Great maritime festival Escale à Sète


Every two years, Sète organises the ‘Escale à Sète’, a great festival celebrating maritime traditions. And every time, the most impressive tall ships of France and other parts of the world arrive in Sète. Although this year’s arrival parade was postponed by one day because of the stormy weather, many sailing stars have come ashore. Among the over one hundred ships of all sizes is the famous three-master Belem from France, just docking in Sète before heading to Greece to pick up the Olympic flame. And the tallest of them all: the Portuguese four-masted schooner Santa Maria Manuela.

Visiting tips

If you want to enjoy the Escale à Sète to the max, my tip is to arrive early in the morning, around nine-ish. This way, you can take a leisurely stroll into town, have breakfast and watch Sète wake up. I visited the 2024 edition during the week on a Thursday, and it was already quite busy. So, you can expect a lot of people over the Easter weekend. Apparently, around 500,000 people visit Escale à Sète over the six days of festivities. That is a lot of people for a town with a population of only 44,000! Second tip (if you’re by car): park in the designated free parking lots by following the signs. Don’t even bother going into town to try to find a spot. You won’t.

Escale à Sète

Tall ships

Another tip if you’re interested in visiting the tall ships: buy your tickets online. But even then, be prepared to queue. This year, you can buy one ticket (10 euros per adult) that gives you access to eight tall ships. You can also try to get it on the day itself, but chances are that tickets will be sold out. Don’t be too disappointed if you cannot get yourself a ticket, though. There are enough other things to do to entertain you for a day. Or longer. Be surprised by distinguished parades of crew members, kid’s activities, a maritime market, and, of course, delicious food and drink. Sète’s local savoury pastry, the ‘Tielle’, is widely sold. This is your chance to taste this spicy octopus pie if you haven’t tried it before! Or a traditionally smoked herring from Holland, present at every edition and again this year.

Escale à Sète

Colourful characters

The festivities mainly take place along the Quai de la République, Quai Cammandant Samary, and the Quai d’Alger. Here you will find most of the boats, as well as demonstrations of old crafts and trades. These ‘villages’ are grouped around four themes: culture, solidarity, environment, and education. While queuing for the Dutch tall ship Morgenster, I had the perfect opportunity to people-watch. Many colourful characters stroll along the quays; you won’t be bored. From Spanish traditional musicians and lascivious ladies of the night to marching sailors and eighteenth-century Italian and French soldiers. Enlivened by spontaneous outbursts of sea shanty choirs from all around the world, of course. And if you’re lucky, you might witness a spectacular naval battle between some of the tall ships.

Escale à Sète


Escale à Sète is the perfect event to immerse yourself in international maritime traditions and Mediterranean life. After all, Sète is the first fishing port in the French Mediterranean. To prepare for your visit, you can check the day-to-day program online. You can also get one of the special press editions of the program available throughout the region or download the Escale à Sète app. Everybody will be talking about this event, so it is hard to miss. From the Quai d’Alger to the Saint-Louis pier, it is quite a celebration on the Île Singulière!

TO SEE - Celebrations
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