St. Jean Pied de Port is located at the base of the Pyrenees Mountains in France on the river Nive. This area is in the Basque region of France. St. Jean is the old capital of the traditional Basque province of Lower Navarre and has essentially one main street with a sandstone wall that encircles the town. The cobbled rue de la Citadelle runs downhill and over the river to the bridge that has to be crossed to begin the "Way".
From the bridge views of the old homes with balconies that overlook the river can be seen. Many of the buildings are made of pink and grey schist. The homes often have inscriptions over their doors and a bakery still lists the price of wheat in 1789. The present site of the city stands at the base of the Roncevaux Pass which crosses the Pyrenees and means "foot of the pass" as it drops down into Spain.