Located in the South of France and nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees is the charming town of St Jean Pied de Port.
It is well known as the starting point for the Camino Frances, a pilgrimage across Northern Spain to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
It is a beautiful town surrounded by lush green valleys and situated on the Nive River.
This post is a brief look at St Jean Pied de Port. I only stayed one day and night before walking the Camino Frances.
I suggest visiting the Tourist Information Centre at 14 Place Charles de Gaulle upon your arrival to find out more about what to do when visiting this quaint French town.
St Jean Pied de Port
Filled with eager walkers keen to be on their way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, a mere 800 km walk away, it is a place that deserves more than a quick glimpse.
If those walkers are anything like me, they want to get going as soon as they can.
But next time I walk the Camino (I cannot believe I am contemplating doing it again), I plan to enjoy a couple of days in St Jean Pied de Port before heading off on my trek.
I will find a comfortable B&B for a couple of nights. Somewhere I can rest up and recover from my long journey.
Although staying in a gite was an excellent way to become acquainted with fellow pilgrims and communal living, I think it would be nice to have a little “me” time before embarking on 35+ days of staying in albergues (pilgrim hostels).
It was tough getting there with two long haul flights (and a 20-hour stopover), cancelled train tickets (good old Paris train strikes), no sleep and a 10-hour bus ride in the middle of the night before paying for a costly taxi from Bayonne.
To say I was exhausted and more than a little frazzled would be an understatement.
I was very, very nervous about walking the Camino. In the end, my winter Camino was brutal, and with the benefit of hindsight, a few days to recoup from the difficulties of travelling would have been wise.
Getting to St Jean Pied de Port
Getting here is no easy task. A good reason a lot of people choose to start their Camino in Roncesvalles.
To get to St Jean Pied de Port, you will need to arrive either by train, bus or car.
If you are like me and arrive on an international flight, you must travel from Paris, Madrid or Barcelona.
I flew into Paris and out of Madrid. I will not fly into Paris again. I won’t risk encountering another train strike. Instead, I will fly into either Madrid or Barcelona before making my way to Pamplona and onto St Jean Pied de Port.
- Paris (Montparnasse) – Bayonne
- Bayonne – St Jean Pied de Port
- Paris – Bayonne (then train to St Jean Pied de Port)
- Paris – Biarritz (then bus to Bayonne & train to St Jean Pied de Port)
- Madrid – Pamplona
- Pamplona – St Jean Pied de Port
- Madrid – Pamplona (then bus)
- Barcelona – Pamplona (then bus)
As you can see, getting to St Jean Pied de Port is not straightforward. I suggest you use Rome2Rio to map out the best route for you.
Getting Ready for the Camino
If your purpose for being in St Jean Pied de Port is to walk the Camino, there are a couple of things you might need to do.
Visit the Pilgrim Office
Located at 39 Rue de la Citadelle, the Pilgrim Office is where you get your Credencial (Pilgrim Passport) if you have not already organised one. You can also purchase a shell here to carry with you. The lady gave us a list of albergues that included facilities and opening dates.
If you need extra gear like I did, and didn’t want to carry it from Australia, then St Jean Pied de Port has two sports stores that are well equipped.
Boutique du Pelerin (located across from the Pilgrim’s Office)
32 rue de la Citadelle
St Jean Pied de Port
18 Avenue du Jai Alai
St Jean Pied de Port
Boutique de Pelerin was closed when we were in St Jean Pied de Port, 30 October. I had planned to purchase our ponchos from them so was very worried when we found them closed.
Maya Sport was fantastic with a good range of everything we needed. I purchased our ponchos, my walking poles and an extra top. It is a 15-minute walk from the main centre.
If you plan on purchasing gear, check opening dates before leaving.
Enjoy St Jean Pied de Port
Don’t be in a Rush
Enjoy some time here before embarking on the Camino Frances. It is a huge undertaking. Next time I won’t be so anxious to be on my way. Instead, I will take the time to rest.