A short guide to Languedoc
From Jan 1st 2016, "Languedoc-Roussillon" has been merged
into a new
super-region provisionally called "Midi-Pyrenees- Languedoc-
Roussillon". It is expected that the eventual name of this region, to
be determined in 2016, will be "Occitanie" - a historical reference to
the part of France where until the nineteenth century most people spoke
varieties of Occitanian French, not the standard French of northern
the area known as "Languedoc", covered a large part of southern France.
The name itself is a reference to the language(s) (Les langues d'oc - see
below) spoken in this part of France in past
centuries, ; Roussillon
is a much smaller area, being more or less the area covered by the
Eastern Pyrenees department. Roussillon, in the past, was the northern
part of Catalonia., and people here still speak Catalan as well as
The regional capital of Languedoc-Roussillon is the city of Montpellier,
thriving modern city in the Hérault, with a historic centre;
major cities in the region are Nimes,
Unlike Provence, Languedoc has a
coastal plain, and except in the department of Eastern Pyrenees, much
of the coastal area is flat. In the past, the land was swampy and
plagued with mosquitoes, which is why tourism did not develop here in
the 19th century, as it did on the coast further east. However, the
swamps were drained long ago, and the mosquitoes brought under control,
leading to the tourist development of this long coastline as from the
Today, the coast of Languedoc is characterised by
long sandy beaches, often with plenty of space, and a modern tourist
infrastructure, with twentieth-century resorts such as Cap d'Agde,
Palavas, or Narbonne Plage. The brash developments of the sixties have
had time to mature, parts of the coastline have been recovered for more
environmentally sensitive tourism development; and among the
quite densely built-up resort areas, there are attractive bits of
coastline and hinterland. However, as a general rule, the areas within
20 km of the coast have been extensively developed for tourism in the
last forty years.
The fertile coastal plain is given over to
agriculture, vineyards and - particularly in Roussillon - fruit and
vegetables. Languedoc is one of France's major wine-growing areas.
Those who do not want to spend their
char-grilled on a beach will perhaps prefer to discover the old
Languedoc, away from the cities and the immediate coastal strip. Inland
Languedoc is a beautiful area, characterised by vineyards and
"garrigue", arid rocky Mediteranean hills with their
vegetation of scrub, aromatic bushes and occasional fields. Further
inland, the valleys of the Cevennes,
more wooded and rural, give way to the Cevennes hills, the southeastern
peaks of the Massif Central.
The area has a lot of historic cities,
such as Nimes
with its superb Roman remains, the famous walled city of
Carcassonne, the former Roman provincial capital of Narbonne, and other
smaller ancient cities, such as Agde
forming a natural land barrier between France and Spain, are a
beautiful range of high mountains, wooded on their lower
but offering good mountain and hill walking higher up - not to mention
the attraction of day trips into Spain. The coastline where
meet the sea is unlike the rest of the Languedoc coast, and is
characterised by old coastal villages such as Banyuls and Collioure,
rocky cliffs and small coves. The villages on the Pyrenean coastline
can be reached directly by train.
to Languedoc : by TGV
from Paris Gare de Lyon, or from Lille; train from many
cities, motorway from Paris, Lille, Strasbourg, Nancy, Lyon, Geneva.
There are airports
at Nimes, Montpellier, Carcassonne and Perpignan, with low-cost flights
from the UK, Belgium and Holland..
The Origin of the name
The "Langue d'oc" was the version of French spoken in the south of the
country, and Languedoc referred to the part of France in which the
"language of Oc" was spoken. "Oc" (from the Latin ac ) was the word
for "yes" in this part
of France, at a time when people in the north of France said "oeuil",
an old French word that has become modern French "oui". Today, the
"langue d'oc" survives in the many patois still spoken by a few people
in rural areas of this part of France.
The proposed new name Occitanie is another
reference to the historic language of "Oc".
map of Languedoc:
and drag the map to cover the Languedoc area. then zoom in or out.
tourist attractions in
The ramparts of Carcassonne ©
The Canal du Midi
The Pont du Gard, near Nimes
Banyuls sur Mer - Pyrénees orientales:
The Petit train jaune
scenic railway, near Perpignan
Impressive Aude gorge, in the Pyrenees
Text & photos Copyright © About-France.com 2008 -
except for Pont du Gard -
by W Staudt, licence creative commons
covering more than
- Le Canal du Midi
- (34,11) world's oldest commercial canal, built in 17th century. From
Agde to Carcassonne, - and beyond to the Atlantic. Canal with shaded
cycleway and footpath. UNESCO world heritage
- Les Cévennes:
34) beautiful mountains, with steep wooded valleys. National Park area.
Impressive caves .
34, 11, 66) plenty of beaches, marinas and small ports. Miles of sandy
beaches, crowded in parts at times, but also including long expanses of
fairly empty sand.
du Tarn (12 - 48) dramatic and deep
gorge of the
river Tarn, through the limestone rock of the Causses.
department East to West
sur Cèze (30) Musée
Albert André. Fine collection of late 19th century French
including works by Bonnard, Matisse, Marquet, Signac, Jongkind, Rodin
(30) old city with narrow streets, and remarkable Roman remains,
including the Arena and the Maison Carrée
Pont du Gard: (30) UNESCO World Heritage site, impressive
Roman aqueduct, just north east of Nimes.
Mortes: (30) fortified town near the coast, once
a port from which the Crusaders set forth.
- The western part of the Camargue
à vapeur des Cévennes: (30) Cevennes
steam railway. From
Attractive small town north of Nimes, famous for the Castle of the
Dukes, and the Fenestrelle tower, a unique circular romanesque
tower dating from the 12th century. The town also has the Haribo sweets
Lozère: (48) sparsely-populated upland area,
with a dry
climate, mountains, spruce forests and gorges...
(34) regional capital, with old centre, the
churches and other sites.
: attractive old small city, old streets, market, cathedral, waterfront.
(34) traditional Languedoc city, with old streets, churches and gardens.
- St.Guilhen le Désert (34)
- small mediaeval city with romanesque abbey and ruined castle. Also
the nearby Grotte de la Clamouse: magnificent stalacmites and
(34) fishing and commercial port. Old town, beaches, boat trips
(11) former Roman city, once the regional capital, with an impressive
cathedral, underground Roman grain-store, and canalside quays.
UNESCO World Heritage site, a historic city encircled by medieval
- Cathar country:
a collection of fabulous mediaeval castles, veritable eagles nests
perched on rocky crags, guarding over this once turbulent frontier
region. Of special note are the castles of Quéribus and
country tourist train, departs from Rivesaltes near Perpignan, and
rises to Axat in the Pyrenees.
(11) African safari park:
perhaps the best and the biggest (almost 700 acres) wildlife park in
France (opened in 1974).
Canal du Midi:
(34, 11) UNESCO World Heritage site, the world's oldest major
canal, opened in 1681, linking the Mediterranean and the
(66): Museum of Modern Art,
with works by Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, Braque etc.
(66) picturesque villages almost on the Spanish
border, where the Pyrenees meet the sea.
- Le Train Jaune:
(66) take the train up into
the Pyrenees, from near Perpignan. Spectacular scenery, and