6 must-do things in Béziers

Visiting Béziers: what are the best things to do and see in this beautiful Hérault town?

With 75,999 inhabitants, Béziers is one of Hérault’s two sub-prefectures and the department’s second-largest city after Montpellier. What to do in Béziers? First of all, discover its history: Béziers is said to have been founded by the Greeks in the 7th century BC, making it the oldest commune in France, ahead of Marseille. Situated on a promontory overlooking the Orb and Canal du Midi rivers, Béziers lies at the foot of the Parc Naturel Régional du Haut-Languedoc, the last foothills of the Massif Central. Just 12 kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea and 50 kilometers from the Haut-Languedoc mountains – the Caroux (1,090 meters), Espinouse (1,124 meters) and Lacaune (1,267 meters) – and 70 kilometers from Montpellier, more than half of Béziers’ territory is made up of green spaces, protected natural areas and vineyards. The Béziers coastline is dotted with sand dunes and wetlands, home to numerous bird species.

When visiting Béziers, there’s no shortage of things to do, from féria and rugby to urban strolls, hiking and swimming at the beach. Here are our top 6 things to do in Béziers.

1. Downtown Béziers

Visiter Béziers, centre ville

The city center, on the eastern banks of the Orb, is dotted with religious buildings and historic monuments, such as the Roman arena, the Pont-Vieux – built in the 12th century – the Canal du Midi, the Chapelle des Pénitents and the Cathedral of Saint-Nazaire. In Béziers, as is often the case, influences intermingle and the old blends with the new, through successive inheritances from the past. As a result, the city boasts a rich historical and cultural heritage. Far from having an Écusson as large as Montpellier’s, the historic center is no less made up of narrow, enclosed streets, which you can wander down to the Allées Paul Riquet, a pedestrian thoroughfare reminiscent of Spain’s Ramblas. Take the opportunity to sample a fine local wine, for here, the vine is sacred!

2. The Fonseranes locks

Visiter Béziers, les écluses

Photo credit: Wikimedia- Jeannearc

The Fonseranes locks are a set of eight locks forming part of an incredible 17th-century feat of engineering: the Canal du Midi. It consists of a ladder of locks with eight egg-shaped basins and 9 gates, spanning a height difference of 21.50 meters over a length of 312 meters. The technology employed and the ingenuity of the site still amaze visitors today, more than 300 years after their construction under the aegis of Béziers-born Pierre-Paul Riquet. It is the third most visited tourist site in the former Languedoc-Roussillon region, after the Pont du Gard and the Cité de Carcassonne.

3. Visit the Ensérune site and museum

The Ensérune site, located in Nissan-lez-Ensérune, south-west of Béziers, retraces the history of Gaul: archaeological excavations have uncovered the remains of a Gallic village founded in the 6th century BC, and occupied continuously until the 1st century AD. It is believed to be one of the most important Gallic remains in the southern Mediterranean. Situated on a promontory overlooking the Narbonne plain, the site is an oppidum that enjoyed dynamic trade between 300 and 500 BC, when it was populated by the Greeks. Around 218 BC, the Gauls occupied the city and prospered until the 1st century, while the Romans founded Narbonne in 118 BC. You’ll discover the silos, pits dug into the ground that were presumably used to store food or water.

4. The (modern) Béziers arena

Visiter Béziers, les arènes

Photo credit: Wikimedia- Dipandalmasca

If you love Spanish bullfighting and the féria, this is a must-see when visiting Béziers. I mean, what’s a visitor to Béziers to miss out on this major part of Occitan culture? Built in 1897 on the model of the Spanish bullring, the « Arènes du Plateau de Valras » made Béziers France’s leading bullfighting town. This art and passion for bullfighting even earned the town the nickname of the « French Seville ». To take part, you need to come around mid-August, but numerous cultural events, including concerts, are held here all year round.

5. Saint-Nazaire Cathedral

Visiter Béziers, centre ville

Photo credit: Wikimedia- Vpe

You can’t miss it – it’s visible from almost anywhere on the road as you approach Béziers. Built on the site of an ancient Roman temple dedicated to Augustus and his wife Livia between the 13th and 15th centuries, this Gothic-style edifice was erected on a rocky promontory, replacing a Romanesque church that was completely destroyed by fire during the sacking of Béziers in 1209 (during the Albigensian Crusade). Listed as a historic monument since 1840, the cathedral dominates the old medieval town and the Orb plain.

6. Stroll on or along the Canal du Midi

Visiter Béziers, Canal du Midi

Photo credit: Wikimedia- Michiel1972

A true work of art and a technical feat that revolutionized freight transport in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Canal du Midi is the work of Pierre-Paul Riquet (1609-1680) who, under the reign of Louis XIV, linked the Garonne at Toulouse to the Etang de Thau at Marseillan (34), creating 241 kilometers of waterways.

Construction of the canal, which began in 1666, enabled France to deprive Spain – whose conflict with France had just ended – of some of its resources by avoiding the Strait of Gibraltar to transport goods to Mediterranean ports. You can hike or cycle along the banks, or hire a boat to cruise the waters of the canal from Béziers to Marseillan or from Béziers to Toulouse: a peaceful way to discover the region!

How do I get to Béziers?

Getting to Béziers is easy, with excellent rail, air, bus and motorway links. Béziers-Cap d’Agde airport is about 15 minutes from the city. When you arrive from the airport, there are shuttles or cabs that can take you to the city center. To find a cheap flight to Béziers, you can search on our partner site Skyscanner. You can also get to Béziers by train, as the station is located in the city center.

Where to stay in Béziers?

To visit Béziers, you can stay directly in the city center or in the surrounding area: you’ll find all our advice on the best areas to stay in Béziers on our dedicated article. From apartments to hotels and gîtes (outside the city center), Béziers offers a wide range of accommodation options. As far as hotels are concerned, don’t forget to take a look at this hotel comparison site, which lists the best deals available at the moment.

Map of hotels and accommodation – Béziers