Boutique Hotel & Luxury self-catering in Narbonne
If you would like suggestions for a lovely walk close to the Mediterranean Sea, it might be an idea to head for Peyriac-de-Mer. The area is stunningly beautiful, and it is good fun just walking around the former salt marches. There are several hikes you can do, walking around ‘la Saline’ or ‘l’étang du Doul’. The trail around la Saline is a short, easy walk, and very accessible with kids. Pay attention to the young ones though, as there are no barriers on the boardwalks.
Peyriac-de-Mer is a sweet little village, located on the banks of a string of lagoons. La Saline has been producing salt since the antiquity! The starting point of this little hike is at the free parking on the Rue des Salins. Standing in front of la Saline will give you a picture-perfect view on the lagoon, before you have even started walking yet…
If you would like to start the hike on a boardwalk, you should begin on the left side of the parking lot. A big information sign shows several hikes. The yellow walk is the shortest one, it takes 2.5 hours for 5 kilometres.
Because of the boardwalk, you are very close to the water, which makes you feel like you are part of the surroundings. After the first boardwalk, you will walk right across a passway in the middle of the water, which takes you to some more boardwalks. From here, you get another stunning view over La Saline and Peyriac-de-Mer. Apparently, the hikes are marked: the walk around the lagoon has yellow signs. Don’t worry if you miss them, the short hike isn't too complicated, as it is quite obvious how to complete the lap.
If you only walk around La Saline, the route is 3 kilometres and takes 45 minutes. Including many photo stops… Even more if you’re lucky enough to spot flamingos or pelicans. Chances are high that you might spot them when visiting Peyriac-de-Mer.
You can do several hikes at Peyriac-de-Mer. The area is stunningly beautiful, and it is good fun just walking around la Saline. As this is a short, easy walk, it is very accessible with kids. Pay attention to the young ones though, as there are no barriers on the boardwalks.
There is free parking on the banks of la Saline, which you can find on Rue des Salins, passing restaurant les Rosiers des Salins on NR 21.
Maison du Tourisme Peyriac-de-Mer
From September till June:
2 Place de la Mairie
+33 (0)4 68 42 38 42
From July till August:
Foyer de l'Étang
Rue de l'Étang
+33 (0)4 68 70 99 54
Driving to the Fontfroide Abbey brings you into the middle of Cathar country. The Cistercian abbey, founded in the 11th century, is one of the largest and best-preserved monasteries in Occitanie and even all of France. Since then, the abbey has been beautifully renovated. Gustave and Madeleine Fayet, who bought the abbey in 1908, initiated an enormous renovation and restyling of the abbey. And descendants of this passionate couple are still owners of the abbey, keeping it alive and bustling.
L'Abbaye de Fontfroide is only 15 kilometres south of Narbonne and has been there for a very long time. In 1093, some Benedictine monks were gifted pieces of land by the Viscount of Narbonne. On this land, they founded the Fontfroide Abbey, named after the nearby source 'Fons Frigidus' (Cold Fountain). The abbey really began to flourish when they joined the Cistercian Order in 1145. After the monks had received enough funds and donations, the construction of the actual monastery started around 1170 through to 1180.
After the last monks left the abbey in 1908, Gustave and Madeleine Fayet were able to buy it at auction. In fact, they saved the cloister from being stripped down and shipped to the US by placing the winning bid of 49,925 francs. Gustave Fayet was a painter himself, but he also collected paintings including works by celebrated artists like Edgar Degas, Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro. He was one of the first to start collecting paintings by Paul Gauguin, ending up with nearly a hundred works. Because of Gustave's connections in the art world, he invited many artists to help him and his wife with the restoration of the abbey. Indeed, one of the abbey's masterpieces is the stained-glass windows of the abbey church, designed by the artist Richard Burghstal.
The Fontfroide Abbey is also known for its beautiful rose gardens, which is one of the largest in the South of France. Many years of hard work have created a garden with nearly 2,500 rose bushes with many old and new varieties of roses. There is even a rose that was specially created for the abbey. It's also good to know that since 2008 they have stopped using any chemical treatments on the flowers. To this day, the gardeners only use products that respect the environment and human health. The Abbaye de Fontfroide organises many events each year, from concerts and exhibitions to nocturnal visits and festivals. You can also come and taste the abbey's wine and dine in their lovely restaurant. Plenty of options!
You can visit l'Abbaye de Fontfroide all year round, except on the 25th of December and the 1st of January. You can pay to join a guided tour or discover the abbey at your own pace with a tour on your tablet or smartphone. How cool is that?! More information about the history of the monument is available on the abbey's website.
Abbaye de Fontfroide
Narbonnaise en Méditerranée Natural Regional Park
Route Départementale 613
+33 (0)4 68 45 11 08
The best way to explore a city is through your stomach. This is especially true for charming Narbonne in the Aude department. When crossing the Pont de la Liberté, you can’t miss Narbonne’s famous covered market, simply called ‘Les Halles’. This Baltard-style cast-iron building is a must-visit for foodies and has been since 1901! Every Thursday and Sunday, the fun doubles with a great outdoor market.
Situated in the heart of Narbonne along the Canal de la Robine, the covered market is open every day of the week from 07h00 to 14h00. Including Sundays and holidays, without exceptions. It has to be said that Narbonne’s market is both an institution and a landmark. Also, it is one of the most beautiful covered markets in France. The remarkable architecture is in pure Baltard-style with a majestic roof, a cast-iron structure combined with glass and an impressive main entrance.
Les Halles are still a bustling part of Narbonne, where most locals go to meet up for the latest news and do their shopping. They already know that this is the place if you want to stock up on high-quality produce. However, not only locals find their way to the market. As a display of the local gastronomic culture, Les Halles attract people from all over the world. Over 60 vendors have their merchandise on display, and you can find just about anything on their stalls. Coming through the main entrance, you will find the butchers on your right site, the fishmongers in the back, and everything else in between. Vegetables, cheese, bread and pastries, olives, organic: it’s all there.
Doing your market purchases is extra special on a Thursday or Sunday, when the Cours Mirabeau and Cours de la République also transform into a colourful outdoor market. Here, you will find anything except food- including clothes, books, tableware, home decoration, towels, bags, hats, and so much more.
The town definitely merits a stroll outside to soak up the ‘couleur locale’. The setting of the outdoor market is beautiful, with two wide avenues shaded by plantains divided by the Canal de la Robine. This canal, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built as the missing link to connect the Aude river to the Mediterranean Sea at Port-la-Nouvelle. After all this roaming around, don’t forget about your stomach! Going back to Les Halles, you will find many lively restaurants (among them the iconic Chez Bebelle) and tapas bars so that you can end your visit as the locals do.
Narbonne’s famous covered market, simply called ‘Les Halles’, is open every day of the week from 07h00 to 14h00. This includes Sundays and holidays, without exceptions. Mondays tend to be a bit slower when not every stall or restaurant is open. Every Thursday and Sunday, the Cours Mirabeau and Cours de la République transform into a colourful outdoor market, mostly selling non-food.
Sometimes, if you are lucky, you will find a spot in the free parking lot just before arriving in Narbonne (on Quai Victor Hugo). If you can’t find a place here, you can drive further along Quai Victor Hugo for paid parking, or try the Cours Mirabeau parking lot (paid as well).
1 Cours Mirabeau
+33 (0)4 68 32 63 99
Les Châteaux Cathares: The Four Castles of Lastour
The Aude department is also known as the ‘Land of the Cathars’, named after the new religion, which flourished here during the early Middle Ages. The Cathars had a turbulent history and were not appreciated by the Catholic rulers of the time. In order to defend themselves against the Albigensian Crusade in the 13th century, many castles and other fortifications were constructed to serve as strongholds. In Lastours you can still admire four of these castles, Les Quatre Châteaux. Built on a rocky spur, they have towered over the Orbiel river and Grésilhou stream since ancient times.
Before you drive off to Le Pays Cathare, in the direction of the Four Castles of Lastours, keep in mind that you have to pay attention to what you type into the GPS. ‘Le Château de Lastours’, will bring you to a wine estate in the Corbières, and NOT Les Quatre Châteaux in the village Lastours, located 20 minutes north of Carcassonne. Just make sure that you are headed towards the four (‘quatre’) castles, instead of only one and you will be fine.
Arriving at Lastours, you will be directed to the visitors centre, situated in a former textile factory. After getting your tickets, you can start following the trail. This trail includes a rather new section, to see the remains of all four castles: Quertinheux, Cabaret, la Tour Régine and Surdespine. The visit takes about two hours and starts with a 15-minute climb to the first castle, Quertinheux. The path is easy and already gives you some amazing views of some of the castles. Quertinheux stands on a separate rock close to the other three castles and most probably served as a lookout post.
The second castle to visit is Cabaret, built on the site that once belonged to the Lords of Cabaret during the late 11th century. This main citadel used to have a barbican defense system, including surrounding ramparts. From the North side of the ridge, as you climb up to the tower of Cabaret, you have a view over the other castles, that are all about the same distance from each other. Standing on such a historical site makes you travel back to days gone by, when the Cathars used the castles to control and protect the Montagne Noire and the Cabardès region.
La Tour Régine
Initially, there were only three castles in Lastours. It is believed that the third one, La Tour Régine, dates from after the Albigensian Crusade. Engineers for the King of France built this tower as a replica of the towers on the Count’s Castle in the citadel of Carcassonne. Like Cabaret, you can also climb this tower. To get to the last castle, simply follow the new trail and walk behind the castles you have just visited. While looking out over the green and quiet valley in front of you, the huge expanse of beautiful nature is overwhelming!
Finally, you will reach the last stairs of the day to arrive at Surdespine. Going back via the same path you took earlier, will bring you back to the starting point in the textile factory. To get a view of all four castles at the same time, you can go to the lookout, which lies 2 kilometres from Lastours. The entrance to the lookout is free when you have already bought tickets to visit the Four Castles. Otherwise, they charge a fee of 3 euros per person (free up to 15 years old). The lookout, with its fabulous view of the Four Castles, is the perfect end to a day trip. What a magical place!
Les Quatre Châteaux, or the Four Castles of Lastours, are open for visits throughout the year, except for January. We suggest you check their website for exact opening hours and days. The site is accessible via the visitors centre after paying an entrance fee (8 euros for adults, 3.50 euros for children between 6 and 15 years old). The Belvédère is 2 kilometres from Lastours, on the D701. In Lastours you will find several restaurants. For example, there is one at the visitors centre and also a 1-star-Michelin restaurant, Le Puits du Trésor.
You will be directed to a free parking when arriving at Lastours. From here, signs will lead you to the visitor centre.
Les Quatre Châteaux de Lastours
22 Route des quatre châteaux
+33 (0)4 68 77 56 02
The Château de Quéribus is situated in the heart of the ‘Land of the Cathars’. However, it has very little to do with the thriving new religion that the Cathars spread in Southern Europe between the 12th and 14th centuries. Instead, the Château’s history dates back further, to the 11th century, when it served as a home for Catalan lords. Despite this, it is still an interesting place to visit in order to better understand this turbulent time in history, as it was the last bastion of Cathar resistance.
Driving the small and winding road to the Château de Quéribus, feels like going on an adventure. Meanwhile, you can admire the overwhelming wild beauty of the surrounding landscape of the Corbières mountains. Chances are high that the Tramontane winds will be blowing fiercely, making the whole expedition even more memorable.
When visiting Château de Quéribus, most people also visit the neighbouring Château de Peyrepertuse, promoted as ‘The Grandest of Cathar Castles’. However, it is smart to plan enough time for both castles. The steep stairs to the remains of the fortification of Quéribus lead you on an adventurous exploration. The path up to the steps is easy, but once at the bottom stairs, the strong wind might blow around your head. The ropes on the stairs are clearly there for good reason…
Chabert de Barbaira
Quéribus Castle proudly sits on a rocky ridge 729 meters high, overlooking the rough plains of the Roussillon region. Strategically built, it was the perfect location to keep an eye on one of the rare passageways to the Corbières mountains, called the Grau de Maury. Chabert de Barbaira, a Faydit Occitan knight, was one of the last noblemen to fight for the Cathar cause. He had command over Quéribus Castle from 1242, when the château became the last remaining refuge for Faydit lords and Cathars. Forced to surrender to his friend-turned-enemy Oliver de Termes, Chabert negotiated to trade Quéribus for his freedom. After going backwards and forwards between Spanish and French hands for centuries, the castle has remained French since 1475.
Exploration of Quéribus
Climbing to the roof terrace of the keep is a good start for your visit, where you will have an even better panoramic view of the amazing landscape. Exploring your way through the ruins will lead you to the ‘Salle du Pilier’, or ‘Pillar Room’, with its extraordinary, vaulted ceiling. Just when you think you have seen it all, look out for a dark passage. This unlit staircase leads you to the ‘Caponière’, a fortified structure built to defend the oriental flank. All in all, visiting Quéribus will take about an hour and a half, and it is quite an adventure exploring it!
You can access the historical and informative site of the Château de Quéribus by paying an entrance fee (7,50 euros for adults; 4,50 euros for children between 6 and 15 years old, this fee includes a French film in Cucugnan). An easily accessible path will bring you to the foot of the stairs in about 10 minutes. It is advisable to wear suitable footwear as the grounds around the ruins are rocky and unstable. Pay extra attention in case of strong winds; the Tramontane can surprise you with violent gusts of wind. In case of storms, the castle is closed to the public.
Following the signs to Château de Quéribus will take you to a free parking lot, right next to the ticket office.
Château de Quéribus
Along the D123 near Cucugnan
+33 (0)4 68 45 03 69
Office de Tourisme
2, Route de Duilhac
+33 (0)4 68 45 69 40
When visiting the Aude department in the South of France, you will notice that the local history is closely interwoven with the Cathars. A good way to learn more about this interesting historical period is to visit some of the fortifications. Strategically scattered around the ‘Land of Cathars’, they were constructed as strongholds against the Catholic rulers. Château de Peyrepertuse is one of the most important Cathar castles that you can visit in the region.
It’s great to go on an exploration quest in Cathar country. Climbing the sometimes steep and rocky path will bring you to the remains of the impressive Château de Peyrepertuse. From afar, this invincible fortress looks like an enormous ship, nestled on top of a rocky ridge. It’s surprising to discover that the surface of Peyrepertuse equals that of Carcassonne’s citadel.
Mentioned in historical records for the first time in the 11th century, the castle belonged to the Count of the Catalan county Besalu. After the Albigensian crusade in the 12th century, it was King Louis IX of France who turned Peyrepertuse into a royal fortress.
Château de Peyrepertuse is divided into three major sections. Starting with the outer enclosure, you will learn that it housed the remains of a chapel and the old keep. From the outer enclosure, you can walk to the inner one to see the ruins of a polygonal building used to lodge an army, if needed. Finally, from the third section of Peyrepertuse, you can enjoy some beautiful vistas of the San Jordi keep. To access this part of the castle, you have to climb the impressive Saint Louis stairs. The 60 steps, carved into the rock, run along a steep cliff while giving a magnificent view over the region.
If you climb to the highest possible point, you will be rewarded with a stunning view over the Peyrepertuse site. And there, standing by the remains of the chapel, it’s worth it to marvel over the breathtaking panorama in front of you. With the castle perched on its lonely cliff, you can but imagine Peyrepertuse’s invincible position in long-gone times. Quest accomplished!
Château de Peyrepertuse is one of the most important Cathar castles that you can visit in the Aude department. It is one of the ‘Five Sons of Carcassonne’, together with Quéribus, Termes, Aguilar and Puilaurens as its fellow brothers. The castle is open year-round (except for the 25/26/31 of December and the 1st of January), and the entrance fee is 7 euros for adults, and 4 euros for children between 6 and 12 years old. In about 15 minutes, you can walk from the ticket office to the castle on a sometimes steep and rocky path. So don’t forget to wear suitable footwear. Pay extra attention in case of strong winds; the Tramontane can surprise you with violent gusts of wind. In case of storms, the castle is closed to the public.
Following the signs to Château de Peyrepertuse will lead you to a free parking lot, right next to the ticket office.
Château de Peyrepertuse
Lieudit Le Château
+33 (0)430 370 077
Office de Tourisme
2, Route de Duilhac
+33 (0)4 68 45 69 40
Lagrasse is the only officially declared 'Most Beautiful Village' in the Aude department in the South of France. When meeting this queen of Basses-Corbières, she will enchant you with her beautiful medieval streets and houses. Calmly meander through the picturesque village and cross the old bridge over the Orbieu river to visit the Sainte-Marie Abbey to enjoy some well-spent hours.
When entering Lagrasse, once the cultural capital of the Corbières region, you cannot miss the 'Plus Beaux Villages de France' sign. And, like many other Most Beautiful Villages of France, signs will automatically direct you to a paid parking lot just outside the village. The village itself is surprisingly well signposted, there is even a route you can follow to see all the highlights. When in Lagrasse, you might wonder where all the tourists are. You will see a few wandering around the cobbled streets, but nothing like Carcassonne for example. Which is a good thing, as it means you can take your time to enjoy this little gem.
Maison du Patrimoine
The Office de Tourisme in the Maison du Patrimoine is a good starting point for your visit. Besides being an information point, it also houses a small but interesting exhibition on medieval ceiling paintings. These interior decorations display coats of arms, portraits, proverbs and sayings and even little jokes. The house owners took great care to show visitors who they were, who their family and friends were, and what they did for a living. Almost like social media 'avant la lettre'.
Beautifully covered market
One of the highlights of Lagrasse is the beautifully covered market, dating from 1315, at the Place de la Halle. Until the First World War, this square played an important economic role as a commercial centre. Along with the pretty houses dating from the 14th-16th centuries, you will feel like you have taken a plunge back in time. Lagrasse certainly is ancient! In the 8th century, the Archbishop of Narbonne, Nymphidius, founded a monastery in the valley where the rivers l'Orbieu and l'Alsou meet. Lagrasse was then created between the 11th and 13th centuries. Although the long history of the village has known bad times, it has always struggled back to prosperity. Agriculture, arts, crafts and the renowned weaving and cloth preparation made it a thriving borough. Even now, you can find many artists and potteries dotted around.
The old bridge, built in 1303 and remodelled in the 17th and 19th centuries, finally brings you to the river l'Orbieu. During the summer, this is a good swimming spot, jumping off the (low) rocks under the bridge right into the clear water.
If you continue your stroll from the old bridge, it will lead you to the impressive Sainte-Marie l'Orbie Abbey, known as one of the most prestigious in France. Today, it hosts a library and a café, and you can visit a part of it. A bit further on, you can cross the river again, over a dam this time. And this is where everybody is during the summer! Entire families are having a blast in the cool water of the Orbieu.
Lagrasse is officially one of 'Les Plus Beaux Villages de France', the only such classified village in the Aude department. Throughout the village, several shops and artisans sell local crafts and handmade products. La Place de la Halle hosts a lively market every Saturday morning. During the year, there are many cultural and literary events like 'Le Banquet du Livre'. Lagrasse truly is a village of art and culture!
When you arrive at Lagrasse, signs will direct you to the (paid) parking lots (P1 to P3). From here you can easily walk into the village.
Office de Tourisme
Maison du Patrimoine
16 Rue Paul Vergnes
+33 (0)4 68 43 11 56
The mild climate combined with the vegetation of evergreens makes the South of France a perfect location for year-round hiking. For example, in Leucate, you can do several easy walks that are around 7 kilometres in length, like the Sentier du Guetteur trail. Guetteur means observer in English, and this trail takes you from the beach of La Franqui over the cliffs to Leucate’s lighthouse. Or the other way around, as you walk back along the same path.
As you have to come back on the same 4.3 kilometre path, the Sentier du Guetteur is not a circular walk. When you start at the parking lot of La Franqui, there, strangely enough, are no clear signs at the beginning. Looking at this map (https://www.tourisme-leucate.fr/Portals/271/Documents/Randonn%C3%A9es-Leucate.pdf), might help you to find the stairway that will take you to the cliffs. They are on the Rue de la Douane, to the left of the pizzeria Le Gecko Bleu, which you can recognize by the giant blue gecko on the terracotta red façade.
Fort de la Haute Franque
After climbing the steep steps, you finally get on the right track to the ‘falaises’, or cliffs. Once you have climbed the stairs, the path is easy. The first part takes you through a small pine forest with an extraordinary view of La Franqui on the left. Soon enough, you arrive at the first observation point for the Mediterranean Sea: Fort de la Haute Franqui. This fort, built under King Louis XIV in 1711, has been restored entirely to its original state.
Cap des Frères
Even though the soil of the limestone cliffs is rocky, there is still a wide variety of vegetation and wildlife. Next, the Sentier du Guetteur takes you to the lookout point of Cap des Frères, where you can admire the magnificent view from the 52-meter-high cliffs. The deep blue sky marries perfectly with the crystal-clear water of the Mediterranean Sea and the bright green of the pine trees. A warning though, as there are no barriers whatsoever, so be careful at the edge, especially with children!
At this point, you are about halfway, and you will finally see a sign with the name of the hike ‘Le Sentier du Geutteur’! From here, it is another 2 kilometres to go to the lighthouse. Via the cliffs of Cap Leucate, you will reach the second, more modern, observation post. This permanent semaphore is one of 19 that watch over the Mediterranean Sea, using the newest technology.
As you move closer to the lighthouse, the final observation point of the day, you will spot a restaurant sort of building. Coming closer, you will find out that there actually is an ultra-designed, one star Michelin restaurant next to the lighthouse. If you’re interested, it’s called Le Grand Cap.
Go to website
Le Sentier du Guetteur is one of the hikes you can do around Leucate. This 4.3 kilometres one-way trail goes from the parking lot at La Franqui to Leucate’s lighthouse, or the other way around. One way takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes of walking over an easy trail. Be careful at the edges of the cliffs, as there are no barriers. Both in la Franqui as at the lighthouse, there are some restaurants. The one at the lighthouse is called Le Grand Cap and is a one-star Michelin restaurant, so think about reserving a table before you go.
At both starting points in La Franqui and the lighthouse, you will find parking lots.
Office de Tourisme
Espace Henry de Monfreid
+33 (0)4 68 40 91 31
The Massif de la Clape is a South of France Natural Site that lies in a Regional Natural Park in the Narbonne region. It stretches from the Corbières to the Mediterranean Sea- over 70,000 hectares (!). Right in the heart of this unique landscape lies a mysterious phenomenon called the Gouffre de L’Oeil Doux, literally translated as the “Sweet Eyed Sinkhole”.
The site of the Gouffre de L’Oeil Doux is a popular spot amongst locals. You might want to bring a picnic, as there are several tables in the shade. When arriving at the parking lot “Parking du Gouffre”, you will find a sign that will direct you in 0.8 kilometres (one way) to the sinkhole.
Gouffre de L’Oeil Doux
Walking leisurely, on an easy path, you soon enough come to the breathtaking Gouffre de L’Oeil Doux. Just imagine walking through scrubland and pine forests, and then all of a sudden you arrive at the top of some 40-metres-high cliffs, with a bright green lake looking back at you. It is like finding treasure in the middle of nature!
Be careful when you arrive at the top of the sinkhole, especially with children, as there are no barriers or other protection. Also, there are signs everywhere, clearly saying that the lake is not for swimming or diving. Apparently, each year people die by doing so, so be warned! If you would like to take pictures from below as well, just follow the path and walk around the Gouffre. Arriving at another warning sign, you can take a tiny, rocky path that brings you right to the bottom of the sinkhole. And from here, the view is just as incredible, with the reflections of the limestone cliffs in the emerald green lake.
The legend goes that numerous boats have tried to explore the sinkhole caves, to see where they come out on the coast. None of the boats ever returned though and, to this day, the source of the sinkhole remains unknown. If you would like to make the walk a bit longer, you can go back up to continue your way to the “Bergerie”. Right after the Bergerie, take a left, to arrive back at the parking lot. Looking back, another great view will leave you breathless: the bluest sea combined with the red earth and the green pines. The Gouffre de L’Oeil Doux probably isn’t the only secret unveiled on this natural site, there must be more secrets in the Massif de la Clape!
Le Gouffre de L’Oeil Doux is an extraordinary natural phenomenon, situated in the Massif de la Clape and part of the Parc Naturel Régional de la Narbonnaise en Méditerranée. A walk to the sinkhole and the Bergerie is about 2.5 kilometres long and takes about 1 to 2 hours (depending on how many pictures and breaks you take). It is absolutely forbidden to swim or dive in the lake or to climb the limestone cliffs.
The Gouffre de L’Oeil Doux isn’t difficult to find; you just have to know about its existence. The “Parking du Gouffre” can be found by taking the D1118 from Fleury to Sainte-Pierre-la-Mer. The parking isn’t clearly indicated, but there are only two big parking lots on this road, this is the first one. The parking lot has several picnic tables in the shade.
Parc Naturel Régional de la Narbonnaise en Méditerranée
1 Rue Jean Cocteau
+33 (0)4 68 42 23 70
The Languedoc region of the South of France has over 200 kilometres of fine beaches overlooking the big blue Mediterranean Sea. No wonder you can find so many great beach restaurants along the coastline. But which one to choose? Well, here are some ideas (in random order). From fancy joints serving gastronomic food to typical Southern French ‘paillotes’ where you can enjoy your dinner with your feet in the sand.
Effet Mer – La Grande Motte
Effet Mer in La Grande Motte has a great vibe and a Balinese inspired decor. The natural wood and old shutters which have been used as decoration, giving it a colourful and stylish atmosphere. They also have very comfortable looking beach beds that you can rent. Foodwise, their menu offers a choice between freshly made salads, grilled fish or prawns, tartare and burgers and some meat dishes like ribs and chicken.
Go to website
La Paillote Bambou – La Grande Motte
La Paillote Bambou is a hip and happening beach restaurant for the Montpelliérian in-crowd. No worries if you’re not in that crowd though, as families will feel very welcome too. As you would expect from the name of the restaurant, the place oozes class. Natural materials like- what else- bamboo, woven straw, wood and even cactus leaves have been combined with a rustic colour palette, and it definitely does the trick. Excellent seafood and a freshly shaken cocktail in hand, well… life can’t get much better.
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Bonaventure – Palavas-les-Flots
You will find paradise at beach restaurant Plage Bonaventure: great design, good food and the best view over the Mediterranean Sea! This bohemian style beach restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, in portions to share- or not… And if you’re up for it, you can stay all day at Plage Bonaventure, as they also rent out beach beds and organise great parties.
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Le Poisson Rouge – Frontignan
You wouldn’t expect a beach restaurant when pulling up in the middle of the residential area of Frontignan. But when you enter Le Poisson Rouge, a pleasant surprise awaits you! As soon as you step through the door, you will walk into an inviting open space, exquisitely decorated with simple, beautiful materials. And outside, there is a relaxing terrace facing the Med where you also can rent beach beds. You’ll eat authentic French food, with an emphasis on delicacies from the sea.
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Mango Beach Bar – Cap d’Agde
Mango Beach Bar is one of a kind. The bar and restaurant are completely decorated in an eclectic Cuban style. The many colourful corners immediately invite you to sit down and relax. The simple but delicious menu has an enticing choice of salads, quesadillas, tapas, as well as Mango’s signature dishes. If you’re into partying, then you might also want to keep an eye on Mango’s events, as they know how to throw a fiesta.
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Les Vagues – Grau d’Agde
Walking into Les Vagues is like stepping into another world. An Asian Temple to be precise. The stylish outside flows into the equally stylish inside with wooden floors, enormous Buddha statues and oriental art tastefully scattered all around. To top it off the paillote has an eye-catching open roof construction with symmetrical wooden beams. All of this literally a few steps from the sandy beach. One glimpse at the menu tells you that you’re in the right spot for exquisite food. Cocktails in hand, the starry sky above, the sea in front of you. Yep, la vie est belle in the South of France!
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Mamamouchi – Gruissan
Although restaurant Mamamouchi in Gruissan looks out over the lake of Mateille, it has the same typical beachy vibe (and therefore earns a place on this list). No wonder, as Mateille’s actual beach is just around the corner. Mamamouchi has several different sections to eat in: more of a restaurant set-up, a relaxed lounge section and a terrace along the Étang de Mateille. Each part is equally stylish and boho-chic. While treated with the ever-changing view of the blue lake with the Massif de la Clape in the backdrop, you can enjoy their good food with fresh and local products. To be concluded with a revitalising plunge in the sea.
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Biquet Plage - Leucate
Want to have an excellent seafood lunch with a quirky atmosphere and a view over the endless blue sea? Enter the out-of-this-world universe of Biquet Plage at the beach in Leucate. It’s a restaurant and a beach bar, and they sure know how to throw a party. Everything about this place is cool, without being too hipster or fancy. The decoration is a fun mix between vintage pieces and artwork by local artists and is full of little jokes. And then the food… At Biquet Plage, you can enjoy some of the best seafood in the region. Great vibes, fantastic food and good tunes while looking out over the Mediterranean Sea, what more can you ask for?
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The area between Narbonne and Gruissan is home to an impressive natural site: The Massif de la Clape. This small limestone mountain chain, part of the Parc Naturel Régional de la Narbonnaise, overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and hosts some excellent hiking trails, like the Notre Dame des Auzils Chapel trail. It combines a bit of culture- with the marine cemetery and the chapel- as well as the green setting of the ‘la Clape’ natural site.
The Notre Dame des Auzils hiking trail starts in the parking lot just below the chapel. It is a rather remote place, so just driving up here takes you through some stunning scenery. When you are walking with children, you could start by walking to the chapel via the more adventurous marine cemetery. Here, you walk past 26 cenotaphs- the empty graves to honour the lost-at-sea sailors. Reading the inscriptions on the tombstones will lead to some wild imagined stories from the children. The Notre Dame des Auzils Chapel has been around for quite some time, since 1635. And even before that, in the 11th century, monks set up a convent on the site where they could come to pray.
As the chapel was visible from far out at sea, the local fishermen felt like the Notre Dame des Auzils was watching over them. If you have the chance, it is definitely worth having a peek inside the church, with its sea-themed decorations and paintings. To continue the hike, you have to take the stairs on the left of the chapel and turn right once above where there is a sign. It says: ‘la Clape, secteur la Chapelle’ with a walking person next to it, and that’s the direction to follow. Shortly afterwards, you have to pay attention not to miss the yellow labelled path on your left. From here, you will regularly find the yellow stripes to guide you. The first part of the hike leads you through a rocky landscape, with a gravel path, soon to be alternated with the typical Southern French scrubland called garrigue.
If you start your hike at the end of the morning, you could look for a picnic spot in the shade before reaching the plateau of the Notre Dame. Enjoying some re-energising food, you will be ready to continue on your path. Garrigue once again replaces the shade-bringing trees, which makes room for the plateau overlooking the beautiful la Clape area. On one side you will see the shimmering blue sea of the Mediterranean, while the other side treats you to a panorama of Narbonne and the lagoons.
Descending from the plateau, the route gets a bit tricky. The descent leads to a T-junction with more of a road than a path. There you will find the same sign as at the top near the chapel (the ‘la Clape, secteur La Chapelle’ one) and no more yellow signs. Following the sign and turning right on the T-junction gives you another wonderful view of the Med and the seaside resorts of Narbonne-Plage and Gruissan. The last few kilometres bring you to the parking lot of the chapel, hopefully boosted with new energy from this gasp of fresh air.
The Notre Dame des Auzils Chapel lies in the heart of the natural site of the Massif de la Clape in the Aude department. Surrounded by beautiful nature, it is the perfect spot for a hike. It is also possible to take a (paid) guided tour from Gruissan, including an ascent up along the road in the little train (‘le petit train’). As always when hiking in the South of France, you should remember to bring enough water and something to eat, as there are no restaurants or bars around. Also, it is wise to wear comfortable footwear due to the gravel path.
If you follow the signs to la Chapelle de Notre Dame, it will direct you to the (free) parking lot at the bottom of the chapel. From here, it is about a kilometre to walk to the chapel via the marine cemetery.
Office de Tourisme
Boulevard Pech Maynaud
+33 (0)4 68 49 09 00
Since antiquity, salt has been harvested from the Mediterranean Sea. The conditions to do so are perfect in the South of France. Apart from space for the salt ponds, all you need is sun and wind. And we have plenty of that here in the south! One of those salt producers is on the Salin de l’Île Saint Martin, a piece of land situated right between Gruissan, the sea and the Étang d’Ayrolle.
At Château Capitoul, we like to know where our food comes from. One of our salt suppliers is the nearby ‘Le Salin de l’Île Saint Martin’. Besides buying salt, you can also combine it with a guided tour. Upon reservation, you can join a guide for a walk around the salt ponds. You obviously don’t visit the whole 400 hectares, but you can walk around a few of them. It takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes to find out everything there is to know about salt harvesting.
The pink coloured water of the salt fields will strike you immediately when you approach the salt ponds. These pink hues come from algae called ‘Dunaliella Salina’ that love living in a salty environment. Teeny, tiny shrimp-like larvae- the Artemia Salina- savour these algae and that makes the shrimps pink as well. So, the saltier the water gets, the pinker, even reddish, the colour of the water gets. To complete the cycle of the food chain, the teensy shrimps serve as food for flamingos, hence their pink feathers.
You can test the saltness of the ponds personally. The guide lets you taste the water, and from personal experience, we can confirm that it is very salty indeed! No wonder, as seawater contains 30 grams of salt per litre, while the water in the salt pond consists of 250 grams per litre. Continuing on your way, you will discover that even in this salty environment plants can grow. So, of course, you can taste a bit of wild Salicornia. A bit further along, the guide will let you try to catch some of the minuscule shrimps- the Artemia Salina ones. You might think they would be invisible to the eye, but you can actually see them. And catch them, to the delight of the kids. Going on this informative and interactive tour is a great way to learn and understand the art of salt-making by tasting and touching the natural elements.
Oysters and more
At Le Salin de l’Île Saint Martin, salt is harvested only once a year from August to September. This is the time when the Southern French wind ‘La Tramontane’ and the sun have evaporated all of the water allowing the salt crystals to appear. The so-called ‘sauniers’, or salt-workers, still harvest the gastronomic salt fleur de sel by hand. Besides salt, used for multiple purposes, oysters are also cultivated in the salt fields. This resulted in the presence of a restaurant, La Cambuse du Saunier, serving the freshest oysters and other shellfish and fish. And if you want to buy some nice souvenirs, don’t miss the gift shop! Here you can buy, well, salt of all sorts and flavours. It also hosts a little eco-museum (free entry). Even without the guided tour, you can easily spend a couple of hours at this unique place!
Le Salin de l’Île Saint Martin, close to the village of Gruissan, produces salt and oysters. The boutique and eco-museum are open 7/7 year-round, it’s best to check the opening hours on their website. You can also make a reservation for a guided tour via the website (1h20, adults 8.90 euros, kids from 8 to 13 years 6.90 euros) or an electric scooter tour (from 12 years and up, starting from 29 euros per person for 1 hour). The site has a restaurant, bar and gift shops and you can buy takeaway oysters.
Le Salin de l’Île Saint Martin
Route de l'Ayrolle
Le Salin de Gruissan
+33 (0)4 84 25 13 24 (restaurant)
Visiting the medieval fortified citadel at Carcassonne in the spring is the best time if you ask me. The summer is definitely the peak-season, during those months La Cité is on the must-see list for many many more people. During my visit in June, I could still discover the historic citadel at a leisurely pace. If you look further than the obvious tourist traps, you will appreciate its charm. Find out more about this beautiful walled town in part 2 of La Ramoneta’s guide to Carcassonne. (Click here for part 1).
The citadel of Carcassonne dates back a long time. Already by the third century A.D., the Romans had made a fortified town out of the pre-existing Gaulish settlement. On this visit, I entered the citadel through the main gateway: “La Porte Narbonnaise”. Small cobbled streets led me to the Saint-Nazaire Basilica. It was like stepping several centuries back in time.
The Basilique Saint-Nazaire’s origins are Roman, dating back to the twelfth century. By the end of the thirteenth century, the cathedral was enlarged in a Gothic style. In 1803, the cathedral became a church, giving its title to the Saint-Michel church situated in the Bastide on the other side of the Aude River. Nowadays you can still admire the mixture of Romanesque and Gothic architecture.
Place Auguste Pierre Pont
From the Saint-Nazaire Basilica, I continued my walk to the Place Auguste Pierre Pont. I really loved the house right on the corner where the rue du Four and rue Saint-Louis meet. You can feel history in the air. In the summer, this modest square becomes a stage for street artists. And you might even meet a real knight...
Castle of the Counts
After a short stop for an ice cream, I arrived at the citadel’s castle. As one of the biggest fortified cities in Europe, the citadel of Carcassonne couldn’t go without a proper château. Le Château Comtal was built in the thirteenth century by the Viscounts of Carcassonne. You can visit the castle by paying an entrance fee. Once inside, you can climb even higher and walk on the castle walls. With good weather, you can see as far as the Pyrenees.
Good to know
You can visit the citadel, or la Cité, of Carcassonne year-round. Entrance to the citadel itself is free; only the castle has an entrance fee. Summer can be jam-packed, the best time to visit is in spring and autumn.
If you enter the citadel by the Nabonnaise gate, you will be directed to a paid parking lot (P1 at Chemin de Montlegun). From there, just follow the signs to the Cité. If you want to enter the citadel by the Aude gate, follow the signs for Carcassonne centre and then P2 (Rue Dujardin Beaumetz), which is also fee-paying.
Office de Tourisme
Impasse Agnes de Montpellier
+33 (0)4 68 10 24 30
This article has been kindly supplied by La Ramoneta blog, for more great ideas of what to do and see in the Languedoc visit : https://laramoneta.com/
Narbonne is a lively, medium-sized town in the South of France which claims to have 3,000 hours of sunshine per year. That shouldn’t be your only reason to visit this lovely town though, as you can easily spend a day happily roaming the historic streets. Every street corner reveals interesting remnants of its 2,500 years of history. And all this at a leisurely, walkable distance.
It’s always a pleasure visiting charming Narbonne. Coming from the A9 highway, I usually enter the town via the Quai Victor Hugo where you can find free parking, if you are lucky. Crossing the Pont de la Liberté gives you a postcard-view of Narbonne. From here, I can see the Palais des Archevêques peeking above the plane trees and the colourful houses on the Pont des Marchands reflecting in the Canal de la Robine. On the left of this canal is Narbonne’s famous covered market, simply called ‘Les Halles‘. This Baltard-style cast-iron building is a must-visit for foodies and has been since 1901!
Palais des Archevêques
Walking toward the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville by following the Cours de la République will reveal the imposing Palais des Archevêques step by step. This view still impresses me after all these years of visiting Narbonne. The Archbishop’s Palace forms, together with the cathedral, the medieval heart of Narbonne and now hosts the town hall and a museum. Founded in 118 BC, Narbonne was the first Roman colony outside of Italy. An important vestige of this ancient civilisation is still visible in the middle of the square: La Via Domitia. This isn’t just a collection of stones but the Roman road which connected Italy’s Rome with Cadiz in Spain. It is also my prefered spot to enjoy an ice cream.
Saint-Just et Saint-Pasteur Cathedral
The Passage de l’Ancre, a most charming cobblestoned alley between the old and new palaces (Le Palais Vieux and Le Palais Neuf), brings me to the vaulted cloister of the Saint-Just et Saint-Pasteur Cathedral. This inner garden offers some welcoming shadow while admiring the many gargoyles. Since the 4th century, several religious buildings have been built on this spot. However, it wasn’t until the 13th century that the construction of today’s cathedral began. This overambitious, medieval project was never completed though, which means it has no nave. This was mainly due to defensive reasons and misfortune, like lack of resources and the plague, which spread to Narbonne in the 14th century.
Jardin de l'Archevêché
You can visit the vaulted cloister and admire the cathedral from the inside most days, with opening hours from 10h00 to 17h45. One tip: it is worth walking around the cathedral (via the Rue Droite and Rue Armand Gauthier) to find a small, but serene garden along the Rue Gustave Fabre. I only recently discovered this garden, called Le Jardin de l’Archevêché. And if you go up to the terrace of the garden, you will find a hidden selfie spot, right on the giant public bench. This ‘Banc Public’ was created by Lilian Bourgeat for the In Situ 2014 festival, in order to reactivate your senses. A nice place to pause a moment and reflect on my visit to Narbonne.
Good to know
Narbonne is a medium-sized town in the South of France, only 15 kilometres from the Mediterranean Sea. You can visit the museum inside the Palais des Archevêques daily from June to September. During the other months it is closed on Tuesdays. Buying a ticket for 6 euros (adults) also gives you access to the Donjon Gilles Aycelin, the tower on the left if you are standing facing the palace. The cathedral and vaulted cloisters are open daily from 10h00 to 17h45.
Sometimes, if you are lucky, you will find a spot at the free parking lot just before arriving in Narbonne (on Quai Victor Hugo). If you don't find a place here, you can drive further along Quai Victor Hugo for paid parking or try the Cours Mirabeau parking lot (paid as well).
Office de Tourisme
31 rue Jean Jaurès
+33 (0)4 68 65 15 60
This article has been kindly supplied by La Ramoneta blog, for more great ideas of what to do and see in the Languedoc visit: https://laramoneta.com/