Languedoc-Roussillon

Languedoc was formerly an independent state and Roussillon was formerly part of Spain. Languedoc-Roussillon was also a Roman stronghold.

This dynamic region tells stories of its Occitan, Catalonian and Roman pasts, with a new French twist. Sample divine wines, learn the history of the Cathars, explore mighty Carcassonne, see Roman relics in Nimes and tour the region’s capital, Montpellier.

Northern Languedoc-Roussillon

The charming city of Avignon features impressive city walls guarding an ancient city centre that is a delight to all who visit. The Pont du Gard, between Avignon and Nimes, is one of the most spectacular Roman structures in Europe. The bridge’s size is unparalleled with three levels of arches and a water channel that was functional for almost 500 years.

Nimes is a treasure trove of wonders to explore. See the Jardin de la Fontaine, bullfights at Les Arenes, Maison Carree, Notre Dame, Castellum and Porte Auguste. The Roman influence is strong throughout Nimes. Montpellier is the capital of the region and is an old university town with a very young population. The energy is lively all around town, but especially so in Place de la Comedie, aka, l’Oeuf (the egg). The open plan around the opera house has outdoor cafes and pedestrian areas perfect for gatherings.

La Grande-Motte is a very unique port area just south of Montpellier. Either loved or hated, it has strange and daring architecture and modern sports facilities and hotels on golden sandy beaches.


Central Languedoc-Roussillon

Parc Regional du Haut Languedoc is France’s second biggest natural park. Its main entrance is St Pons de Thomieres. From there visitors can explore vast forests, river gorges and a quiet land where wildlife runs free and things are much unchanged. Sete is a colourful fishing village with excellent fresh seafood, including snails right off the boats. Penzenas is a stunning town retaining a very small village charm.

Beziers will forever be remembered as the site of one of history’s greatest massacres. Thankfully Beziers is also known today for bullfighting, wine tasting and rugby. Located on the coast, Beziers and its commanding St Nazaire cathedral rise majestically from the water. From Beziers, travel south to Narbonne, the gateway to Cathar country.

Carcassonne is central to Cathar history. It is also a perfectly restored city that is unparalleled anywhere in Europe. The sight of this astounding structure will stay with you forever. Keep in mind that Carcassonne is one of the most visited places in France, with its highest tourist numbers in the summer.


Southern Languedoc-Roussillon

The southern section of Languedoc-Roussillon has many current ties to its Spanish and Catalan heritage. King Ferdinand of Aragon built the giant Fort de Salses that once guarded the border between Languedoc and Spain. Today it provides exceptional views of the coast and low lying lagoons. Corbieres is inland and supports a major part of the region’s wine production. It is also a stepping stone to exploring more Cathar castles.

Perpignan is the capital of Roussillon and is very much still Catalan. Perpignan has a vibrant Arab section and a bright, colourful seafront. Like you would see throughout Catalonia in Spain, the classic Catalan dance, the Sardana, is danced in Perpignan and many other towns in Roussillon. The Loge de Mer is a popular tourist attraction and meeting point in Perpignan.

Inland is the Cerdagne. The area is a high plateau still shared by the French and Spanish. It is popular for winter sports and trekkers in the warmer months. One of the most fun ways to reach it is via the Little Yellow Train that runs through the hills and mountains. Villefranche de Conflent sits at a narrow point of the Tet valley. This medieval fortress is amazing to visit. St Martin du Canigou is a 10th Century abbey that takes some effort to reach, but is extraordinary to behold.

Ceret is a distinctly Spanish town that is laden in pink blossoms in spring. One of Ceret’s claims to fame is the cherries farmed here. Ceret was also heavily visited by famous artists over the decades, and its Museum of Modern Art has amassed quite a collection.


Languedoc-Roussillon Food

The menus in Languedoc-Roussillon focus on what the region itself provides. Being on the Mediterranean, it is safe to assume that the coastal areas favour seafood, while inland the main meats include goose, duck, boar and pig. Cattle are not common grazers in the area, so expect little dairy on the menu.

One of the regions most notable dishes is cassoulet. Perfect for chilly days and nights, this hearty stew is made from haricot beans, preserved goose, mutton, pork and/or sausages. Duck features heavily on menus, as does olives, truffles and wild mushrooms, and cherries and soft peaches.


Languedoc-Roussillon Wine

The Languedoc-Roussillon region is the most productive wine region in France, and some will argue, in the world. If you were to look at a map of the region with its vineyards highlighted, you would soon see that so much of the farmable land is dedicated to vines. Today Chardonnay is the most prevalent white grape in a region known for its palatable reds. Sweet, sticky Muscat is also widely grown here.

Everyday wines are the name of the game in Languedoc-Roussillon where you will rarely go wrong by ordering the Vin de Pays. You may not find the richness of Bordeaux, or the complexity of Cote du Rhone, but you will find good dry whites and smooth reds. Be on the look out for red wines from Corbieres that tend to be full and fruity. Minervois wines date from Roman times. The reds are tannic and the whites are dry and crisp. Saint Chinian vines have been around since the 9th Century. They are tannic and full bodied reds that are making waves in discerning wine circles.