A day out in Sete
Buy fish straight from the boats > Visit les Halles to buy your fresh local produce and enjoy a glass of Picpoul de Pinet > Lunch at one of the harbour restaurants > afternoon – walk up Mont St-Clair or a swim on La Corniche South > Sundowners or an early supper at a beach bar.
Sete is a seaside town and port known locally as the Venice of the Languedoc because, like it’s namesake it’s laid out around a series of canals. It is a wonderfully quirky fishing and ferry port situated on what is virtually an island around the lone hill of Mont St-Claire. Surrounded by the Bassin de Thau on one side and the Mediterranean on the other, the water is never far away. It is a must see for lovers of seafood and all things fishy.
Sete can get very busy in the summer so it might be worth parking slightly further out of town and walking in, or even catching a train from Montpellier, Beziers or Agde train station. Once you arrive in town take the road down to the harbour and here you will find a couple of basic fish stalls that are open from 8am to about 10am. Fish doesn’t get fresher than this, straights from the boats. Get here early for the best selection.
Afterward make your way up along the canal where you will see the boats that ply the Mediterranean in search of the fish that you have just bought, before taking a left in to the centre of the town towards Les Halles (the indoor permanent market) open every day except Monday during summer until 13h30 and in winter everyday except Monday until 13h00. Les Halles is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave filled with stalls that sell everything from seafood (in case you didn’t get to the harbour in time), to cheese, meats, sweets, cakes, breads and veggies. And depending on when you go, why not do your holiday food shop here, supporting the local businesses instead of one of the large chain supermarkets. It really is a wonderful, colourful French experience. But bring a big basket and a cooler bag as you will sorely tempted to buy more than you can carry with all that is on offer.
By now, I’m sure you’ll be feeling a little foot sore, but you don’t need to go far to take the strain off your feet. Take a little break in one of the coffee bars in the market, or if you are feeling a little more adventurous order a plate of cocuillage (shell fish) and a glass of chilled Picpoul from the bar just around the corner (go and order it and they will bring it around to your table at the cocuillage stall).
After the sight and smell of all that lovely food I’m sure you’ll be ready for a spot of lunch. Sete has a selection of places for you to choose from including some very touristy places along the canal. But, for something a little more genuine make your way back towards the harbour, and just beyond the touristy places, on the Port (Quai Maximin Liccaiardi) you will find a few quirky little bistro/oyster shacks that offer a small but varied menu (including some lovely fresh fish).
After lunch if you want to walk off all that lovely food you can make your way up the Mont St-Clair for spectacular views over Sete, the Mediterranean and the Basin de Thau. Or, for a lazier afternoon a short drive away toward Marseillan Plage stop at the Corniche South, a long spit of beach between the Med and the Bassin, several kilometres long where you can enjoy a late afternoon drink at the beach bar near the middle lifeguard station or even hang on a little longer for an early bit to eat.
PS. Sete hosts several festivals throughout the year, from the Boat festival in May, to the Music Festival and Saint Louis day with it’s boat jousting competitions in July & August, Sete is a hive of local festivals and events. Keep an eye on their tourist information site to see what is on.