Cities and Villages in Midi-Pyrenees
Aveyron is a delight for those who love to explore: discover the magic of the Grands Causses, the magnificent Gorges of Tarn, Aveyron, Aubrac, and Carladez as well as the Gorges of Truyère, Conques, Vallon de Marcillac, Lot Valley and the mountains and lakes of Lévézou.
Aveyron a land of passion that has always distinguished itself both with its gastronomy (think of Roquefort cheese and the world-famous chef Michel Bras) and its savoir-faire (Languiole knives and Millau gloves).
Renowned for its wide-open spaces, Ariège is a land with deep prehistoric roots. Traces of early humans remain to this day: visit the caves in Niaux, Mas D’Azil, La Vache and Bedeilhac. Explore the grandiose geological grottos of Lombrives, the largest cave open to visitors in all of Europe, and discover the continent’s longest navigable subterranean river in Labouiche.
To top off the fun for history buffs, Ariège is home to a fantastic body of thermal spas that date from the times of the Roman Empire.
Ax les Thermes is situated at an altitude of 720 meters in the heart of the Pyrénées Ariégeoises area in the Midi-Pyrénées region.
The city enjoys a privileged location along the Paris-Barcelona route, just at the borders of Spain and Andorra.
Ax les Thermes’ most particular quality, perhaps, is that throughout its center city, the hottest waters in the Pyrénées gush at 170°F, along with their sulfuric vapors!
You shouldn’t expect any showy architecture in Guzet; nor should you expect any concrete. Since time immemorial, the town has been a protected site where nature is ever present. It is likely for this reason that it feels so good to stay in Guzet, no matter the season.
Border region, the High Couserans has a remarkable religious heritage with its churches and chapels of Saint Sernin classified as Soueix, Vic d'Oust, Ercé the Trein Ustou or Salau.
Castles and The Guard Mirabat affirm the importance and age of passages to Spain by the neck and Salau Aréou. To visit nearby: Saint Lizier and its cathedral, the castle of Montsegur, the medieval castle of Foix, the cave of Mas d'Azil.
Here, art and history are the most vivid elements of local heritage. Local artisans produce beautiful works, including turned wood, ceramics, leather goods, and pieces in gold, all of which reflect the environment from which they draw inspiration.
The abundance and diversity of the flora of the Ariege mountain and its sunny climate, allows many producers to harvest the honey mountain, taking care to preserve all their wealth. They are present on many local markets but you can also go to meet them on hikes in the area.
At the edge of the Pays d’Olmes and Aude, the city of Léran is situated within a landscape marked by graceful curves and a stunning backdrop of hills that surround the village. From the top of these hills you can see Montségur.
The heart of the village is extremely charming, especially in summer when the plane trees along its main street, le cours Saint-Jacques, are flush with deep green leaves.
Léran’s courédous (narrow streets), true vestiges of the city’s medieval past, are perfect for wandering. Cross the city to find the fortified castle, where the Middle Ages are brought back to life each year at the Médiévales de Léran festival.
Close to the village, the waters of Lake Montbel shimmer over an impressive 570 hectares. Bordered by dense woods, the largest lake in the southwest is truly magnificent.
The welcoming facilities offered to tourists in Léran, including the La Régate camping site, which sits on a beach and features a restaurant, are designed to maximize leisure and recreation. In July and August, both young and old can revel in the joys of swimming in complete security; the beach is surveyed by a trained lifeguard.
The village of Les Cabannes is tucked into the mountains of Haute-Ariège at 536 meters of altitude. Its climate is mild and sunny, and its ambiance is tranquil. Les Cabannes is a perfect place to relax and enjoy leisure activities.
The wild and unspoiled mountainside area around Les Cabannes invites walkers and hikers; the GR10 passes nearby.
For those who love snow sports, several ski resorts offer all the winter adventure you might desire. The premiere cross-country ski resort in the Pyrénées is located on the plateau of Beille.
If hydrotherapy is more your speed, or if you’re looking for après-ski relaxation, the thermal spas at USSAT-LES-BAINS and AX-LES-THERMES are sure to fit the bill. Ax les Thermes is only a 15 kilometer ski from Les Cabannes.
Lézat is a friendly village abounding with flowers. The town of approximately 2200 is situated at 210 meters of altitude in the valley of the Lèze River, a tributary of the Ariège.
It’s a real pleasure to stroll Lézat’s streets, which are lined with lovely Toulousian architecture.
Brick dominates the facades, but the many courtyards, gardens, and public spaces teeming with lush and exotic foliage soften the scene.
Dotted with small charm-filled villages nestled into hillsides and vast cultivated plains, the Pays de Pamier is a land of spectacular landscapes.
The Pays de Pamiers is ideally situated at the foot of the Pyrénées; it is close to ski resorts, prehistoric caves, and Cathar castles.
It is only 40 minutes from the great Toulousian metropolis of Carcassonne and is less than two hours from the beaches of the Mediterranean, the Atlantic Ocean, Andorra, and Spain.
Saint-Girons, a lush green land of wonderfully harmonious hills and valleys, prides itself as a capital for hospitality.
In winter, you can ski at Guzet. Nearby, the tiny village of Seix (700 residents) is home to the vacation village of La Souleille des Lannes. The surrounding valley is one of the most beautiful in all the Pyrénées.
Terre du Sud-Ouest (Land of the Southwest) is a land of sunshine and smiles.
Its marketplaces are bursting with colorful, fragrant, high-quality local produce, and its people are warm and welcoming.
A southern city with Spanish accents and Italian facades, Toulouse has always embraced cultural influences from elsewhere.
Its people carefully cultivate their unique identity, the Occitan culture of France’s southwest, as well as their technological prowess, the influence of which radiates around the world. For example, the Airbus factory is located here.
Toulouse has achieved a perfect balance between the sweetness of a city where life is simple and good and the strength of a forward-looking metropolis.
Toulouse is nicknamed the “Pink City” for the clay that was used in the construction of many of its buildings built during Roman times.
According to the quality of light cast at different times of day, you’ll find speckles of pink, purple, and red all through the heart of the city.
Toulouse is a fantastic cultural destination where you’ll find the Saint-Raymond and Vieux Toulouse museums as well as the Centre Méridional de l’Architecture et de la Ville (Southern Center of Architecture and City) and the Museum of Natural History.
Relax in one of the city’s glorious gardens: the Royal Garden, the Botanical Garden, or the Japanese Garden. Try waterskiing, or attend one of the music or cinema festivals Toulouse hosts each year.
At the foot of peaks which reach to more than 3000 meters of altitude, the city of Luchon, fittingly known as “Queen of the Pyrénées, is a fantastic place to enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, canyoning, rafting, canoeing, or kayaking.
In winter, four ski resorts open thrilling terrain: Le Mourtis, Peyragudes, Luchon-Superbagnères and Bourg d'Oueil.
Almost half of the territory of the Hautes-Pyrénées is comprised of the mountains that make up the Parc National des Pyrénées, created 45 years ago.
Several sites are among the most famous in France: the natural amphitheatre of Gavarnie, with its remarkable cliffs, is one of the most impressive in Europe; the Pic du Midi offers the most extraordinary panoramic view in the Pyrénées mountain chain; and Tourmoulet Pass is inseparable from the history of the Tour de France.
From Easter to All Saints Day, the city of Lourdes attracts Catholic pilgrims from all around the world.
The department is likewise famous for its thermal spa towns, notably Bagnères and Cauterets.
One of the world’s most important spiritual centers, Lourdes welcomes pilgrims of all nationalities from all corners of the globe.
The message of Lourdes has reached out to touch all cultures and faiths.
To visit :
- Sanctuaires Notre Dame de Lourdes : Virgin Mary appeared there.
- Le Château Fort and its Pyrénéen museum
- Le Pic du Jer et son funicular
- Lourdes lake.
Just minutes from Pyrénées National Park and only 30 minutes from the finest ski resorts in the region, Tarbes offers a vast array of activities, entertainments, and opportunities for discovery.
The Massey Museum, located in a beautiful verdant setting, houses a magnificent collection of works of fine art as well as a spectacular historical collection of the Hussards.
Tarbes has many Festivals, such as :
- Tarba en Canta : Polyphonies International Festival
- Equestria : European Festival of riding
- Tarbes en Tango: Tango international festival
The richness of history is evident everywhere in Cauterets. The city’s architecture reflects eras past, from ancient Rome to the Roaring Twenties.
Its thermal spas made Cauterets the Pyrenean capital for high society in the 1920s, and in the 1960s, it expanded its reach to embrace winter sports.
Cauterets is at once a small mountainside village and an urban center of elegant allure.
Near Cauterets, in the beautiful valley of Lutour, the Pont d'Espagne and waterfalls are within walking distance. The place is beautiful, the surrounding nature has character combining both romance and the strength of the mountain. In winter, you can go skiing.
The department of Gers is synonymous with tranquility and easy living.
The heart of Gascony offers a landscape of rolling hills and sparkling streams.
Gers is responsible for a full third of the national production of foie gras. It is likewise the home of Armagnac, one of the world’s most prestigious alcohols.
Each year, aficionados of jazz come together in Gers for a major event: the festival “Jazz in Marciac” welcomes the biggest names in swing and blues.
Villages listed as "Most beautiful villages of France"
From the heights of the fortified Oppidum, the ancient Gallo-Raman city of Lectoure looks over Lomagne, a stunning natural region and former fiefdom. Discovering Lectoure is like entering to the heart of a fairy tale fortress; more than 3 kilometers of ramparts, in-laid with rocks sculpted by salt waters, surround the ancient town.
The central square of Montréal is adorned with archways typical of the fortified cities of medieval France.
A few kilometers from town, you’ll find the Gallo-Roman villa of Séviac. With its splendid mosaics, it is one of the finest and most luxurious villas in the southwest.
Condom is the capital of Armagnac, and it houses a museum devoted to the famous spirits.
With its privileged geographical location as the shores of the river Baïse, the city has long been an important center of trade in Gascony.
A modest village of 550 inhabitants, La Romieu is a wonderfully authentic place where history is written on the walls.
Dominated by its collegiate church, which has been honored as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998, and the imposing towers that protect the church’s spectacular Gothic fountain, the village maintains a perfect balance between times past, the here and now, and days to come.
Valence sur Baïse
Valence sur Baïse is typical of the bastides (fortified towns) of Gascony, with its central square framed by archways and its remarkable 14th century church.
The town harbors impressive vestiges of its storied past, including the solid 8-meter fortified wall that has protected its interior for centuries.
Villages listed as "Most beautiful villages of France"
Wander the alleyways of Autoire, where you’ll find fountains and half-timbered homes adorned with tile roofs and flanked by towers. The village, which lies at the heart of a magnificent region with so much to see, maintains the peaceful pace of life that its people have enjoyed for centuries.
The flowering alleyways of Loubressac converge on a shady square from which a spectacular 12th and 16th century church rises.
Topped with old tiles, the medieval limestone homes here light up in the hot glare of the sun. Dominated by its castle, which sits atop a natural promontory, the village offers an expansive view over the Dordogne and Bave valleys.
Much of the village of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is classified as a historical monument.
It stretches along a wonderfully flowery main street that is crisscrossed by carriérous (alleyways) and punctuated by the stairways leading to residents’ homes.
The original constructions of Carennac have been returned to all of their natural beauty by the remarkable restoration work of local artists and artisans.
The priory of the village connects a beautiful 11th and 12th century Roman church to the château des Doyens (the Castle of the Deans), which is today home to the Espace Patrimoine (Heritage Space), a veritable showcase of the art and history of the Dordogne Valley.
The stone architecture of Cardaillac contrasts beautifully with the rolling, wave-like greenery of the surrounding landscape.
The medieval fortress of Capdenac-le-Haut extends along a peninsula-shaped rock formation, and from a height of over 110 meters it overlooks the sprawling landscapes of Lot.
The village remains inextricably linked to its medieval past and figures high among the oppida (fortified cities) of Quercy, the seat of the last Gaulic battle led by Caesar.
A walk through the medieval streets can be extended with hiking trails of 6 and 10 kilometers. Information is available at the Tourism Office.
Rocamadour is like an eagle’s nest, perched in perfect equilibrium high above our heads.
The city has been an important site for pilgrimage since the 12th century. Whether you’re a believer or not, a visit to Rocamadour is a must. Join the pilgrims who walk the voie Sainte and the rue de la Couronnerie, which are lined with medieval homes and fortified gates; discover the square of the sanctuaries, and climb through the Stations of the Cross.
The rich and flourishing history of Cahors is evidenced in the world-famous Valentré Bridge, an artful structure fortified with three towers. It is listed among UNESCO’s World Heritage sites.
Tours are established in the city by the ministary of Culture :
- General tours
- thematic tours
- Legacy tours
- Children from 6 to 12 could take a heritage workshop
- heritage exposures and tours
Cahors is the undisputed capital of taste and good living; from its vin noir to its truffles and foie gras, countless local delicacies are just waiting to be discovered.
- Face Festival
Dance, theater, music, street animations.
- Regional Festival of Amateur Theatre
- Cahors Blues Festival
In the Middle Ages, Figeac was a dynamic commercial center open to the world.
The old houses of its merchants are today a part of the city’s unique heritage. Exceptionally well preserved, the architecture and décor reflect the evolution of medieval art from the Romanesque to the Gothic.
From Figeac’s mint to the remarkable homes of Champollion Place, you’ll feel like you’ve plunged into the utmost of medieval refinement and sophistication.
Once a Gallo-Roman hamlet, Albi became a capital of the diocese at the start of the 4th century, and it has since evolved into a city.
Nicknamed “Albi la rouge” because of the subtle rose color of its many brick buildings, Albi resembles cities in Tuscany, Italy.
The city is home to extraordinary treasures: one of the world’s largest brick cathedrals, the St-Cécile Cathedral; a museum housing more than 1000 works of art from the famous painter Henri de TOULOUSE LAUTREC; the former Bishop’s Palace; and the narrow streets of Viel Alby…
The Episcopal City, the heart of the city, is an urban ensemble of brick, unique for its color, power, and harmony. Albi’s unique heritage earned it classification among UNESCO’s World Heritage sites in 2010.
In the heart of the southwest, Tarn-et-Garonne invites you to stroll through its verdant and unspoiled natural spaces.
Discover Tarn-et-Garonne’s heritage and history, and get to know its residents, who are sure to offer a warm welcome.
Start your discovery of Montauban by passing over the Pont Vieux (Old Bridge), which was built in the 14th century under the order of Philippe le Bel.
Facing the bridge stands a castle built by the Prince of Wales during the Hundred Years War, the lower halls of which constitute the Bishop’s Palace.
The castle became the Ingres Museum in the 19th century; it is named for the famous painter, who was born in Montauban in 1780.
The city organizes a lot of Festivals :
- Ajazz Festival in July (Tribute to Hugues Panassier)
- A music Festival in May ("Alors chante")
- A bal in September : "la fête des quatre cents coups".
At the mouth of the Aveyron Gorge, the fortified village of Bruniquel occupies an exceptional site on the shores of the river.
Its old homes, its belfry, and the remains of ancient gates and medieval fortifications are spectacular in both their beauty and their arrangement.
The village is dominated by an imposing fortress, but its castles, which were built on the vestiges of buildings dating from the 6th century, are open to visitors.