Languedoc-Roussillon is the heartland of the distinct southern French culture, characterised by its own language. The langue d'oc, or “language of Oc,” also called Occitan, which gives its name to the region, was similar to but distinct from northern French. The southern part of the area, Roussillon, spoke Catalan, the language of northern Spain. Even though French is now the dominant language, the culture of this region remains unique.
Languedoc-Roussillon has a warm climate and receives the greatest number of visitors in summer; the busies times of year are July and August. Organizing your holiday in Languedoc-Roussillon slightly earlier or later avoids the hottest days and the densest crowds, making April, May, June, September or October the ideal times to visit this region. If you're mainly interested in the area's historic towns rather than beaches, you can visit during the winter.
Many of the most famous sights in Languedoc-Roussillon are legacies of the region's troubled religious history. In the middle ages, the dissident Cathar sect became the target of a Crusade by church authorities. Although the Cathars were eventually wiped out, the struggle has left its mark on Languedoc-Roussillon, particularly in castles and fortified towns. The most famous of these are the castle and walls of the medieval city of Carcassonne. Restored in the 19th century, the walls are one of the region's most popular tourist attractions, so arrive early to beat the crowds.
Other legacies of the Cathar age include hilltop citadels like the chateaux of Peyrepetuse and Quéribus, as well as the town of Rennes-le-Château. Legends of a secret Cathar treasure have made Rennes-le-Château a destination for lovers of the mysterious. The city of Béziers owes its towering Gothic cathedral to the destruction of the original in a massacre of Cathars by church forces.
A more recent attraction for lovers of history and architecture is the city of Montpellier, with its beautiful 18th-century city centre. Montpellier is France's fastest-growing city, with vibrant nightlife and excellent shopping. Art lovers shouldn't miss the excellent collections of the Musée Fabre.
You’re looking for a beach holiday in Languedoc-Roussillon? You won’t be disappointed. Languedoc-Roussillon has been a favourite beach destination for French vacationers for decades. Several stand out: the resort of La Grande-Motte was built with consciously “futuristic” architecture in the 1960s and 1970s; as a result, its white pyramids are now entertainingly quaint. La Grande-Motte remains one of the most popular seaside resorts for the French. Further to the southwest, Roussillon's white sand beaches are also popular destinations for sun-lovers; the seaside village of Collioure, the resorts of Canet Plage and St-Cyprien-sur-Mer are among the most popular.
The old town of Agde was settled in the 5th century BC by the Greeks. This small community by the mouth of the river Hérault is known for its distinctive black basalt buildings, including a medieval cathedral. The nearby seaside resort of Cap d'Agde is known for its enclosed naturist community.
Food is a vital part of the culture of Languedoc-Roussillon. Like their Spanish neighbours, the locals enjoy long lunches with plenty of unhurried conversation. The influence of northern Spain can be seen in some dishes, and the coastal location of the region naturally means plenty of good seafood.
Size: 27,376 square kilometres
Population: 2,565,000 people
Capital city: Montpellier
Provinces: Aude, Gard, Hérault, Lozère, Pyrénées-Orientales
Landscape: Medieterranean beaches, rocky coves, lively cities, scrubland, wetlands, pine forest