Béziers
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The spirit of conquest - another accent of the south

Streetmusic on the Paul Riquet Alley

Streetmusic on the Paul Riquet Alley

Visitors of the féria

Béziers is one of the oldest towns in Languedoc. The Romans settled here, but the inhabitants had already done business with the Greek since the 5th century. The settelment which was called Baeterra in Roman days became a very important intermediate stop on the Via Domitia which leads to Narbonne. The forum was where the Town Hall is today. The Romans had started wine growing in the 1st century and pressed a good wine which was very much treasured even in Rome. In the 4th century Christianity developed and a first church was founded by Saint Aphrodisius, a bishop and martyr. Then the town went trough some bad aggressions and lootings which lasted until Carolingan times. During the rebellion of the Cathars the Albigenses captured the town. 7 000 revolters were killed on July 22, 1209 in front of the Madeleine Church - almost the complete population and the houses sank in debris and ashes. The heresy of the Cathars was drowned in blood. 1532 the protestants captured the town and destroyed the religious buildings again.  

In the 19th century Bédarieux experienced an enormous economical growth because of the rising importance of viniculture. It became the most wealthy town of the region.  Many domains with proud mansions of all styles are evidence of the past richness of this town. The Arena was built in these days, where the inhabitants organize costly events.

Today the Arena is the stage for  big bull fights in summer and all Béziers vibrates with Féria-fever for one week. In 1907 the viniculture had to face a bad crisis. The ghost of overproduction and a slack period was haunting in the whole region.
Corrida in the arena of Béziers.

Corrida in the arena of Béziers.

Corrida in the arena of Béziers.

 

A town of the south - a place for arts

Béziers and the river Orb

The Saint-Nazaire-Cathedrale is worth an extensive  visit  because of the beauty of this medieval building. It was built during many centuries and arises over town and vineyards. Inside this church the visitor can read more than 10 centuries of Lanquedoc history. The cloister is well worth seeing.
The arts museum presents Greek ceramics as well as many paintings. The rooms, dedicated to contemporary arts host the private collection of Jean Moulin, the resistance fighter. In the center of town the Paul-Riquet-Avenue reminds of a Rambla like in Spanish towns. The inhabitants of Béziers celebrate the Féria in August - always with German guests form their twin town Heidelberg. In the south of the avenue, named after the architect of the Canal du Midi, lies the very quiet plateau of the poets (Plateau des Poètes). A lot of exotic plants from all over the world grow in this public park in the center of town.

 

The Oppidum of Ensérune

Etang de Montady  near Oppidum of Enserune This Oppidum (fortified town) in immediate proximity became the historical site of uncompareably rich archaeological discoveries. Come across Roman silos and cisterns when visiting the biggest part of the excavation. In the affiliated museum (open daily 9h30 -18h30) ceramics, clay pots and forged artefacts from iron and bronze can be seen.  
Great views over coast line, Cévennes and the Pyrenees from the plateau of Ensérune. Below the Oppidum there is another scenically interesting characteristic, the former semi-enclosed sea of Montady, which was dried out in 1247 and because of its regular circular shape of the fields, merging in the center, which reminds of an oversized cake. 

 

Infos

Places of interest

Canal du Midi (UNESCO-World Heritage Site)
9 sluices of Fonseranes, the canal bridge (Pont-Canal) and the tunnel of Malpas are three of the most important buildings along this long waterway, which was planned and built by Pierre-Paul Riquet from Béziers in the 17th century.
Historic Old Town: 27 centuries of history can be discovered when strolling through the narrow lanes of the Old Town: roman churches, patrician houses, arts-and regional history museums. 

 

Markets and Crafts

Friday market: since the 16.th century the market is on Friday - on Paul Riquet Avenue a lovely flower market, next to clothes -, flea-, and foodmarket. 
Flea market: every Saturday morning on the road to Narbonne, every first Saturday of the month on Paul Riquet Avenue.
Market hall: built  in the 19th century in classical syle and costly renewed recently. The city council  of Béziers has not repeated the parisian way of tearing down the historic covered market. It´s fun to buy delicious goods from the region and speak to the locals on the  market.

Festivals

Féria (around 15. August ): this festival is dedicated to the bull, the horse, the wine and the ( too loud ) music. Four days and nights of spanish vibration in town.  Olé!
Festival of Béziers in Languedoc: July is the time of music with  french and international concerts of high quality and with the most important contemporary groups and solists.
Festival of young filmmakers (March): professional and sociable event, springboard for young artists who want to be a stars in the futur.

Gastronomy and the pleasure of wine

Small pastries: the filling consists of sweetened (!) meat, covered in pastry, a surprising but delicious speciality. 

22 private Domains and wine growing co-operative of Béziers: vaults can be visited and wine can be tested.  AOC Faugères, Minervois, St. Chinian, Coteaux du Languedoc and ordinary table wines.

Sports

Golf St. Thomas (18 holes)
Tennis - Squash - Badminton: several clubs and municipal institutions.
Baths: 3 pools, 1 of which olympic and 2 indoor swimming pools

Touristic institutions

Congress palace: auditorium, presentation hall, exhibition rooms, restaurant
Arena: events, concerts, Corridas
Tourist train

Canal du Midi: 9 sluices of Fonseranes

statue of Pierre-Paul Riquet on the alley

Féria in August

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