Porte Notre Dame gate in St Jean Pied de Port, France.

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Walled Town

Top choice in St-Jean Pied de Port

Though modern St-Jean has expanded considerably, during medieval times the entire town was enclosed by defensive ramparts guarding France's southwestern corner against incursions from across the Spanish border. The town's four original portes (gates) are still in situ, including one at either end of the cobbled rue de la Citadelle.

The traditional entry point for pilgrims is via the Porte St-Jacques, at the top end of the street, while at the other, the Porte Notre-Dame stands next to the town's most famous landmark – the Pont Romain, a photogenic arched bridge spanning the River Nive. Despite the name, it's not actually Roman – it was built sometime around 1720.

As you walk along rue de la Citadelle, look out for the dates of construction carved into the lintels above the doorways (the oldest we found was 1510). Also keep your eyes peeled for the motif of the scallop shell – the traditional symbol of the Santiago de Compostela, as pilgrims who completed the route would take a souvenir shell home from the Spanish coast.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby St-Jean Pied de Port attractions

1. Prison des Évêques

0.05 MILES

Dating back to the 14th century, this vaulted cellar served as the town jail after 1795, as a military lock-up in the 19th century, then as a place of…

2. La Citadelle

0.11 MILES

From the top of rue de la Citadelle, a rough cobblestone path ascends to the massive citadel itself, from where there's a spectacular panorama of the town…

3. Église St-Étienne de Baïgorry

5.67 MILES

The lovely church of St-Étienne was built in the 11th century using the red stone of the nearby Arradoy, and is in the Roman-Byzantine style. It's notable…

4. Real Colegiata de Santa María

11.39 MILES

The 13th-century Gothic Real Colegiata de Santa María, a good example of Navarran Gothic architecture, contains a much-revered, silver-covered statue of…

5. Roncesvalles Monastery Complex

11.4 MILES

Roncesvalles' monastery complex contains a number of different buildings of interest, including the 13th-century Gothic-style Real Colegiata de Santa…

6. Selva de Irati

12.81 MILES

This beautiful virgin forest, popular for its beech trees and peaceful waterways and accessible via a system of well-marked trails, is one of the best…

7. Museo de las Brujas

17.17 MILES

Playing on the flying-broomstick theme of La Cueva de Zugarramurdi, this Zugarramurdi museum is a fascinating dip into the mysterious cauldron of…

8. La Cueva de Zugarramurdi

17.25 MILES

According to the Inquisition, these caves (also known as Cuevas de Las Brujas, or Caves of the Witches) were once the scene of evil debauchery. True to…