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Beziers Mini Guide
What’s the Story of Beziers?
Beziers has an interesting and often bloody past. It was a Celtic settlement before the arrival of the Romans who thought the region was so serene that they built a city for veterans of the Roman Army. The city became more important after the construction of the road through to Spain from Provence. In the 13th century, the city was the setting for one of the cruellest episodes of the crusades when, as a centre for Catharism, reviled by the Catholic church, it was besieged and when captured, all the inhabitants, Catholics and Cathars were put to the sword, even those seeking sanctuary in the church. The city was razed to the ground but then rebuilt with the houses and medieval buildings giving the modern day Bezier the right to join the international federation of ancient towns. Much of the town’s tourism rests on its ancient splendour which has been carefully preserved.
How do I get to Beziers?
Beziers has a small regional airport which surprisingly takes a large number of flights from the UK
including from Southampton, London and Bristol
. The airport is only six miles from the town and buses, taxis or car hire will get you swiftly to the old town.
What is There to see and do in Beziers?
The main place that people visit is the Cathedral of St Nazaire. It is of great historical significance as it was constructed almost immediately after the slaughter of thousands of townspeople burned to death in the original building during the sacking of Bezier by the Albigensians. From the courtyard of the cathedral you can look out over the city to the River Orb below. The old streets of the town are great for a stroll. Narrow and mazy, they date back to the time of the cathedral and are now populated by craft and designer clothes shops. You can also walk the banks of the ancient Canal du Midi, a 17th century masterpiece of civil engineering linking the Mediterranean with the Atlantic. The city is a bit of a paradox for although it has notes of Spain, a glance out from the cathedral makes one imagine you are in a Tuscan city with the red terracotta tiled roofs and warm coloured stone buildings.
What can I buy in Beziers?
The area around Beziers has strong Catalan influences and many of the gifts you can buy have a distinctly Spanish feel to them. There are local products on sale including delicious wine, especially the Vin du Pays d’Herault, products made from the cork grown locally and cheeses made in the region.
What Should I eat When Staying There?
Again, much of the local food is Mediterranean in style but with slight twists of Spain. A spicy sausage, reminiscent of Chorizo, is popular in stews and savoury tarts and the wild game caught in the hills, including rabbit, is put to good use in casseroles.
What about Festivals and Celebrations?
Beziers is home to the world famous ‘Feria’, a five day festival centred on the town’s bullring and including a bullfight. Plenty of food and drink is consumed during the feria and fireworks round the event off. Each year it’s attended by thousands of people from all over France and the UK. Religious festivals are celebrated widely but one still detects a cautious nod towards the atrocities against the Cathars.
– If you’re planning on travelling to Beziers this year it is worth noting that on the 15th August each year, one of the largest festivals in the region comes to Beziers. The Beziers Feria brings the town’s streets to life.
- Beziers prides itself on being the 'hidden Languedoc' and if you find yourself in the town you'll soon see why. Few tourists visit but those that do can use the town as a base for visiting the wild mountainous countryside of the Haut Languedoc and ancient villages like Roquebrun in the beautiful Orb Valley.