Tennis Internationals, an “ITF Future” tournament
Activities for everyone As well as being an ideal setting for outdoor sports and having a winter sports resort, Bagnères-de-Bigorre also has high-performing facilities for a whole host of other sports including tennis courts, sports halls with a climbing wall, football and rugby pitches, a dojo, swimming pool, golf course, horse-riding centre, skatepark, artificial Whitewater course and a shooting range.
Bagnères mountain station
3 allée Tournefort 65200
05 62 95 50 71