Oh summertime in France. The food. The wine. The stunning landscapes. The warmth. The romance. The architecture. The history. It’s no wonder France is the world’s most visited country.
But there’s a whole lot more to summer travel in France than the Eiffel Tower, the Riviera, and Monaco. While many know of the South of France, did you know you can explore the picturesque region by boat? When it comes to river cruising in the South of France, the scenic Canal du Midi is a must.
Cruise this 300-year-old waterway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on your own provide boat and savor the scenic waterways and relax amidst stunning natural beauty.
To make the most of your time, Le Boat, Europe’s largest operator of self-drive boating vacations and a leader in unique travel, has uncovered the Canal du Midi’s top ten hidden gems to explore this summer. Can you keep a secret, captain?
1. Mediterranean Agde
Once a Greek city, a medieval fortress and a rich village during the Renaissance, Agde was largely built using black volcanic rocks. This charming seaside village is located on the river Hérault and is one of the oldest villages in France. The old town has a lovely little center with cobbled streets full of pleasant shops, restaurants and buildings with medieval architectural details.
2. Le Cap d’Agde Beach Resort
Le Cap d’Agde is a beautiful seaside resort with a plethora of fun activities for kids, including the beach, an aquarium, a fairground and a huge waterpark. Say goodbye to boredom and hello to the ultimate kid-friendly getaway.
3. Narbonne’s Horreum
Narbonne has a rich heritage where grand and ancient buildings sit majestically among a network of modern and lively streets and boulevards. Here you’ll find the Horreum, the underground tunnels of an ancient Gallo-Roman warehouse dating from the 1st century BC. The galleries achieve an atmosphere reminiscent of the market days thanks to the sound and light that animates the place.
4. Oppidum d’Ensérune Ruins
The Oppidum of Ensérune is an archaeological site that offers a remarkable glimpse into the past, from the Bronze Age to the Roman conquest (6th century BC to 1st century AD). Follow the trail to discover the well-preserved remains of the ancient village and 300 silos dug into the rock to store grain.
5. Béziers Feria
Every year in mid-August, the streets of Béziers come alive for the Feria. A local festival inspired by the Spanish corrida (bull fighting festival), Feria takes place in mid-August and lasts for full four days.
6. Ventenac’s Wine Cave
And, what would a trip though France be without sipping some of the Languedoc region’s famous wine?
The fabulous waterside wine cellar in the Chateau de Ventenac-en-Minervois is not to be missed. Here, local wines can be sampled for free under the arches of its amazing vault. You can also tour the small museum, ‘Grenier des Vignerons’, which has a collection of tools for growing grapes and winemaking from the 19th century.
7. Paraza’s Vineyards
You can never have too much wine in France. The Château de Paraza is the perfect place to keep the wine flowing. Today, wine is produced at the château and its owners offer guided tours and wine tasting. Afterwards, sit on the terrace with a glass of wine and enjoy tapas and platters of local produce.
8. Carcassonne’s knights
Your jaw will drop as you approach the walled city of Carcassonne on your canal cruise, and for a moment you’ll envision knights and archers on the ramparts. Carcassonne is home to the famous La Cité – the world’s largest medieval fortress and another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A busy summer in Carcassonne: the fabulous festival called “Festival de Carcassonne” in July bringing together artists but also many activities and concerts (public and private) / the Feria at the end of August.
9. Castelnaudary’s delicious cassoulet
Treat your taste buds in Castelnaudary, a market town home of the cassoulet (a heavy stew of duck, Toulouse sausage and haricot beans). There is even an annual festival, La Fête du Cassoulet, celebrating it at the end of August. Now that’s a party we can get on board with.
10. Toulouse’s Cité de L’Espace
Kids will love the Cité de l’espace, a theme park focused on the exploration of space. In total, over 250 exhibition pieces, most of them interactive, enable you to admire, test, learn and dream!