You can decide to discover the Ville D’hiver by walking, cycling or even with the little train that leaves every day for the beautiful neighbourhoods. This particular tour of course provides quite a lot of information on the history, the context and the development of this wonderful area with its sumptuous villas on the Arcachon heights. You can book your tour at the tourist office or, if you like, take a few flyers that will tell you more about the heritage and history of this charming area.
Arcachon is divided into different areas: the 'Ville d’Eté' (Summer City) corresponds to the bottom of the town and the seaside resort, the top of the town to the 'Ville d'Hiver' (Winter City) and the West and East to the 'Ville de Printemps' (Spring City) and 'Ville d'Automne' (Autumn City).
Why the name Ville d'Hiver? When thousands died as a result of tuberculosis in Europe (1 in 7 people died as a result of the disease), doctors looking at possible remedies realized that the sea air, combined with the air of pine tree forests allowed better wound healing and therefore prolonged the life of their patients. A few businessmen and bankers (among them the brothers Emile and Isaac Pereire), built large and luxurious homes in the early 1860s; these followed a very precise architectural principle dictated by doctors to house their wealthy aristocratic patients and their families. Over 150 very beautiful villas were built; colour was thought to be particularly important to promote healing and improve morale.
A beautiful Moorish-style casino was built to entertain rich patients and their visitors (such as the belvedere).
When doctors discovered in the early 1940s that TB was actually a highly contagious disease which required penicillin, the Ville d'Hiver was gradually abandoned by the rich families and the inhabitants of Arcachon. The Grand Casino was also eventually abandoned and completely destroyed in a fire in 1977.
You must discover this area to understand the history of Arcachon and its development and to marvel at these magnificent renovated villas which carry such a rich heritage.
Before discovering this area we invite you to go through the tourist office to collect a few pamphlets and guide books and purchase train tickets for your visit.