Things to Do in Languedoc-Roussillon
At just 658 meters high, it might be surprising to learn that Pic St-Loup is one of the most beloved emblems of the city of Montpellier. After all, the Alps are not that far away. But thanks to low vegetation, impressive 300-meter-high cliffs, and a surrounding relief of just 150 meters, Pic St-Loup is very prominent and can be seen from just about everywhere in the Hérault department. It is, by definition, part of the lower end of Massif Central.
Because of its micro-climate and unique flora, the mountain is a protected site and houses a thriving population of prey birds. The mountain is a very popular day trip from Montpellier for both curious tourists and serious hikers; there is an old chapel, castle ruins, a hermitage, and a symbolic cross atop the mountain. Not to mention the unobstructed panoramas, which stretch all the way from the Mediterranean Sea to the south to the Cevennes Mountains to the north. The wine produced on the low slopes of Pic St-Loup is some of the most highly-regarded terroirs in the Languedoc-Roussillon region.
Crowning the hilltopcité (citadel) of Carcassonne—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—the imposing Château Comtal dates back to the 12th century, although the site’s historic roots stretch back as far as Roman times. A classic medieval castle, with fairy-tale towers and dramatic ramparts, the restored château is now open to the public as a museum.
The Magne Tower (Tour Magne), also known as the Great Tower, is a pre-Roman building and the only remaining tower of the ancient Augustan fortifications in Nimes. The Magne Tower stands tall on Mont Cavalier, Nimes’s highest peak and benefits from unobstructed and tactical views of the surrounding plains that linked Italy and Spain. The octagonal tower, at 32.5 meters high, was built for two reasons: first, to express the city’s power, and second, to serve strategic purposes, most notably as a watchtower and signal tower - in fact, it was Nimes’ main stronghold against the English during the Hundred Years War. Consequently, the tower was made a Historic Monument of France in 1840 and remains one of the most visited attractions in the Gard department. The tower is mentioned in many literary works, including texts by Victor Hugo and Guillaume Apollinaire.
Built at the turn of the 16th century to guard the former border of France and Catalonia, the Fortress of Salses boasts a strategic location between the Corbières Mountains and the coastal lake of Étang de Salses. Remarkably preserved, it’s notable for its medieval architecture and impressive fortifications.
The Montpellier Zoo (Zoo de Montpellier) covers 80 hectares (198 acres) just north of the city center. Opened in 1964, the zoo has the look and feel of a safari park with open enclosures where most of the wild animals roam free. With 120 species and 1,104 animals, the zoo covers a lot of ground, from zebra and lions to lizards and birds.
Housed within an old apothecary, this small two-room museum spotlights the pharmaceutical history of Montpellier, a city with a long-standing medical heritage. Exhibits include ceramic pots, barrels, mortars, and other vessels and tools—made mostly in Montpellier and used to make and store various medical remedies and antidotes.
Planet Ocean Montpellier is located in Montpellier, on the French Mediterranean coast. The second most visited tourist site in the Languedoc-Roussillon area is home to over 3500 animals of 400 species originating from all the seas and oceans around the globe. From the Mediterranean wonders to the depths of the Indian Ocean, from the South African splendors to the Atlantic Ocean and the Amazon—nothing is off limits at the Aquarium Mare Nostrum’s 33 basins.
More than just an aquarium, the museum features a sea storm and a 3D underwater exploration simulator –the only ones in Europe– as well as France’s largest covered basin in France, which is 10 meters high and 18 meters wide. The most sought-after species are, unsurprisingly, the African penguin, the coral reefs and the multicolored fishes of the southern seas.
UNESCO World Heritage-listed Arles is often called the ‘soul of Provence’, a photogenic city with a history stretching back 2,500 years and crammed with Roman remains; their extent indicate the importance of the city in Roman times – thanks to its position on the navigable River Rhône – and include an arena, theater and bath complexes. Arles fell from importance around 480 AD but by medieval times was once more a power to be reckoned with, as is proven by the city’s Romanesque masterpiece church of St-Trophime. The priceless collection of Roman artifacts discovered in the region are housed in the sleek, cobalt-blue triangular Arles Museum of Antiquity (Musée Départemental Arles Antique), designed by Henri Ciriani and opened in 1995.
Among its treasures, the museum displays a large collection of antiquities, including monumental Roman sculptures, pagan and Christian art and several stunning mosaics. Center stage goes to the model of the water mills that operated in Roman times at Barbegal, thought to be the most complex in ancient times; and the 2,000-year-old barge Arles-Rhône 3, found in the River Rhône and accompanied by a video about its painstaking restoration.
Founded in 1989, the Seaquarium offers visitors young and old the chance to get up close and personal with hundreds of rare marine species. Located in the coastal town of Le Grau-du-Roi, near Montpellier, the aquarium is divided into multiple exhibit spaces and is particularly well-known for its extensive shark display.
A water park unlike any other, Frenzy Palace Water Jump—located in Torreilles, near Perpignan—caters to extreme sports enthusiasts, water slide lovers, and those looking for a one-of-a-kind way to beat the summer heat. BMX tracks, vertiginous slides, and other activities will have visitors soaring through the air.
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