In the vast architectural and landscape setting of the destination Occitania, Pyrenees-Mediterranean, the cultural heritage counts its treasures. This unique wealth places it among the leading regions which host many World Heritage sites.

From ancient Rome to the Middle Ages, by way of the Crusades, the Cathar epic, the 17th-century French civil war (La Fronde) and all the upheavals of history, the destinations Languedoc Roussillon and Midi Pyrénées has kept well-entrenched these traces of a past which forged the world.

But beyond these world-renowned sites, from Gers to Gard, from Lot to the Pyrenees, from Haute-Garonne to Lozère, the thirteen departments of the region are teeming with exquisite and moving places, forged by people and nature, which accompany history and are today accessible treasures.

Between History and Modernity

Towns and villages to enjoy

From Roman Nîmes to medieval Cahors, from Auch in Gascony to Catalan Perpignan, the destination Occitania, Pyrenees-Mediterranean offers wide open spaces and urban areas of character. Toulouse the pink town, the home of Airbus, possesses a unique charm on the banks of the Garonne while Montpellier spreads towards the Mediterranean, situated only a few kilometres away.

But there are also Aigues-Mortes, in the heart of the Petite CamargueSète, the ‘singular island’; Uzès, the first dukedom in France; Mende, the pious city; Sainte-Énimie, a medieval village in the heart of the Gorges du Tarn; Béziers, dominating the Canal du Midi; Narbonne, the oldest Roman colony in Gaul; Collioure, the jewel of the Côte Vermeille; Rodez, the old capital of the Rouergue; Albi, colourful and gourmet; Lourdes, the universal city; Moissac, where roads cross; Conques and his vessel of stone; Rocamadour, the sacred city clinging to the cliffs; Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, one of the most beautiful villages in France; Cordes-sur-Ciel, a legendary city turned towards the stars...  

Between towns two thousand years old on the old Roman road and medieval cities which have kept proud traces of their past, there is a whole string of cities that are charming and have character, of which a great number are labelled «Ville d’art et d’histoire» [“Artistic and historical town”], offering themselves to visitors half-modern, half-historical.

Pont du Gard

Listed as part of Unesco’s world heritage, the Pont du Gard, not far from Uzès, is the most visited ancient monument in France. Built in the first century B.C., it spans the Gardon and was just one element in the fifty kilometre long aqueduct, designed to provide the Roman town of Nîmes, situated tens of kilometres away, with water. 

Routes of Santiago de Compostela  

From the beginning of the 11th century Compostela, the village in Galicia in Spain where the tomb of St James is supposed to have been found, has been the destination for a pilgrimage that thousands of the faithful undertook all through the Middle Ages. Nowadays these paths of faith are no longer used just by pilgrims. Numerous ramblers undertake the adventure for the beauty of the landscapes and the exceptional heritage that marks them off, for the magic of encounters. Four historic paths come together at Punte Reina. Two of them go through the Occitanie, Pyrénées Méditerranée region. The most southerly one, the Via Tolosana (GR653), or Voie d’Arles, passes through Saint-Gilles and its abbey church with its sculpted façade and its Romanesque triple portal. After the abbey of Gélone, a jewel of Romanesque art in the Languedoc and the Devil’s bridge, the Via goes on through Toulouse and the Saint-Sernin basilica up to the col du Somport.

The Via Podensis (GR65) starts at the cathedral of Puy-en-Velay which houses the famous black Virgin, an object of cult and pilgrimage. Its itinerary is also punctuated by monuments and engineering works, the “pilgrim” bridge at Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac, the Pont Vieux [old bridge] in Espalion, that of Estaing, the bridge over the Dourdou at Conques whose splendid abbey church stands guard over the Treasure of Sainte Foy, Saint-Sernin cathedral and the pont Valentré at Cahors, the abbey church of Moissac… On leaving Narbonne the Pyrenean Piedmont way (GR 78) is a variant of the voie d’Arles [Arles route]. It links highly spiritual places, Carcassonne, Saint-Thibéry, Saint-Lizier, Saint-Just de Valcabrère, Saint-Bertrand de Comminges, Lourdes and the Templar chapel at Aragnouet…

Vauban Fortresses

Designed to protect the frontiers from incursions from Spain, Villefranche-de-Conflent and Mont Louis in the Pyrenees today figure among the World Heritage sites of Unesco. Mont-Louis, the highest stronghold in France, consists of a military citadel and a new town. The citadel houses the National Centre for Commando Training, but the powder magazines, the Well of the Convicts can be explored in guided visits. Nestling in its fortified enclosure Villefranche-de-Conflent is a lively place with medieval streets full of charm, restaurants and craft shops.

Canal du Midi

This green serpent, which links Toulouse with the Thau lagoon represents the umbilical cord between the territories of the region, flowing through Haute-Garonne, Aude and Hérault. The most used watercourse in Europe, the canal symbolizes the gentle French way of life. Among its 328 constructions you need to discover the first great dam built in Europe at the lake of Saint-Ferréol, a master work that feeds the Canal and the museum and Gardens of the Canal which offer a journey to the historical sources of this formidable undertaking. Also in need of discovery is the bridge-aqueduct of the Répudre, the Epanchoir (overflow reservoir) of La Redorte, the port of Somail, the tunnel of Malpas, the nine locks of Fonséranes, the round lock of Agde, the engineering works on Libron and the pointe des Onglous at the Thau lagoon.

Carcassonne

With its fifty-two towers, its ramparts of the 4th and 13th centuries and its Ducal Castle, this medieval fortress is unique in Europe for its size and its exceptionally well-preserved state. The seat of the Visigoths, then of the Saracens, it will radiate out under the dynasty of the Trencavel during the time of the Cathars. The viscount of Carcassonne then tolerated the Cathar heresy which brought down on him the wrath of the Albigensian Crusade. Simon de Montfort took control of the city and it reverted to the King of France in 1224. In 1659 the Treaty of the Pyrenees and the pulling back of the Franco-Spanish frontier precipitated its decline. Fortunately the architect Viollet-le-Duc will undertake its restoration in the 19th century.

Cathar castles

The Cathar castles of Quéribus, Peyrepertuse, Aguilar, Termes, Puilaurens, surnamed ‘the Five Sons of Carcassonne’, were the scene of dramatic episodes in the Crusade from 1209 onwards. Their superb ruins are today the guardians of the history of Catharism.