The most beautiful villages and towns in Languedoc Roussillon, south France
Some of the towns and villages of Languedoc Roussillon, South France, are amongst the most beautiful in France. Many are fortified or 'circulade', and go back over a thousand years. Our picks of the very best include Uzès, Pezenas, St Guilhem-le-Desert, Roquebrun, Collioure, Marseillan, Bouzigues, Lagrasse, Minerve, Olargues, Sommières, Sainte Enimie and Villefranche le Confluent.
Uzès is a stunningly charming Languedoc town dating back to Roman times. The architecture is beautiful, and its elegant squares are the perfect place for lunch or coffee. In Uzès you'll find Le Duché, an impressive castle belonging to a ducal family of old. An hour-long guided tour takes you through the building, its courtyard and garden, a keep and, of course, the famous 'Tour Bermonde' tower - from which there are superb views of the surrounding countryside.
Somehow, Pézenas feels much more sophisticated than other towns of similar size in Languedoc (bar Uzès) - with its nice restaurants, cafés and many arts and crafts shops and galleries. The western side of the town is also famous for antique shops. The architecture is grand - with lots of beautiful carved stone fasçades - thanks to the town having been the seat of Languedoc's parliament until the mid-1600s. If you get a chance - visit the Hôtel Lacoste - with it's gorgeous vaulted courtyard. The town's Saturday morning market is also lots of fun.
A charmingly restored village of cobbled streets, wedged at the bottom of a dramatic ravine. Beautiful, dramatic and very atmospheric. In the centre sits the abbey founded by Charlemagne's counselor Guile who returned in 800 from Rome to Languedoc with three pieces of the cross. It is now an UNESCO World Heritage site - and perfectly restored. The town can be very touristy in summer.
The village itself is rather ordinary - but what makes Roquebrun so exquisite is its location, climbing up the banks of Languedoc's beautiful river orb, with mountains rising behind it, and a lovely stone bridge crossing just where the river becomes a gently stepping weir where people swim in summer. Sit on the balcony of 'Le Petit Nice' café - sipping a coffee. Or rent a canoe and paddle under the bridge. There is a 'Tropical Garden' just aboove the village, full of plants that take advantage of Roquebrun's hotter microclimate.
After miles of flat, straight coastline, the 'feet' of Languedoc's Pyrénées spill down to the coast, causing it to undulate and rise steeply from the ocean. It's here, just a few kilometres from Spain, that you find Collioure. It feels more like an Italian seaside town, with its impressive fortifications rising from the bay, its pretty pastel houses, and the (often) snow-capped Pyrénées rising impressively in the distance. It's also an oasis of sophistication, with chichi cafés and restaurants catering to Languedoc's wealthier residents - many of whom have apartments here.
Marseillan is a sweet fishing village that plays host to 101 seafood restaurants that line the port. It gets very busy and 'buzzy' in summer, especially in the evenings, and is home to the Noilly Prat factory - where you can see how the tipple is made and stored in enormous wood barrels left out in the sun. The seafood is very good (thanks to the stiff competition) and the shellfish are excellent.
Combine with: Shopping in Béziers and a trip to Pézenas (see above).
Just 15 minutes along the coast from the town of Marseillan is the tiny fishing village of Bouzigues. The village itself is quite sweet - but a little uneventful. You come here, instead, for the spectacular views of the oyster beds splaying out across the Etang, with Sète in the distance. You come here, also, for the excellent seafood - and oysters that are said to be the best in France.
A smart Languedoc village with cobbled streets and many beautiful houses. It sits on the river Orbieu, with the famous and very beautiful Abbey of Lagrasse on the opposite bank. There are a couple of nice restaurants, and you can swim here in the summer in the river, which is dammed. A great place to visit on your way to the cathar castles further south.
Minèrve is a stunning place - charming cobbled streets and stone houses perched high on a thin sliver of land with river running on both sides. It is accessible only by a high bridge. It was the site of a famous siege in the mediaeval age, with Cathars valiantly defending the town, and Catholics catapulting rocks across the ravine.
A beautiful town square, (just outside Languedoc) ringed by tudoresque wood-beamed houses painted in pastels, makes Mirepoix one of the most beautiful towns in the region. Make sure to visit the gorgeous, 14th-century Maison des Consuls, in the centre of the town.
Combine with: A trip to Limoux where the famous 'Crémant' is produced.
A very pretty little village, high up in the Black Mountains, which boasts a graceful 'Pond du Diable' bridge. The scenery around is stunning, with steep pine-covered mountains and spectacular views across Languedoc and the Mediterranean. The 11th-century fortress is no longer there - but its clock-tower remains, at the top of the village.
A relatively sophisticated Languedoc town, not far from Montpellier and Nîmes, Sommières sits on a river, crossed by an imposing Roman bridge. Wandering around the town, you'll find beautiful houses and lots of good shops and nice cafés. A famous 17th century clock is worth a quick visit (in the Tour de l'Horloge).
A charming huddle of sandstone houses, rising from the river Tarn in Languedoc and penned in by the the cliffs of the Causses. The bridge is very beautiful too, and the Chapel St Madeleine is part of the remains of an ancient Benedictine monastery. The drive here is also stunning, along the gorges of the Tarn.
Half-way up Languedoc's Pyrénées, Villefranche is a fortified village - with huge, thick, maze-like fortifications surrounding the entire town. In its time, it has belonged to both the Spanish and the French, being so close to the border. And was used as a prison at one point. Now you can wander around it streets full of shops and restaurants.