If the town’s name rings out, it’s definitely because of the Millau Viaduct, a record-breaking bridge across the Tarn Valley.
The viaduct actually has its own tourism industry: you can take to the skies with a paraglider, or drive to the village of Pell and see it span the valley like something out of a sci-fi world.
But in Millau itself, there’s plenty to intrigue, from ancient kilns that supplied pottery to the Roman world to fossils of prehistoric underwater beasts and towers built for the 12th-century king of Aragon.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Miyo:
1. Millau Viaduct
The name “Millau” is now synonymous with the engineering marvel that spans a few kilometers west of the Tarn.
Opened in 2004, the Millau Viaduct is the tallest bridge in the world and most people will be speechless when it comes into view.
It’s the work of engineer Michel Virlogeux and architect Norman Foster, and the truth is, if you’re in Millau and don’t drive through it or come to the visitor center, you’re missing out.
Viaduc Escape Info presents all the overwhelming stats to get you into the P2 pillar, which is also the tallest structure of its kind in the world.
2. La Graufesenque
Make sure you see this Gallo-Roman archaeological site on the other side of Tarn.
It was a potter’s village, but not a cottage industry; the kilns here produced as many as 40,000 pots at a time, more than any kiln in the rest of the Roman Empire.
Pottery has been unearthed here throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and has been found as far away as India.
Go with a guide who will have more incredible facts to tell you about these ovens, as well as the workshops, homes and sanctuaries that surround them.
3. Millau Museum
The town’s museum displays many of these ancient red ceramics, described as the most important pottery collection in the Roman Empire.
But it also depicts the natural history of Milo and Great Cowes, human prehistory, medieval trade and traditional ways of life.
You’re right in the middle of old Milo, in an 18th century townhouse with 30 rooms to check out.
Among the many cool things is a skeleton of a marine dinosaur, as well as leatherworking and glove making workshops showing Milo’s lifeblood over the centuries.
4. Beffroi de Millau
The town’s bell tower is the remains of a 12th-century palace that once symbolized the power of the Aragonese kings.
It’s as complex as anything from that era, and the fact that it’s still intact some 900 years later suggests it was built with expertise.
In the 1600s, the tower was bought by the town to house the clock, and was later held inside during times of conflict like prisoners of the revolution.
Now it is an attraction open all summer and you can climb 210 steps to observe the town and the plateau of the Grands Causses.
5. Lavoir de l’Ayrolle
The building has an air of grandeur, especially when you realize its purpose.
Lavoir de l’Ayrolle is a communal laundry where locals do their laundry.
Formed in the 1740s on the orders of Louis XV, this one looks like a Roman triumphal arch surrounded by neoclassical arcades and topped with a pediment and balustrade.
There used to be a roof, but it collapsed in the 1770s.
Before the city walls were replaced by today’s tree-lined boulevards, it was outside the city walls, on the west side of the city.
6. Chaos de Montpellier-le-Vieux
A completely charming place in the Grands Causses is this block below Dourbie Gorge.
There are 120 hectares of huge dolomite rocks twisted into various bizarre shapes, such as the Porte de Mycene natural arch.
You can get to the center of the site as easily as possible with a mini-train, which has walking paths that take you past the strangest rock formations and scenic lookouts.
The trails vary in difficulty, but if you can get the job done, the red trails reward you with photos you’ll be tempted to share with friends.
7. Paragliding tour
This may seem like an extreme or niche activity, but it’s actually taking off around Milo, and everyone who’s tried it will tell you it’s the ultimate way to view the viaduct.
With at least half a dozen companies in town offering paragliding, paragliding or ultralight tours, this activity is easier to attend than you might think as it’s open to almost any age and weight (up to 120kg).
Really, you are just a passenger with an experienced pilot by your side.
Milo’s plateau also makes this easier, as in just a few steps, your tree canopy will be captured by thermals and you’ll be floating on the viaduct.
8. The Old Bridge and the Old Mill
As you enter Millau at Pont Lerouge on the Tarn, a strange structure catches your eye.
Next to this bridge are two arches of an even older bridge, at the end of which is an old mill.
The structure looks precarious, to say the least, because the mill at the top is cantilevered by rows of wooden beams.
Completed sometime around the early 12th century, the bridge has 17 arches across the Tarn and is reinforced by three towers.
The mill there now was built in the 1700s and included the foundation of one of the towers in its construction.
This all makes for a very unique sight, currently recovering from the 2012 floods.
A few kilometers downstream of the viaduct is the village, squeezed between the Tarn and impenetrable tuff walls.
Many of the houses in the village are actually cave dwellers, as they were dug out of this soft stone, and you can see the caves are filled with man-made caves of ancient dwellings.
You can wander the crack-like streets of Peyre, which is pleasantly cool in summer, but you’ll find it hard to take your eyes off the viaduct, whose massive silhouette is always present in the distance above the river.
You also know the name of this town because of a cheese that is exported around the world.
Here you can live out the dreams of many gourmets and see the cellars where this cheese is stored to mature.
These are natural caves, formed when Mount Combalo collapsed millions of years ago, and then carved into a labyrinth of chambers where thousands of Roquefort goat cheeses are tended by cheese masters.
This cannot be replicated anywhere else: AOC rules state that even Penicillium roquefort must come from these caves for the cheese to be called Roquefort!
11. Millau’s Townhouse
Millau is a nationally recognized city of art and history, with some private sites still listed as Historic Monuments.
These are the things you should add to your center hike.
The 17th-century Hôtel de Sambucy on Boulevard d’Ayrolle is certainly worth remembering.
This was commissioned by the local “Conseiller du Roi”, who held important positions in the regime of Louis XIV.
Please do not confuse this property with the Hôtel de Sambucy de Miers on Rue Saint-Antione, which dates back to the Middle Ages and was updated in the 1600s.
12. Grands Causses Regional Park
Millau blends into the highland landscape etched by the Dourbie, Jonte and Tarn rivers to form a majestic gorge.
You hardly need to go very far to see some sights that you will remember long after you get home.
Puncho d’Agast extends to the north and is surrounded by cliffs near its top.
Ambitious walkers will scramble to admire Millau’s unparalleled views, and here’s another great spot for paragliders, as you’ll see colorful canopies swirling around the mountain from the town.
Those steep walls are a climber’s dream, and if you’re not ready to climb the cliffs vertically, Via Ferrata du Boffi is a cliff-side suspended walkway that provides you with helmets and harnesses for safer activities than watching stand up!
13. Maison des Vautours
The bald eagle was once endemic to the Cevennes but became extinct before being reintroduced with great success in the 1970s.
From Millau, if you drive next to Le Rozier along the River Tarn, you will arrive at a visitor center where you can observe these birds of prey in their natural habitat.
There’s an observation deck with a rotating telescope that allows you to track griffins, monks, bearded and Egyptian condors in flight and see their nests on the cliffs.
There is also a museum about bald eagles, their habits, history and reintroduction projects.
14. Abbaye de Sylvanès
An easy road trip from Millau takes you to this 1100s Cistercian abbey, built by converted robbers.
In stories repeated across France, the abbey was nearly destroyed in the revolution.
But the church, branch hall, office building and the east corridor of the cloister were all rescued.
In summer, the International Festival of Sacred Music is a season of around 30 performances and recitals, started in 1977, in the abbey church or in the atmospheric cloisters.
Originally the festival was about early Christian music, but the focus has shifted to include all contexts and regions of the world.
15. Local Products
At Grands Causses, you can also visit the source of the region’s culinary heritage.
We’ve already mentioned Roquefort, but this is one of the product’s cornucopias.
Veyreau has a honey farm, Ayssènes has a chestnut grove, Paulhe has a cherry orchard and Saint Affrique has a sheep farm, all open to curious food lovers.
But few delicacies are as mysterious as truffles, and at Comprégnac, the House of Truffles will tell you all about the culture and harvest of this coveted fungus.
From Wednesday to Sunday morning, many of these items will be sold at the palatial iron and glass market at Place des Halles in Millau, and there is also a special farmers’ market on the Place des Halles on summer nights.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Millau, France
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