Port Vendres is a typical Catalan fishing port, situated a few kilometres north of the Spanish border on the Côte Vermeille in southwest France. The village sits on the edge of the small harbour overlooking the boats and the Mediterranean Sea. It was not on our Pyrenees trip itinerary, but we discover the fishing port on the way to the beach town, Banyuls-sur-Mer. The main point of interests are:
- The marina of Port Vendres
- Obelisk with four reliefs
- Fresh seafood in the fish market
- Redoubts near Port Vendres
- Three beaches
The marina of Port Vendres
Known by Greek navigators as Portus Veneris since the 8th B.C, Port Vendres is the only natural port on the Vermeille coast. It is one of the few deep-water ports in this part of the French Mediterranean coast. Nowadays, the port takes freighters, cruise ships, yachts, and fishing boats.
The center part of The town is the colorful port. It is pleasant to walk along the promenade. The clock tower on the Quai de la Douane is part of the Presqu’ile Redoubt (A redoubt is a fortified building) built by Vauban.
The fishing village is not big. The main sites and the usual harbourside cafes & restaurants are within walking distance.
Obelisk with four reliefs
When we approached the fishing village, we could already see the Obelisk in the distance. The construction of the Obelisk took place in the 18th century. It was the will of the Count de Mailly, Lieutenant Général of Roussillon in honor of his king Louis XVI. The Obelisk has four low-reliefs, one of which was to commemorate the USA Independence declared at the Treaty of Versailles that year supported by France.
An information panel describes the first leveling of France carried out by François Arago, a French mathematician, physicist, and astronomer. He set ground zero by measuring the average level of the tides of the Mediterranean.
Fresh seafood in the fish market
The fish market is only a few minutes of walking from the Obelisk. It is also possible to drive there. There are a few parking places in front of the fish market.
The market is inside a very modern rectangular-shaped building. On the ground floor of the market, it sells many species of fresh fish. Live lobsters and langoustines stare out from tanks. On the counter, there were many types of seafood of the day. Seafood-related ingredients, canned seafood, wines, sauces, and other gourmet products occupied the rest of the ground floor.
It is a traditional market for seafood shoppers. We observed that few counter customers left without buying something to take home.
On the second floor, customers can sample a retail selection of seafood, such as Oysters, shellfish. Wines are also available for sampling and to accompany the seafood. The place is a sheer delight.
Redoubts near Port Vendres
Recognized its geographical position and the depth of its natural harbor, French King Louis XIV ordered Vauban, the military architect, to modify the port slightly and turn it into a military base with defense functions.
Vauban built the Fanal Redoubt, the Bear Redoubt, and the Presqu’ile Redoubt(A redoubt is a fortified building). The clock tower next to the harbour was part of the Presqu’ile Redoubt. The Bear Redoubt, erected on the hill between Collioure and Port-Vendres, overlooks the town. It is now a museum dedicated to French/Algerian history in the 19th and 20th centuries.
In 1838, France extended and improved the infrastructure at Port-Vendres. Port Vendres has become an important Mediterranean commercial port and connects Africa in 1885 by a sea route. During the Second World War, the German navy also used this fishing port to control the coast and defend the land attacks.
There is no beach directly in the town. The fishing port has beaches about three kilometres away from the center. The three beaches are in the attractive bay of Paulilles, and two of these have lifeguards during the summer holiday seasons.
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Where to stay
There are more apartments than hotels in the coastal area. Holidaymakers are in favour of renting an apartment with cooking equipment. That is also what we did whenever we made a holiday in France. Some apartments with good location in the fishing village are:
How to get there
There is a train station in this fishing port. It takes only a few minutes from Collioure to the fishing port by train. On this website, you can find detailed information regarding local transportation.