Rodez - ancient and modern

A city off the beaten track

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With its fine gothic cathedral and a very attractive historic centre, Rodez is suddenly on the tourist map, since the opening of its stunning Soulages museum, honouring the most famous French artist of the last 50 years.

 Discover Rodez - things to see and do  

On this page Location and access Tourist attractions
In the area Rodez accommodation  

Rodez cathedralWalkway from the Soulages Museum to the Place d'Armes and Notre Dame cathedral
The capital city of the Aveyron department, Rodez was for a long time well off the tourist trail. Hard to reach by rail and just as hard by road, it was one of the most isolated small cities in France.
  All that has changed, and while Rodez remains at the heart of one of the most rural regions of France, it is now firmly on the tourist map. The 2014 opening of a stunning new museum to house a large collection of paintings  and works by the artist Pierre Soulages has propelled Rodez firmly into the twenty-first century.

Location and access

    Rodez is located in Occitanie, in the north east of the Midi- Pyrenees area between the foothills of the Massif Central and the plains of the southwest. It is accessible by motorway and dual-carriageway road from Toulouse and Albi to the southwest, and is 45 km from the A75 Paris-Beziers motorway to the east. There are trains, comfortable but rather slow, from Toulouse (direct)  and Paris (change at Brive la Gaillarde). Rodez has direct flights to the UK - Southampton - with Eastern airways/Flybe. The airport is also served by Ryanair flights from  Dublin and Charleroi (Belgium), and can be  reached by Eastern Airways flights from Paris Orly..

Tourist attractions

      A long time ago the hill-town of Rodez was called Segodunum, and was the Roman capital of the land of the Rutheni. While no more than a short section of town wall survives from the Roman period, the historic heart of modern Rodez is still clearly enclosed in the perimeter of the old Roman and medieval city walls, parts of which along with several towers survive to this day.
Sunset over old Rodez
Sunset over the skyline of old Rodez - a hilltop city
   Due to the city's relative isolation in previous centuries, the historic centre of Rodez is well preserved, and consists of a network of old narrow streets and attractive squares, flanked by fine medieval and renaissance buildings built in one or other of the local stones, either a red sandstone or a creamy pale limestone.
   At the edge of the city centre, on the paved Place d'Armes stands Notre Dame cathedral, one of just a handful of great gothic cathedrals in the south of France. Particularly noteworthy is the cathedral's intricately carved flamboyant gothic tower. The historic centre is also home to two of the city's three museums, the Musée Fenaille with its remarkable collection of carved prehistoric menhirs or headstones, and the Musée Puech, with its collection of 19th & 20th century sculpture and early 20th century painting.
Soulages museum RodezBoldly modern - the new Soulages museum in Rodez
     Four hundred metres from the cathedral, in an attractive city park, stands the impressive new Soulages museum, that opened in 2014. Recognised as the greatest French artist of the second half of the 20th century, Pierre Soulages was born in Rodez.  In 2005 he bequeathed over 200 of his works to his native city. The new museum now houses this collection, and also presents temporary exhibitions of works by other modern and contemporary artists. Recent exhibitions have featured Picasso and Calder
   Designed by Catalan artchitects RCR Arquitectes, the museum is a significant building in its own right,  a masterpiece of "minimalist spatial composition" clad in weathering steel plate. It is part of an coherent ensemble of contemporary buildings including a brasserie run by Michelin three-starred  chef Michel Bras, and a multi-screen cinema complex.

In the area - discover the Aveyron

The Aveyron department

    Rodez is not just an attractive small city in its own right, it is the centre of for discovering the Aveyron department, one of the largest and most diverse in France. The north of the Aveyron comprises an area known as the Aubrac, which is the southern flank of the granite heartland of the Massif Central mountains. At an altitude of between 1000 and 1300 metres, the Aubrac is a fairly desolate area, famed for its beef cattle.
   In the east of the Aveyron, crossed by the A75 motorway, lies an area known as the Causse du Larzac, an arid limestone plateau. This is the heart of an area that produces France's most famous cheese, Roquefort.
    The south of the Aveyron is hill country, including an area known as the Ségala which is now a prosperous agricultural region. The west of the Aveyron, warmer and lower-lying, is known as the Rouergue; the low limestone hills are quite forested.

Attractions in the Aveyron

Conques - (Conques slidehow) a UNESCO world heritage site, and one of the most finely preserved romanesque churches in France, on the old pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella.
Salles-la-Source - small town 15 km from Rodez, on the scarp of a steep valley, and famous for its waterfalls, its site, and its rural crafts museum.
Villefranche de Rouergue: one of the larger bastide towns of southwest France.
Villeneuve d'Aveyron and Sauveterre de Rouergue : two more attractive bastide towns.
Millau: attractive small town on the river Tarn, very meridional.
The Millau viaduct: the world's most impressive motorway viaduct, over the Tarn valley, deigned by Norman Foster & partners.
Viaduc du Viaur: between Rodez and Albi. One of the two great 19th century viaducts designed and built by Gustave Eiffel
Micropolis : between Rodez and Millau. Large modern museum of the world of insects.
Lacs du Lévezou. a series of lakes in the hills south of Rodez. Sailing.
Séverac le Chateau. Impressive medieval fortress beside a small town 45 km east of Rodez, on the way to...
Les Gorges du Tarn - Running between Aveyron and Lozère, the Tarn gorge, a very dramatic a deep limestone gorge, is one of France's grandest natural sites. The Tarn gorge is now overflown by magnificent vultures, a species successfully reintroduced in the 1990s.
La Couvertoirade - minuscule walled city, once a bastion of the Knights Templar, on the Larzac plateau.
Roquefort - home of the famous cheese. Visit the underground caves where the cheese is matured and stored.

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Photo top of page :  the late medieval cathedral is a short walk from the stunning twenty-first century Soulages museum, in the foreground.

Key tourist information for Rodez:

Region: Midi-Pyrenees area of the Occitanie region.
Nearby cities: Toulouse, Albi, Castres
Nearest airports:  Rodez, Toulouse
Rodez is on the route between:
Clermont-Ferrand and Toulouse
Urban area Population:  50000
Main sites:  Notre Dame cathedral, Musée Soulages, Musée Fenaille, Musée Puech, fine Renaissance town houses in the historic centre..
Nearby attractions:  Conques (UNESCO world heritage site), Gorges du Tarn, Millau viaduct

Location Rodez

Accommodation in and near Rodez

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