Hi Frugalistas! I’m the first to admit that Béziers is not on everyone’s radar when they come to plan a trip to France. But I had my reasons for spending a weekend in Béziers. Firstly, we were travelling by train from Barcelona to Bordeaux, so Béziers was a convenient point to break up what would otherwise have been a long day on the train. Secondly, Béziers features in one of my favorite books about France (you can find it here), so I was curious to see what things there were to do in Béziers France. And finally, I like exploring parts of France that are not full of tourists.
Weekend in Béziers: arrive in Béziers by train
We took the most excellent Renfe train from Barcelona to Béziers, a journey of approximately 2.5hours. Béziers is on the route from Barcelona to Marseille, so it’s an easy place to stop off if you are traveling by train from Barcelona to the French Riviera or from Barcelona to Paris by train.
The train station in Béziers is quite small and easy to navigate so we were out of the station and on our way quickly. Our accommodation was an easy 10min walk from the station but there were plenty of taxis meeting the train as well as nearby car rentals and buses.
Things to do in Béziers France
We only had one thing we had planned to do in Béziers – a Canal du Midi cruise on the afternoon of our second day. That left a full day to find other things to do in Béziers. So we set off on our Béziers adventure.
As I often do, our first thing to do after our arrival in Béziers was to go for a walk. We only had Google maps, but had spotted the Cathedral up on the hill above our BnB. So it seemed obvious that this would be the first stop on our walk.
The Cathédrale Saint-Nazaire dates to the seventeenth century and being on the Camino Saint Jacques (the French part of the Camino walking trail) it is very impressive for a town the size of Béziers. It is truly pretty inside, but the surrounding courtyard (complete with fountain) and the views for miles of the Orb River and the Occitane countryside was what really set it apart. If you are out walking, it’s an excellent shady spot for a rest, or just to sit awhile.
From the courtyard of the cathedral, the centre of the town was well signposted, so we wandered into town from there quite easily.
On Saturday mornings in France, a walk always includes a market. The centre of Béziers has a traditional French covered market. It was somewhat surprising, but on a Saturday morning the market was quiet and small. But it was still very interesting. In addition to the usual French market stalls, there were some that stood out. Firstly, there was a stall that sold horse and donkey meat. I had seen horse meat on both restaurant menus and in the market in Padua, Italy, but had never seen donkey meat before, and had never seen either in markets in France. There was another stall that sold poultry and rabbits – all with their heads, feet etc still on. Yes, it was a bit confronting, but very interesting none the less.
The rest of the centre of the town was quite pleasant to walk around and not at all touristy. As I was taking photos more than one person made it clear they did not want to be included in my shot – so some discretion is necessary.
The final part of our walk took us down the Allée Paul Riquet to the Plateau des Poêtes, a shady and very pretty public garden. Built in celebration of Occitan language poets it was a lovely way to end our walk.
Cruising the canal du Midi from Béziers
I had particularly wanted to take a Canal du Midi cruise from Béziers. A half day cruise of the eastern part of the Canal seemed to be the easiest option, although finding options with English language commentary and deciding between the various options proved difficult. Finally, based on the recommendation of a business connection of a friend we settled on the half day cruise offered by La Compagnie des Bateaux du Midi.
It was frightfully hot on the afternoon of our Béziers Canal du Midi cruise. After a drive out of Béziers to rendezvous with our cruise barge we were relieved to find a nice shady deck to sit. Most of our other cruisers seemed to have joined the barge earlier for lunch. Inside the barge, the aircon struggled in the heat, so I was relieved we had not booked a lunch cruise.
Everyone else on the barge seemed to be French and all announcements on the cruise were made only in French. One of the hostesses kindly checked in with me after each announcement to ensure I had understood what was being said.
The Canal du Midi barge cruise was quite interesting and very relaxing, despite the heat. We passed through the countryside and along shady pathways, but also through nine locks. The locks were clearly a source of great fascination as there were carloads of people watching the process of them opening and closing as we passed through. The Canal du Midi dates to the eighteenth century and the locks really are a marvel to watch.
The journey into Béziers afforded a stunning view of the town.
Restaurants in Béziers
Restaurants in central Béziers are largely centred around the Place Jean Jaurès and the Allée Paul Roquet. On our first evening in Béziers we decided it was such a lovely evening that an apéritif was in order and we landed at a rather local looking place with tables under the trees on Allée Paul Roquet. The waiter, who I suspect was either the manager or the owner, came to serve us with a smile, but turned decidedly gruff when I ordered Aperol spritz for Mr Frugalfirstclass and I. “Non, no spritz!!” was his grumpy response. After quickly changing our order to a couple of kirs he seemed happier and we spent a happy hour sitting in the shade enjoying our drinks. No one was in a rush to hurry us on, and locals were met by our waiter and waitress with bisous (kisses) all round.
The next night we decided to go back and try our luck with dinner at the same place, under the trees to take advantage of the Béziers weather. We seated ourselves and the same waiter came round. After a quick bonjour, he looked at us, and recognised us. “Bonjour, bonjour, welcome back,” he said with a big smile and hand shakes all round. Yes, Béziers really is that friendly, laid back kind of place. I’m not sure what we ate exactly, but it was cheap and it was friendly and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal sitting with the French families also enjoying their dinner there. (I can’t for the life of me find this bar-restaurant’s name, but it was a bustling, friendly place with a vaguely nautical theme and barrel tables out the front. It was located on the left hand side as you head up towards the Opera House).
I must say though, I think the dish of the stay in Béziers was the quiche Lorraine MissG had for lunch from a tiny hole in the wall bakery on Allée Paul Roquet called La Boulangerie du Cristal. The pastry was light and oh so buttery and the filling was rich and delicious. It was a perfect lunch treat.
Other things to do around Béziers
Béziers is a short train journey to the iconic town of Carcassonne, which makes an excellent day trip for those wanting to explore this popular tourist town in Occitane.
The nearby resort town of Agde has plenty of options for beach lovers – and has a large naturist beach and resort for those who love to go nude.
Is Béziers worth visiting?
I think Béziers is a perfect stop off point for those wanting to break the journey between Barcelona and other parts of France. It’s also a good option for those visiting the area who want to experience a traditional French town far from the tourist hordes of Carcassonne.
British readers seeking a bit of sun will also enjoy a weekend break in Béziers, with flights into Béziers from various British departure points.
Plan your trip to Béziers
Travelling in late June, we found the weather in Béziers to be terribly hot. Even by our Australian summer standards it was hot. Like much of southern Europe, the most pleasant time of year to visit is spring and autumn, although dedicated sunseekers will undoubtably love the hot lazy days of summer.
Béziers Cap D’Adge airport is just 20minutes drive from central Béziers. There are various Béziers airport hire car rental options to choose from. To choose your best option, I recommend Rental Cars, a website that enables you to compare and book the options of multiple rental companies.
Béziers railway station is well located in the centre of town. Béziers is on the main Barcelona to Provence train line, so is one of the best places to stop between Barcelona and Paris. There are rental car offices nearby, as well as buses.
There are not a large number of hotels in Béziers. Book early for the best choice. We booked a pretty little BnB overlooking the historic Pont Neuf and the Orb River. Rooms were basic and small (and the shower was definitely very snug) and it lacked air conditioning. But the price was very keen and we were given a warm welcome. We were wanting to save money for a splurge accommodation at our next stop, so it did the job.
Because Béziers is not a typical tourist town in France, not many guide books feature it. Fortunately Lonely Planet does. You can buy your Lonely Planet guide on Amazon, or via an independent book shop: