Languedoc-Roussillon is a much-loved area of France which has it all: centuries of history, pretty towns, rolling countryside, a generous stretch of coastline and views over to the Pyrenees mountains. Although it’s now a part of the larger region of Occitanie, it still very much has its own identity and stands out as a holiday destination.
It’s such a large and diverse region that you could spend weeks on end exploring all it has to offer, though if you have only a week or two to enjoy Languedoc-Roussillon, it may be a little hard to decide what to visit during your trip. Our friends at The Big Domain have put together ten of the highlights of this stunning part of France, with something for everyone, from historic cities to natural wonders.
Carcassonne is a place that should be on anyone’s to-see list when visiting France, let alone Languedoc-Roussillon. This is one of the best examples of a medieval fortified city in all of France, so much so that it has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the ancient citadel set high up on a hill, overlooking the modern town below.
Surrounded by city walls and tall towers, and decorated with cobbled streets and drawbridges, the historic Cité will make you feel as if you’re walking through your very own fairy tale.
La Bambouseraie d’Anduze
An Asian bamboo garden set in the midst of the French countryside – this may sound unusual yet the combination works, and it’s produced one of the most spellbinding gardens in France. Here you can take a walk through a bamboo forest, where the trees stretch as high as 25 metres, before admiring the series of Asian gardens, created in 1855 by renowned French botanist Eugène Mazel, and the Laotian village, which contains a series of buildings constructed from bamboo. The Asian gardens, include Dragon Valley, a Japan-themed garden, a bonsai garden and the water garden, complete with Koi carp.
Finally, you can even lose yourself in the Bambouseraie’s very own bamboo maze!
Found just a few kilometres north of the Spanish border, Collioure is an enchanting port town with a pretty harbour and a château which rises up out of the water. Collioure was a place where several artists resided during the early 1900s, including Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, and it’s easy to see why, with its gorgeous setting at the foothills of the Pyrenees.
Take the stroll from the splendid Notre Dame des Anges church, following the waterfront under the castle walls and past the Plage de Port d’Avall, out of town where there are views of vineyards and mountains.
Grotte de la Salamandre
Languedoc-Roussillon is also home to one of the most beautiful caves in Europe, opened to the public for the first time in 2013.
Take a tour through this spectacular grotto, brought to life with colourful lighting and sound, admire the view from the panoramic viewpoint or even take on the underground assault course, leading to a cave filled with crystals. The surrounding Cèze Valley area is also well worth exploring, decorated with pretty hilltop towns without the tourist crowds.
Nîmes is one of the largest cities in the region and is home to some spectacular Roman heritage. Many of its major landmarks are well-preserved Roman monuments, making Nîmes perfect for a day of sight-seeing. The outstanding Arena has to be the best-known example; one of three in the south of France, it still hosts events to entertain the public even today.
Among the other sights you should add to your itinerary are the Maison Carrée, an exquisite Roman temple, as well as the Temple of Diana and the Tour Magne, a tower which once acted as part of the city’s fortifications.
Canal du Midi
Running from Toulouse and winding its way all the way down through Languedoc-Roussillon and meeting the sea at Sète, the Canal du Midi is a national treasure as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It simply cannot be missed during your visit as it makes its way through so many of the region’s much-loved towns and cities.
Enjoy a walk canal-side or even hire a boat to navigate the waters, bridges, tunnels and locks. It twists and turns through hundreds of miles of beautiful countryside, a number of wine-growing areas and towns including Béziers, Narbonne and Castelnaudary, meaning that you really can’t go wrong with simply following the route of the canal.
Montpellier is the largest city in Languedoc-Roussillon, and has a different atmosphere to the other cities in the region, with its large student population. Although it’s one of the few cities in the region without any Roman or Greek buildings, there’s still plenty to see here when it comes to history, with its maze of medieval backstreets and beautiful mansions to explore.
Not to be missed are the Place de la Comédie, a vast open square and the heart of the city, where there is always something happening, and the Musée Fabre, one of Europe’s best fine arts museums.
Pont du Gard
You can probably already gleam that Languedoc-Roussillon is bursting with Roman heritage, and the Pont du Gard has to be one of the finest examples in all of France. This towering aqueduct is one of the pinnacles of Roman architecture, with three rows of arches constructed to create this masterpiece.
Once you’ve admired the views from afar, you can even walk along the top and see the views from below, while there are also a number of exhibits illustrating how the aqueduct was made.
Camargue National Park
Straddling the border with Provence, the Camargue is a unique landscape characterised by its wetlands, marshes and open fields. Its wetlands are home to thousands of migrating birds, including egrets, herons and pink flamingos, best seen in the ornithological park. Camargue is also famous for its famous white horses, one of the oldest breeds in the world, and you can even explore the area on the back of one of these gracious creatures. Part of the Camargue is on the coast, meaning that its home to miles of sandy beaches – many of them deserted!
A town that’s small in size yet big on sights, Uzès is becoming increasingly popular with tourists. It’s especially renowned for its markets, held on the main square, the Place aux Herbes, and the arcades surrounding it packed with charming shops.
Lined with 17th century mansions, the pretty cobbled streets are a joy to explore, with historic monuments including the Bishop’s Palace, Bermonde Tower, Town Hall and Saint-Théodorit Cathedral. Uzès is also home to a national stud farm as well as the Haribo museum, perfect for sweet-tooths!
These ten places to visit are just a few examples of the wonders you can expect to see when you visit Languedoc-Roussillon. Whether you’re seeking stunning Roman architecture, amazing natural scenery or simply to shop to your heart’s content, we hope we’ve been able to show that Languedoc-Roussillon is a destination with something to offer everyone. If you’re thinking that it’s time to see all of these amazing sights for real, The Big Domain are on hand to help you plan your perfect group holiday in the South of France.