Travel Spotlight: Sète
Sète is often called the "Venice of France", and for good reason. Look at it on a map, and it's surrounded by water — a series of narrow canals connect the Mediterranean ocean on one side of town to a saltwater lake on the other. If you are looking for good swimming, fishing, boating and generally great waterfront photo-ops, Sète is unmissable (and most tourists have never heard of it!)
We spent 2 days in Sète in July, and fell in love with the vibe of the town. It’s artsy, blue-collar, and a little bit bohemian. It feels like a vibrant seaside town with enough cultural activities to keep you from getting small-town stir crazy.
Montpellier is the closest major city. From there you can take a 20-minute train ride to Sète, and downtown is just a 15 minute walk from the station.
Where to Stay:
There aren’t many modern luxury hotels in Séte, but The Grand Hotel Séte is an affordable classic. We loved the super central location, and the impressively large rooms with balconies overlooking the canals. I'd definitely recommend and stay here again. it's a bit old school, but charming, comfortable and quite affordable (under $150/nt).
For something more funky / hipster, there’s The Georges Hostel, right in the heart of town, with a cool succulent-filled coffee bar in the lobby, and very affordable shared or private rooms (from 25-140 euros).
Things to do:
Visit Les Halles, a covered food market. I highly recommend the vendor Le Roti Sète, where you can get platters of meat & local seafood, grilled to order with $2 glasses of wine to wash it down. It was the best lunch I had all summer.
Rent a Boat — There are slow-speed boats you can rent without a permit (look for boats advertising rentals along the canals). These boats go very slow, perfect for cruising around the canals, beach & lake. Anchoring our little boat off the coast of the Mediterranean, and diving in was a highlight of the trip. Cost was about 120€ for a 4-hour boat rental.
Explore Séte’s street art — I was pleasantly surprised by all the amazing street art in Sète, you’ll stumble upon it wherever you go.
See a show at Theatre de la Mer — the most picturesque event venue I’ve ever seen, an amphitheater perched on the cliffs of the Mediterranean. Catching a show at sunset is pure magic (and they have many affordable events throughout the year, you can check out here).
Hike up to the lookout point at Mont St-Clair — A steep 30-minute hike from town, ends with panoramic views of the ocean, lake, and city below.
Walk or bike to the beach — The "Lazaret" and "Corniche" beaches are the closest to the city center, and there’s a scenic walking path along the coast to get there.
Where to Eat:
Aside from Les Halles, which is perfect for a quick, casual lunch, here are some other places we loved:
Cafe Lulu - adorable retro coffee shop & artisan glacier. Cozy spot to read the paper, while sipping a homemade iced tea or cafe glacé.
Cafe Social - we were drawn to the laid-back “townie” vibe of Cafe Social. Perched on a hill in the more residential part of town, you’ll find a lively terrace and casual bistro, where they serve seafood tapas and their own private-label wine.
Les Lanchois - super boho waterfront restaurant with awesome views and beautiful seafood dishes.
La Singuliere, Biere de Sete — The local microbrew of Sète, they’ve got a cute little tasting room right on the canals where you can sample their 6 different artisan brews. So refreshing after a day on the water.
Have you visited Sète? Feel free to share your thoughts, questions or recommendations in the comments below :)