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 town sits on the edge of the port overlooking the boats and the Mediterranean Sea. It is easily overseen by its neighbours, Collioure or Banyuls. But it is definitely worth a stopover. And, if you like seafood, you should not miss the place.
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 as well as large and small fishing boats. And, to my opinion, it is also an exceptionally touristic place with splendid landscapes and Banyuls vineyards.
See Port Vendres from the sky
You can take a Côte Vermeille Helicopter Tour from Perpignan to enjoy the views of Collioure, a charming Catalan Village. During this 30 minutes flight you will see amazing landscapes. You will fly over Canet en Roussillon, see Valmy castle at the top of Argelès sur mer and the Raho lake. Between Collioure and Port Vendres the helicopter will turn back and you will see the Valmy Castle near Argelès! To discover all the beauty of the Pyrénées-Orientales, please click here to see the detail of this tour.
Port vendres marina
The center part of The town is the colourful port. It is pleasant to walk along the promenade. The clock tower on the Quai de la Douane is the part of the remains from Presqu’ile Redoubt (A redoubt is a fortified building) built by Vauban.
The place is not big. The major sites as well as the usual harbourside cafes & restaurants, are in walking distance.
When we arrived, we could see the obelisk from the distance already. The OBELISK of Port-Vendres, built at the 18th century according to the will of the Count de Mailly, Lieutenant Général of Roussillon in honor of his king Louis XVI, by the royal architect Charles de Wailly. It is decorated of four low-reliefs. One of the four reliefs was to commemorate the Independence of the USA, supported by France and declared at the Treaty of Versailles that year.
The obelisk is like a monument that catches all my attention. The interesting point of the obelisk is the mark of the ground level. A panel of information on the obelisk indicates the first general 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, in line with basin which became the old port of fishing of Port-Vendres. This reference mark is on the Obelisk to facilitate land surveying.
The fish market
The fish market is only a few minutes of walking from the quays. We followed the quays to the northeast: first Quai de l’Artillerie, then Quai du Fanal and finally, Quai de la Quarantine to Criée aux Poissons. It’s also possible to drive there. There are a few parking places in front of the fish market.
The market is actually 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. We saw many types of seafood on the counter. Half of the ground floor dedicated to the delicacies, seafood related ingredients, canned seafood, wines, sauces as well as other gourmet products. It is the popular 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 the sampling and to accompany the seafood. The place is a sheer delight.
Recognized its geographical position and the depth of its natural harbour, French King Louis XIV ordered Vauban, the military architect, to modify the port slightly and turn it into a military base with appropriate defense functions. Several redoubts were built in and near Port Vendres over the centuries. For example, Fort Béar, a military base, 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 century.
In 1838, France extended and improved the infrastructure at Port-Vendres to make it an important Mediterranean commercial port. A sea route was set up between the port and Africa in 1885. During the Second World War, the German navy also used Port Vendres to control the coast and to defend the land attacks.
In the 19th century further fortifications were added to the town and if you follow the ‘Route des Cretes’, you can see these.
Beaches of Port Vendres
There is no beach directly in the town. Port Vendres has beaches about three kilometres away from the town center. The three principal beaches are in the attractive bay of Paulilles and two of these have lifeguards during the summer holiday seasons.
Where to stay
I personally like the apartments in the area. We rented one with a huge balcony in the coastal area for a week. Since the apartment is equipped with cooking facilities, we bought seafood to prepare for ourselves. The seafood from the fish market is so fresh that less effort is required to cook. But we felt like being at home while having a holiday there. To find a good offer, please check the following platforms.
How to get there
It is not far from Collioure. There is a train station in Port Vendres. It takes only a few minutes from Collioure to the port. On this website you can find detail information regarding the local transportation.