The city center is 30m (98 ft.) up from the river and the railway station, and if you arrive by train, you’ll have the pleasure of ascending in its historic Funicular from near the station to place Royale. Restored in 2010 and more than a century old, it runs Monday to Saturday from 6:45am to 9:40pm and on Sundays from 1:30 to 8:50pm; admission is free. Place Royale is in the center of the 2km-long (1.25-mile) boulevard des Pyrénées, a popular promenade since the 19th century for its views over palm-landscaped slopes to the distant mountains. At the eastern end is Parc Beaumont, where the Palais Beaumont (www.pau-congres.com; tel. 05-59-11-20-00), built as a casino and winter garden, now hosts concerts, theater performances, and exhibitions; and at the western end is the Château de Pau, 2 rue du Château (www.musee-chateau-pau.fr; tel. 05-59-82-38-00), dating from the 12th century and steeped in the Renaissance spirit of the bold Marguerite de Navarre, who wrote the bawdy novel Heptaméron at age 60. Inside are many relics from the age, including a crib made of a single tortoiseshell for Henri de Navarre, who was born here, and a splendid array of Flemish and Gobelin tapestries. The great rectangular tower, Tour de Gaston Phoebus, is from the 14th century. The château is open for visits mid-June to mid-September daily 9:30am to 6:45pm (last admission 5:45pm), and mid-September to mid-June daily 9:30am to 11:45am and 2pm to 5pm. The gardens are also open for walking from 8am most days until nightfall. Guided tours (conducted in French and English) depart at 15-min. intervals during open hours. Admission is 7€ for adults, 5.50€ for students 18 to 25, and free for ages 17 and under.
The Musée des Beaux-Arts, 1 rue Mathieu-Lalanne (tel. 05-59-27-33-02), displays a collection of European paintings, including Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, English, and French masters such as El Greco, Zurbarán, Degas, and Boudin. It’s open Wednesday to Monday 10am to noon and 2 to 6pm. Admission is 5€ adults, 4€ students, and free for children 18 and under. Pau is also famous for its Haras Nationaux (National Stud), created by Napoléon, which is no longer open to the public but does hold some wonderful racing and jumping events throughout the year that are worth attending if you are in the area. It’s situated south of the Gave de Pau at 1 rue du Maréchal Leclerc (www.haras-nationaux.fr; tel. 05-59-06-98-37).
A little further out of town, heading towards the foothills of the Pyrénées, the Zoo d’Asson is an excellent place for children, with over 500 species of animals, kept in large, open spaces and carefully-maintained enclosures. Of particular interest are the white tigers and the kangaroo sanctuary, one of the biggest in Europe. In total, the zoo covers 5 hectares (12 acres); the entrance is at 6 Chemin du Brouquet, Asson (www.zoo-asson.org; tel. 05-59-71-03-34). It’s open daily April to September 10am to 7pm, and the rest of year from 10am to 6pm. Admission is 14€ adults, 9€ children ages 3 to 11, and free for children ages 2 and under.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.