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Languedoc-Roussillon Travel Guide
Roquebrun village in Languedoc (© fanelie rosier | iStockphoto.com)
Roquebrun village, Languedoc.

Introduction

The Languedoc-Roussillon is one of France's three Mediterranean regions, along with Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'azur and Corsica. It was formed from the historical provinces of Languedoc (meaning 'Oc language', i.e. Occitan), Gévaudan (the present-day Lozère département), and the five Catalan 'countries' (Roussillon, Vallespir, Conflent, Capcir, and Cerdagne) that are now simply referred to as Roussillon.

Languedoc is divided in limestone plateaux and national parks of Upper Languedoc, and the vineyard-filled plains of Lower Languedoc, where three main cities (Montpellier, Nîmes and Carcassonne) are located. Occitan, a Romance language halfway between French, Spanish and Italian, is still widely spoken, or at least understood, by a large part of the population, despite efforts of Paris to suppress it since the 16th century.

Roussillon was part of Catalonia until 1659, and is both French and Catalan-speaking today, keeping strong ties with their fellow Catalan speakers across the Spanish border. Some Spaniards, especially Catalan nationalists, like to refer to Roussillon as 'Northern Catalonia'. Perpignan, the largest city in Roussillon, was the continental capital of the Kingdom of Majorca in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Languedoc-Roussillon is the single biggest wine-producing region in the world, being responsible for more than a third of France's total wine production. Until a few decades ago most of the wine produced was cheap table wine, but following a deep restructuration the region is producing wines of increasingly good quality. The best appellations are Corbières and Minervois. Produced since 1531, the Blanquette de Limoux is the world's oldest sparkling wine.

Regional culinary specialities include cassoulet (a casserole of meats and white beans), bourride (a kind of bouillabaisse), brandade (an emulsion of salt cod and olive oil), tielle (squid or octopus pie), and fougasse (a flatbread similar to focaccia).

No other region plays more rugby in France than Languedoc-Roussillon. Bullfighting is a popular spectator sport, especially in Nîmes, though the bulls are not put to death like in Spain. Corridas even enjoy legal protection in areas where there is an uninterrupted tradition.

Famous people from the Languedoc-Roussillon include (chronologically): the entrepreneur Pierre-Paul Riquet (who built the Canal du Midi), the novelist Alphonse Daudet, the WWI general Joseph Joffre, the Nobel Prize chemist Paul Sabatier, and the singer Georges Brassens.

Attractions

Département de l'Aude

Carcassonne
Carcassonne, Languedoc-Roussillon (© Barkin Vitaliy - iStockphoto.com)
must-see Carcassonne is probably Europe's most famous fortified town. A stronghold of Occitan Cathars in the 13th century, the fortress was restored in 1853 by the Gothic Revival architect Viollet-le-Duc.

Other attractions

very good Cathar Castles good Chalabre
good Cucugnan
very good Fontfroide Abbey
outstanding Galamus Gorge
very good Gouffre de Cabrespine
good Gruissan
very good Lagrasse Abbey
very good Limoux
very good Leucate
good Marseillette
very good Narbonne
very good Pierre-Lys Gorge
very good Quillan
good Saint-Hilaire Abbey
very good Villelongue Abbey

Département des Pyrénées-Orientales

very good Canigou Massif outstanding Catalan Pyrenees Regional Nature Park
outstanding Villefranche-de-Conflent
very good Côte Vermeille
very good Font-Romeu
good Fort Lagarde de Prats-de-Mollo
good Fort de Salses
good Perpignan
very good Serrabone Abbey

Département du Hérault

Montpellier
Montpellier, Languedoc-Roussillon (© gloriette - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Capital and largest city of the Languedoc-Roussillon, Montpellier is a modern university city and the fastest growing city in France. Montpellier is renowned for its neoclassical architecture, its museums and festivals, and the country mansions (or "follies") built by wealthy merchants in the 18th century.

Other attractions

good Béziers
outstanding Cirque de Mourèze
outstanding Cirque de Navacelles
outstanding Clamouse Cave
very good Hérault Gorges
very good Nissan-lez-Ensérune
good Montferrand Castle (ruins)
good Mourèze
very good Pic Saint-Loup
very good Roquebrun
very good Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert
good Sète

Département du Gard

Nîmes
Nîmes, Languedoc-Roussillon (© Wolfgang Staudt - Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)
must-see Nîmes was one of the most important cities in Roman Gaul and possess a rich heritage of ancient Roman monuments. The exceptionally well preserved Roman amphitheatre, sitting 25,000, is still used for spectacles. The Maison Carrée is the only complete Roman temple outside Italy.
Pont du Gard
Pont du Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon (© Wolfgang Staudt - Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)
outstanding Constructed across the Gard River, the Pont du Gard is the world's second best preserved ancient Roman aqueduct bridge (after Segovia). It was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1985.
Aigues-Mortes
Aigues-Mortes, Languedoc-Roussillon (© philippe Devanne - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Aigues-Mortes is a medieval fortified town in the Camargue Regional Nature Park. It is flanked by bright red salt evaporation ponds.

Other attractions

very good Abîme de Bramabiau
good Alès
very good Bambouseraie de Prafrance (Anduze)
outstanding Camargue Regional Nature Park
very good Chartreuse de Valbonne
very good Château de Portes
good Sommières
very good Uzès
very good Vézénobres
very good Villeneuve-lès-Avignon

Département de la Lozère

Cévennes National Park
Cévennes National Park, Languedoc-Roussillon (©  Gilles Paire - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Taking up the south-eastern part of the Massif Central, it is the only French national park situated in middle mountain. Interspersed by deep valleys, its main peaks are Mount Lozère (1,699 m) and Mont Aigoual...Read more

Other attractions

very good Dargilan Cave
outstanding Gorges de la Jonte
outstanding Gorges du Tarn
very good Mende
outstanding Sainte-Enimie

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