The historic centre of the town of Pézenas 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. You can still visit many traditional artists and craftworkers. And of course you can follow in the footsteps of the famous French playwriter and actor Molière. Another option is to go on a self-guided city tour and explore the town at your own pace.
Hôtel de Lacoste
Although in the past I have loved strolling through beautiful Pézenas, I never really knew where I was going. So this time I decided to visit the Office de Tourisme first, and, to my surprise, they offered me 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; I opted for the short version of about 1.5 hours. Starting just a few steps from Tourist Information, I followed 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. You can even go into the courtyard of this 16th-century hotel and marvel at its rib vaulted staircase.
I spotted some nice restaurants on Rue François Oustrin, but unfortunately I didn’t have time for lunch. Will save that for my next visit. Arriving at the Place Gambetta, the first building my eye was drawn to was the Maison Consulaire. This classified historic monument from the 17th century used to be a consular building and now functions as a 300m2 art and crafts centre where 200 artists and craftworkers exhibit their work. It’s called La Maison des Métiers d’Art, and if you have the time it’s definitely worth having a peek inside (it’s closed on Mondays and Sundays).
My self-guided tour led me from the Hôtel de Peyrat, with its two corbelled turrets, 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 I went back into the city centre through a maze of little cobbled streets. Here I lost track a little, as the many delightful shops distracted me from my route…
Through the Porte Faugères, one of the last remaining sections of the medieval town wall, I entered the Pézenas of the 17th and 18th centuries. From the Cours Jean Jaurès, with its many elegant facades, I walked to the fountain on the Place de la République and back into town again. The last part of the walk was a bit less interesting I thought. Although… it led me to the Avenue Aristide Briand and Avenue Verdun with their many antique and second-hand shops. Altogether, the guide helped me to discover Pézenas in an informative and fun way: at my own pace and with plenty of time for an ice cream.