Aigues-Mortes, Languedoc (now part of the wider region of Occitanie), isn’t that far from Montpellier (just over 30km). But, it’s a whole different world from the city’s beautiful old centre or it’s architecturally fabulous new district.
Detour here and you’ll discover a walled town which dates back to the 13th century, though people lived here long before. The city was commissioned on the order of Louis IX to establish a port on the Mediterranean Sea. Don’t expect it to be on sea (though it’s not far away). More on river, the Camargue. In fact, it wasn’t on sea in the 13th century either, so canals and lagoons were created to get ships in and out. Now it looms out of the landscape of marshland…
What to see and do in Aigues-Mortes
Aigues-Mortes is lively, particularly in the summer months when tourist flock to admire its gorgeous views and get some shade from the summer sun on the beaches.
Towers and Turrets
There are around 1.6km of ramparts to discover, flanked by 20 towers. Access to the ramparts is paid, but that enables you to walk all the way round the entire town in less than an hour. You’ll get superb views from your paved perch over the canals, salt lagoons, cobbled streets of the city and there are information spots which tell you more about this lovely town.
Chapels and Churches
The history of Aigues-Mortes is told inside the beautiful Chapel of the White Penitents (a religious brotherhood in the middle ages) with its superb paintings depicting religious scenes. There’s also a Chapel of the Grey Penitents with a 17th century altarpiece. The Church of Notre Dame des Sablons is the oldest monument in the town. It dates back to the 13th century, and has lovely stained-glass windows.
Train set fun for the whole family
There’s a quirky museum with a private collection of American trains from the beginning of the 19th century to the 1960’s. Train enthusiasts and children will love the models and layouts that have been created by the owner Jean-Marie Penard and his son. All to scale models, the details are marvelous from the tiny coal pieces to the beer kegs placed outside the saloon. There are Wild West scenes, the “Bridge over the River Kwai”; villages and tracks are set up inside and outside the museum with various parts that are interactive allowing you to play trains to your hearts content.
Happy Hour – Electric bikes
Rent electric bikes by the hour or by tour. Take a ride round the ramparts at a leisurely pace and drink in the beauty of Aigues-Mortes from a height. Or go with a guide to discover several villages and sample local wines and specialities – bike riding is thirsty work!
Visit the salt water lagoons
The “Fleur du sel” you see in shops is quite likely to have come from the famous salt lagoons of Aigues-Mortes. You’ll see white mountains of salt here where its been harvested for centuries.
Where to eat out in Aigues-Mortes
Locals love: For something cheap and on the go while sightseeing through the town, Chez Cedric is great. You can watch the freshly made pizza cooked in a wood fire oven . Good food every time.
Mid-range: Le Saint Amour: Friendly, warm and welcoming restaurant offering set menus and specialities. Vegetarian options are also available. An open kitchen offers you the chance to see the chef at work preparing and cooking local products. Run by a husband and wife team with a great knowledge of the local wines. Great tasting food, excellent presentation but without being over the top. Booking is recommended.
Wine and Dine: Le Patio‘Ne: A cut above the rest when it come to fine dining. You’ll enjoy fresh local produce, including meat and fish, cooked to perfection for every dish. An open kitchen allows you to see the chefs hard at work putting their passion into the dishes. They offer a 7-course tasting menu with wine and champagne (highly recommended). It’s the top end of the price range but worth it – and booking is a must.
Bar fun: Le Tac Tac: If you want to try something you’ve never heard of before, served with a fact you would never have known otherwise, then this is the place to go. Le Tac Tac offers over 3500 different brands of alcohol! The bar tender will happily have a conversation with you about your drink in English or French. You might get some saucisse to nibble with your drink but don’t expect a gastronomic surprise, that’s not what Le Tac Tac is about.