Béziers is famous for wine production and bullfighting traditions. It has much more to offer: scenic views, near-empty beaches and interesting historic buildings. With relatively few tourists in the town, Béziers is a wonderful place to experience the authentic laid-back lifestyle of southern France.
Inhabited since Neolithic times, Béziers is one of France’s oldest settlements. During the 13th century, it was the setting for a horrible massacre, when thousands of local Cathars were slayed by a crusader army and many of its historic buildings destroyed, only to be rebuilt and restored later.
Perched on a rocky bluff overlooking the River Orb and encircled by rolling vineyards, Béziers is a scenic spot. Take a stroll or a barge cruise along the pleasant tree-lined Canal du Midi. Built in the 17th century, this UNESCO-listed canal runs for 150 miles (241 kilometers) from Toulouse to Etang de Thau, a large lagoon that is separated from the Mediterranean coast by a thin strip of land.
Walk across the arched Pont Vieux pedestrian bridge. Originally built in the 12th century, it is still used today. From the bridge, look over the old town to see the towers of the Cathédrale St-Nazaire. This cathedral was built in the 13th century on the site of an older church and features numerous gargoyles and a distinctive rose window. Climb up the bell tower for views over the river valley.
For some culture, head to Musée des Beaux-Arts Fabrégat or Musée du Biterrois, where exhibits showcase local history and art. Take a daytrip to nearby Languedoc wineries. With a year-round temperate climate, Béziers is ideal for those seeking sun, sand and swimming. Mediterranean beaches, such as Espiguette, Sérignan and Valras, are easily reached from the town center.
Béziers is located between the coastal towns Perpignan and Montpellier and is served by its own small airport. Trains run from the town’s main station to other major French cities including Marseille, Toulouse, Lyon and Narbonne. August is the busiest and liveliest time to visit the town when it hosts the annual Béziers’ Feria, a five-day bullfighting festival.