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Best places to visit in Southern France: Mirepoix
I have just come back from a short visit to the medieval town of Mirepoix in Southern France. I have been to Mirepoix a couple of times before, once when it was the Monday market day and another time when I was having lunch with clients. But I have never spent a lot of time exploring around. After spending a good few hours walking around the town, I have to say I am really impressed with Mirepoix and I would certainly recommend that you take a detour to visit the place. The central Place Marechal Leclerc in Mirepoix is certainly the most beautiful square I have seen in France and there are some really interesting shops in the narrow grid of streets around the main square.
History of Mirepoix, France
I think that the town of Mirepoix is a lot like some of the other really pretty places in Southern France - Lagrasse, Pezenas, Sommieres, Uzes - they are all remain beautiful towns because either not much has ever really happened to them so they have kept their medieval features in tact or they have been subject to one catastrophic event in the past and then redesigned. With Mirepoix, it is a combination of the two. The original town was wiped out when the river flooded the town. The town was then moved to higher ground and rebuilt in the late 13th Century according to a grid pattern layout.
Mirepoix was originally a Cathar stronghold, but the local inhabitants suffered the same fate as their neighbours in Carcassonne and Beziers, when the crusade led by Simon de Montfort hit the region (see The Cathars in Languedoc for more information).
Origin of mirepoix in cooking
Mirepoix is widely known throughout France, not for its beautiful medieval buildings, but for its contribution to French cuisine. During the 18th Century, the household chef of the Duke of Mirepoix, became well-known for producing a sauce based on mixture of butter, carrots, onions, celery, wine and a bouquet garni. Henceforth, it became known as la sauce à la Mirepoix and became an established term in French cooking for finely dicing raw vegetables to create a stock or base for a sauce. According to the 1938 Larousse Gastronomique - the bible of French cooking - a mirepoix may be prepared au gras (with meat) or au maigre (without meat) and the weight ratio for the mirepoix is 2:1:1 of onions, celery, and carrots
Mirepoix cathedral France
The St Maurice Cathedral in Mirepoix dominates over the town. It seems strange that a town of only 3,000 people has such a large cathedral. The cathedral in Mirepoix is purportedly the widest church in France and you can easily see why it took over 600 years to complete.
The cathedral was substantially repaired in the mid-nineteenth century by the same architect (Eugène Viollet-le-Duc) who restored Carcassonne castle.
Mirepoix France market day - Monday
Mirepoix holds its main market every Monday in the main square (Place Marechal Leclerc). The market really does consume the whole town and the population of the town doubles on market day. Even though there are plenty of car parks in Mirepoix, it can be quite tricky to find a parking space when the market is on. Whenever we have visited the market, we have always parked down by the rugby stadium. It is a bit of a walk into town, but it saves you having to drive road looking for a space.
The Monday market in Mirepoix offers everything from locally produced foods, beers, wines, fruit & veg, clothing, artisan soap, flowers and everything in between. You can even get your knives sharpened by a craftsman with a special stone wheel. When we stayed in Mirepoix, the owner of the B&B said that the Fish van is the best supplier of fresh fish in the area. She also recommended the goats cheese stall, which is produced by a farmer from the nearby Ariège region.
On market day you can still get something to eat or drink, but the cafes and restaurants on the edge of the Square do get very busy.
There is also a smaller Bio market in Mirepoix, held every Thursday in the Market Hall in front of the cathedral.
Mirepoix France restaurants to eat at
Certainly if you look at the Tripadvisor reviews of the restaurants in Mirepoix, they all seem much of a muchness. But I have eaten twice at La Saint Maurice restaurant right in the market square of Mirepoix and I have been impressed on both occasions. The menu is definitely typical of South West France, with a lot of duck and Cassoulet, but there are also some surprising twists, like wild mushroom risotto.
The landlady of the B&B we stayed at also recommended the restaurant at the Hotel Mirepoix Relais and the Petite Bouchon restaurant (although she did say that this can either be excellent or average depending on the mood of the chef). We also picked up a couple of other tips from Tripadvisor - La Grain de Sel and L'Autre Jardin. Unfortunately, both were closed when we stayed (it was a Wednesday night at the end of October).
Mirepoix France tourist information
Apart for the central square and the stunning cathedral, there are plenty of things to do and see in Mirepoix. Mirepoix is full of beautiful old timber beamed houses. Perhaps the oldest and most interesting from a design point of view is the Maison de Consul. This was originally built in the 15th Century as a meeting place of the local town Councillors. The building contains some well-preserved wood carvings and original oak beams
During the Autumn, Mirepoix is decorated with large sculptures, made out of the locally produced harvest of apples. The Mirepoix Fete de Pomme festival takes place during the second weekend of October.
Mirepoix is located in the Southern France, just a short drive south west of Carcassonne. It is located in the Ariège department, (part of the Occitanie region) just above the Pyrenees. To reach Mirepoix, you can take the A61 motorway from Carcassonne to the town of Bram and then follow the D119 down to Mirepoix. It is a very pretty drive and the road offers plenty of views of the Pyrenees mountains in the distance.
4 Holiday rentals close to Mirepoix in Southern France
I think a holiday close to Mirepoix in Southern France is a great choice. The countryside around Mirepoix, especially towards the Pyrenees is stunning. You also have plenty of places to explore, such as the amazing castle at Carcassonne (see Carcassonne Castle), the Canal du Midi, and interesting towns such as Castelnaudary, Revel, Pamiers, Foix, Minerve and Caunes-Minervois. Apart from the wonderful market in Mirepoix itself, you can also visit great markets in region on a daily basis.
In terms of food and wine, you are in for a treat. In the region around Mirepoix you must try regional delicacies such as the hearty Cassoulet stew from Castelnaudary, the fantastic sparking wine of Blanquette de Limoux from the nearby town of Limoux, the excellent wines from the Minervois and Corbieres vineyards and the luxurious La brouillade de truffes, a dish made in the Corbières hills from black truffles, eggs, olive oil and cream.
You can also explore many of the wonderful Cathar monuments, such as Château de Peyrepertuse, Châteaux de Lastours and Château de Montségur. Not far from Mirepoix is the famous Rennes-le-Château, where rumours and stories abound about buried Knights Templar treasure and even the Holy Grail (and the village featured in Dan Brown's book Da Vinci Code).
These 4 holiday rental properties are located close to Mirepoix and can all be rented on a weekly basis between May to September on Go Languedoc:
1. Pet-friendly holiday home near Carcassonne, France (Ref: 2062)
Le Marandou is a 5 bedroom farmhouse for rent close to the popular town of Carcassonne in South France. The farmhouse comes with a private swimming pool, large grounds, games room, 5 bathrooms, 2 living rooms and plenty of parking. You can walk out from the garden onto some beautiful country walks.
Le Marandou is easily accessible via the airport in Carcassonne and is a good base for exploring the famous castle in Carcassonne (the second most visited historical monument in France) and regional sites such as the ancient towns of Mirepoix, Minerve and the Cathar castles. The Mediterranean beaches are 50 mins drive.
This secluded farmhouse is located just outside the village of Labastide d'Anjou in the Occitanie region of the South of France. The farmhouse is perfectly laid-out for a large family or a group of friends holidaying in the South of France.
The holiday home also benefits from:
- Large covered terrace
- easy access (200m) to fields and vineyards for morning/evening walks
- Pets accepted through prior arrangement
This large holiday home is available for weekly rentals from May through to October at a high season price of €3,550. The prices include linen, towels and end of stay cleaning.
2. Large 5 bed holiday rentals property, South France, private pool (Ref: 1676)
This lovely farmhouse for holiday rentals is ideal if you want to find accommodation to rent for a large family group in Southern France. The property can easily accommodate up to 14 people and is a great space for children and adults alike.
The farmhouse is located just South of the the wonderful city of Carcassonne, with its famous castle; and provides easy access to both Carcassonne and Toulouse airports. The farmhouse is also conveniently located to explore the wonderful market town of Mirepoix, as well as the Pyrenees, the Canal du Midi, Cathar castles and the Mediterranean beaches.
This large holiday rentals property in South France, can sleep up to 14 people and comes with a private pool and stunning views. This renovated farmhouse has 5 bedrooms and is conveniently located on the outskirts of the medieval village of Fanjeaux in between Carcassonne and Mirepoix.
The Farmhouse is equipped to a high standard and is very bright and airy inside. The Farmhouse provides total peace and quiet, yet is only a 2 minute drive to the village where you will find an excellent boulangerie/patisserie, cafe/tabac, restaurant and shop.
3. Gites for rent near Carcassonne, Southern France (Ref: 876)
If you are looking for a relaxing holiday in the South of France, then these gites to rent just north of Mirepoix are perfect to enjoy this beautiful part of Southern France. There are 3 properties to choose from at this location, each of which comes with 2 bedrooms.
The gites are within easy driving distance of Carcassonne airport and are located just 15 mins from the A61 motorway - which provides access to the Mediterranean beaches and to Toulouse.
These gites share a swimming pool and grounds, but each gites has its own private terrace with lovely views over the open fields. The gites are very well equipped with fully-fitted kitchens and spacious lounges.
this is an ideal spot for a family holiday in the South of France. The gites are in a good location for exploring Carcassonne Castle, the Canal du Midi, the Cathar monuments and the Pyrenees.
4. French holiday homes, Aude, Languedoc with pool (sleeps 4) (Ref: 589)
If you are looking for a relaxing holiday in South France, then these French holiday homes at Domaine de la Flotte are perfect.
Domaine de La Flotte, is a country estate situated on a wooded hillside where you can enjoy the unspoilt nature and the beautiful views of the Pyrenees mountains in the distance. Domaine de Flotte is located just south of the medieval town of Mirepoix and is close to the Lac de Montbel and the small town of Chalabre.
There are 4 holiday homes to rent at Domaine de la Flotte, each of which has been tastefully renovated to provide high quality holiday accommodation. Each holiday home has its own terrace, so your privacy is guaranteed. You can make use of the shared swimming pool, or you can follow magnificent walks or explore the surrounding hills on a mountain-bike. You can hire one of the horses and go for a ride in the hillside.
If you are looking for a relaxing and peaceful holiday in South France, then Domaine de la Flotte French holiday homes are the perfect choice. This really is an ideal spot to explore the rural countryside of Southern France.
Where to next . . .?
If you are keen to explore the South of France around the town of Mirepoix, you may find these articles of interest:
- 2023 cheap flights to Carcassonne airport
- 9 villas to rent close to Carcassonne airport
- Tourism guide to Carcassonne and Carcassonne castle
- The Cathars in Languedoc
If you have any particular questions about Mirepoix and the Aude and Ariège departments in France or you would like some advice on places to stay in Southern France, then you can reach us by email : Go Languedoc