A hidden treasure on the southern Mediterranean coast of France. An almost island nestled between the sea and the Bassin de Thau, Sète is very appealing. There are many similarities with other world renowned tourist spots, but Sète is a pearl of its own.
Like the Mont Saint Michel, Sète has its Mont Saint Clair. A sort of mountain topped with a chapel rising from the sea. The Mont Saint Clair rises 175 m above the Mediterranean Sea and on its summit is the Chapelle Notre Dame de la Salette. From atop, there is a beautiful panoramic view of the sea, the port, and the coast, inspiring many an artist.
The Mediterranean doesn’t have low tides that surround the Mont Saint Michel giving it human access. The Mont Saint Clair is accessible from a strip of white sandy beaches (with a long stretch of bicycle paths) that forms the Etang du Thau, harboring the famous delicious production of oysters and mussels.
As you meander along the Royal Canal of Sète, alongside the colorful boats docked in front of beautiful homes along the port, you can’t help but refer to Venice. Sète is the “Petite Venice du Languedoc” a fishing village and important port built at the foot of Mont Saint Clair. The port of Sète was built under the rule of King Louis XIV in 1666 by Pierre-Paul Riquet, the constructor of the Canal du Midi, as the most eastern section of the Canal. Today it is one of the most major fishing ports and marina on the Mediterranean Sea.
Sète’s identity is clearly forged with seaside activities. Each year for the Saint Louis (August 25th) unique festivities take place. A grand tournament dating to the Middle Ages takes place on the Royal Canal of Sète, a jousting tournament from boats in the canal. This colorful tradition was once reserved for soldiers and sailors that were to leave on the Crusades. When a cathedral was built in Sète to honor the Saint Louis, for its inauguration, jousting tournaments on the canals were organized. The tradition continues with more than a week of jousting and festivities. This is definitely something to see.
The local food specialties are wonderful. Of course there is the shellfish from the Etang, but also the fresh fish brought in daily from the sea. Local chefs will cook up a delicious fish soup. Try it with the original “tielle à la sétoise”, where a pastry is filled with ground tomatoes grown in the sunny fields of Languedoc that have been mixed with octopus pulp. And of course, wash it down with a glass of the local muscatel wine from nearby Frontignan!
Sète is culturally inspiring. Many renowned French artists and authors have taken their inspiration from the originality of Sète. George Brassens, a famous French singer dreamed of being buried on the beaches of Sète. Instead a museum was built in his honor. The Regional Center of Contemporary Art in Languedoc-Roussillon, the Brassens and Paul Valéry museums, the International Museum of the Modest Arts and the museum of the Sea present permanent and temporary exhibitions to be discovered all year round. Many artists have adopted Sète. Explore a multitude of art galleries and studios.
Sète is a fascinating small French town with its own unique charm. Niched between the sea and the Etang de Thau, it’s built on a small island and series of canals and docks, a perfect setting for your new discovery.
Ready Sète go to see this treasure on Discover France’s Languedoc Canal du Midi tour