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Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port travel guide

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Visit Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France)

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Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is a town in south-west France about 40 kilometres east of Saint-Jean-de-Luz. It lies at the foot of an important pass through the Pyrenees between France to Spain (hence the name of the town, which means 'at the foot of the pass').

It became an important town because of its strategic position on the pilgrim route of the Camino de Santiago de Compostella, also known as the Way of St James.

Explore Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

The old town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is really one old cobbled street, the rue de la Citadelle which runs downhill from the 15th century Porte St-Jacques to the Porte d'Espagne.

street in Saint-jean-pied-de-port

A lovely old stone bridge crosses the River Nive and the view of the river and the old stone houses stretched along it is very picturesque.

Up above the town you can see the citadel which once held great importance in Saint-Jean-Pied-du-Port. The original citadel was badly damaged in the 16th century when the Spanish laid siege to the town. After that it was fortified under the direction of the Knight Deville and St Jean Pied du Port became a strategic stronghold for French troops.

In the 17th century Vauban was commissioned by King Louis XIV to reinforce the kingdoms defensive mechanisms. Following his report further paths and ramparts were added to the town’s defences. Today the citadel houses a school.

The Notre-Dame gateway, the Porte Notre-Dame, is the best preserved of the gateways to the town. The entrance to the hospital was next to this Porte Notre-Dame and the stone seats embedded into the walls on either side are for the poorer pilgrims to sit on and wait for the hospital to open and give out food and aid.

Next to the Notre Dame Gate you can see the Notre Dame du Bout du Pont, the towns fourteenth century church.

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Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port pilgrims

The France pilgrim paths from Paris, Vezelay and Le Puy-en-Velay converge at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and then rise up and through the pass to the Monastery of Roncevaux (Roncesvalles) in Spain. For those walking the Compostella this is the hardest days of the pilgrimage.

St Jean Pied du Port is very geared up for the pilgrims with restaurants offering pilgrim menus, a good value meal at a special rate for pilgrims, and shops selling anything you might have forgotten. The pilgrim office gives out pilgrim passports which you need in order to stay in the refuges (albergues) along the way and also have maps and useful advice.

Look at our picture of a refuge to get an idea of what you have ahead of you if you are planning to walk the Camino. Though at the next stop there are about 120 bunk beds in one room so this one is luxury in comparison!

Pilgrim reception centre in Saint-jean-pied-de-port

Attractions nearby

There are several charming basque villages to visit in the region around Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, above all between here and the Atlantic coast at Biarritz. Our favourite is probably Espelette, and you will certainly also want to visit Sare and Ainhoa, both classified among the 'most beautiful villages in France'.

You can find more travel ideas in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques guide and the Aquitaine guide.

See also: 

Photos of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

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Map of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and places nearby

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Visit near Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port with France This Way reviews

Itxassou

Itxassou

Less visited than some of the traditional Basque villages here, Itxassou is very pleasant to explore

Itxassou guide
Cambo-les-Bains

Cambo-les-Bains

Cambo-les-Bains is a small pleasant town, best known for its thermal waters and the gardens of the Villa Arnaga

Cambo-les-Bains guide
Espelette

Espelette

Home of red hot chillies, Espelette is a very traditional basque village in the western Pyrenees

Espelette guide
Ainhoa church of Notre-Dame

Ainhoa church of Notre-Dame

The church in Ainhoa is a traditional Basque church with rows of balconies around the walls

Ainhoa church of Notre-Dame guide
Ainhoa

Ainhoa

Betwen sea and mountains, the basque village of Ainhoa is listed among the most beautiful villages in France

Ainhoa guide
La Bastide-Clairence

La Bastide-Clairence

Labastide-Clairence is another of the most picturesque villages in the Basque region

La Bastide-Clairence guide

... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Pyrenees-Atlantiques

Address: Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Bayonne, Aquitaine, 64220, France || GPS coordinates: latitude 43.165, longitude -1.235

Plan your visit to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Pyrenees-Atlantiques

Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby

  • Porte St Jacques - St Jean Pied-de-Port (monuments on French pilgrim routes): heritage site
  • Vallée des Aldudes: site of natural beauty (17 km)
  • Forêt d'Iraty: site of natural beauty (22 km)
  • Jardins de la villa Arnaga: remarkable garden (25 km)
  • Ainhoa: most beautiful village (26 km)
  • La Bastide-Clairence: most beautiful village (29 km)
  • Gorges d'Holzarté: site of natural beauty (31 km)
  • Sare: most beautiful village (32 km)
  • Gorges de Kakouetta: site of natural beauty (37 km)
  • Gorges de Kakoetta: site of natural beauty (37 km)
  • Eglise St Blaise (monuments on French pilgrim routes): heritage site (39 km)
  • Cirque de Sainte-Engrâce: site of natural beauty (39 km)

Market days in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France

Regular market(s) are held in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port each Monday all day. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)

The French version of this page is at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (Francais)

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