One of the principal attractions for visitors to the South of France is the great history that was made in the region and the way it continues to shape the landscape and architecture.
Having seen the country through territorial disputes, civil war and events of great importance to the country’s heritage, the South of France bears many of the fruits of great progress in the form of castles and towns built up from medieval times. It also has its fair share of battlefields that scar the countryside and continue to be a tribute to the dead sons of this area.
Take a browse through some of our suggestions and get inspired to hit the historical trail around the South of France.
Medieval armies through Lot-et-Garonne
Around the region known as the Pays Angenais in the south of the Lot-et-Garonne you will find a little collection of villages and small towns with their roots in medieval times that would have seen the progress of the armies of Charlemagne, King of the Franks. During his rule in the 8th century, his conquering armies forged out through the south of France to central Europe where he considerably expanded his kingdom throughout the course of his reign.
The towns of Laroque-Timbaut, Beauville, Brassac and Castelagrat have some wonderful arcaded squares and houses that have stood since the reign of Charlemagne and have altered little since his death. Although none of the villages in this area particularly play up their connection to their medieval past or have visitor centres but are still interesting to wander through and wonder at the generations that have come before.
Fortified villages in Languedoc-Roussillon
The most famous fortified town in the South of France is Carcassonne, listed as a UNESCO world heritage site for its fortifications first established by the Romans.
The fortress at Carcassonne is spectacular and certainly the most visited, but there are others in the area also worth visiting. The tiny village of Larressingle with a population of only 200 people has fortified walls and a castle not unlike a miniaturised version of the one at Carcassonne. The walls of the village enclose a church and a small clutch of medieval houses. Within the walls you’ll also find a little museum that takes you through the history of the village through the 100 years war to the present day, when the buildings have undergone some careful and tasteful reconstruction.
Prehistoric sites across the region
Whilst the majority of prehistoric sites in France are located around the Brittany region in the north of the country, there are a few interesting sites you can visit in the south.
The Lascaux caves in the Vezere Valley in the Dordogne have what are thought to be some of the oldest cave paintings in the world. Dating back some 15,000 years, the paintings offer a glimpse of life in prehistoric France. The entire Vezere Valley has been designated as a UNESCO world heritage site in recognition of the prehistoric paintings and other artefacts uncovered in the area.
In the valley of Marvels in South-Eastern France you will find some relatively more modern archaeological finds. Thought to be from about 4,000 years ago, a number of carvings and engravings have been uncovered that suggest celebration of a primitive religion. With more than 200,000 carvings and engravings in total, the area has a veritable treasure trove for you to explore.
With so much to see and do on your holiday in the South of France, you’re unlikely to fit in all these trips. However, they give some great food for thought when planning your visit.
There are many great places to stay but if Languedoc appeals to you, visit this site which has a range of Languedoc villas.