Not to miss sights in Occitanie
• Carcassonne and its fortified city
This ancient oppidum (fortified city) dating from time of the Romans became an imposing fortress over the centuries, raised to defend itself against Spanish Aragon. The architect Viollet-Leduc saved the walled city from the demolition and today it is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Visitors love its ramparts with 52 towers, its monumental gates and its outdoor theater which hosts the Festival de la Cité every summer.
• The city of Toulouse
The La Ville Rose (the “Pink City”), which owes its name to the color of the brick that adorns the facades, is as lovely as its name. Toulouse has no shortage of sights to visit: the wide Capitol Square, the Bernardins convent with the palm-shaped vault, the Assezat hotel in the Renaissance style, the banks of the Garonne in the heart of the city, the City of Space…
• Nimes, the Roman city
Dubbed the “French Rome,” the ancient remains of Nîmes are beautifully preserved—the amphitheater, the Maison Carrée, the Magne Tower, the Temple of Diana, Castellum. Walking through this city is a beautiful dive into history into the era of the Emperor Augustus!
• Gard’s Bridge
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, this bridge-aqueduct is a masterpiece of ancient architecture. Its dimensions are exceptional: 49 meters (114 feet) high and three rows of superimposed arches! Having fed Nîmes with water for five centuries, it is one of the best preserved Roman remains in a now protected environment.
• Narbonne, Gruissan and their Roman remains
Narbonne was the first Roman colony outside Italy. Walk the cobblestones of the Via Domitia, sneak into the galleries of the Roman horreum (ancient warehouse), climb the 170 steps of the dungeon Gilles Aycelin, admire the Gothic cathedrals St. Just and St. Pasteur. Then, push to the old village of Gruissan, encircling the castle, the traditional land of fishermen, salt workers and winemakers.
• The Cathar Castles
In the 13th century, the Cathars refuted the pope and took refuge in high-rise castles, in the Aude and Ariège, perched on breathless cliffs! Climb up to the “5 sons of Carcassonne,” the magnificent medieval fortresses of Aguilar, Puilaurens, Peyrepertuse, Termes and Quéribus, as well as also Montségur or Foix.
• The medieval city of Rocamadour
Hang in there! This tiny village lives on a jut of rock, perched above the canyon. It is necessary to climb more than 200 steps to reach its summit, the Saint-Saveur basilica and the Saint-Amadour crypt, and to see the Black Virgin in the Notre Dame chapel.
• Albi and its episcopal city
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Albi is dressed in its signature ocher brick. The fortress-like cathedral of Sainte-Cécile and its colorful frescoes dazzle all vistors, as does the impressive Berbie Palace, home to the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum on the banks of the Tarn.
• Conques, one of the most beautiful villages in France
En route to Santiago de Compostela, Conques will surprises pilgrims and tourists alike with its timeless atmosphere nestled in a wild gorge. Stroll in the medieval streets, visit the Romanesque abbey Sainte-Foy with stained glass signed Pierre Soulages, and admire its treasure, a splendid collection of goldsmithery.
• The Pyrenees
Winter or summer, the Pyrenees offer a range of activities and unparalleled discoveries, in a splendid mountain setting.
Things to do in Occitanie
• Enter the famous arena of Nîmes
Dating from the end of the 1st century after Christ, the architecture of this arena is very sophisticated. Oval shaped, the coliseum could accommodate 24,000 spectators, who all had an overview on the track. Today the arena hosts shows and reconstructions of great Roman games, a vivid callback to the colonial past.
• Attend a concert at Les Abattoirs in Toulouse
The conversion of these old slaughterhouses into a museum of modern and contemporary art is yet another way that Occitanie has succeeded in living in the present while honoring its past. Visitors will see monumental works on the forecourt and in its large rooms, as well as concerts and performances.
• Get carried away by the rhythm of jazz in Marciac
Since 1978, you can hear scat in Marciac! Every year, for 15 days in August, the village becomes the Mecca of Jazz, a siren festival that attracts the best musicians and singers. It’s a can’t-miss event for those that love to groove!
• Meditate on the depth of black at the Soulages museum in Rodez
The museum, clad in oxidized steel, houses a collection of 250 works and 250 documents, made by Pierre Soulages. It’s up to you to detect the different shades of black on the canvases, to detail the material of the walnut bushes and to discover the preparatory works for the stained glass windows of Conques.
• Admire Mount Canigou from Mar Estang Beach
The wide beach of Canet in Roussillon extends between the pond of Canet and the Mediterranean sea. The beach is very lively in summer, a hotspot to practice windsurfing. In the distance stands the silhouette of Mount Canigou, which rises to 2,784 meters (nearly 1000 feet) in the Pyrenees.
• Immerse yourself in the seaside and student atmosphere of Montpellier
Sit at a café terrace on the Place de la Comédie, walk along the Peyrou promenade to the gazebo and the Saint-Clément aqueduct, climb into the steeple of Saint-Pierre cathedral. The sea is only 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) away, ideal to cool down after exploring the city!
• Rent a bike or a boat along the Canal du Midi
Between Toulouse and the Etang de Thau, the Canal du Midi runs 240 kilometers (149 miles), via 63 locks and 350 engineering structures throughout some of the lushest French landscapes. Long live tranquil travel! Cycling on the old towpaths or skimming on a barge at low speed, you can feast your eyes on the passing fields and villages…
• Play the Amazons in the Camargue
In the delta of the Rhone, ride on horseback between sea, salt marshes, lagoons and ponds, discovering bull ranches and flocks of pink flamingos. Here lie 100,000 hectares of unique landscapes and fauna in the Camargue Regional Nature Park.
• Climb the 374 steps of the monumental staircase of Auch
The staircase connects the feet and head of the city, in 35 vertical meters (100 feet). Completed in 1863, levels with sculptures and statues weave among the steps, including that of D’Artagnan, beloved soldier of the 3 Musketeers.
• Relax in the Cevennes or in Lozère
Difficult to find landscapes more preserved than the Lozère, which includes the lakes of Aubrac, the plateaus of Causses and the valleys of the Cévennes are worth the visit. Lovers of hiking and open spaces will be charmed by this beautiful corner of Southern France.
Getting to Occitanie