Things are happening in Béziers! This hidden South of France gem has been polished over the years and is now an even more pleasant town in which to spend some time. Whether you love strolling through picturesque little streets, having a glass of wine at one of the many terraces or indulging your curiosity for French history: it’s all here. Let me guide you through one of the oldest cities in France. I warn you; this list is just the beginning… There is so much more to discover!
The starting point of my walk through Béziers is a little off-track. But once you park your car at the free parking lot of the Pont Vieux and cross this Old Bridge, you’ll understand why. From the end of the Old Bridge, you can walk on a newly created path to the cathedral. You can use the stairs and a footbridge or go up using the three elevators. Reaching the top of the hill, you will immediately stand face-to-face with the Saint-Nazaire Cathedral. Thanks to its rocky spur, this landmark is recognizable from afar. Like so many other monuments, the Saint-Nazaire Cathedral has known rough times as well. Built on an ancient Roman temple, it was completely destroyed during the 12th-century crusade. The current cathedral was rebuilt in the mid-13th century, with additions dating from various subsequent centuries. You can climb even higher by going up the 48 meter high tower.
From here, I take the cobbly Rue Viennet, passing three utterly French little squares. First, the Place de la Révolution, then the Place des Bons Amis, to arrive at the Place du Forum with the town hall. These squares have many lovely bars and restaurants, but first I’m visiting Les Halles. This covered market still has its original cast-iron building in Baltard style and dates from 1891. Open from Tuesday to Sunday (so closed on Mondays), and from 07h00 to 13h00, it’s a fantastic place to find local produce. Although it isn’t as extensive as Narbonne’s covered market, you can still find an excellent selection of seafood, cheeses, meat and vegetables. There are several restaurants in and around Les Halles, so it also makes a great stop for lunch. A few of my favourites are ‘La Gargote des Halles‘ inside the market and ‘Le Massilia‘ just outside.
Place de la Madeleine
On to La Place de la Madeleine. This square was named after the Romanesque Madeleine Church, mentioned for the first time in 1092. The building on the left on the side of the restaurants is one of the most picturesque images of Béziers if you ask me. My favourite eateries include L’Alchimie and the Honey Café. It’s hard to believe that this peaceful square once was the scene of the bloodiest episode in Bézier’s history. In 1209, crusaders of the Albigensian crusade brutally massacred thousands and thousands of inhabitants of the town. Men, women and children had come to the church to seek refuge, but instead of being protected, they were burned to death. The scars of this awful event are still visible to this day.
Les Allées Paul Riquet
From the Place de la Madeleine, I stroll to Les Allées Paul Riquet. This boulevard is named after Béziers born Piere-Paul Riquet, the creator of the Canal du Midi commissioned by King Louis XIV. Since 1681, the 240 kilometres long waterway connects the Mediterranean Sea with Toulouse. On one end proudly stands Béziers’ Municipal Theatre in Italian style, dating from 1844. And on the other side, you will find the city park of the Plateau des Poètes. All this under the watchful eye of Pierre-Paul Riquet’s statue.
Place Jean Jaurès
Les Allées Paul Riquet automatically leads me to the Place Jean Jaurès, which had a complete makeover in 2018. This big square is now a beautiful and spacious place where people come to flaunt. It’s also the meeting point for kids to cool down and play in the fountain. No less than 50 little water spurts pop up unexpectedly to increase the fun. When the summer nights fall, the fountains put on a show with colourful lights and music. And twice a year, during the summer and Christmas period, decorations enliven the square even more.
More to discover
Walking back to the cathedral is where my little city guide of Béziers ends. Right there, at the (renewed as well) terrace in front of the cathedral, you can gaze over the great Orb plain as far as the Haut-Languedoc Regional National Park. However, as I mentioned earlier, there is a lot more to discover in bustling Béziers. Check this link to read more of my posts about this surprising town. From the Nine Locks of Fonseranes to the best restaurants, you will find it all here. And there’s more to come!