Heading south from Paris via Lyon and the Rhône valley, you can go one of two ways: east to Provence and the Côte d’Azur – which is what most people do – or west to Nîmes, Montpellier and the comparatively untouched Languedoc coast. Nîmes makes a good introduction to the area, a hectic modern town impressive for its Roman past and some scattered attractions, including the Pont du Gard nearby. Montpellier is also worth a day or two, not so much for historical attractions as for a heady vibrancy and easy access to the ancient villages, churches and fine scenery of the upper Hérault valley.

This is the heartland of Languedoc, a rural region that has resolutely resisted the power of Northern France since the Middle Ages. This resistance came in the form of medieval Catharism; early-modern Protestantism; its support of the revolutions of 1789 and 1848; the nineteenth-century revival of Occitan culture; war-time resistance against the Nazis, and finally a democratic populism that has found its voice both in the extreme Left and the extreme Right. Such resistance often provoked reprisals on the part of Paris and the north; this only helped cement a distinct Languedocian identity expressed as opposition to the status quo.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

France features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in Paris

An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in Paris

All the clichés about Paris are true – stylish, romantic, glamorous and utterly compelling – yet it retains surprises that continue to delight even the mos…

26 Sep 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
7 reasons why Lyon should be your next European weekend break

7 reasons why Lyon should be your next European weekend break

The ingredients for a great European weekend break are simple. You’ll need a walkable city centre, a handful of excellent restaurants, some cool bars, afforda…

26 Aug 2016 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
22 incredible pictures of Corsica

22 incredible pictures of Corsica

Just off the south of France, and closer to the coast of Italy, the small, mountainous island of Corsica lies in wait for the three million tourists that visit …

14 Jul 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month