Saint-Jean-de-Pied-Port (SJPP) is a very beautiful town a few minutes’ drive from the France-Spain border. It sits in the Pyrenean foothills and is the old capital of the traditional Basque province of Lower Navarre. We wanted to visit Spain for lunch and our hosts suggested it as a lovely place to visit, before crossing into Spain. It truly is. It’s a bustling town where pilgrims can stop to purchase walking gear before the start of the Camino. Its population is small at 1600 people.
SJPP owes its name to its geographical location at the foot of the ports or pass of the Pyrenees and its subsequent protectors, firstly St John the Evangelist, and then St John the Baptist.
One of the most scenic lookouts is from the old Citadel. At the beginning of the 16th Century the medieval style castle built on the hillside was severely damaged by Spanish troops after a siege lasting twenty-one days. Following on from this it was decided to make SJPP a defensive stronghold between Pamplona and Bayonne. The citadel started to take shape in 1620. The ramparts were strengthened and the city became military headquarters for French troops enabling them to emerge from the citadel and attack Spanish forces posted between San Sebastian and la Bidassoa from the rear, and at the same time protect Bayonne and Orthez.
The citadel is now classified as a historical monument and houses a school. The photos show views on the way to SJPP as well as views from the citadel.