Languedoc, the ‘alternative’ South of France, is one of the most beautiful regions in France, if not in the world!
Together with Provence, Languedoc-Roussillion has a fascinating history and stunning Mediterranean landscape with gently rolling hills carpeted with vines and the wild garrigue full of thyme, green oak, almond and cherry trees and platane or plane trees. They line the Canal du Midi and in the autumn their leaves turn a flaming red.
The area stretches along the Mediterranean coast from the Camargue to the Spanish border, boasting over 200 kilometres of sandy beaches, sloping gently into the water and therefore ideal for families on holiday in the South of France.
The Languedoc coastline is studded with modern marina resorts and old picturesque ports such as Sète, with its maze of canals, and Collioure, the pretty harbour where Matisse and Picasso painted. ‘La Cote Vermeille’ (the Vermilion coast) truly is a splendid example of the Mediterranean coast away from the long sandy beaches, displaying a more rugged, clear-watered, cliff-lined scenery.
Head for the hills and you will encounter quaint villages with spectacular views across valleys towards the snow-capped Pyrenees and the coast.
From the Corbieres, south of the Canal du Midi, to the foothills of the Pyrenees, tourists can explore an authenticity and culture which is unique – from Cathar abbeys teetering on cliffs, walled towns and medieval castles such as Carcassonne, this area is particularly well known for the region’s best wines.
Head North to the Gard region, bordering Provence, to enjoy crystal rivers and some of Languedoc’s prettiest villages with yellow sandstone facades, all the way to the Camargue, known for its pink flamingos, black bulls and stocky white horses!
Although there is a wealth of tourist facilities, including villas and apartments to rent, the Languedoc region remains less crowded than the Côte d’Azur area of the South of France.
Inland from the coast is an undulating plain of vineyards and olive groves, then hills with chestnut, pine and oak forests, lakes, gorges with rock pools and spectacular underground caverns.
The Languedoc area of Southern France is famous for its 300 days of sunshine annually and for embracing the French ‘Arte de Vivre’.
As the region is vast and varied, there is sure to be a holiday destination to please everyone’s tastes. From stunning architecture to beautiful natural wonders, from vineyards and wine tasting to beautiful Mediterranean beaches. Rent one of South France Villas fantastic holiday villas in Languedoc and explore the region for yourself!
With the many low-cost airlines flying to the Languedoc regional airports from the UK, it is now easier than ever to get to Languedoc, especially in the Bèziers, Carcassonne, Montpellier and Perpignan.
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The Main Towns of Languedoc
Languedoc-Roussillon’s fascinating capital is France’s fastest-growing city, and has changed dramatically from a sleepy old wine town to a trendy modern metropolis. It is elegant and classical rather like a Paris in the South of France. The main focus point of the city is the Place de la Comédie along with the Opera Comédie.
Other sights to see include the Musée Fabre, the Porte du Peyrou, the Jardin des Plantes, which is the oldest botanical garden in France, founded in 1593, and the medieval Tour des Pins and Tour de la Babotte.
Montpellier is also a thriving university town so the atmosphere there is young and lively with plenty of cafés and bars. The beaches are not too far from the city, making Montpellier an ideal vacation spot in the Languedoc region of France.
With its picturesque canals, Sete brings a touch of Venice to the Languedoc and is one of the most lively and pleasing towns in the region. The port is famous for its nautical jousts: young men dressed in white stand on platforms fixed to large rowing boats and each team tries to knock the other into the water.
Sete is built on the south eastern side of the Bassin de Thau. A prosperous fishing town, it is a great place to visit to try some local ‘fruit de mer’ (seafood).
An attractive market town with a warren of medieval cobbled streets, local artisan shops and a fine renaissance quarter. Pézenas is famous for its links to Molière (France’s answer to Shakespeare) who in the 17th Century came to Pézenas with his theatre company to put on plays and entertain the members of the court that would take their holidays in the Languedoc.
The town has recently seen an increased amount of gourmet restaurants opening. The local delicacy in Pézenas is a small sweet/pie that is shaped like a tower/cotton reel and is called a Petit Pâté.
The Saturday morning market and the nocturnal shopping are not to be missed.
A busy colourful market town and the principal centre of the Languedoc wine trade. The lively Feria in August has bull-fighting, paellas, flamenco dancing, and partying in the streets until the early hours.
Go and see the beautiful Gothic architecture of the Saint-Nazaire Cathedral which dates back to the 14th Century.
Also worth a visit are the winding streets of the Old City, the Jardin du Plateau des Poetes, Musée des Beaux Arts, Les neuf ecluses (nine locks) on the Canal du Midi (now classed as a UNESCO World heritage site).
Recent years have seen an increase in the number of private beach bars in Languedoc, where you can rent a sunbed and enjoy waiter service!
Narbonne was the Roman capital of Gaul and its 13th century cathedral is one of the tallest Gothic buildings in France. Its cloister leads to another mighty edifice, the fortified Palace of the Archbishops. The Musée d’Art et d’Histoire is situated in the new palace and hosts thematic art exhibitions and installations.
The stunning cathedral is a beautiful Languedoc landmark, and is still one of the tallest in France. It was was originally planned to be much larger but was never finished!
The city used to be a prosperous Roman port but now lies 15 kilometres inland due to the silting up of the navigational channels of the Aude River.
The Halles – a bustling, covered market in the centre of the city – is the perfect place to get fresh local produce and an interesting place to visit and soak up the vibrant French market atmosphere.
There is an excellent choice of restaurants and bars dotted along the local beaches, like Leucate and Narbonne Plage.
Carcassonne has the largest fortified Citadel in Western Europe. This Languedoc town is divided into two areas, the fortified Cité de Carcassonne – a big tourist attraction with its medieval walls and barbicans and cafés, restaurants and shops within it – and the larger, lower city that was built out around the Cité.
Carcassonne has seen more than its fair share of battles: Simon de Montfort, the Cathars, and later the Dukes of Toulouse all fought for control of this stronghold.
The so-called “new town” of Carcassonne, much of it 17th and 18th century, also has an old-world charm.
Also worth a visit are the Pont Vieux and the banks of the Aude, within the lower town, which is a great spot for a picnic. The bridge dates from the fourteenth century and boasts a Gothic chapel at its western end dating from 1538.
Famous for one of the best-preserved classical arenas, the Romans used it for gladiatorial combats and chariot races, while today’s programme includes bullfights, tennis and opera.
The Maison Carrée, a temple built in 20BC, is regarded as one of the most graceful and finely proportioned of all Roman temples still in existence. Also worth a visit are the beautiful Jardins de la Fontaine. They were the first European public gardens, created in 1750 and were built around the ruins of ancient Roman baths.
There are some other beautiful monuments to visit in Nimes such as the Roman amphitheatre which is still used today, the Cathedral and the Musée des Beaux Arts.
Article provided by South France Villas who offer a portfolio of beautiful villas to rent in Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence.
Photos courtesy of South France Villas unless marked otherwise.