Port Vendres, things to do in a typical Catalan fishing port

Port Vendres Is a typical Catalan fishing port, situated a few kilometres north of the Spanish border on the Côte Vermeille in south west 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.

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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.

The marina of Port Vendres, France
The marina of Port Vendres, France

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 harbour side cafes & restaurants are in the walking distance.

Obelisk

We could see the obelisk from the distance. 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.

Obelisk in Port Vendres, France
Obelisk in Port Vendres, France

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 levelling 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 place in front of the fish market.

Fresh seafood in the fish market, Port Vendres
Fresh seafood in the fish market, Port Vendres

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 the 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. To accompany the seafood, wines are also available for the sampling. The place is a sheer delight.

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Redoubts

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.

The clock tower in Port Vendres, France
The clock tower in Port Vendres, France

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, German navy also used Port Vendres to control the coast and to defense 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 by 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 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.

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