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The quiet, old fishing village of Sète, known as the Venice of Languedoc for its canals, is a fine antidote to some of the splashier destinations along France’s Mediterranean coast. Connected to the rest of France by the Canal du Midi, Sète in the past was a vital port in the spice trade. Since the early 19th century the town’s identity has been marked by waves of immigrants from Italy, mostly Neapolitans who brought their recipes and strongly affected the local French dialect.
With a handful of fine museums, Sète puts a remarkable emphasis on the arts and culture for a town its size. But just strolling the Canal Royal and watching boats pass under all its lovely stone and iron bridges, many of which swing open, can be satisfying enough—followed, of course, by a canalside meal of bourride sètoise, the local monkfish stew, or just by a sip of coffee or an aperitif as the sun sets. Sète also serves as an ideal base from which to visit other famous nearby cities in the Languedoc and Provence regions.