The lively town of Millau occupies a beautiful site in a bend of the River Tarn at its junction with the Dourbie. It’s enclosed on all sides by impressive white cliffs, formed where the rivers have worn away the edges of the causses, especially on the north side, where the spectacular table-top hill of the Puech d’Andan stands sentinel over the town. Millau owes its original prosperity to its position on the ford where the Roman road from Languedoc to the north crossed the Tarn, marked today by the truncated remains of a medieval bridge surmounted by a watermill jutting out into the river beside the modern bridge.
From the Middle Ages until modern times, thanks to its proximity to the sheep pastures of the causses, the town was a major manufacturer of leather, especially gloves. Although outclassed by cheaper producers in the mass market, Millau still leads in the production of top-of-the-range goods.
The town’s clean and well-preserved old streets have a summery, southern charm. Whether you arrive from the north or south, you’ll find yourself sooner or later in place du Mandarous, the main square, where avenue de la République, the road to Rodez, begins. South of here, the old town is built a little way back from the river to avoid floods and is contained within an almost circular ring of shady boulevards. Rue Droite cuts through the centre of the old town, linking its three squares: place Emma-Calvé, place des Halles and place Foch.