Beziers in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon, in the south of France is a fabulous weekend destination with direct flights from several UK airports. Beziers airport is about 15km south east of the town with a shuttle bus service which connects with arrivals and runs to Beziers train and bus stations. The train journey from Paris takes approximately 4 hours.
A weekend tour of this elegant and ancient city will reveal history, shady boulevards, stunning views and some fine dining hospitality. Welcome to the REAL south of France.
When To Go to Beziers
Beziers looks arguably at its best in the spring sunshine. This is the best time to visit before the summer holiday crowds descend and the heat of the sun is turned up full. Throughout the year many festivals are held – including the now famous Feria in August and medieval fair in May. In the autumn, the crowds have dispersed but there is still warm sunshine and towards December, the town comes alive with festive cheer, Christmas markets and fantastic illuminations.
Find your way round Beziers
Set above the River Orb, Beziers dates back to pre-Roman times, the medieval streets of its old town were actually built over the top of an even more ancient settlement. The main sights lie in a small and very walkable area. Bound to the west by the river and to the east by the wide and shady boulevard Allée Paul Riquet, which was constructed on the site of the old city walls. Beziers large Cathedral is testimony to the town’s historic power and importance and towers over the river on the western edge. To the north lies the Cimetière Vieux, a 19th-century addition filed with opulent mausoleums that reflect the wealth of the area. More indications of 19th-century prosperity lie to the eastern edge of Allée Paul Riquet, where large mansions of well to do vineyard owners were built. To the south are two more impressive contributions from the 1800s, the charming park of Plateau des Poetes where you can enjoy a stroll and, below, the elegant railway station.
A View of Beziers
There are stunning views from Beziers’ magnificent Romanesque Cathedral St-Nazaire. From the cathedral square by Place de la Revolution, you gaze west over the outlaying countryside. There is a local myth and that if you can see the Pyrénées – it will rain within forty eight hours!
Enter the cathedral’s cloisters which date from the 13th-century. A small staircase to the right leads down to the formal Jardin des Eveques that once belonged to the Bishop of Beziers. From the terrace, there is a great view south west across the terracotta rooftops of the town and over the bridges across the River Orb.
A walk round the town of Beziers
At the cathedral, you are well placed to start an amble around the intriguing narrow lanes of the old town. Buildings date from medieval days, although many were revamped in the 17th-century and again after WW11 including the Bishop’s Palace which is now the Palais de Justice.
Turn right down Rue Massol and left into Rue de Bonsi continuing on to the wide Avenue Alphonse Mas. Street names are given in French on blue plaques and in Occitan on cream plagues. Occitan, the ancient language of the area, is still taught to children today, though like Latin, rarely spoken. From the Avenue Alphonse Mas take a look into the food halls and journey on through narrow cobbled streets until you reach Allée Paul Riquet.
Great places to eat in Beziers
Bezier locals would blanch at the idea of skimping on lunch! There are many good places to eat in in the town including La Latin opposite the food halls. For lunch with the locals, try L’Opéra just by the theatre. Expect to pay around €10 for the Plat De Jour. During the summer many “pop up” restaurants appear by the river l’Orb.
We all have our favourite restaurants and I always recommend two for dinner, both situated by the Cathedral which makes an ideal setting for dinner. Chez Toi Chez Moi serves excellent meats and fish cooked to perfection in their open fire place while L’Sept D’Or serves traditional French cuisine with style.
For an aperitif join the in-crowd at Café Des Arts just by the theatre or sip café and watch the world go by at Café Comedia in Allée Paul Riquet. With tables spilling outside, most bars and cafés serve an enormous variety of Languedoc wines along with Spanish-style tapas dishes.
Shopping in Beziers
The old town’s main shopping streets are Rue 4 Septembre, Rue Mairan and Rue Françoise. Head to the art shop Galerie Mercure at 8 Place de Trois Six to see contemporary paintings in a fine 19th-century mansion. For modern design and funky home-ware make for Architru & Balthaz’art at 5 Rue de Monmorency. Meanwhile, there’s a Galerie Lafayette and Monoprix opposite the theatre on Allée Paul Riquet and an abundance of boutiques and shops in the Polygon Centre situated close to the railway station.
Dating from the 11th Century, the church of Ste Madeline is a serene Romanesque building. For local residents it is a seminal landmark, it was here in 1209, that the notorious massacre of 7,000 citizens took place, they were taking refuge from anti-Cathar Crusaders and were burned alive. The church is open during the week.
Beziers has six museums and all are well worth a visit. The Beaux-Arts museum at Place de La Revolution offers a collection of paintings from the 17th to 19th-centuries and an exhibition about Beziers born Resistance hero Jean Moulin. Another outlet of this museum at Rue Capus is dedicated to Jean and Beziers-born sculptor Jean-Antonie Injalbert, some of whose 19th-century art can be seen around the town.
Where to stay in Beziers
Maison De L’Orb is one of the finer old houses of the 1800s, once the focal point of the long ago Beziers plage. The former boat wash house stands in the garden. During WWII, the house was used a “safe house” for those fleeing the occupied zone and the cellars were used by local resistance groups. The house is ideally situated on the banks of the River Orb with stunning views of Pont Vieux, the oldest bridge in the area and the amphitheatre Pont Vieux.
By Mark Binmore, proprietor of Maison de l’Orb
Website for Beziers Tourist Office