Salies‑de‑Béarn, the city of salt

Salies-de-Béarn, a story worth its salt !



According to legend, a wild boar wounded by medieval hunters had the bright idea of hiding in muddy marshland.

He was found dead but covered in salt crystals. It was then that people realised that under Salies-de-Béarn ran a spring of salt water.
Before dying, the boar uttered these words: “If I hadn’t died, no one would live here.”

Be sure to say hello to him when you’re in the Place du Bayaà!



Prehistoric salt ?

More seriously, in the 1960s, discoveries have shown that salt was used for preserving food in Salies-de-Béarn as early as the 11th or even the 16th century BC.

Eating, sleeping, living salt…

Synonymous with life and prosperity, the salt water spring has always been a treasure for Salisiens.

Not just anyone can draw the water that’s ten times saltier than seawater. From 11 November 1587, only the Parts-Prenants were allowed to extract it and make salt in their own homes – an attractive second income for Salisiens !


In the 19th century, Salisiens explored new forms of income from the salt. The water, rich in oligo-elements, surely had to be beneficial to health and wellbeing….
Indeed, perhaps it’s not for nothing that Salisiens were famed for their good looks in the Pyrenees !

In 1857, the first thermal spa opened. Initially frequented by women trying to have children, the thermal spa quickly attracted a very rich clientele of curists, including Spanish nobles and their courts, dukes and duchesses.
Picture the Eiffel family, Marcel Proust, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda strolling through the streets. The City of Salt got a new image, with stunning hotels to attract the cream of Parisian society, an Oriental-style casino, and a park complete with a bandstand and giant redwood trees.The train station served hundreds of passengers every day.

Psst, did you know? Famous French singer, Françoise Hardy came for the cure in Salies-de-Béarn (but don’t say we told you !)


”White gold” still occupies an important place in the life of Salies-de Béarn.
Today’s Place du Bayaà conceals the crypt, the hidden source of the spring. Indulge your curiosity and take a tour!
Today’s modern Thermal Spa is still housed in a beautiful listed building with Moorish-inspired architecture. Looking out from the arcades, it’s easy to picture scenes from the past, with ladies in crinoline dresses gathered round the bandstand in the public gardens.
Now there’s something for everyone, from beauty treatments and balneotherapy to thermal cures.

To complete the salt experience, take a tour of the salt-works, the only site that produces salt for making the famous jambon de Bayonne!


All around