France

Highlights



Nîmes


Nîmes has an amphitheatre in better condition than Rome’s Colosseum, an immaculate ancient temple to die for, a charming historic centre, and one of the oldest public parks in France. It’s also a great deal of fun, especially during its lively street party ferias.

Uzès

The first duchy of France, lovely Uzès puts on a class act. Tour the ducal palace in the heart of town, then wander about lanes and squares that embody a perfect intuitive sense of urban design. Come on Saturday morning, when the entire centre is given over to an outdoor market.  



Pont du Gard

You’ve seen the pictures, but they don’t prepare you for the real thing: an ancient builders’ tour de force, the highest of all Roman aqueducts, pirouetting elegantly over the Gardon. Picnic or kayak under it, or get a real insider’s view on a guided tour through the water conduit on top.

St-Gilles-du-Gard

This town in the Petite Camargue is a bit frumpy but the abbey, where pilgrims from across France used to gather before departing for the Holy Land or Compostela, has three sculpted portals full of verve and emotion that are Languedoc-Roussillon’s crown jewels of Romanesque art.
 
Aigues-Mortes

This mighty 13th-century Crusader port founded by King St Louis looms over the Petite Camargue like a mirage, especially as the port itself silted up long ago. The walls are extraordinary, and close at hand are beaches, wetlands for birdwatching and the Camargue’s famous black bulls, white horses and pink flamingos.



Gorges du Tarn

The most famous canyon in France, this 63-km gash of turquoise cuts deeply into the austere limestone causses of the Lozère. See it best from the seat of a canoe or kayak – the endlessly changing cliffs, cirques and rock formations, the castles and old stone villages, all basking in the gorges’ sheltered microclimate.
 


Viaduc de Millau

The world record-breaking spirit is embedded in France’s DNA, and thanks to Sir Norman Foster’s sleek design, this latest example is a compelling silvery beauty. Drive over it, but head down into the Tarn valley to truly appreciate its astonishing dimensions – its pylons are higher than the Eiffel tower.



Montpellier

Languedoc-Roussillon’s capital has a cracking buzz. Its elegant 17th- to 18th-century centre, L’Ecusson, is crammed with boutiques, cafés and students. It has the region’s best art collection in the Musée Fabre, an incredibly romantic Jardin des Plantes, a spanking new aquarium and a free zoo. Not forgetting the great restaurants, the culture and the nightlife – the works, really.
 
Pézenas

Molière himself came to entertain the grandees of Pézenas, a town that rivals Uzès as the most beautiful in the region. From the 16th to 18th century, it was the seat of Languedoc’s governors, who filled its cobbled lanes with elegant hôtels particuliers, now home to antique shops, galleries and boutiques.

St-Guilhem-le-Désert

Dramatically set in the garrigue by the gorge of the River Hérault, this tiny but beautiful village surrounds the medieval Abbaye de Gellone, founded by Charlemagne’s cousin after he laid down his sword. There’s exceptional walking all around, and swimming and kayaking by the nearby Pont du Diable.



Cirque de Navacelles

The limestone highlands, the garrigue and causses of northern Languedoc are full of marvels, and this cirque carved by the River Vis is the most breathtaking of all. Ponder it from above, but also take time to wend your way down to the bottom for an unforgettable swim and picnic.

Sète

If Popeye were French, he’d live in this salty, quirky seaport, a gritty Venice with canals, where the locals joust on boats and the summer sizzles with music festivals. Add fresh shellfish from the nearby Bassin de Thau and a bottle of the local picpoul, and life seems just about perfect.



Canal du Midi

Say ‘Languedoc’ and the picture that first comes to many minds is this evocative, dreamlike masterpiece of 17th-century engineering, recently listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Even if you can’t go barging, cycle or stroll along the old towpaths. Slow travel doesn’t get better than this.



Carcassonne

It’s no wonder Walt Disney came to study it: the walled Cité is the perfect fairytale fantasy of what a medieval town should look like. Visit the mighty ramparts and witch-hatted towers, the cathedral and Viscount’s Palace, or watch a joust and stock up on plastic armour and toy catapults.
 


Cathar castles

South of Carcassonne, the savage outcrops of the Corbières host a good half dozen of these ruined strongholds, where the famous heretics held out to the bitter end. Château de Peyrepetuse and nearby Château de Quéribus are the most spectacular, and exceptionally evocative out of season when they’re lost in romantic mists.

Narbonne

Narbonne was the Roman and ecclesiastical capital of Languedoc, and delivers the historical goods with its Gothic cathedral and Palais des Archevêques, home to a pair of excellent museums. Added treats nearby are the magnificent Abbaye de Fontfroide and sandy Gruissan Plage, where the beach cottages stand on stilts.

Forteresse de Salses

Built by Ferdinand and Isabella on what was then the Spanish/French frontier, this astonishing bunker was state-of-the-art military architecture in the late 15th century. It was full of endlessly cunning devices to thwart the enemy, but it had luxuries too, including hot baths for the officers.
 


Collioure

Most of Languedoc-Roussillon’s beach resorts date from the mid-20th century, but this old anchovy port piled around the summer palace of the kings of Mallorca is crammed full of charm. Matisse and Derain came for the light, had an epiphany of colour and changed the history of art.  

Le Pic du Canigou

Visible across much of eastern Roussillon, this legendary mountain with its Phrygian cap summit is so striking that for centuries it was believed to be the highest peak in the Pyrenees. Anyone who is reasonably fit can reach the summit, where views on a clear day stretch to Barcelona.

Le Petit Train Jaune

The century-old ‘Little Yellow Train’ is one of Europe’s great rides. Starting in Villefranche-de-Conflent, it gaily ascends terrifyingly vertiginous viaducts to reach the Cerdagne, Roussillon’s favourite mountain playground. Although tourists have adopted it, it’s still a year-round mode of transport and is a great way to reach the ski slopes.

Products in this Region

European City Breaks

European City Breaks is the perfect guide for those who want to get away but don't know where to...

Marseille & Western Provence Focus Guide

Footprintfocus Marseille and Western Provence explores this popular French destination, which was...
PDF Downloads

  No PDFs currently available

Digital Products

Available NOW!
Read more...