The Exquisite Charm of Occitanie: Discovering the Alluring Towns of Southwest France

quaint and charming medieval old town centre of the medieval French village Conques

# Ode to Occitanie: The Most Beautiful Towns in Southwest France

## Summary
Welcome to our guide to the most beautiful towns in the Occitanie region of southwest France. In this article, we will take you on a virtual tour of this stunning region, which is a merger of the former regions of Languedoc Rousillon and the Midi-Pyrenees. Occitanie is a hidden gem, known for its art, castles, wine, and cassoulet. Unlike popular tourist destinations like Provence, Occitanie remains relatively untouched by tourism. So, let’s dive in and explore the picturesque towns and hilltop villages that make this region so special.

## Guide To The Most Beautiful Towns In Southwest France

### 1. Carcassonne: A Medieval Marvel
Carcassonne is a 13th century fantasy world of towers, turrets, walls, winding alleys, and moats. It has a double row of fortified walls with 52 watch towers, creating a magical atmosphere. While it can get crowded with tourists, visiting outside of peak hours or staying overnight can provide a more intimate experience. Don’t forget to explore Carcassonne’s lower city, the Bastide St-Louis, which has a charming square and a relaxed atmosphere.

### 2. Collioure: On the Fauvist Trail
Collioure is a lovely seaside town located at the feet of the Pyrenees mountains. It is known for its impressive fortifications, pastel houses, and its association with the Fauvism art movement. Follow the “Fauvism Trail” to discover 19 famous works of art created by André Derain and Henri Matisse. Don’t miss the Chateau Royal, an 800-year-old castle with breathtaking views.

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### 3. Lagrasse: A Beautiful Abbey Village
Lagrasse is a picturesque medieval village nestled on the banks of the River Orbieu. It is famous for its well-preserved Abbey of Lagrasse, which has been a Benedictine Abbey since its founding in 799. This village is perfect for a detour on your way to the Cathar castles further south. Explore the cobblestone streets, admire the 12th century humpback bridge, and visit the Chateau de Termes.

### 4. Lastours: Eerie Cathar Castles
Lastours is a must-visit for history enthusiasts. Located just 10 miles north of Carcassonne, it is home to four Cathar castles perched on a rocky spur of the Black Mountains. These castles played a significant role in the Cathar resistance against the Catholic Church. Hike up to Cabaret castle for the best views, and don’t miss the Michelin-starred restaurant Le Puits du Trésor.

### 5. Minèrve: Perched Over a Gorge
Minèrve is a stunning village perched high above deep gorges, accessed by a high bridge. Its unique fortress was carved by water over limestone over centuries, creating narrow canyons. Take a rampart walk for a splendid view of the canyons and explore the medieval streets. Minèrve was also a Cathar stronghold and witnessed a famous siege in the medieval ages.

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### 6. Albi: Pay Homage to Toulouse-Lautrec
Albi is a lesser-known gem in Occitanie, with an impressive cathedral and the imposing Berbie Palace. The palace houses the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum with its vast collection of the Post-Impressionist’s art. Albi’s historic center is a perfect blend of medieval architecture and a vibrant urban center. It is an ideal base for exploring the region, as it is within an hour’s radius of Carcassonne, Toulouse, and Cordes sur Ceil.

### 7. Perpignan: Where France and Spain Meet
Perpignan is a hidden treasure that combines the best of France and Spain. Located in the southeastern corner of France, Perpignan offers beautiful Mediterranean architecture, winding medieval streets, and a relaxed ambiance. Don’t miss the Castillet, a prison fortress in the historic center, and the Palace of the Kings of Mallorca. Perpignan’s train station, with its vibrant painted ceiling, is a must-see.

### 8. Pézenas: A Stone Village of Pastel Houses
Pézenas is a charming town known for its stately Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Wandering through the perfectly preserved town is a highlight, with its medieval mansions and connections to the playwright Moliere. Visit the Hôtel de Lacoste, a mansion with historical significance, and explore the town’s artistic heritage. Pézenas is an ideal spot for immersing yourself in the local culture and enjoying the cuisine.

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### 9. Pont du Gard: A Grand Roman Aqueduct
Pont du Gard is a 2000-year-old Roman aqueduct that spans the Gardon River. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a testament to ancient engineering marvels. Standing in front of its three tiers of arches is truly awe-inspiring. You can even cross the river on the lowest arch and cool off in the river afterward. Don’t forget to visit the museum, which provides insights into the aqueduct’s history and construction.

### 10. Uzes: A Golden Hued Village
Uzes is a historic town that exudes charm, with its honey-hued buildings and elegant squares. The Renaissance architecture and stately mansions create a picturesque ambiance. Visit the Duke’s Residence, Le Duché, and take a stroll through the creamy limestone streets. Uzes is a true gem of Occitanie and offers a more relaxed and intimate experience compared to other tourist destinations in the region.

### Conclusion
Occitanie is a region of France that offers a wealth of charming towns and villages. From the medieval marvel of Carcassonne to the peaceful beauty of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, each town has its own unique appeal. Whether you’re interested in history, art, or simply soaking up the laid-back atmosphere, Occitanie has something for everyone. So, pack your bags and get ready to explore the most beautiful towns in southwest France.

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