Perched on a rocky cliff by the Orb River, Béziers is an understated city just a few kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea and its long sandy beaches. These ancient stone streets are rarely crowded with tourists, but the five-day Féria de Béziers in mid-August brings bullfighting shows and bullfighting enthusiasts flock to the city.
Sightseeers should start at Orb, which is crossed by a quaint and irregular medieval bridge below the cathedral. Conversely, the sweeping views over the river plain from this church are a real spectacle. The Orb, Canal du Midi and Haut Languedoc regional parks all promise outdoor adventures, and winery tours of the world’s largest wine region will also be on the menu.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Béziers:
1. Beziers Cathedral
On the cliffs above the Aube, the city’s cathedral had the same fate as the rest of the medieval city.
The predecessor burned down in 1209, and the current building was built in the Middle Gothic style later in that century.
Before you enter, take a moment to spot the gargoyles that adorn the cathedral’s exterior, and admire the grand silhouette of the building, which was clearly designed to show the might of the Catholic Church.
Inside are some of the original Romanesque cathedral columns and capitals, as well as the frieze of the time and 14th and 15th century frescoes, which were painted after the religious wars of the late 16th century.
2. Allées Paul-Riquet
Allées Paul-Riquet is the heart of Béziers, a royal promenade planned in 1827 along the city’s old ditches and ramparts. The avenue is very wide and long, with two rows of plane trees and blocks on each side of grand old apartments.
Residents of Béziers still visit friends and get some light exercise.
There are many restaurants and bars with terraces outside, and every Friday you can go shopping at the flower market.
Many evening entertainment takes place here during the Féria de Béziers every August.
3. Bittroy Museum
The museum is housed in a 17th-century barracks and showcases the history of Béziers.
The city’s most violent past, the massacre of the Cathars during the Albanian Crusades in 1209, is dealt with in depth: there is a model showing what the city looked like, along with a description of the massacre and painting.
The collection of Roman handicrafts is extensive and includes inscribed stones, amphora, busts and glassware.
The museum also gives you an idea of city life before the 20th century and showcases the natural history of this corner of South West France.
4. Old Bridge
For centuries, the only route from Provence to Toulouse was along this 13th-century bridge over the Orb River.
Pont Vieux is a marvelous Romanesque building, famous for its asymmetrical arches and inscribed on the French Inventory of Historic Monuments in 1963. Perhaps the best view of the city of Béziers from the parallel Pont Neuf with Pont Vieux and the subsequent masses rises sharply on the left bank.
Strangely, the old bridge avenue is now one-way, but in Béziers you will not find an older path than this narrow bridge.
5. Jardin des Evêques
The Bishop’s Garden, sloping celestially from the cathedral’s mighty walls, was originally designed for the clergy and then opened to the public after the revolution.
It is as peaceful now as it was hundreds of years ago when the Bishop of Béziers retreated here.
The view is also exhilarating, as it covers the entire Orb plain, first of all the river and its two bridges, but in the distance the Canal du Midi, the Minervois mountains and the Mediterranean Sea.
6. Canal du Midi
A tourist train runs from near the cathedral to this waterway that traverses a large area of southwestern France.
Completed in 1681, the Canal du Midi was planned by Pierre-Paul Riquet, whose name you may know from several of Béziers’ landmarks.
Nothing at the time could match its length and ambition.
With a total length of 241 kilometers, it is connected to the Garonne Canal, creating a continuous link between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
In Béziers, where nature and historical engineering come together in a picturesque way, the next best option for a boat trip is an hour or two walk by the water.
7. Fonserannes Locks
Near Béziers, where the Canal du Midi had to deal with a sudden change in altitude of almost 22 meters, the solution was to build this innovative lock.
If you’re hiking, come to watch the air show in the summer, when the resort boat slowly rises up the mountain throughout the day.
Originally built in the 17th century with nine chambers, the locks allowed ships to cross the Orb River.
But now there are seven, and instead of entering the river’s waters, the Canal du Midi is guided over the river by an aqueduct that opened in 1858, and is also worth a look if you appreciate industrial-age infrastructure.
8. Poet Plateau
Continue south along Allées Paul-Riquet, where they merge with this magnificent country park, which unfolded in 1867 in an English style in a rolling landscape. This is the work of great gardeners Denis and Eugene Boulle, who painted gardens all over France. Second half of the 19th century.
The park takes its name from the busts of many literary figures, including nationally acclaimed literary figures such as Bézier and Victor Hugo.
You can park yourself in front of the pond and meditate for a few minutes by the willows and conifers, or catch a show at the 2,000-seat Verdant Theatre in summer.
9. Féria de Beziers
Every year in mid-August, nearly a million revellers come to Béziers for the annual festival.
Bulls are at the heart of the five-day event, which has only grown in popularity since bullfighting was banned in Catalonia: many fly across the Spanish border to take part in the daily Corridas in the Arènes de Béziers.
After the battle, there are music and impromptu parties in makeshift wine cellars and huts.
It’s all reminiscent of San Fermin, even the red and white costumes, but the atmosphere is more folksy and less boisterous.
10. Les Halles de Beziers
Whether you’re shopping for real local gifts, groceries for self-catering accommodation or planning a summer picnic, a trip to France’s municipal markets is always worth it.
But Béziers’ markets have the added appeal of beauty and history, dating back to 1895 and designed in an elegant Art Nouveau style.
There are more than 20 stalls in the market, all of which are local produce, but now almost half of the area is occupied by top-notch restaurants using market-fresh ingredients.
11. La Pisciculture du Pont de Caylus
Another food-related tip for self-guided travelers is this unusual spot that lets you catch your own fish.
You borrow equipment from the office and find your favorite trout fishing time in the shade next to the pond.
You pay for what you catch, you get a big discount because you are the one who catches them, and the fish washes it for you.
They are then packaged and given to you to take home to grill or fry.
Young people will be excited and educated by the concept of eating lunch or dinner by themselves.
12. River Activities
The water in Orb is mild and shallow, especially in summer.
So on a hot day, you can stroll down to the river bank to rent a canoe, kayak or paddleboard and see where the relaxing currents take you.
This is another way to see the old Old Bridge, St. Jacques Church and Bishop’s Garden as it climbs steeply up to the Cathedral.
The course also includes the Orb Aqueduct, but there’s a lot of nature between man-made attractions and plenty of opportunities to identify fish below or birds on the riverbank.
13. Wine Tourism
Béziers is located in the middle of the oldest and largest wine region in France, and if you are a wine lover, it is not difficult to enjoy a wine experience during your holidays.
There are four Vin de Pays districts nearby: Pays des coteaux du Libron, Pays d’Oc, Côtes de Thongue and Terrasses de Béziers.
The diversity of soils, grapes and topography complicates the definition quite a bit, but as a rule of thumb this region of Languedoc-Roussillon produces red wines as good as anywhere in the region.
There are trendy bars where you can taste these wines, or you can do it yourself, organize tours of wineries or browse your favorite co-ops.
14. Rock Brunn
Set on winding terraces, the beautiful village of Roquebrun climbs to a height of 100 meters above the Orb.
About 20 kilometers upstream from Béziers, you are at the southern entrance to the Haut Languedoc Natural Park, surrounded by vineyards and pine-clad peaks.
The schist in these soils absorbs heat during the day and then releases it at night, giving Roquebrun some remarkable wines that you can get at the co-op.
Like Béziers, the river is shallow and easily navigable, making it a great starting point for canoeing and kayaking trips, while you should also allow some time to study the village, with its rickety but beautiful stones Architecture and awesome Orb vistas.
15. Mediterranean Beaches
The sea is only 15 minutes southeast of Béziers, and if you want to go to the beach, you’re in luck, as Portiragnes and Sérignan are side by side, two of the best in the entire region.
Both have long, wide strips of soft sand, traced by banks of small dunes covered in brush, hiding everything.
Nothing is more intrusive on the beach than campgrounds and low-key vacation communities.
Even if you’re here in midsummer, you don’t have to walk too far to avoid the crowds, and while both beaches feel remote, there are plenty of amenities, including parking, within a few meters of the sand.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Béziers, France
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