Beziers city guide information Languedoc Roussillon, South France
Beziers - home to Languedoc's 'feria'
Throughout Languedoc Béziers is known for two things in particular: wine and bullfighting. Undoubtedly the best time to visit this town, which sits atop a rocky spur overlooking the great plain of the Hérault département, is during the four-day long feria when you can combine both! Béziers is also perfectly situated for excursions into the Haut Languedoc, a rugged and untamed mountainous region of picturesque stone villages and cascading mountain streams.Although this is one of the smaller and poorer towns of the region, time here is rarely wasted and an amble through the old town, bordered on three sides by the Orb river and a canal, is extremely agreeable. It’s also worth noting that Béziers is off most tourist agendas, so if you’re looking for a taste of the real Languedoc, you could do worse than spend a night or two here.
Béziers became a Roman colony in 36 BC and formed an important staging post on the Domitian Way, the chariot road which traversed the whole of Languedoc on its way from Rome to Cadiz in southern Spain, developing into an important trade route. Indeed, commerce has been the life blood of Béziers for centuries, particularly in wine: the amphora, a container for carrying wine in a ship’s hold, was invented by the town’s winegrowers. During the thirteenth century the town witnessed one of the worst massacres in the region – 20,000 people were put to death during the crusade against the Cathars, many of whom had sought refuge in Bézier’s churches: Cathars and Catholics alike were slaughtered indiscriminately on the orders of a papal legate who believed God would recognise his own.
Béziers Top 5:
- Cathédrale St-Nazaire. The main sight in Béziers and not a bad one at that. This grandiose Romanesque cathedral dates from the thirteenth century and occupies one of the best sites in town: from the concourse in front of the cathedral there are terrific views out over the surrounding vineyards and towards the foothills of the Massif Central to the north.
- Musée des Beaux Arts. The best of the town’s museums with paintings by Rubens and Delacroix as well as several local artists.
- Feria. Based on Spain’s corrida, this festival takes in the middle of August (usually around the 15th) and lasts for four days. A holiday atmosphere invades the town as young men full of bravado take on the bulls and the town gets down to some serious partying with street festivals and music throughout the four day long event.
- Canal du Midi. West of Béziers, the canal, which connects Sète on the Mediterranean with Toulouse (and ultimately the Atlantic via the Garonne river), runs through a series of lovely old villages. Start your trip west at the seven locks of Ecluses de Fonséranes reached along the N113 from Béziers.
- Roquebrun. A picturesque village in the Orb valley about 20km north of Béziers which seemingly clings to the cliff face above the river. Known for its microclimate, the vines here do particularly well and wine can be sampled at several local outlets. Also a good place for swimming in the river.
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