Welcome to Languedoc-Roussillon - the real South of France

The Languedoc still offers the traditional  south of France charm that Provence and the Côte d'Azur lost years ago...

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“This Cinderella of the south was once overshadowed by gorgeous Provence and the brash Côte d’Azur. Now, she stands as their equal, displaying a discreet charm that her more-visited siblings lost long ago”


- Lonely Planet: 10 best destinations



The Languedoc has, until recently, been in the shadow of its more famous and glamorous sister, Provence. But whereas Provence has suffered over-development and high property prices, Languedoc has been able to hold on to its traditional charm. The result has been a boom in recent years in tourism and house buying, amongst the French and other Europeans - who flock to the region to enjoy the warm weather, dramatic countryside and relaxed, traditional way of life.’


Languedoc stretches from the Camargue wetlands just to the west of Marseille, down to the Spanish border, where the Pyrénées mountains tumble into the Mediterranean. The coast, unlike that of Provence and the Côte d’Azur, is generally quite flat and straight, giving the region fabulously huge sandy beaches. In from the coast, the land rises gently to form an area of gently rolling hills, mostly covered in vineyards. These, in turn, give way to mountains - the Cévennes in the north, the Montagnes Noir in the centre, and the Pyrénées in the south.

Languedoc-Roussillon is still one of the poorest regions in France, but also one of the fastest-growing, with the wine industry (which used to provide cheap table wine) now diversifying into much higher-quality wines, and the tourist and property trades booming. That tourism is growing is no surprise - the region offers visitors everything they could want from a holiday destination - over 300 days of sunshine a year, huge beaches, some of France’s prettiest villages, superb food (especially seafood), increasingly exciting wines, and some of the country’s most spectacular historical sites.


Montpellier, the capital of the region, is officially the favourite city of the French in which to live. Thousands move here every year from the cold, wet cities of the north. The city is also one of the most beautiful in France, with a large pedestrianised centre dominated by impressive 19th century buildings of cut sandstone, leafy squares overflowing with cafés, and a vibrant student population. Nîmes, the second largest city, features France’s most impressive roman ruins, such as the Maison Careée temple, the ‘Les Arènes’ amphitheatre, and not far out of the city, the massive Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct. Narbonne and Carcassonne, both small cities on canals, offer relaxed city life, and Perpignan, France’s most spanish city, is alive with catalan nationalism, tapas and a thriving art scene.



Transport links have helped Languedoc achieve its high growth rate. The region sports five international airports, and another five lie just beyond its borders. All are busy with low-cost flights that bring in visitors from all over Europe. France’s impressive TGV trains ply their trade along the Languedoc coast - and inland to Toulouse. And the A9, A62 and A75 motorways also provide easy access to the area.


The wine industry has long dominated the region’s economy. Languedoc was, and may still be, the world’s largest wine-producing region. But quantity is now giving way to quality, with investment and know-how coming in from other parts of France and the New World - to produce what many think is currently some of the world’s most exciting wines. Reds from the Minervois, Corbières, St Chinian and Faugères wine areas regularly win prizes. As do crisp Languedoc PicPoul whites, and aromatic Viogniers and Muscats.



Languedoc’s history is richer than that of neighbouring Provence. The Greeks and Phoenicians colonised the seaside town of Agde, using it as one of their major trading ports. The Romans then dominated the area, linking it to their empires in Italy and Hispania with the Via Domitia - a portion of which you can still see in Narbonne’s city centre. They built capitals here at Narbonne (Narbo) and Nîmes (Nemausus) - leaving behind some of the most impressive Roman ruins outside of Rome itself. In the middle ages, ‘The County of Toulouse’ as Languedoc was overrun by crusaders, sent by Pope Eugene III o wipe out a growing christian sect known as the Cathars - whose increasingly independent ways of thinking had started the threaten the hegemony of the Catholic Church. What followed was decades of slaughter, as crusaders attacked Cathar strongholds (now some of the most spectacular castle ruins in France) exterminating all who refused to renounce their rebel religion. Finally, in the 13th century, the region become officially a part of France, having spent hundreds of years with close ties with the Aragon and Catalan kingdoms of Spain.

Languedoc, being relatively distant from Paris, remained a relative backwater until the 19th century, when a disease called Phylloxera wiped out France’s entire stock of vines. It was in Languedoc that the first new, disease-resistant varieties of grapes from the New World were planted, leading to a boom in the region. Languedoc became the world’s largest wine-producing area, and wealth poured in - allowing the building of impressive chateaux and the expansion of the area’s cities.

In the twentieth century - the draining of the swamplands that lined the coast led, at last, to the opening up of Languedoc to tourism - and the subsequent boom in the past 20 years. In the past 10 years, a thriving technology industry has sprung up in and around Montpellier.



There are so many things to do and see in Languedoc, that it’s hard to know where to start. Here are the highlights:

  • The Roman ruins of La Maison Carrée and Les Arènes in Nîmes, and the impressive Pont du Gard aqueduct
  • Cathar castles in the Aude department - such as Queribus and Peyrepeteuse (you can see one from the other), as well as Puilaurens and Lastours.
  • La Cité castle in Carcassonne - the world’s largest example of a medieval castle
  • The Canal du Midi - walk, boat or cycle down it, under a canopy of plane trees. Stop off for lunch along the way.
  • Pretty villages - Minèrve, Lagrasse, Roquebrun, Olargues, Collioure and St Guilhem le Désert being the best examples
  • Historic Towns - Pézenas, Uzès, Sommières and Limoux all offer interesting architecture and lots of lovely shops and restaurants
  • Beautiful churches and abbeys - The cathedrals at Narbonne and Mende are spectacular. As are the Abbeye de Frontfroide, the Abbeye of St Martin de Canigou and the Priory of Serrabone.
  • Spectacular natural wonders - Such as the Cirque de Navacelles (a hill and river in a deep canyon), the Cirque de Mourèze, Lake Salagou (with its Martian landscapes), the Gorges Héric (magical rock pools), Gorges du Tarn, numerous magnificent caves, and the wetlands of the Camargue - with their wild horses, black bulls and flocks of flamingoes.
  • Activities - Wine tasting is a must in Languedoc, there are literally hundreds of domains al keen for you to try their wines. You can sail on the coast or on Lake Salagou or canoe down one of the region’s many rivers. The area is also great for fishing, bird watching, mountain cycling, rambling, golf and skiing in the Pyrénées in winter.

The Languedoc Property Market

Languedoc underwent a property boom from about 2002 - 2008. Since then, the market has cooled and prices have levelled off. Property is still great value here, being quite a bit cheaper than Provence. The general trend has been for local, poorer families to move out of centre-village houses into new-build homes in developments, offering them superior electrics, water and comfort. Northern Europeans, Americans and Antipodeans then buy these properties up, renovating them. Thus estate agents tend to fall into two groups - French-based agents catering to the French market, and selling mostly new-build homes. And more internationally-based agents (such as Real Estate Languedoc) who understand the needs of non-French buyers.


Properties in Languedoc fall into a few main groupings. Village houses, generally made of stone covered in ‘créppie’, that sometimes have small gardens or roof terraces. These make perfect holiday homes, as they rent well. Detached houses, mostly on the edge of villages and towns, are often converted farm buildings - offering tons of character in the form of wood beams and exposed-stone walls. These usually come with some garden - although the dominance of vineyards in the area mean that huge plots of land are rare. You can also find larger ‘Maisons de Maitre’ in villages, more ornate houses built during the wine boom, that offer period features and gardens.


Generally - the closer you are to Montpellier and the coast, the higher prices are. Hérault and Gard departments are slightly pricer than the Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales. Certain towns and the areas around them are particular popular - such as Pézenas, Marseillan and Sète.