Sète is located in the Department of Héault in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of the south of France. It is a popular Mediterranean seaside resort with 40,000 inhabitants. Sète is notorious for its 12 km of fine sandy beaches all of which have been approved by the “Pavillon Bleu” for its water quality. The town’s restaurants, canals, streets, bridges, fishing boats and the sweet scent of the garrigue (Mediterranean scrubland) and sea air all add to its charm. The nearby cosmopolitan city of Montpellier attracts many young people to the town. Today it is the largest French fishing port on the Mediterranean. It can easily be accessed by train and air; 20 minutes by train from Montpellier and 30 minutes away from the Montpellier-Méditerrannée Airport.
In Gallo-Roman times Sète was known as Ceta or Sita. Sète was built upon and around the Mont St Clair and is situated on the south-eastern side of the Bassin de Thau; an enclosed salt water lake mainly used for oyster and mussel fields. It was known for its production of pickled fish. Sète became the principal Languedoc port replacing those that had been covered over by silt such as Aigues Mortes, Agde and Narbonne. A jetty began being built in 1596 to protect the port from the storms of the sea. Due to financial problems it was not completed until 1666 when it became a secure port for commerce and a sea entrance for the Canal du Midi. Unfortunately in 1710 the English attacked and seized the port. Immediately after this the town improved its defences at the Fort Saint Pierre and the Citadelle Richeleu. At the end of the Second World War the town was nearly destroyed but it quickly recovered and became the principal fishing port for France on the Mediterranean.
Food and Drink
Being a fishing port, Sète is well known for its delicious fish but it also has variety of dishes unique to the town. One of these is La Tielle; an octopus based pie with tomatoes and spices originally made by the Fisherman’s wives for their husbands to give them strength before they went to sea. It can be eaten hot or cold and is best served with a glass of regional dry white wine. Another speciality is Le Frescati otherwise known as the cake of Sète. It is a traditional French pastry with the base consisting of a sweet pastry biscuit and white raisins soaked in rum and topped with a soft Italian meringue and cold coffee fondant, it goes down very nicely with a glass of chilled Muscat. It is eaten all year round but it is always eaten on 25th August to celebrate the town’s Saint; Saint Louis.
Le Chante Mer, 16 promenade J.B Marty, 04.67.46.01.75, €20
Chez François, 8 quai Général Durand, 04.67.74.59.69, €15
Sète has many exciting sites to see including the Musée International des Arts Modestes, the Musée Paul Valéry and the Théatre Molière. Other local attractions include the daily closed market (including Sunday) selling regional produce and the panoramic view from the top of the Mont St-Clair Chapelle Notre Dame de la Salette is a must. There is also a Casino, open every day until 3.00am, where you can discover the pleasure of gambling. To learn more about the history of the town you can do a guided tour which will take you through the old parts of the town visiting the ‘Quartier haut’ and the ‘Quartier bas’ and the Canal du Midi. And you can take a ride on the little train touristique which will help you to discover the most popular tourist sites of Sète. It will take you along the quays, through the town centre and the fishing and commercial ports.
The Bastille Day fireworks display cannot be missed, be sure to stand back and take in the glorious display on 13th July at 10.15pm at the Plan d’eau du quai d’Alger.
An unusual activity that attracts tourists every year is water jousting. It has been a tradition in Sète since 1666. The first tournament took place on the 29th July 1666, in order to celebrate the founding of the port and has carried on ever since. If you want to witness this unique sport then there are plenty of opportunities to do so. The upcoming water jousting events are on 11th, 12th, 14th, 17th, 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th, 30th and 31st July.
If you are a fan of the typically French game pétanque then you can sit back and watch the tournaments on 10th, 24th and 31st July.