Languedoc-Roussillon Villa holiday guide
It’s surprisingly less visited than some of the other southern hotspots, but this cypress-sculpted wine country is the pretty French Tuscany that we should all know and love. Some of the wildest beaches sweep its glorious Mediterranean coastline, while its rolling winelands are the biggest in the whole of France. A villa stay in the Languedoc is just the start of an epic journey – stretching from Provence to the Pyrenees, holidays here combine gourmet food and wine with a whole lot of nature, culture and history. Sun-baked Carcassonne is a storybook wonder in the west, while crimson-coloured Roussillon is your gateway to French Catalonia. Tapas bars and paella reign in peach-perfect Perpignan, and there’s plenty of Spanish culture in corrida-loving Béziers, too.
Things to do in Languedoc-Roussillon
A WILD COASTLINE
The Languedoc region stretches right along France’s western shoreline, so it’s easy to swap your villa for a day out by the coast. Hire out a boat and spend the day cruising around the Med or pitch up on one of the huge sweeping beaches that take over the coastline. Away from the cosy coves of pretty Provence, these beaches are generally huge, wild wonderlands. Plage de l’Espiguette is one of the area’s most natural beaches – with only a lighthouse in sight, this six-mile stretch indulgently edges the fringe of a giant sandbank. There’s a similar look and feel at Vias, a beach not too far from the centre of Béziers. Offering sands that seem to go on for miles, you won’t struggle to find your own spot to flop here – even if you’re visiting during peak time in summer. There’s a blue flag award at Argelès-sur-Mer, a popular town and stretch of coastline near the base of the Pyrenees. Aside from its pretty backdrop of the mountains, it’s got a lovely seafront promenade, plus a charming old town which makes for a very pleasant stroll. More Provençal feels can be found in the three compact beaches in Collioure, a Catalan-splashed town not too far from the Spanish border.
Some towns and villages here date back to the Roman times, while there’s a trail of Cathar castles dotted all around the Languedoc – if you’re thinking of adding a bit of history to your stay, there’s no better region to plan a road trip in. There’s something incredibly storybook-like in the hilltop city of Carcassonne. Perched in a western pocket overlooking the River Aude, it’s home to a citadel that looks like the medieval castle of all our imaginations. La Cité is unsurprisingly UNESCO-listed – this old walled town is a 10th Century Cathar castle that promises ramparts, drawbridges, and iconic witch-like turrets. It peaks in summer, so prepare for the crowds if you’re heading here then – but definitely make this a day stop from your villa; it’s like something that’s been taken straight out of a fairy tale. It’s a similar step back in time at the Château de Peyrepertuse in Duilhac. Photogenically melting into the jagged clifftop, these two Cathar ruins sit high up in the hills and have some seriously stunning views from the top. If it’s a stretch your legs kind of day, take the hour-long hike from the village to the castles. Or, there’s always the option of parking at the top, too.
ONE FOR THE OENOPHILES
It may be less flashy than Bordeaux, but the Languedoc wine area is actually the biggest producer in the country. It’s a region filled to the brim with rolling grapevines that have been making wine here for centuries – there’s actually more than 100 different varieties produced, so it would be mad to not add a wine tour into your villa getaway. A bit like the African winelands, vineyards tend to edge the sides of the road here – you can venture to your nearest wine cellar to have a chat with an expert about these lovely local wines, or day trip it to the largest, and loveliest, wineries dotted around the region. You’ll find full-bodied reds in the hills near Béziers or bubble-bursting whites around Carcassonne. Pair a day of tastings with a bit of history and head towards Villeveyrac to see the country’s largest wine-making monastery. Tucked away in gorgeous rolling hills, the Abbaye de Valmagne has been making wine here since 1139. Vineyards planted by monks are still very much in action – but it also helps that this age-old estate is one of France’s most pretty Cistercian abbeys, too. Have a wander around its gorgeous cloisters, and look out for the wine casks that poke out from the nave walls in the old Gothic church.
Eating and drinking in Languedoc-Roussillon
This foodie region is where eating in and out is a real treat. It’s got Michelin stars and lots of food markets and pastry shops – and it's the place to plan a villa holiday if you like a bit of surf and turf. Stretching from the coast to the mountains, Languedoc-Roussillon is a region of influences. It’s an indulgence of seafood, meat and lots of sun-soaked fruits and veg, combined with flavours of the Med and from the nearby Spanish border, too. Toulouse is the region’s heart of sausages and hearty casseroles, while you’re more likely to find prawn and chicken paella in Catalan-influenced Perpignan. Home to bourride, the region’s speciality monkfish stew, Sète is a city that’s surrounded by the sea so is one of the best spots for nabbing the freshest catch of the day. Head to its local fish market early in the morning and you can watch the chefs fill their baskets with fresh sea bass, oysters, mussels and tuna – this is also a great chance to stock up with fresh ingredients for villa meals. Head inland and its less about its coast and more about the flavours of its lamb, duck and beef – there are plenty of butchers and supermarkets near our villas so you’re well-stocked to create some of these rich dishes at home, too.
When to go to Languedoc-Roussillon
Harshest in winter and driest in its summer, the Languedoc-Roussillon has a very similar climate to the rest of the regions in the South of France. Clocking up 300 day averages of sunshine a year, spring, summer and autumn are especially lovely for planning your villa getaway. Hiking in Languedoc’s rolling hills is at its best in the colour-changing weather of the shoulder seasons, while July and August are the best times to flock to the Mediterranean coastline. Carcassonne can get pretty overwhelmed in high summer – with the beautiful weather it’s a big bucket-lister, so it’s better to plan your visit here for later in the day. Otherwise, spring and autumn are great times to appreciate the old town’s slow-paced charms.