Not sure where to take the family on holiday in France. Why not make the Languedoc-Roussillon your ideal holiday destination.
The French region of the Languedoc-Roussillon offers tourists so many different options for places to stay, along with a climate that sits in the high 30's during June, July and August, there is no better reason to take the time to stroll through its many cities, towns and villages and taking dips in the Mediterranean sea or even enjoying the luxury of swimming a length or two in your own private swimming pool.
This mini article gives ideas where to go, what to see and which French Languedoc holiday properties are within easy reach in this ever-popular region in the South of France.
The coastal town of Valras-Plage, positioned 17 kms South of Béziers is a traditional Southern fishing village where the River Orb opens onto the sea. It offers holiday-makers long sandy beaches, many types of water sports, along with a wide range of restaurants offering traditional Languedoc dishes.
Lac du Salagou
For those who long to discover a calmer and more natural environment, then the man-made lake 'Lac du Salagou' rewards with its stunning scenery. It is the perfect destination to enjoy long family walks, picnics and time to adsorb all that nature provides. Its construction began in 1969 because of the need to irrigate the areas vineyards due to the lack of water during the hot Languedoc summer. It stretches some 7kms and covers an area of 2000 acres. Its surrounds are dotted with red coloured rocks, called 'ruffes'. During the hot summer months its popular with the tourists who wish to take a refreshing dip, or swim.
The historic city of Béziers streets for 5 days in August host the famous Feria, which attracts many thousands of tourists including local residents. Its a celebration of music and the famous traditional bullfighting which takes place in the circular 'Plaza des Toros'. Béziers' 13th Century Cathédrale Saint-Nazaire whose Roman Catholic walls look down over the L'Orb river as it weaves itself through the centre of the city. Be sure to checkout Relax Rentals for bicycle rental close to the train station and Canal Du Midi in Béziers.
Sète, one of the three biggest towns of Hérault, is a seaside resort, a port on the Mediterranean as well as the Eastern end of the Canal du Midi. Its 12 km of sandy beaches separate the Mediterranean Sea from the Étang de Thau, the third largest lake in France. Known as 'the Venice of Languedoc' or 'the singular island', it is famous for its water jousting and artists like the poet Paul Valéry, the singer & song-writer George Brassens and painter-sculptor Hervé di Rosa.
The Mediterranean port of Agde set middle-way between Sète and Béziers sits upon an ancient volcano whose lava rock contributes to the construction material of many of its local buildings. The canal du Midi that passes by is popular with tourists who take canal boat trips along its winding route, which starts at Toulouse, passes through the towns and cities of Castelnaudary, Carcassonne, Trebes, Homps, Béziers, Agde and Sète, before finally exiting into the Mediterranean Sea.
Aigues-Mortes is a town in the department of the Gard, in Languedoc-Roussillon. Its name means 'stagnant waters' in reference to the marshes and lakes of the area. The Canal du Rhône is passing through Aigues-Mortes, it crosses the Canal du Bourguidou and another canal linking the town to Grau-du-Roi. Aigues-Mortes is famous for its salt production and its fougasse (sweet or salt bread).
You can visit the Tower of Constance built by Saint-Louis in the middle of the 13th Century, its ramparts stretching for more than 1.6km and the Gothic Church of Notre-Dame-des-Sablons with modern stained-glasses. 'The Garden of Eden', a novel by Ernest Hemingway, takes place in Aigues-Mortes.
Capital of the Gard department, in the Languedoc-Roussillon, Nîmes is a very popular tourist destination. It is on the Via Domitia, the Roman road linking Italy to Spain.
There are lots of Roman monuments including an elliptical Roman amphitheatre still used today for bullfighting and concerts. You can also visit a Roman temple, and 18th Century gardens near the thermae ruins, the Cathedral Notre-Dame and Saint Castor or one of the 6 museums of the town. Do not miss a visit at the Pont du Gard, a three-level bridge with an aqueduct on the top part to carry water to Nîmes’s thermae, gardens and fountains.
Nîmes is famous for its ferias and bulls, corridas and Camargue traditions: races, encierros (bulls are released in the streets and people run after them) and abrivados (when bulls are released in a street framed by ‘gardians’, cowboys on Camargue horses, inhabitants figuratively try to separate bulls from the ‘gardians’ to make them free).
Arles is one of the major towns of the department Bouches-du-Rhône, en Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur. It is actually the biggest town of France, 759 km2 (more than 7 times Paris) ; it is located between Nîmes and Marseille. The town is 2 500 years old and 65 ha of the town overflow with Roman and Romanesque monuments which have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The arena, Roman theatre and cryptoporticus were built a century B.C. You can also visit the amphitheatre, the Roman forum, the necropolis, the ramparts of the Roman castrum, the Thermes of Constantine, Saint-Trophime Church and its cloister.
The town became one of the most influent towns on the Mediterranean Sea during the 11th and 12th Century. It is now famous for its bullfighting, corridas, and its feria with music and dances. Each Easter and mid September, aficionados are found in the arena as well as in bodegas and in the streets.
The town attracted famous painters like Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Picasso.
If you pass by Arles, you can also see Regional Nature Park of the Camargue and the National Nature Reserve, also chosen by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, where you can find Camargue bulls and horses, and more than 270 bird species including flamingos.
Citadel of Carcassonne
This UNESCO monument is located in Aude, only 7 km from Carcassonne airport and 6 km from the motorway. The medieval citadel encapsulates the architecture of the Middle Ages with its 3 km of fortifications, gates, barbicans, castle and basilica. The Trencavel castle is now a lapidary museum and the basilica devoted to Saint-Nazaire epitomizes Romanesque and Gothic styles.
The 52-tower citadel has seen one of the most ambitious program of restoration initiated by the architect Eugène Viollet-Le-Duc (who previously restored Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris). It took half a Century to make the fortress look again as it was in the 13th Century, which was a Cathar stronghold at that time.
The citadel is famous for having been the setting of several movies, including scenes of Kevin Reynolds's 'Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves'. Do not miss the National Day fireworks on 14th July when the citadel is figuratively put on fire.
Sigean African Reserve
The reserve consists of several parks in order to breed and protect wild species. It was open to the public in 1974. It is now open every day and is located 15 km South of Narbonne, in Aude, Languedoc-Roussillon. More than 3800 animals including mammals, reptiles and bird species, all living on 3km2. All these species have been chosen on the principle that they could adapt to the climate of Languedoc (plenty of sunshine and mild winters).
You can see lions, bears, giraffes, rhinoceros, elephants, dromedaries, alligators, flamingoes, ibises, chimpanzees, storks, pelicans...
You can visit the animal parks with your own car (about 1 hour) and by foot (about 2 hours and a half). Private guided tours can also be arranged.
The coastal village of Gruissan is in Aude, between Narbonne-Plage and Port-La-Nouvelle, on the Mediterranean Sea. Originally a small fishing harbour surrounded by marshes, it is now popular for its long sandy beaches, and its yachting marina. You can enjoy sporting and aquatic activities like sailing and windsurfing. In June, do not miss the celebration of Saint Peter, patron saint of fishermen and of Gruissan. The 'Tour Barberousse' (Red Beard Tower) and the ruins of the castle are listed as a National Heritage Site of France.
The village of Gruissan has been built as a circulade (in concentric circles) around the castle. Scenes of the film 'Betty Blue' have been shot on one of the most famous beaches of Gruissan, 'la plage des chalets' which has 1300 stilted wooden beach chalets.
Listed as a National Heritage Site of France, the Cistercian abbey with a Roman church and a Gothic cloister is situated 15 km South-West of Narbonne, in Aude, Languedoc-Roussillon. The abbey of Saint-Mary of Fontfroide was built at the end of 11th Century and was originally a Benedictine Abbey. A the time of Innocent III, it became the bastion of Catholic orthodoxy against the Cathars. One of its abbot, Jacques Fournier, became Pope Benedict XII. The abbey has belonged to the same family since 1908, year on which the restoration work started.
You can visit the abbey every day except for 1st January and 25th December. Audioguides are available. You can also visit the terraced gardens of the Abbey. They were created by the end of the 16th Century. They have been redesigned at the beginning of the 20th Century and present different styles such as the Mediterranean undergrowth, the white garden, the bee garden as well as the Hortus deliciarum.
The stable has been renovated as a restaurant where you can taste the wine produced at the abbey. You can also purchase its wine at the shop.
Forteresse de Salses
Unique 15th Century Catalan fortress near Perpignan. Built by the Spanish and then captured by the French in 1642, the fortress combines both medieval and modern architecture making it one of a kind. You can view the whole fortress from the motorway rest area and it is also open to the public. Tickets can be purchased at the fortress or you can buy a pass which includes many of the historical buildings in this culturally and architecturally rich area of France. Hear the history on a guided tour and enjoy the modern art installations taking place inside.
Palace of the Kings of Majorca in Perpignan
Gothic style palace and fortress built in 1274 when Perpignan was such an important city that it was made the capital of the Kingdom of Majorca. A visit will offer wonderful views of Perpignan and across to the Pyrénées. A 3 day guitar festival is now held each year in the palace and its gardens.
Collioure and its Royal Castle
Huge royal castle in the small Catalan port of Collioure, close to the Spanish border. Built around 1207 as a summer residence for the kings of Majorca and steeped in history, it has since been used as a prison and refugee camp. Sitting on a hill above the picturesque bay it now offers stunning views of this unspoiled coastline.
Martin du Canigou and the Abbey of Saint Michel de Cuxa
High in the Pyrénées, Martin du Canigou is an 11th Century monastery used by benedictine monks. Worth the 45 minute steep climb to appreciate the tranquility and breath taking view from this beautiful restored monastery consisting of 2 churches, a gatehouse and a restored cloister. Abbey of Saint Michel de Cuxa was another very important monastery populated by benedictine monks and is still a working abbey. Situated at the foot of the Pyrénées, the pink marble used in the interior was so impressive it has let to pieces from the monastery to be shipped to to the USA in the early 20th Century. The remaining abbey is still beautiful nonetheless and hosts concerts during the summer.
You're sure to find the perfect French holiday destination along with the perfect holiday accommodation to match in the Languedoc-Roussillon.