If you have a passion for architecture, then Béziers is the place for you. Founded in 36BC, the city has some of the most beautiful old buildings in Europe, including the famous Saint-Nazaire Cathedral. In fact, the sight of the 14th century church is one of the first things you will experience as you approach the outskirts of Béziers. That’s not to say this scenic town on the River Orb hasn’t anything else to offer the discerning tourist.
Fighting bulls and fine wine
Béziers is best known for the annual Feria event, a four-day festival of bullfighting and wine tasting. In fact, the town is the centre of the Languedoc wine industry and the surrounding countryside is full of beautiful vineyards, as well as spectacularly scenery, so it’s well worth hiring a car to get to the very heart of the region. Visit Château de Raissac
, for example. Where once a Gallo-Roman villa once stood, there is now a wonderful vineyard and museum, as well as substantial wine cellar that was added in the 17th century. Don’t forget to check out the stunning paintings and frescoes inside the castle too.
Art and Architecture
But, like many towns in Languedoc, Béziers is overflowing with historical art and architecture. The ancient bridge, over the River Orb, Pont Vieux, should be on your to-do list, as should Cimetière Vieux, a beautiful old world cemetery that has headstones of both historical and artistic value, some dating back to the early 19th century. No sightseeing tour of the region would be complete if it didn’t include the Moulin Cordier, purchased in 1836 by Leopold Cordier, who fitted one of the first steam engines in 1827 for the purpose of pumping water in the upper regions of the town. The mill has been both a saw mill and a paper mill is now one of the main tourist attractions. An organised walking tour of the city includes both Pont Vieux and the Cordier Mill. If you have time to spare, pop into the Musée des Beaux Arts with its collection of paintings by Rubens and Delacroix. Finally, see the region from the river with a trip down the Canal du Midi, passing through the Malpas Tunnel, a 173-metre long cylinder carved under the hills at Montady. Interestingly, this man-made tunnel was burrowed out in just six days using the limited technology of the late 17th century.
Staying in Béziers
The Languedoc region has plenty of traditional French gites, many with their own swimming pool, so if you go in summer, one of these can make the ideal base from which to explore the countryside – with the added advantage of a pool to cool off in after a sweaty day’s sightseeing. Alternatively, one of the most luxurious places to stay is the Chatêau de Lignan
. Built in the 7th century, this was once home to the Bishops of Béziers and overlooks the River Orb. It offers stunning accommodation in charming surroundings at surprisingly reasonable rates.