Pézenas in the Herault department, Occitanie is a lovely town to visit throughout the year, although it is more lively during the spring and especially summertime. The historic centre of the town of Pézenas in the south of France has an unexpected and charming artistic vibe. Once the political capital of the Languedoc region and an important trading town, Pézenas has known great periods of prosperity.
There is a big all day food and non-food market every Saturday. Also, the biennial Foire à la Brocante is worth a visit. It takes place every year on the first Sunday in May and the second Sunday in October.
There are several traditional artists and craftworkers in the town and you can follow in the footsteps of the famous French playwriter and actor Molière. Take a self-guided city tour and explore the town at your own pace.
Hôtel de Lacoste
It’s a joy strolling through beautiful Pézenas! And if you visit the Office de Tourism first, they offer you a guide (in English!) with a marked-out route along the town’s highlights. You can follow the long tour over about 2.5 hours or opt for the short version of about 1.5 hours. Starting just a few steps from the Tourist Information Office, follow the numbered arrows that indicate the route. The first monument on the tour is the Hôtel de Lacoste of the Montégut family on Rue François. Pop into the courtyard of this 16th-century hotel and marvel at its rib vaulted staircase.
If you have time for lunch, there are several excellent restaurants on Rue François. Arriving at the Place Gambetta, don’t miss the Maison Consulaire. This classified 17th century historic monument used to be a consular building and now functions as an art and crafts centre where 200 artists and craftworkers exhibit their work. It’s called La Maison des Métiers d’Art, and it’s definitely worth having a peek inside (it’s closed on Mondays and Sundays).
Maze of cobbled streets
Head next to the Hôtel de Peyrat, with its two corbelled turrets, which lead to the enclosure of the feudal castle. This castle, first mentioned in historical records in 990, was completely destroyed in 1632. Via the Rue du Château and Rue de la Foire you will go reach the city centre through a maze of little cobbled streets.
Through the Porte Faugères, one of the last remaining sections of the medieval town wall, you enter the Pézenas of the 17th and 18th centuries. From the Cours Jean Jaurès, with its many elegant facades, walk to the fountain on the Place de la République and back into town again. The last part of the walk is maybe a bit less interesting. Although… it will lead you to the Avenue Aristide Briand and Avenue Verdun where there are many antique and second-hand shops.
Tip: There is free parking at the Promenade du Pré Saint-Jean, although it is nearly impossible to find a spot during peak hours such as on a Saturday during the market. Otherwise, you can also try the paid parking lot Voltaire on Boulevard Voltaire, which is close to the Office de Tourism.
Office de Tourisme www.en.capdagde.com
By La Ramoneta, who lives between Montpellier and Perpignan. Find out more about the South of France on her blog www.laramoneta.com