I arrived in Béziers on the 31st of October 2020. I had never really planned on visiting, not in the near future anyway. But as we all know, 2020 had its own plans! We were house- and petsitting in the beautiful Dordogne region when President Macron announced a new lockdown which meant we had 3 days to find a place to stay! After a lot of frantic searches on AirBnB I spotted a cute rooftop apartment in Béziers, a lovely looking old town in southern France. Three days later we were ready to start our very own French lockdown adventure.
Most people visit Béziers for a daytrip, but I was given the chance to live here for a whole month! Everything was closed of because of lockdown, but my daily exercise routine took me around the prettiest corners of this Occitan town. Turns out there’s a lot more to Béziers than meets the eye! Follow me, I’ll show you the best things to do in Béziers!
The best things to do in Béziers
1. Pont Vieux
This medieval bridge has spanned the river Orb since the 13th century. Together with the Cathedral, it forms the perfect postcard of Béziers. The town is planning a greenway all the way from the bridge to the cathedral, hence the massive crane at the moment! I guess I’ll have to come back in 2022 when it’s finished!
2. Canal du Midi
The famous Canal du Midi, connecting Toulouse with the Med over a length of nearly 250km, passes on the outskirts of Béziers. And rightly so, as the engineer responsible for this magical piece of engineering, Paul Riquet, was a ‘Biterrois’ (an inhabitant of Béziers). Make sure you visit the Fonséranes Locks, 9 impressive locks that enable the boats to navigate a 21.5m drop. It’s a lovely walk towards the Orb Aquaduct, where the Canal passes over the Orb river, and the charming harbour of Béziers. During Covid-times all was quiet on the canal, but I can imagine the buzz during busy summer months.
3. Saint Nazaire Cathedral
Perched on the cliff, overlooking the Orb river, the Gothic cathedral is hard to miss. Together with walking across the Pont Vieux, it is one of the main things to do in Béziers. The cathedral used to be the seat of power for the bishops of Béziers until 1789. From the main square in front of the cathedral you can take the all-important Instagram picture with the famous “Beziers” sign and enjoy the gorgeous views over the surrounding houses and plains from the ‘Table d’Orientation’.
4. The old town of Béziers
French villages and towns seem to have a patent for charming, winding little streets and Béziers is no exception. Well, no that’s not entirely true. Although Béziers is one of the oldest towns in France, in certain areas, especially around the railway station, it looks as if it could do with a little TLC. In recent years, the mayor has made a massive effort and there are now plenty of charming corners to be discovered. Walk between the theatre and the Cathedral and discover charming independent shops and squares, like the Place de la Madeleine and Place Gabriel Péri with the quintessential town hall.
5. Les Allées Paul Riquet
The long “Allées Paul Riquet”, with the theatre at one end and the lovely ‘Plateau des Poètes’ at the other is Béziers’ answer to the Spanish ramblas. The esplanade is the perfect place for an afternoon stroll and every Friday you can visit the beautiful flower market. In the middle of the esplanade stands a statue of Paul Riquet, the founder of the ‘Canal du Midi’.
Insider tip: make sure to stop at the “Boulangerie Le Cristal” for delicious baguettes and pastries!
To the left of the Allées Paul Riquet is the beautifully arranged public square, called Place Jean Jaures. At the far end is a mirror-lake fountain with big spurts of water that pop up unexpectedly. Very pretty!
6. Plateau des Poètes
A beautifully landscaped garden, situated between the railway station and the theatre. The Plateau des Poètes is ideal for a lovely stroll among busts of Occitan-speaking poets, the stunning Titan fountain and the lovely lake, complete with swans. I stayed just around the corner and was very happy to have this green area so close to my home during the lockdown!
Opposite the main entrance on the “Allées Paul Riquet” side, you can have a ride on the big Ferris wheel for stunning views over Béziers.
7. View from l’Eglise St Jacques
Béziers is full of stunning viewpoints, from the Pont Vieux to the ‘Table d’Orientation’ and the Place Canterellette. But the most complete and, in my opinion, the most beautiful viewpoint is from the Eglise Saint-Jacques. This church is a famous stop-over for pilgrims walking the “Camino de Santiago” between Arles and Santiago de Compostela.
From the viewpoint you get a stunning view over the cathedral, the various bridges that span the Orb river and the Orb Aquaduct.
Don’t miss it!
8. Les Halles de Béziers
The main food market in the city centre is housed in a beautiful cast-iron Baltard-style building. It has everything you would expect from a Mediterranean covered market, from fresh bread to local cheeses, from butchers to little bars. There are a lot of deli-counters, but the food is not cheap at all. That’s the price you pay for excellent quality I guess…
If you prefer outdoor markets, head to the Place du 14 juillet on a Friday morning or to the ‘Marché Paysan’ (farmers market) on the Place Jean Jaures on Wednesday evening and the Place de la Madeleine Saturday morning.
9. Jardin de la Plantade
A very pleasant shady garden on the banks of the Orb, where you can admire the Cordier mills. It’s an ideal escape from the town centre.
10. Jardin de la Villa Antonine
If you’re staying a month in a small town of +/- 75.000 inhabitants, you have plenty of opportunities to go off-the-beaten-path. A 15 min walk east of the ‘Plateau des Poètes’ I came across the summer residence of Béziers’ most famous sculptor, Antonin Inglabert. It is surrounded by a charming, abundant little garden where the master’s sculptures are concealed among the trees, bushes and flowerbeds. A great place for a peaceful stroll!
Staying in Béziers for a month was a unique opportunity and if it hadn’t been for Covid-19, I might never have visited the town. But time has come to leave it behind. Maybe I’ll see you again Béziers, in better times…