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Mazamet the perfect base close to Carcassonne, Toulouse and Albi

There are so many reasons to visit this largely undiscovered heritage town in the Tarn.

Mazamet is nestled at the edge of the Montagne Noire (Black Mountains) with its vast forests. It’s in the heart of the regional natural park of Haute-Languedoc. Located between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, it’s just 90 minutes from the beaches and around 45 minutes from Carcassonne, the fabulous medieval walled city that’s one of the wonders of France.

Despite being one in one of the sunniest areas of France, this is an area of lush green valleys and verdant vineyards. Here you’ll enjoy lazy lunches in the sun, vibrant local markets where you’ll be able to buy the local cheese, Roquefort; plus lots of activities and historic, cultural visits.

A city rich in history

Mazamet finds its origins Hautpoul, a perched village 600m high overlooking the city and founded in 413 by the Visigoths. In the 13th century, Hautpoul was besieged and the inhabitants were displaced, they moved down the valley and established Mazamet. From the 18th century, the city developed a flourishing textile and wool industry. This is the town that was chosen to make the uniforms for Napoleon’s army. The legacy of the wealth this brought to the town can be seen in the beautiful houses.

To this day Mazamet is known for its excellent in textiles and leather goods are produced here for companies such as Louis Vuitton and Smythson of London.

What to see and do in Mazamet

There’s loads to keep the whole family occupied with lots of outdoor activities.

Visit the medieval perched village of Hautpoul: Here you’ll find the remains of the old castle, winding streets and beautiful panoramic views. There are artisan workshops and artists working in the town plus a small museum and annual festivals. One of the best ways to see it is to take a guided candle lit night time tour, it’s easy to feel like you’ve just stepped back in time. (details from the tourist office)

Wine Tasting: The hot long summers which run from May to November in the Tarn help the grapes to ripen to perfection and make for some truly outstanding wines including Corbieres wines, the famous red wines of the area.

Take the Cathar and Knights Templar trail: The area is peppered with castles and castle ruins, reminders of the religious battles fought between followers of the Catholic church and a breakaway group known as Cathars who established a stronghold here. Find out more about this period of history, the subject of Dan Brown’s best selling The Da Vinci Code, at the House of Memories. There’s a permanent exhibition “Occitan Catharism, the recovered memory” which shows Mazamet as a pole of discovery of Cathar philosophy.

There are outdoor activities galore in the Montagne Noire with the Lac des Montagnès, 18-hole La Barouge golf course, hiking, biking and mountain biking loops and the Haute-Languedoc Greenway Passed Païs.

What to do close to Mazamet

Close by are several major sites including the medieval city Carcassonne, one of the wonders of France and Toulouse which is just an hour and a half away by train or car. The architecturally glorious city of Albi is also nearby as is the UNESCO listed Canal du Midi.

Head to Toulouse for a hit of big city culture, it’s only an hour and a half by car or take the train, there are up to six per day from Mazamet.

Reach for the sky: Visit Lautrec, officially one of the most beautiful villages in France. It’s famous for its pink garlic which you’ll see at the local markets (don’t forget to take some of the delicious tasting bulbs home with you). Or take a detour to lovely Cordes-sur-Ciel, which seems to float high on a hill surrounded by vineyards.

Mazamet Tourism

By Peter Friend of Villa de Mazamet.

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