With a history dating back to the Iron Age the deep-water harbour of Port-Vendres on the French Côte Vermeille has attracted many civilisations over the centuries. Today it is a charming port town which is home to a small fishing fleet and a stylish marina. A handful of local attractions, some lovely cafés and wine bars together with the proximity of nearby Collioure ensure that visiting cruise ship passengers are in for a treat. Those wanting to see more of the region will most likely head for Carcassonne which is Europe’s largest walled city.
Port of Port-Vendres
Thanks to its deep-water port, cruise ships visiting Port-Vendres can drop anchor in the harbour which is located right next to the town centre. Visitors can easily walk around the small town or climb aboard Le Petit Train which transfers passengers to nearby Collioure via the surrounding vineyards.
Transfers to Port-Vendres
Passengers who are meeting or departing from cruise ships in Port-Vendres will most likely be travelling through Perpignan–Rivesaltes Airport which lies 40km north-west of the port. Whilst only catering for a limited number of seasonal flights the airport does have year round arrivals from Paris-Orly with Air France.
With limited public transport availability, cruise ship passengers are advised to pre-book private transfers from Perpignan Airport to Port-Vendres. Alternatively, passengers can fly to Girona in Spain (90km away) and arrange for an airport transfer to Port-Vendres.
Main Tourist Attractions
Whilst Port-Vendres is more of a place to soak up the relaxed Mediterranean atmosphere rather than visit a list of ‘must-see’ attractions there are a number of sights worth looking out for. The main one of these is the 30-metre high marble Obélisque de Port-Vendres (Place de l’Obélisque) to the west of the harbour. Dating back to 1780 the obelisk was designed to recognise France’s involvement in the American War of Independence.
The other main sight is the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Museum (Avenue Vauban) which houses the artwork of the Scottish architect who briefly lived here in the 1920s. There’s also a small Sidi Ferruch Museum which is dedicated to the relationship between Port-Vendres and pre-independence Algeria.
Insider Tip: Overlooking the harbour from the west, the upstairs terrace of the Restaurant La Côte Vermeille (Quai Fanal) is an idyllic venue for lunch. It isn’t the most economical choice in town but the quality of its seafood dishes makes the price worthwhile.
There are some very pleasant hikes from the port to Fort Béar which lies 3km east of town and to Fort Saint Elme which is 2km to the west. The latter was built to provide protection against attacks from Berber pirates and provides spectacular views over Port-Vendres and towards Collioure in the north.
Less active visitors can simply enjoy a stroll around town before finding a seat outside one of the cafés overlooking the harbour. Alternatively, there are a number of wine cellars in Port-Vendres where visitors can sample local wines from the surrounding area.
Shore Excursions Beyond Port-Vendres
As well as hiking to historic forts in the surrounding hills there are a few leisurely excursions which can be arranged from Port-Vendres without any pre-planning.
Most popular is a 3km trip along the coast to the north which leads to Collioure. This beautiful port-town is best known as a magnet for artists including Henri Matisse and André Derain who featured the town in some of their works. It is also home to a number of impressive historic attractions including the enormous Château Royal de Collioure, a royal fortress dating back to at least the 7th century. Local buses and the little tourist train provide services to Collioure. Further along the coast to the north is Argelès Plage which is one of the coast’s finest beaches.
Just east of Port-Vendres is the lighthouse at Phare du Cap Béar and the Dynamiterie de Paulilles which used to be a dynamite factory owned by Alfred Nobel. Further south is the delightful holiday resort of Banyuls-sur-Mer which lies just 8km from the cruise port. Both destinations are accessible on local buses.
Lying further afield and most conveniently reached by means of official shore excursions during a limited time in port are the towns of Perpignan (32km) and Carcassonne (150km). The former is the historic capital of the Roussillon region whilst the latter is a magnificent fortified city which has been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. As a port of call frequently listed as ‘Port-Vendres (Carcassonne)’ it’s questionable as to whether a visit to Carcassonne is worthwhile when it involves journeys on tour buses which can take as long as two hours each way!
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is the most established and respected airport transfer provider in Europe and northern Africa. Our friendly local drivers will ensure your safe, economical, and convenient passage to and from the cruise terminal, airport, or major train station of your choice with a minimum of fuss. Book your transfer with our easy to use online booking system and leave the rest up to us!