Béziers, in Herault, Occitanie in the far south of France is a bit of a hidden gem. Whether you love strolling through picturesque little streets, having a glass of wine at on the terrace of a charming café or indulging your curiosity for French history – it’s all here.
Here’s a guide to Beziers, one of the oldest cities in France.
Place Jean Jaurès
A good starting point for a walk around Béziers is La Place Jean Jaurès which had a complete makeover in 2018. This big square is a beautiful and spacious place that’s really popular with the locals. It’s also the meeting point for kids to cool down and play in the fountain, which consists of 50 little spurts of water that pop up unexpectedly to increase the fun. When the summer nights fall, it gets even cooler with colourful lights and a music fountain show. All this under the watchful eye of Pierre-Paul Riquet’s statue.
Les Allées Paul Riquet
La Place Jean Jaurès leads to Les Allées Paul Riquet. Born in Béziers, he was the creator of the 240 kilometres long waterway of the Canal du Midi that connects the Mediterranean Sea with Toulouse. At the other end you’ll find Béziers’ Municipal Theatre. If you walk to the back of the theatre, you can spot one of the city’s amazing trompe-l’oeils.
Place de la Madeleine
On to La Place de la Madeleine. This square was named after the Romanesque Madeleine Church, mentioned for the first time in 1092. It’s hard to believe that this peaceful and picturesque square was once the scene of the bloodiest episode in Bézier’s history. In 1209, crusaders of the Albigensian crusade brutally massacred thousands and thousands of inhabitants of the town. Men, women and children had come to the church to seek refuge, but instead of being protected, they were burned to death. The scars of this awful event are still visible to this day.
Another place in Béziers that has had a makeover is Les Halles. This covered market still has its original cast-iron building in Baltard style and dates from 1891. Open daily except Monday, from 07h00 to 13h30, this is a fantastic place to find loads of local produce. It isn’t as big as Les Halles in Narbonne, but you can still find an excellent selection of seafood, cheeses, meat and vegetables. There are several restaurants in and around Les Halles, so it also makes a great stop for lunch.
One of Béziers’ landmarks is the Saint-Nazaire Cathedral. As Béziers sits on a rocky spur, you can already see the cathedral from afar. Like so many other monuments, the Saint-Nazaire Cathedral has known rough times as well. Dating from the 10th century, it was heavily damaged during the 12th-century crusade.
Our little city guide of Béziers ends here, at the terrace in front of the cathedral, gazing over the great Orb plain as far as the Haut-Languedoc Regional National Park.
Béziers is a great place to visit year-round. Although not as touristy as more popular South of France towns, like Carcassonne and Pézenas for example, the best time to visit temperature-wise is in spring or Autumn.
Tip: Two of the best parking spots are the paid parking lot on Place Jean Jaurès and the one on Place de la Madeleine, also called ‘Parking Les Halles 1’. Both parking lots are in the middle of the city centre and a perfect starting point for your stroll through Béziers.
Tourist Office: www.beziers-mediterranee.com
By La Ramoneta, who lives between Montpellier and Perpignan. Find out more about the South of France on her blog www.laramoneta.com