The Languedoc is an amazing historical region of France to discover. It has more historic sites to explore than any other region of France outside of Paris. Within the Languedoc, there are 6 UNESCO World heritage sites, as well as numerous other tourist sites covering Paleolithic cave paintings, Roman monuments, Cathar ruins, medieval hilltop villages and remnants from the early industrial age. The history of the region is as diverse as it is long and there can be no better place in France to explore. An excellent way to tour all the historical sites in the Languedoc is to obtain a visitor pass from the organisation called Sites de Exception. This organisation promotes over 20 major cultural and historical tourism sites across the departments of Herault, Gard and Aveyron.
The visitor pass provides discounted entry rates to range of places of interest, including the Roman amphitheatre in Nimes, the Bamboo gardens in Anduze, the Millau viaduct, the Abbey Valmagne monestary, and the caves at Gotte de Clamouse.
UNESCO World Heritage sites in Languedoc France
The Languedoc region possesses 6 outstanding World Heritage sites, which have been designated as historically important by the international organisation for promoting and protecting education, science and cultural resources (UNESCO).
These sites include the majestic medieval castle at Carcassonne; the Canal du Midi, which flows from Toulouse in the West to the Mediterranean sea in the East; the Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct, which carried water 40km from Uzes to the Roman garrison town of Nimes; the beautiful medieval village of St-Guilhem-le-Desert, once a refuge from religous persecution and also situated along the famous pilgrim trail to Santiago de Compostela; and the Roman amphitheatre and chariot racing circuit in Arles.
Architectural sites to visit in Languedoc
The Languedoc has many fascinating architectural sites including the Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct, near Uzes and the Millau Bridge designed by Sir Norman Foster. You can also enjoy another of Foster's creations in the Languedoc, by visiting the Modern Art Museum in Nimes.
In the nearby town of Arles, once home of the artists van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, work is about to be completed on the Luma Arles art complex, designed by architect Frank Gehry. The Luma tower is a twisting metal structure which soars 56 meters above the town. The Luma Arles arts centre was established by the Swiss collector, Maja Hoffmann, and will feature prominent art work from artists associated with the town, as well as providing studio space for modern artists in residence. The tower is due to be completed by spring 2020.
Another site to enjoy is the recently renovated Ecluses de Fonseranes in Beziers. This engineering masterpiece from the 17th Century, involves 9 inter-linked locks which transports canal boats down 20m from the high point of the Canal du Midi, to the lower stretches of the Canal at Beziers, just by the power of water alone.
The full list of Exceptional historical sites to visit in Languedoc include:
- The Millau Viaduct - when it was built, this was the tallest bridge in the world. It was designed by the French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Foster and was opened in 2004. The bridge is part of the A75-A71 autoroute from Paris to Beziers and I have to say that it is well worth a detour. It is not until you get on the bridge that you realise how high you are. At its highest point the road deck is 270 metres (890 ft) above the valley below.
- The Bambouseraie Bamboo gardens in the Cevennes - the first Oriental Plant garden in Europe and ranked amongst France’s most beautiful gardens, the Bamboo Gardens located in Anduze, Cévennes, offers visitors a chance to explore the largest collection of bamboo plants in the world. The Bambousseraie has just installed an extraordinary tree-top path high above the canopy of the trees.
- St Guilhem le Desert - the ancient village of St Guilhem, now designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, is widely regarded as the prettiest village in the South of France. Once a refuge for fleeing Protestants (Huguenots) during the 15th and 16th Centuries, St Guilhem's history dates back to 800 AD when the Abbey and village was founded by Charlemagne's counsellor Guilhem, who returned to Languedoc from Rome.
- Pont du Gard - this extraordinary Roman aqueduct located just north of Nimes is one of 6 UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the South of France. Complete with an excellent visitors centre and Mediterranean garden, the Pont du Gard, is a special place to visit in France.
- Oppidum d'Enserune - once the site of an important Roman fort and villa, recent archeological excavations have revealed remnants from a Gaul settlement pre-dating the arrival of the Romans. The site offers a superb view over the Bassin de Montady - a wagon wheel pattern of fields - which it is believed was originally salt production site.
- Noilly Prat - this famous Southern France dry vermouth is the key ingredient for a Martini drink and has been produced in the coastal town of Marseillan for over 200 years. The tour of the former Noilly Prat distillery also includes a visit to the famous Cocktail bar where you can blend your own cocktail.
- Museum of Contemporary Art - situated in the town of Sérignan, close to the Mediterranean Sea, this modern art museum contains numerous temporary exhibitions and permanent collections of modern art.
- Pezenas - the historical capital of the Languedoc under Prince Conti and once the former home of the French playwright, Moliere. Wander on a guided tour round the ancient streets of this beautiful Southern France town.
- Maguelone Cathedral - located on the Mediterranean shore, close to Montpellier, this beautiful cathedral dates back to 533 AD. Built on a small island, the church wasone of the most important sites of Christianity in France after the fall of the Roman Empire. The church was rebuilt in the 11th Century and further buildings were added in the 12th Century.
- Grotte des Demoiselles - located close to the village of St Guilhem, these underground limestone caves are host to a wide variety of stalactites and unique mineral formations. The caves are a constant temperature of 14°C all year around.
- Chateau Cassan - a beautiful 18th Century Chateau that was built on the site of a former monastery. The 11th Century priory still stand next to the Chateau.
- Abbey Valmagne - a Cistercian abbey founded in 1139. The abbey houses an impressive Gothic Church and was an important location for wine making. The wines produced by the monks provided an important source of income and by the 14th Century the abbey was the richest monastery in south France.
- Nimes amphitheatre - the best–preserved roman amphitheatre in the world. The amphitheatre is one of the best examples of Roman engineering design and construction - the oval shaped arena has perfect symmetry: 68 meters in length and 38 metres in width. The exterior stone façade is 21 meters high and comprises two floors of 60 superimposed arches. At the top, specially-drilled stones were positioned to allow long poles to be hung over the arena to provide shade with a huge canvas canopy. In Roman times, the monument could hold 24,000 spectators spread over 34 rows of terraces divided into four separate areas.
- Carcassonne castle - Carcassonne is an UNESCO World Heritage Site in the South of France. It is the sheer scale of the castle at Carcassonne that blows you away. There is a full size village inside the walls of the castle. The castle was first established in the 11th Century and in 1209 it was taken by Simon de Montfort during his crusade against the Cathars.
- Canal du Midi - This Plane tree-lined canal that runs from Toulouse to the Mediterranean sea, is the largest UNESCO World heritage site on earth. The brain-child of Paul Riquet, a tax collector from Beziers, this mammoth civil engineering project was the most complex and greatest civil engineering undertaking since the time of the Romans.
- Arles - With its Roman heritage, complete with preserved Amphitheatre, Forum and Theatre; the beautiful 17th Century mansions and modern Museums and not forgetting the wide rolling river; Arles has it all. Arles was also the base for Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, during their ill-fated but successful partnership in the 'Studio of the South'. Here van Gogh painted some of his most famous masterpieces.
Visitor pass to historical sites in Languedoc
The Sites d’Exception en Languedoc provide a free Privilege Card, valid for 2 people. You can now take advantage of lower prices on all of the network’s member tourist sites.
To obtain your visitor pass from the the website Sites de Exception, or alternatively, if you visit any of the sites listed above you can purchase the privilege card. The card allows you to enjoy up to €3 Euros discount per person to enter any of the historical sites and up to 10% off their partner services: barge ride along the Canal du Midi, tasting and buying wine or organic olive oil…
Inspiration? . . . or more questions?
I hope that this article has provided you with some good ideas about the places to go to in the South of France during your visit. We live in the South of France all year around and we absolutely love being here. We are always out and about visiting new villa rental properites and researching tourism articles about the South of France. We have a great collection of articles with more ideas about things to do and places to go in the South of France, including:
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