Summertime in Languedoc has arrived! Long sunny days and plenty of local fêtes, markets and evening celebrations take place throughout July and August (you may often see these advertised as “Soirées Estivales”)
From 14th July (Bastille day and a national holiday) France swings into holiday season with music, fireworks and plenty of food and drink. Over the next 6 weeks, and until the return to school (‘la rentrée’) on 3 September, you can expect many public services to be slower than usual, with many employees taking advantage of the long summer break. In addition, don’t forget that Wednesday 15 August is also a public holiday in France (‘Assomption’), often celebrated with a large village party the night before!
If you prefer not to sit on the beach or spend every day sitting by the pool, we’ve put together a list of a few ideas for things to do this summer – inside or out, for different ages and interests …
Accrobranche near Beziers – Accrobranche specialises in tree climbing adventures, abseiling, tree canopy walks and rope ladders. It is suitable for adults and children from age 7 upwards. It’s great fun (if you are not afraid of heights!) – http://www.beziersaventure.com
Tour Barberousse (Redbeard’s Tower) overlooks the coastal village of Gruissan south of Narbonne, and is all that remains of a castle built at the end of the 10th century to guard against seaborne invasions of the city. Built on a steep, rocky hill, the castle was enlarged in the 12th century but dismantled in the 16th century on the orders of Richelieu. The view from the castle over the village and surrounding coastline is amazing! – http://www.ville-gruissan.fr/le-chateau-de-gruissan
The Canal du Midi is a feat of engineering and a UNESCO world heritage site. It runs from Toulouse down to Marseillan and the Mediterranean and is one of the oldest canals in Europe still in operation. The canal paths are ideal for walking and cycling, and you can cruise the waterways by hiring a boat from many of the ports for a few hours or several days – http://www.canalmidi.com
is for Dinosaur! The Languedoc-Roussillon is one of the most fascinating archaeological areas of Europe with many traces of the prehistoric era. Dinosaur bones and eggs have been found in various locations and museum/parks revealing more about life in Languedoc more than 65 million years ago – Can be found in Mèze https://www.musee-parc-dinosaures.com and Espéraza http://www.dinosauria.org/fr/
The Ecluses de Fonseranes (the 9 Locks) are a flight of staircase locks on the Canal du Midi near Béziers which allow boats to be raised a height of 21.5 m (71 ft) within a distance of 300 m (980 ft). This attraction is the third most popular tourist destination in Languedoc-Roussillon after Carcassonne and the Pont du Gard – https://www.beziers-in-mediterranee.com/en/9locksoffonseranes
Fêtes, Festivals and the Feria! You will be spoiled for choice with all the fêtes and festivals taking place in summer!
The Festival de Carcassonne is an incredible celebration of music and art in the Cité (Languedoc’s most popular historic site) from 3 to 31 July. Many performances are free – http://festivaldecarcassonne.fr/en
The Fête de Cru in St Chinian on 22 July is an all day event with 60 stands and winemakers offering tastings of AOC wines – http://www.saint-chinian.com/31,59/fete-du-cru-saint-chinian
The Féria de Béziers takes place 10-15 August. This is the 50th anniversary of a local bullfighting festival in the arena and will be celebrated over 5 days with Spanish foods, flamenco dancing and music elsewhere in the city center – http://www.ville-beziers.fr/evenement/feria-2018-50eme-anniversaire
Experience the highs and lows of Languedoc with a trip to the Gorges d’Heric or one of the many grottes (caves).
The Gorges d’Heric are in the heart of the Natural Park of Haut-Languedoc and provide an incredibly scenic walk (or river swimming in the valley below) – http://www.destination-languedoc.co.uk/natural-heritage/mons//tourisme-PNALAR0340000021-2.html
To escape the heat there are several caves in Languedoc to discover the spectacular world that lies beneath our feet – https://www.tripadvisor.fr/Attractions-g187149-Activities-c57-t54-Languedoc_Roussillon_Occitanie.html
If you love food and farmer’s markets the ‘Halles’ is the place to go. These indoor city markets are a treat for the senses and the Halles de Narbonne is particularly well renowned for the many tapas bars and bistros offering freshly cooked foods provided by the stall holders – http://www.narbonne.halles.fr
Ille-sur-Têt is in the Pyrénées-Orientales department heading up into the Pyrénées mountains. The Orgues of Ille-sur-Têt are an exceptional heritage site – huge eroded pieces of clay and sandstone that look like turrets of an enchanted castle. Plenty of grassy areas for picnicking and ideal for younger children to get a taste of nature without having to go for a hike! – http://lesorgues.ille-sur-tet.com
Another long-standing tradition in the area is the water Jousting in Sète. The Saint-Louis festival takes place 23-28 August – a fun and lively week and well worth a visit if you get the chance! – https://en.tourisme-sete.com/joust-feast-popular-summer.html
If you love the water, keep cool by Kayaking on the River Orb – it’s the Mediterranean river with the most fun! There are numerous canoe and kayak rental points and 40km of river to explore, with sections suitable for all abilities – https://www.canoe-france.com/en/orb-2
Lagrasse (rated one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France) proudly welcomes the Royal Ballet from London’s Covent Garden 27 & 28 July. Performances, workshops and other events – https://www.muse-a-muse.com/home
Our M has to be Montpellier! It’s the capital of the Hérault department and the third-largest city in France on the Mediterranean coast after Marseille and Nice. A vibrant city of culture – ‘must visit’ locations include Place de la Comédie and the Musée Fabre, which also offers great workshops for kids – https://www.montpellier-france.com
The house of Noilly Prat is located in Marseillan. Noilly Prat is a brand of vermouth 18% alcohol by volume developed in 1813 by herbalist Joseph Noilly. Take a tour of the wine cellars and try a tasting – https://www.noillyprat.com
Olargues is rated one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France and a great example of a French Medieval town. It was occupied by the Romans, the Vandals and the Visigoths and famous for its “Devil’s Bridge” dating back to 1202 – http://www.les-plus-beaux-villages-de-france.org/en/olargues-0
The Pont du Gard is an ancient Roman aqueduct that crosses the Gardon River near Nîmes. The Pont du Gard is a UNESCO heritage site and the highest of all elevated Roman aqueducts – it stands 48.8 m (160 ft) high and the 2nd most popular attraction in Languedoc. Whether you take the tour of picnic by the river down below, it’s well worth a visit – http://www.pontdugard.fr/en
Visit the Chateau of Queribus near Maury – listed as a historic monument and the last Cathar stronghold, it is one of the “Five Sons of Carcassonne”, castles strategically placed to defend the French border against the Spanish until the 17th century. It stands on top of the highest peak for miles around (but you can drive almost all the way up to it!) – http://www.catharcastles.info/queribus.php
Roquebrun village is 200-350 meters above sea level and more than 100 meters above the River Orb. Due to its position and unique Mediterranean microclimate – Roquebrun is also known as the Le Petit Nice, with a view similar to that seen from the corniche in Provence, and also for its vegetation, similar to the Chaparral in California. If you love plants, trees and flowers, the Mediterranean garden here offers a fabulous day out and fabulous views – http://www.visit-languedoc.fr/en/annuaire/mediterranean-garden-of-roquebrun.html
Sigean African Nature Reserve is a park where animals such as lions and elephants are free to wander. A great family day out – the reserve is located between Narbonne and Perpignan – https://www.reserveafricainesigean.fr/en
Tautavel is the home to The European Center for Prehistoric Research (CERP). Tautavel Man is a 450,000-year-old fossil remains discovered in the Arago Cave in Tautavel. And if a museum of old bones isn’t your thing, it’s still worth going for the scenery alone! – https://www.tripadvisor.fr/Attraction_Review-g1833701-d1830517-Reviews-Museum_of_Prehistory_Tautavel-Tautavel_Pyrenees_Orientales_Occitanie.html
Rich in architecture and religious history, Uzès is also home to one of the most beautiful markets in the South of France selling fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, cheeses, herbs and more. If you have a romantic view of life in the South of France, visit Uzès and sit in a café on the market square – you will be living it! – http://shuttersandsunflowers.com/the-best-provencal-market-is-in-uzes
Vélo-rail! If you would like to enjoy the great outdoors without too much exertion, venture up to Larzac near the Millau bridge and experience an amazing trip along a very unique railroad – http://www.surlesrailsdularzac.com/home-c107w
Watersports – the Mediterranean coast has wide sandy beaches and rock pools, clear lagoons, lakes, canals, rivers, swimming pools fed by natural hot springs, and even subterranean streams. You can enjoy water skiing, sailing, windsurfing, scuba-diving, kite surfing, jet skiing, canoeing, kayaking, white water rafting and canyoning – https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g187149-Activities-c61-t184-Languedoc_Roussillon_Occitanie.html
X marks the spot! OK this one wasn’t so easy but the Croix d’Occitanie (Occitanie cross) is the symbol for our region! You will find a cross at the top of Canigou, and the Croix de Marcou is an enormous cross at the summit of Mont Marcou, at 1090m altitude. If you like an energetic hike in wild terrain – fill your boots! – https://www.altituderando.com/Croix-de-Marcou-1093m-Haut
The Little Yellow Train of the Pyrenees is one of the great railway journeys of the world and a fabulous way to reach the Regional Nature Park of Catalan Pyrénées. The train serves 22 stations from Villefranche de Conflent at 427m, to Bolquère Eyne, France’s highest railway station, lying at an altitude of 1592 metres (5226 ft). Opened in 1909, the service is now threatened with closure due to lack of funding so book it while you can! – https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/rail-journeys/through-the-pyrenees-on-the-little-yellow-train/
For a family adventure with creatures great and small there are several Zoos in the region – from larger and more exotic animals at Montpellier Zoo – http://zoo.montpellier.fr to smaller domestic and farm animals at Cessenon-sur-Orb – http://www.minifermezoo.fr to turtles, tortoises and reptiles in Sorède! – http://www.lavalleedestortues.fr
We hope our guide has given you some new ideas and that you enjoy a fantastic summer. If you have any other suggestions for our A-Z please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments or share them via the Facebook group ‘THINK South of France’.
Annette is Renestance’s 'go to' girl for all things marketing and social media. Bilingual and originally from Surrey in the UK, Annette has lived in France since 2008. In addition to her web design and marketing consultancy, Annette is the founder of Languedoc Jelly (a network of free events across the region for anyone working from home) and also Urban Sketchers Languedoc (part of a global community of people that like to draw or paint on location). A fan of all things French and Franglaise, she also has a Citroen 2CV called Beryl.
All articles by: Annette Morris