Arcachon (Arcaishon in Occitan) is a commune in the Gironde department in south-western France. It is a popular bathing location on the Atlantic coast 55 kilometres (34 mi) southwest of Bordeaux in the Landes forest. It has a fine beach, and a mild climate said to be favourable for invalids suffering from pulmonary complaints.
Arcachon is known for the “Arcachonnaise”, the local name for an Arcachon villa, which is the architectural style of many of the older houses built there. It is a type of Victorian architecture, and was criticized for generations, but is now considered to be charming and deeply human.
The town of Arcachon is only 150 years old. Not long before 2 May 1857, when Emperor Napoleon III signed its official “birth certificate”, it was just a forest of pine trees, oaks and strawberry trees (arbutus), with no road links, and home – mostly when the weather was expected to be warm, and more in wood huts than in real houses – to fewer than 400 people, mostly fishermen and peasants. In earlier years, when some hygienists began to recommend sea bathing, three sea establishments were laid out by some entrepreneurs especially for the Bordeaux bourgeoisie and other wealthy people. This was the beginning of a new lifestyle, and some of the locals got the opportunity to claim their independence from La Teste-de-Buch, which owned their properties, in order to found a “free” new town, Arcachon.
At its southern entrance from the Atlantic ocean, Arcachon Bay is crowned by Europe’s largest sand dune, the Dune de Pyla (or du Pilat), nearly 3 kilometres long, 500 metres wide, reaching 107 metres in height, and moving inland at rate of 5 metres a year.